2019 Brazil Carnival Travel Tips
(Things to Know Before You Go)
WHAT TO PACK?General Rio Attire: Clothing made of cotton, linen, or summer and tropical fabrics – shorts, t-shirts, swimwear, etc.; Footwear: Sandals, water shoes, sneakers, etc.; Beach: Brazilians are very much comfortable with their bodies and what you may consider skimpy may not be inappropriate here. If you like to wear two-piece swimsuits or speedos, you will never feel left out here. Avoid bringing expensive items to the beach as it will be very crowded. Remember, Brazilians do at beaches what Americans normally do at parks. It is the main leisure location for friends and family. Eco-Tours & Hiking, Adventure, Leisure Activities: Comfortable hiking shoes, climbing boots, binoculars, rain poncho, backpacks, light jackets and long pants where necessary, fishing gear, golf clubs, active wear for riding ATVs, horses, etc. (see the recommended clothing requirements for each of these activities) Out on the Town: Casual attire is acceptable for most stores, casinos, bars and restaurants in the tourist areas. If you desire to blend in with the locals, jeans or pants are the norm. Up-scale establishments in Brazil or other areas may require men to at least wear long pants or dress jeans, collared shirts and closed-toe shoes; while women may be required to wear at least casual evening wear, or dress jeans.
Street Party/Samba Parade Attire: There are no strict dress codes for the carnival parades and street parties, so what you wear will be important to guarantee your comfort and enjoyment. It’ll be hot, you’ll be around large outdoor crowds that are dancing & moving about for extended periods, so consider light cotton items.
Outdoor Street Parades: Clothing like shorts, or gym work-out gear and form-fitting body tops are really good. Athletic two-piece swimming attire will work well for women, or for the daring – a tanga or thong bikini. Do not wear watches or jewelry during Carnival. Leave your hotel/apartment rooms keys at your front reception desk if possible. If you must carry your keys, tie them to your person. A small secure money pouch fastened to your waist or or inside of your shorts or top is suggested. Or you should keep your money the bottom of your socks. The paramount idea here is to NOT have anything of value in your pockets. “Pick-pocketing” is very common during any Carnival, and can occur while being brushed up against or distracted during the parade frenzy. Only carry cameras and cell phones if you have VIP access to a Camarote or Bloco. (These exclusive VIP areas are much more controlled and have added security for participating patrons.)
Footwear: Comfortable sneakers or tennis shoes only; we do not advise flip-flop or sandals of any type (except for the beach) as they will not adequately protect your feet for daily walking about. Just remember, the general theme is “less is better”.
Masquerade Balls: Carnival Balls are usually themed indoor events at a large hotel or special venue. Most do not require specific attire or masks, but some do. There are all types of Balls, even for specific orientations, but everyone is welcome to attend who is interested. Generally, casual chic attire is appropriate or you can really get into the festive mood with a creative hat, costume or mask!
DON’T FORGET THE FOLLOWING ITEMS:
A camera, memory cards, batteries, a hat, and sunglasses along with plenty of sun block that has a UV rating of 30 or higher.
An international power converter with the correct plug adapter. Appliances and electronic items using the US 110V power supply will work in most updated hotels in Brazil. Just in case, be sure to have the correct adapter for Brazil, as the plug/prong interface may differ in some locations or even vary in the same hotel. Target, Walmart, Home Depot, a pharmacy or a travel shop in your local mall will have a power converter kit with the appropriate inter-changeable plug receptacles.
Limit flashy jewelry, valuables and other such accessories. Bring/wear what you choose, but always be mindful of the attention you bring to yourself in a foreign country especially during a super festive event like Carnival.
Bring bug protection or deal with it! Insects are alive and well in Brazil. Outdoor repellent containing “deet” works very well.
Pack Alka-Seltzer, Tums, Rolaids, Pepto Bismol or something similar so you’ll have it, if needed. Remember you are traveling abroad, and the foods, although delicious and fresh, may be “new” to your stomach!
Some types of batteries and camera digital memory cards may be hard to find. You can possibly find comparable Brazilian products, but buy your preferred brands before you leave home to be certain.
Number of Bags: Try to minimize the amount of luggage you are traveling with. Moving about will be easier and you can avoid the costly overweight & airline baggage fees that are now very common.
