What to Know Before You Go to Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 Jeremy Walker / Getty Images

Brazil is a beautiful country with an exciting culture and friendly people. It's also a very large country with characteristics that make it unique to South America and can feel a bit overwhelming to the first-time visitor. Before you travel to Brazil, make sure you have prepared for your trip properly by learning some key facts about the country.

01 of 06

Plan for Healthy Travel

A child receiving an oral polio vaccination.
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Before you travel to Brazil, pay a visit with your health care provider to find out what vaccines you might need. If you're traveling to a remote part of Brazil, you could be at risk of contracting yellow or typhoid fever. Both of these can be easily prevented by vaccines.

Dengue fever and the Zika virus are also spread through a kind of mosquito that is common in some parts of Brazil. Vaccines for these diseases are still in development and generally unavailable, so talk to your doctor before your trip about any health concerns they may have or preventative measures you should take. In general, you can avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent and wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts.

02 of 06

Be Prepared for Noise

Sao Paulo
Jenna Francisco

Brazil can be a pretty noisy country. In the cities, nights are filled with the sounds of bars, buses, motorcycles, and even fireworks, while in the countryside, it’s normal to hear roosters at 3:30 a.m. or dogs barking during the night. If you're staying in a hotel or apartment that has well-insulated windows, you may not notice the noise, but if you're sensitive to noise while sleeping, you might want to bring a white noise machine or ear plugs.

03 of 06

Visa Requirements

Brasil passport

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As of June 2019, American, Canadian, and Australian citizens no longer need a visa to enter Brazil. This is a huge change from the old process, which required a fee of $160 for a tourist visa that would last for five years.

04 of 06

Using ATMs May Be Tricky

A row of ATMs in Rio
Jon Hicks / Getty Images

In Brazil, you're likely to have a very hard time getting cash from ATMs. Most ATMs in Brazil don’t accept the type of debit and credit cards we carry, so before you leave, be sure to let your bank know that you'll be traveling to Brazil and convert your money into the local currency, which is the Brazilian Real. As a plural, this word is written out as reais, which is pronounced like "hey eyes."

Before you insert your card, check the back of your card to see if the networks the machine accepts (such as Cirrus) are the same as the ones on your card. If there is no match, don't insert your card.

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05 of 06

The Language

Talking with a food vendor on the beach

TripSavvy / Jenna Francisco

You might think you can get by with Spanish in Brazil, but you would be wrong. Although the languages are similarly written out, the pronunciations of syllables are very different. For example, a word beginning with the letter "R" makes the sound like an "H." Although some words are the same and some people will understand a bit of your Spanish, most people would prefer you try to speak basic Portuguese, although some Brazilians, especially ones working in the tourism industry, speak English well. Before your trip, you should memorize some common phrases like "obrigado," which means "thank you" and "com licença," which means "excuse me."

06 of 06

Staying Safe in Brazil

Driving in Brazil

TripSavvy / Jenna Francisco

For travelers sticking to the main tourist routes, Brazil is relatively safe if you are cautious and use common sense. Be cautious with your personal items and avoid walking in sketchy areas at night. You should never wear flashy jewelry or carry or around expensive camera equipment. If you choose to visit a slum, or favela, during your trip, make sure you are going with a reputable responsible tour operator.

Food and water safety varies depending on where you travel in Brazil. In big cities like São Paulo, the water is safe to drink and you don't need to worry about eating raw fruits and vegetables. However, in more remote areas of the country, there may be a risk of illness from contaminated water, meaning that you'll need to avoid ice and uncooked vegetables, peel fresh fruits, and drink bottled water.

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