Brasília, the capital of Brazil and the seat of government of the Distrito Federal, is a planned city. Inaugurated in 1960 in the Central Highlands of Brazil, it is a masterpiece of modernist architecture listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and attracts architecture aficionados worldwide. Brasilia is also an important transportation hub for travel within Brazil.
The basic structure of Brasilia was completed in just four years, from 1956 to 1960, under the leadership of President Juscelino Kubitschek, with the slogan "fifty years of progress in five", and the city is in a sense a memorial to him. The cathedral has six columns representing two hands reaching up to almighty heaven.
The city is designed in the shape of a giant bird or airplane, with various separated zones assigned for specific functions such as housing, commerce, hospitals and banking. Running down the center of the "airplane's" fuselage is the thoroughfare called the Eixo Monumental ("Monumental Axis") and at one end lay the government buildings. The arched "wings" are residential zones, with several rows of medium-rise apartment blocks with small commercial districts. The intersection is the commercial and cultural hub, with stores, hotels, and the cathedral. A huge artificial lake serves the city as both a leisure area and to diminish the effects of low humidity in drier months (see Climate below).
Fifty-three years after its creation (1960), Brasilia is still developing a culture of its own. The city has often been criticized as a failed utopia where rationalized modernist planning has buried the human element. Yet Brazilians are quite proud of their capital, embodying a vision of a future when Brazil is no longer considered merely a "developing" country.
Orientation and addresses
Getting a grasp of Brasilia's addresses may be a little perplexing at first, as they are usually shortened to acronyms. Here are some useful tips:
The Monumental Axis divides the city into north and south sectors. Acronyms ended in N refer to sectors on the northern side, while those ended in S are on the south.
Temperatures seldom hit extremes. 17°C to 28°C (63 to 82°F) are the average lows and highs, but it can get as low as 1°C (34°F) in winter and get as hot as 34°C (92°F) in September/October. In dry season (August–September) the city's landscape, normally very green, becomes desert-like and everyone must drink lots of water to prevent the unpleasant effects of dehydration. On the other hand, during those months the city is blessed with a gorgeous sunset in spectacular shades of orange, pink and red. The best months to go are probably May and June - still green, but no longer so hot, with fewer chances of rainfall.
Official tourist info can be obtained from State Secretariat of Tourism of the Distrito Federal (in Portuguese). There are also stands in the airport, the new rodoviaria and the Praça dos Três Poderes.
Due to long distances and falling prices in air travel, flying has become a practical way of getting to Brasilia. The city is a national air travel hub, and there should be plenty of flights. In fact you may find your plane touching down at Brasilia airport even if you're not starting or ending anywhere near, such as Salvador to Belém. On the other hand, despite being a major international capital, getting in directly from abroad is difficult to impossible in most cases. Virtually all flights are domestic, and you will have to go through Brazilian customs and immigration elsewhere and re-board. Currently, there are only non-stop flights from Lisbon (TAP Portugal), Lima (Lan Peru) and (TACA), Bogotá (AviancaTaca) , Miami (TAM Brazil) and (American Airlines), Panama City (COPA), Montevideo (Pluna) and Atlanta (Delta Airlines).
Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport (IATA: BSB), Brasília's airport (phone:+55 61 3364-9000, fax: +55 61 3364-9251), is situated 11 km (7 mi) from the city center and has one of the few tourist information services in town (phone +55 61 3033.9488, from 7:30AM-10:30PM). It also has an exchange office at the arrivals area, another one at Banco do Brasil (open Mo-Fri 11:00-16:00, departures area) and several ATMs.
There is an Executive Bus from airport to hotel zone and the central region for R$8.
Taxis are annother convenient means of getting from the airport into the city. They are relatively expensive for Brazilian standards and the 20-minute drive to the hotel zone should cost about R$30–40. Regular buses number 102 and 102.1 are frequent and significantly cheaper. They link the airport to the main bus terminal at Rodoviária, from where you can catch buses or the subway to other parts of the city.
Due to its central location, Brasilia is well served by a bus network that connects it with the rest of Brazil. Travel times are about 15 hours from São Paulo, 18 hours from Rio, 10 hours from Belo Horizonte and 3 hours from Goiânia. Buses from other states arrive at a dedicated bus station called rodoferroviaria (phone:+55 61 3363-4045), that is located at the west end of the axis and is connected to the city center by bus (number 131, frequency each 10–20 minutes, from 5AM to midnight) and taxis.
