Brazil is the largest country in South America.
Brazil is the fifth largest country on earth. The country is divided in five regions, more or less following natural, economic and cultural borderlines.
See also: List of Brazilian states
Brazil has many cities; these are a few of the more prominent travel destinations.
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 1822. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil has overcome more than half a century of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of the interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, Brazil is today South America's leading economic power and a regional leader. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem.
Long-distance bus service connects Brazil to its neighboring countries.
Amazon river boats connect northern Brazil with Peru.
Train service within Brazil, let alone from other countries, is almost nonexistent.
Air service connects all major areas of Brazil. Note that not all air routes are as direct as they would seem on a map, and are often required to go through hubs such as Brasilia.
Long-distance buses are the most convenient, economical, and if you pay for it, comfortable way to travel between regions.
In the Amazon region, boat travel is often the only way to get around.
Spanish speakers should be able to get by easily in Brazil, specially towards the south. Many Brazilians in large towns have a good grasp of English.
Brazil's unit of currency is the real (pronounced 'hay-AHL'), plural reais ('hay-AYS'). Prices are written as R$1.50, for example.
Bank Machines do not often take VISA or other non-Brazilian credit cards. Check for the Cirrus/VISA logo. Shell Petrol/Gas stations with a shop may have an ATM which does.
Brazil's cuisine is as varied as its geography and culture. On the other hand, some may find it an unrefined melange, and everyday fare can be bland and monotonous. While there are some quite unique dishes of regional origin, many foods were brought by overseas immigrants and have been hybridized through the generations. In Brazil, Italian and Chinese food can often be as baffling as Amazonian fare.
Brazilian cuisine also has a lot of imports:
Many inexpensive restaurants are buffet-by-weight, or por kilo. You pile up your plate with whatever you want, then place it on a scale at the counter, and pay by weight.
Brazilian restaurants often serve only for two, and you can't order a portion for a single person. It's usually not even indicated on the menu, so you may have to infer from the price or just ask. Also, a Brazilian couple sitting at a restaurant table usually sits side by side, rather than across from each other.
Liquor and beer
Brazil's most famous alcoholic drink is cachaça, an extremely potent sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. A great place to visit in Rio de Janeiro's neighbourhood of Leblon is Academia da Cachaça. There are also tours of distillers in Minas Gerais, much in the same way as you'd tour vineyards in Sonoma Valley or in France, with the added bonus of their famous regional cuisine.
The strong flavor can be tempered (hidden?) in cocktails like the famous caipirinha, a combination of cachaça with sugar and lemon juice. The city of Paraty gave its name to the drink: parati is a synonym for cachaça. Other words for it include: pinga, caninha, branquinha, malvada, aguardente ("burning water"). The same mixture using vodka is called a caipiroshka; with white rum, it's a caipiríssima.
Beer in Brazil has a respectable history thanks to German immigrants. Draft lager beer is called chopp ('SHOH-pee'), and the most popular domestic brands are Brahma, Antarctica and Skol.
Coffee and tea
Brazil is recognized world-wide for its high-quality and strong coffee. Cafezinho (little coffee) is a small cup of sweetened coffee which is usually served for free after meals on restaurants. Breakfast in Brazil is called café da manhã (morning coffee), while café com pão (coffee with bread) is a synonym for a light evening meal.
Mate is a type of tea that's very high in caffeine, and often served chilled. It has been losing popularity over time, but is still consumed all around the country. Chimarrão is the heated equivalent of mate. It can be found in the south, and is highly appreciated by the gaúchos. Unlike mate, chimarrão is still very popular. Be careful though; it's usually taken very hot! Terere is a cold version of Chimarrão common in Mato Grosso.
If you're on the beach on a hot day, nothing beats coconut water, or água de côco.
If you want a Coca-Cola in Brazil, ask for coca, as "cola" means "glue", in Portuguese.
Guaraná is a carbonated soft drink made from a berry (the guaraná) native to the Amazon area; It is as popular as Coca-Cola and the major brands are Antarctica, Kuat and Brahma.
Fruit juices are very popular in Brasil. There are fruit juice bars at nearly every corner. It's worth tasting them. Açai (made of a fruit from the amazon)for example is absolutely delicious and very nutricious on top of that. It is normally served cold and has a consistency of soft ice. Maracuja (=passion fruit) is also a great juicy experience. Best is to try your way through the list and name your personal favorite.
Hotels are plentiful in just about all areas of Brazil.
In wilderness areas like the Pantanal, travelers usually stay in fazendas, which are ranches with guest facilities.
Motel is the local term for a "sex hotel", so be careful.
One of the unfortunate sides of travel in Brazil is the epidemic of violent street crime. Brazil's large cities are notorious for attacks against foreigners and locals alike. Take extra precautions to keep yourself safe while travelling in Brazil.
Use your hotel's safe for any valuables, or, better yet, leave anything you don't really need safe at home. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, wearing expensive or expensive-looking jewelry, and carrying any unnecessary electronic gear, loose purses or bags. Try to stash some extra money in a hidden spot on your person -- such as a shoe or money belt -- to make sure you can get back to your hotel.
When buying drinks from street vendors, you're expected to take a straw, since the water used to cool the bottles is sometimes not fit for consumption.
Vaccination against malaria and yellow fever may be necessary if you are traveling to central-western (Mato Grosso) or northern (Amazon) regions.
In areas with dengue, if you fill ill after being attacked by mosquitoes avoid taking aspirin.
Brazil has international country telephone code 55 and two digit area codes. Most phone numbers are eight digits long, but some are still seven digits long. The number of digits was increased from seven to eight recently in some areas, meaning you might still find some old seven digit phone numbers which won't work unless you prepend another digit (which depends on the area code and the first digit of the original number).
Eight digit numbers beginning with digits 2 to 6 are land lines, while eight digit numbers beginning with digits 7 to 9 are mobile phones.
Most places use the following emergency numbers:
To dial to another area code or to another country, you must chose a carrier using a two-digit carrier code. Which carriers are available depends on the area you are dialing from and on the area you are dialing to. Carriers 21 (Embratel) and 23 (Intelig) are available in all areas.
The international phone number format for Brazil is +55-(area code)-(phone number)
Public payphones use a prepaid card with a number of credits. The cards cannot be recharged. Some payphones might not be able to do international calls.