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Quick Facts
Governmentfederative republic
Currencyreal (BRL)
Areatotal: 8,511,965 sq km
land: 8,456,510 sq km
water: 55,455 sq km
ReligionRoman Catholic (nominal) 80%

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.

  • The North -- the Amazon, the rain forest and frontier life
  • The Northeast -- where Brazil's music, folklore and cuisine was born
  • The Central West -- isolated savannahs, grasslands and swamps
  • The Southeast -- the country's economic and industrial hub
  • The South -- the highly developed land of pampas and gaúchos

See also: List of Brazilian states

Map of Brazil


Brazil has many cities; these are a few of the more prominent travel destinations.

  • Belém -- The mouth of the Amazon
  • Brasília -- The capital of Brazil, and an architectural spectacle
  • João Pessoa -- Where the sun born first
  • Olinda -- A small town, but popular for its culture, and a Carnival that rivals Rio.
  • Rio de Janeiro -- World famous, beautiful city
  • Salvador -- The heart of Brazil's African culture
  • São Paulo -- Brazil's largest city

Other destinations

  • Iguaçu Falls -- The world-famous waterfall
  • Pantanal -- Big swamp, lots of ecotourism, snorkeling with crocs, piranhas etc.
  • Minas Gerais -- A rugged inland state rich in colonial history


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.

Get in

By plane

Most travelers from other continents will land in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Some regional airports such as Belem are also served by flights from Florida.

By car

By bus

Long-distance bus service connects Brazil to its neighboring countries.

By boat

Amazon river boats connect northern Brazil with Peru.

By train

Train service within Brazil, let alone from other countries, is almost nonexistent. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and the most famous way to enter Brazil, or better to arrive in Brazil by train is with the "Trem da Morte" or Death Train, which goes from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, till a small town just over the border from Cuiabá in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. There is still a train line from there all the way to Sao Paulo, but at the moment it is not in use, but bus connections to Sao Paulo via the state capital Campo Grande, are plentiful. The journey itself is reputedly replete of robbers who might steal your backpack or its contents but security has been increased recently and the journey can be made without much difficulty. It goes through the Bolivian agricultural belt and one may see the technology averse religiour community which resemble the american Amish in many ways, by the train alog the journey.

Get around

By plane

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.

By bus

Long-distance buses are the most convenient, economical, and if you pay for it, comfortable way to travel between regions.

Internationally The main capitals linked directly by bus are Buenos Aires, Assunción, Montevideo, Santiago in Chile, and Lima. Direct connections from the first three can also be found easily, but from Lima might be tricky, though easily accomplished by changing at one ofthe others. Those typically go to Sao Paulo, though Pelotas also has good connections too.

Nationally Brazil has a very good bus transport system, Basically, long distance routes depart from capital cities or economical centers, so if the city is big it will have connections to neighbouring capitals at the very least. One can expect smaller towns to have a bus route to the capital, and perhaps the facility on hopping on busses (if they have available seats), which pass though the area to other capital cities or big towns.

By boat

In the Amazon region, boat travel is often the only way to get around.


The official language of Brazil is Portuguese. Brazilian Portuguese has a number of pronunciation differences with the language spoken in Portugal, but speakers of either can understand each other.

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.

Body language

  • The thumbs up gesture is used everywhere and all the time in Brazil.
  • The OK gesture (thumb and finger in a circle) has obscene connotations in Brazil.
  • The way to get someone's attention is a hissing sound: "pssiu!"


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.

Regional cuisines:

  • Southern - Churrasco is Brazilian barbeque, and is usually served "rodizio" ou "espeto corrido" (all-you-can-eat). Waiters carry huge cuts of meat on steel spits from table to table, and carve off slices onto your plate. Traditionally, you are given a small wooden block colored green on one side and red on the other. When you're ready to eat, put the green side up. When you're too stuffed to even tell the waiter you've had enough, put the red side up.
  • Mineiro is the "miner's" cuisine of Minas Gerais, based on pork and beans, with some vegetables.
  • The food of Bahia, on the northeast coast has its roots across the Atlantic in West Africa. Coconut, dende palm oil, and seafood are the prime ingredients. Tip: hot ("quente") means lots of pepper, cold ("frio") means less or no pepper at all.
  • Amazon cuisine draws from the food of the indigenous inhabitants, including various exotic fish and vegetables. There is also a stupendous variety of tropical fruits.

Brazilian cuisine also has a lot of imports:

  • Pizza is quite popular in Brazil. In some restaurants, particularly in the South, pizza has no tomato sauce. Instead, ketchup and mustard are added at the table.
  • Middle-eastern and Arab food is widely available in Sao Paulo and Rio.
  • São Paulo's Japanese restaurants serve up lots of tempura and sushi, but it can be quite a departure from the real thing. The same can be said of Chinese food. Cheese-filled spring rolls, anyone?


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.

Soft drinks

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 (but if you say "Coca-cola", everbody can understand).

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

Fruit juices are very popular in Brazil. There are fruit juice bars at nearly every corner. Açai (made of a fruit from the Amazon) is absolutely delicious and very nutritious 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.



Stay safe

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.

You don't need to use the passport to walk in the city but if you like this, use a little pocket inside your clothes (you can buy in airport mall).

Stay healthy

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. But you can drink all closed drinks sold in the streets like can drinks and bottle drinks.

Vaccination against malaria and yellow fever may be necessary if you are traveling to central-western (Mato Grosso) or northern (Amazon) regions. If you're arriving from Peru, Colombia and Bolivia countries, the vaccination of yellow fever is necessary also (you cannot leave these countries if you destiny is Brasil without your vaccination card).

In areas with dengue, if you feel ill after being attacked by mosquitoes you should not take aspirin. It may cause dengue to become very strong and, sometimes, lethal. Please, ask for a hospital or health center fast.



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.

All cities use the following emergency numbers:

  • 190 - Police
  • 192 - Ambulance
  • 193 - Firefighters

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)

  • To dial to another area code: 0-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
  • To dial to another country: 00-(carrier code)-(country code)-(area code)-(phone number)
  • Local collect call: 90-90-(phone number)
  • Collect call to another area code: 90-(carrier code)-(area code)-(phone number)
  • International Collect Call: 000111

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. You can buy these cards in shoppings, gas stations, postoffice, etc. Don't buy of people on the street. Sometimes these cards are "fake".

External links

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