US DEPARTURE & TRAVEL TIME
Please arrive at the airport 2-3 hours prior to departure to allow enough check-in time. Most carriers allow 1-2 FREE checked bags under 50bls. The surcharge is usually $25 each way for bags over the limit on international travel. Contact your airline directly for baggage allowance, limitations and costs; American 800-433-4300, Continental 800-525-0820, Delta 800-221-1212, Copa 800-359 2672, TAM Brazilian 866-435-9526
Travel times to Brazil from airports in Eastern US cities with connections will range from 12-15 hours. Before your outbound flight be sure to pack carry-on items in preparation for the long journey ahead with personal sleep items, travel games, books, magazines, etc.
You will need both a US passport and a Brazil Tourist Visa to enter Brazil!
US passports should be obtained far in advance of the trip dates due to processing times. (CHECK NOW: Does your current US passport expire before August 1, 2017? If it does, you will need to renew it before our February 2018 trip) The Brazil Tourist Visa is only certified for a 90 day window of time, so we advise applying for one after receiving your airline ticket documents from the travel agent (which will be in January 2018 for our group). Brazil Tourist Visas are usually processed anywhere within 21-28 working days (location processing times vary) by applying to the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate near you. For directions and assistance with getting these documents, refer to our Brazil Carnival Tour FAQs, question #5.
There is no international departure tax to leave Brazil. This fee was added to the cost of your ticket by the airline carrier.
BRAZIL ARRIVAL & LOCAL TRANSPORTATION
Unless you have a customized itinerary for different travel dates, all members of FP travel group will be arriving in/departing out of the Galeao Antonio Carlos Jobim International airport (Airport Code: GIG).
Local Ground Transportation:
Taxis In most Brazilian cities taxis are identified by red number plates. Fares are inexpensive, costing a little more for the special taxis with air conditioning and larger comfort. Willingness to accept a taxi driver’s advice on where to go or where to stay should be tempered by the knowledge that places to which he takes a visitor are more than likely to give him a commission – and the highest commissions will usually come from the most expensive places. Taxis are metered and passengers should insist that the meter is turned on. As a rule estimate $R 1 per minute without traffic and $R.60 with traffic. (add 20% for night time rides). Fares are slightly higher at night and on Sundays. Tipping taxi drivers is not normal practice.
Renting A Car This is not recommended unless you have a Brazilian escort. Cars rent for about $40 a day. Traffic & road conditions vary. Brazil has roads ranging from very good paved highways to pot-holed, dusty tracks. Federal highways crisscross the country between major cities and are denoted by the letters BR plus a number. Smaller roads take the initials of the state (e.g. RJ for Rio de Janeiro) plus a number. Traffic drives on the right.
Subway & Local buses There are extensive bus services in all the main city centers, often with air-conditioned express executive coaches running at premium fares. Rio and Sao Paulo both have two-line metros and local rail lines, and there are trolleybuses in Sao Paulo and a number of other cities. Trolleybuses are increasingly being introduced as an energy-saving measure. Fares are generally regulated with interchange possible between some bus and metro/rail lines, for instance, on the feeder bus linking the Rio metro with Copacabana. “Frescao” (or Air-conditioned bus) are buses that serve the business community and run more frequently during business hours. Be mindful that public buses are also available for use, but although cheaper, they take a lot longer with less security for tourists.
Vans on Beach Routes For those with some type of Portuguese or Spanish skills, these vans are recommended. They go from Ipanema to Barra for $R 4 (it’s $R 20 by taxi). Most of these vans do the beach routes. The vans have the names of the neighborhoods where they travel on the front windshield. Pick the one that is heading towards your destined neighborhood and tell the driver when he should let you out.
TIME ZONE & ELECTRIC USE
The eastern portion of Brazil is currently on GMT-3 time, which is two hours ahead of NYC and Miami. At the time of our Feb 2018 trip, there will be a 2 hr time difference from the Eastern US Daylight Standard Time.
Electric current in Brazil varies widely from 100 to 127 volts or 220 to 240 volts and from 50 to 60Hz even within the same city, building, apartment or office. Be aware before you plug in any electrical device. Some cities in Brazil only use 220 volts. While many hotels clearly label electrical outlets, others do not. Bring a international power adapter kit with the inter-changeable plug receptacles. Include a three-prong adapter and/or extension cord, if you need them for your laptop or other travel appliances.
The Brazilian medical infrastructure is first rate. Brazilian doctors and dentists are well trained, competent and up to date with all the very latest developments, procedures, treatments and medications They also use the most modern diagnostic tools and Brazilian medical testing laboratories are top notch. Should you feel the need for a doctor or dentist, don’t hesitate. Many hotels, travel agents or the nearest consulate office can probably put you in contact with an English speaking doctor or dentist.
Because of the tropical climate of Brazil, occasional cases of Yellow fever, Dengue fever and Chagas disease are reported in various parts of the country. In addition, cases of hepatitis A, B, C and D are known. No vaccination shots are required, but having a Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A shot is often suggested as a precaution for frequent world travelers. Visitors to South America should always be vigilant about food-borne as well as mosquito-borne infections. Most of these illnesses are not life-threatening, but they can certainly ruin your trip. Watch your sun exposure, bring along a good insect repellent and exercise care in what you eat and drink. Other things to be aware of include handling, feeding or petting any animal, with the exception of domestic animals known to be free of any infectious disease.
Brazil’s tropical temperatures also make it very easy to quickly become dehydrated for people who are not used to the heat and humidity. Brazilian doctors recommend drinking at least two liters of water per day. The water in the major cities of Brazil is safe and most hotels and restaurants offer purified or regular tap water. To be always certain of the best quality or taste of the water, you might prefer to drink bottled water throughout your trip. You should also consider drinking coconut water which is readily available at many beaches and in cities from street vendors as well as restaurants and lanchonetes (snack bars). Coconut water is a natural isotonic beverage with the same electrolytic level as human blood. It contains no cholesterol, is naturally sterile and is full of natural sugars, salts and vitamins to ward off fatigue. It’s nature’s own ‘sports drink’ and far better for you than any commercially produced product.
SAFETY & CRIME
Most visits to Brazil are absolutely trouble-free! Why? Because the vast majority of all Brazilians are honest, forthright, hard working people. In the smaller cities of Brazil, it is less crowded and life is generally slower. Poor and less fortunate people, however reside in all cities of Brazil and like any other developing country, Brazil has had its share of negative publicity in the past regarding safety issues.
The fact of the matter is there is no way to totally shield oneself from con-artists, pickpockets and other criminals who prey on easy targets (even here in large US cities). The reality when traveling to another country is quite obvious – a foreign visitor who is not using “common sense” or acting “totally clueless” is just inviting something bad to happen!
Over the past decade, Brazilian police have more than tripled the number of security patrols during Carnival in cities like Salvador and Rio, but nothing beats the use of sound judgement and keen awareness of your surroundings at all times. Here are some recommended points to ensure you have a pleasant Carnival vacation experience in Brazil:
* Don’t wear expensive jewelry or flashy watches. Be mindful of the attention they bring you.
Although some favelas enjoy decent amenities and modern home conveniences, many of these communities are simply “crowded shantytowns” where the houses are constructed (quite literally) of almost every material imaginable. Basic public services like running water and electricity may not exist. Most residents of these favelas lead meager, quiet, law-abiding daily lives, but live in places that are havens for the undesirable criminal element who make their living preying on others. No matter what personal allure you have for the plight of the poor people and children in these areas based on news you’ve read or movies you’ve seen depicting life there, it is probably never, ever a good idea for a foreign tourist or visitor to go into a favela alone. Note there are organized favela tours with local guides that are safe and engaging. If you are interested, we can assist you with this activity.
CURRENCY, ATMs, CREDIT CARDS, TRAVELERS CHECKS
The Brazilian paper currency is called the Real (Ray-al), and the coin currency is called the Centavo (Sin-ta-voh). The Exchange Rate is currently around 3.50 R$ to 1 US Dollar. Daily updates are provided at www.exchangerate.com. In Brazil, the official rate of exchange is available from daily newspapers, hotel cashiers, banks and travel agencies. Cash and travelers checks are easily exchanged at these locations. Many hotels and shops accept foreign currency and Credit Cards.
ATM machines in Brazil only dispense Brazilian Reals – not U.S. dollars. Not all ATM machines in Brazil will work with your US bank network. Be familiar with this info, as you may have to search around for ATM location using specific bank networks. ATM machines will be available in most tourist locations. They will be sparse in the residential neighborhoods. Most Bank ATMs close at 10pm local time. Some 24 hour pharmacies or gas stations may have ATMs operating past 10pm. You are advised to locate most convenient ATMs for your banking needs and plan ahead daily for your necessary cash requirement. Before your arrival check to see if your US bank levies additional ATM surcharges for making foreign ATM withdrawals.
Use of credit/bank cards is convenient to carrying cash, however we suggest that you advise your US bank of your travel to Brazil two weeks before your trip. US Travelers to Brazil have previously experienced sudden card deactivation during their vacation to prevent fraudulent activity. To avoid this from happening, reach out to your bank before you depart.
Credit and debit cards are accepted at most medium to large businesses. Most hotels, restaurants and stores in Brazil readily accept Visa and Master Card. American Express cards are not as widely accepted. BEWARE: There may be a foreign transaction charge of 3-5% for using your credit cards, on top of local government and service taxes. Look for and read these policies before making purchases or getting the bill.
Travelers checks are accepted in Brazil. American Express Travelers checks are recommended as they are the easiest and quickest to replace in Brazil.
ABOUT THE COUNTRY & PEOPLE
No matter to what extent other places in the world may claim to be a “melting pot”, they pale in comparison to Brazil. Brazilians can proudly lay claim to a diverse and complex ethnic and racial heritage dating back over 500 years that includes immigrants from Europe (Portuguese, Italian, German, Jewish, French, Dutch, Spanish, Greek, Polish, Czech and more), Syria, Lebanon, other middle Eastern countries and Japan, added to Africans (originally brought to Brazil as slaves) and native indigenous people. Of the 191+ million Brazilians, far more than half can proudly lay claim to a mixed heritage that includes two, three, four or more of these ethnic and racial groups.
All these ethnic and racial groups have made their mark on the cultural fabric of Brazil, instilling different ideas and ethics, introducing new cuisines, music, art and design, and bringing new words and a charming, novel accent to the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil. Brazilians have inherited this diversified ethnic and racial heritage and successfully woven it into a single, shared national identity.
Brazilians are known the world over as some of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle people on the face of the planet. Much of the life of any Brazilian revolves around family both immediate and extended. The people are sun worshipers and love spending time at the beach. For most Brazilians, their favorite sport is futebol (or soccer as it is called in the US). Brazil is a predominately Catholic country and the Catholic Church is highly respected and revered by many.
OTHER LOCAL INFO
A credit card or cash deposit will be required upon check-in for your own incidental charges (phone calls, etc.).
Safes are available in every room of the better hotel locations; As always when traveling, it’s wise to utilize the safe to store valuables; Check with your hotel’s front desk for (nominal) cost.
Almost all Brazilian cities have treated water supplies, but the delivery system can be problematic. You probably won’t get sick from the old and leaky water infrastructure, but we strongly advise that you drink bottled water whenever possible outside your hotel. Water and ice served in all the hotel dining areas & bars is OK, but it may have a strong chlorine taste. Use bottled water to brush your teeth with. If you need more bottled water, just call the front desk or see the housekeeper at your hotel.
Cellular service in Brazil: Sprint (Yes), AT&T (Yes), Verizon (Yes), T-Mobile (Maybe), Check with your US carrier for international coverage areas to be certain. A special service upgrade to a GSM sim card may be necessary. CAUTION: International roaming fees are very costly! You can rent a local cell phone if you wish. We suggest using the local pay phones with a calling card as a good practice. (Remember, local phone operators will likely speak Portuguese.)
Unless necessary, don’t call (locally or internationally) direct from your hotel room as the service and connection costs are extremely high; Room to room calls are of course free. Buying a local calling card is the most inexpensive option for calling back to the U.S and within Brazil.
Internet service is available in the hotel business center or common areas. Most hotels offer free wireless service, but check for pricing before using. Local internet cafes can be found just near our hotel locations, if necessary.
TVs in your room will have some local and international English speaking stations. Radios will only have local Brazilian station(s); Enjoy the samba, baile funk, bossa nova, brazilian soul, pop, salsa, and reggaeton – remember you’re not home – you are on a different continent entirely!
Service Tipping – 10% is the norm. Be sure to confirm the tip policy before paying – many restaurants include the tip in the total. A typical itemized bill may include the amount consumed, local service tax, with the tip. Credit card users should read the bills carefully to know what sum you are paying.
Destination Activities: Besides the sightseeing and Carnival activity tours included in your trip packages, suggested restaurants, clubs, bars and points of interest will furnished to our trip attendees upon their hotel arrivals in Bahia and Rio.
For those individuals with friends or colleagues in Brazil and wish to meet up with you or our travel group members at some point, note that getting in touch with us in Brazil may not be easy. We strongly suggest that you plan ahead and do not rely on leaving phone messages with our group hotel receptionists. Why? ‘Cause it’s Brazil and we’re on vacation too – plans especially during Carnival will be delayed or change altogether. It is challenging to predict where anyone will be at a specific time. The travel group coordinators/ground agents WILL have a published Brazilian cell phone number for our group attendees only. That’s it – we’re looking forward to another great trip to the city of Samba – see you in Rio!!!!