Drivers coming from southern and Center-west states will arrive by the Saída Sul entrance. From other states, you'll enter Brasilia by Saída Norte. After you're inside the Federal District, keep following the Brasília indicating traffic signs and Zona Central if you're staying at the hotel sector. The Eixo Rodoviário Road, that crosses the city's south, central, and north sectors, can be identified by the characteristics double strip of yellow raised pavement markers (Cat's eye) separating the two lanes of the road.
Template:Mapframe Rent a car, ride the buses, take a cab, hitchhike, but whatever you do, don't plan on getting around Brasilia on foot. The city was designed under the assumption that every resident would own an automobile. Obviously things didn't turn out that way, and the city's public transport is a solution to an almost deliberately designed problem. Fortunately it works fairly well. Note that the roads have few crosswalks or traffic lights, so being a pedestrian also requires some caution.
Most local buses start from or go through the rodoviária, at the precise center of the city, and run along the "wings" - serving the residential zones - or through the Monumental Axis. Some bus lines are very useful for moving around, as they link the central area of Brasilia (Setor Comercial, Setor de Diversões etc.) to Esplanada dos Ministérios, the airport and some of the main avenues (L2 and W3). These used to be stripped red-and-white buses called "zebrinhas" (little zebras) but now they are only distinguished from other bus lines by their numbers.
Unlike many other Brazilian cities, passengers in Brasilia board buses by the front door. Buses must be flagged, otherwise they will only stop when a passenger requests to hop off. Single fares are R$2.00 for travel within Brasília. There is no advance sale of tickets, pay as you board.
Taxis are relatively expensive in Brasilia and usually cannot be hailed on the streets. Taxi stands, however, are close to all tourist attractions and any hotel will be able to call a cab or provide the phone number of the best known dispatch offices. All taxis must have taximeters and can start charging only after the passenger has boarded. When arriving at Brasilia airport, taxis are located immediately outside the arrival terminal. Although the airport is not far from downtown Brasilia, taxi prices are expensive compared to other cities in Brazil, and often there can be a long wait before a taxi become available. Pre-booking taxis or airport transfers is possible, although somewhat limited, through companies such as Brazil Airport Transfers.
The Metrô subway system started operating in 2001. Its Y-shaped line starts in the main bus station (Rodoviária de Brasília - "Central" station) and makes its first stop at Setor Comercial Sul ("Galeria" station), which is fairly near some hotels South of Monumental Axis. It runs along the south wing, stopping at blocks 102, 108, 112 and 114, then going through suburbs. The subway uses to operate 6AM-11:30PM from Monday to Friday (some stations stop selling tickets at 10:30PM), and from 7AM-7PM on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Its common to be offered special timelines on some holidays, like New Year's Eve and the April 21st (city's anniversary).
It's not particularly useful for tourists, as it does not visit the main attractions but does stop at attractions such as the Buddhist Temple (EQS 115/116, access by "114 Sul" Station). Single fare: R$3.00, R$2.00 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Before going on the subway remember to have pocket money in small bills or coins - the Metro doesn't accept credit cards and won't give change above R$20.
If you are not using "city tour" services, it would be a good idea to have a car available. The urbanistic plan of Brasilia was highly based on individual motorized transportation, so it is not surprising that a visit to the city will be much more pleasing having a car.
Unlike other Brazilian big cities, traffic in Brasilia is not a major problem, although there are some jams during rush hours.
There are public parking lots available at main sites, although it can be hard to find spots sometimes. As in other Brazilian towns, there usually are some "watchers", people that offers to watch your car (supposedly to protect it from robbers), expecting to get some money in return; they usually behave like beggars, although they can turn violent towards the cars if not paid, scratching or chipping the paint job, so it would avoid some trouble to just give a little money, something around 2 reais. If it bothers you, you can always park your car a little further from the main destinations, where there are no watchers, or in a paid garage, when available.
Also, drivers behave a little differently than in other places in Brazil:
It is paramount to have a detailed map in hand when driving through the city, especially in the central area. It is far more convenient to have a good GPS system, because the access of some streets can be confusing, as there are lots of elevated interchanges and ramps. Do not expect the signs to be clear and ubiquitous, there are no signs telling you on what avenue you are on and streets rarely intersect. Smaller streets do not have names as they are defined by being between this and that square. This said, once you have understood the logic that rules ramps and intersections, theoretically you can throw your map away.
Along the Wings
Outside the wings
Brasilia's residential wings have many local shops such as groceries, drugstores, bakers, restaurants, hairdressers and so forth, and that is where townspeople do much of their daily shopping. The now somewhat decadent W3 avenue used to be the equivalent of a city's high street and still concentrates a large portion of the city's street commerce. Shopping malls, however, also play an important part when it comes to shopping in town.
Some off-center places can also be of interest for travellers:
Brasilia does not have a typical, regional cuisine. Nevertheless, restaurants serve food from many Brazilian states, as well as international fare. Self-service (por quilo) restaurants are very common and usually cheaper than their à la carte counterparts. Most of Brasilia's "real" (table service) restaurants are located at the residential wings, usually a bus or taxi ride away from most tourist attractions. One of the most popular streets is the CLS 405 (from rodoviaria, take bus 114), with choices ranging from sushi to Brazilian, Mexican and French food. Regarding tips, visitors are expected to pay at least 10% of the bill. Such amount is commonly printed on the invoice and most of the time it's OK to include the tip in your credit/debit card since most of the restaurants share the total amount with all employees. Self-service restaurants usually don't charge tips.
Despite not being particularly famous for its nightlife, Brasilia has some hangouts that save visitors from night-time boredom. Please observe that smoking in the dancefloor is not allowed - all clubs have an smoking area, so people can smoke (or just get some fresh air) without leaving the club.
Although the city's music scene is no longer as vibrant as it was in the 80s - when it bred some of the greatest pop/rock talents of recent generations with bands like Capital Inicial and Legião Urbana - live shows of local bands are frequent. Daily listings in Portuguese can be found at the local newspapers or the Correioweb and Candango websites.
Most of the city's accommodation is located at the Hotel Sectors (SHS and SHN), two central areas located on both sides of Eixo Monumental. During weekdays, hotels are usually busy due to the capital's political activity and it is advisable to book in advance. Typical prices are R$200 for a double room and R$95 for a single. Most ot the hotels have an off-price for the weekends.
Many simple pousadas are located at W3 Sul avenue. They are often non-regulated by tourist authorities and their quality and security may vary greatly. In 2008, the local authorities shut these pousadas; do not rely on them existing anymore.
Designed by Oscar Neimeyer and inaugurated in 1958, this hotel completes the Brasilia/Neimeyer experience. It was the first hotel in the city. Recently revamped maintaining the strict modernist 60's style.
Always remember though, never show off any of your 'splurging'. Not only will this be considered as an insult to less fortunate citizens, you will be an advertising for a mugging.
Brasilia is a safe city, but usual measures should be taken. At night, the area near the central bus station is not considered to be safe (prostitution and drugs). Avoid walking alone at night throughout the city.
There are an increasing number of cases of "flash kidnap". This consists of attacking people near or inside their own car, robbing and getting away with the car, and sometimes driving with the owner to make them withdraw money from automatic cash machines or even committing other kinds of violence. The local Police give some advice  on how to avoid these crimes:
Police officers are usually polite, but as they have to deal with considerable violence they might appear harsh in situations when they have to be alert. Respect is the key for good interaction. In case of police intervention at a crime (i.e. when they withdraw their guns), lay down on the floor and put your hands on your head and don't make any subtle movement. Do not react if searched. Follow instructions and, as it is possible, inform someone of your situation by phone.
To get police assistance, dial 190 in any public or private phone. For medical emergency, dial 192. Be mindful that English-speaking operators may not readily available, and you will be facing a language barrier.
Although drug consumption does not lead to incarceration, it is still a crime in Brazil, and being caught with small amounts of illegal substances may lead to bureaucratic complications when leaving the country. Selling or transporting drugs for use of others is considered trafficking, a very serious crime, and will lead to severe consequences. So, do not use or carry drugs of any kind.
The area code to Brasilia and region is 61 (also add Brazil's 55 if dialing from abroad). All 7-digit telephone numbers have recently been converted to 8-digit by adding a 3 before the number. To reach a number like 241-0000 from abroad, dial +55 61 3241-0000.
There are also many Wi-fi hotspots scattered around town, including the food court of the airport and various hotels.
Nearby attractions include: