Although you'll come across many motels in Brazil, none of them will afford you and your family the low-budget comfort zone of their American namesakes. In Brazil, the term "motel" has one meaning, and one meaning only: a short-stay hotel which allows people privacy for sex.
High walls and windows that don't face the street, off locations (due to zoning restrictions), and tricks of the trade which keep guests isolated from passers-by and staff, such as private garages and rotating windows in the wall for meal serving, are some of the traits of Brazil motels.
Similarly to Japan's love hotels, motels in Brazil cater to couples who haven't got privacy at home – in the Brazilian case, mainly singles who, strained by the country's economy or bound by insufficient emphasis on independence, still live with their parents. A motel can also be a rendezvous for affairs or a getaway for married couples looking for a change.
Motels in the Brazil Scenario
Motels first appeared in Brazil in the late 1960s as an alternative for the unmarried when hotels used to require marriage certificates from couples before check-in. For decades motel owners seemed to take a zero-subtlety bloc approach to their style, which might be described as Sex Fantasy Island of Sin.
If moral concerns haven't kept some passionate couples away from motels, the thought of the day's high turnover on a round bed, heavy drapes, all-black bathrooms, nothing but X-rated movies, and obvious S&M gadgets have.
Of late, competition posed by hotels with more tasteful and more varied romance/passion packages has forced motels to adapt and minimize their kitsch atmosphere.
Now motels frequently advertise "hotel-like accommodations" on their websites. Acknowledging the fact that high turnover can be a major turn-off, they offer longer weekend packages.
That doesn't mean the old school style is not going strong. Online motel guides such as Guia de Motéis have plenty of over-the-top options, with an excess of dark tiles in the bathrooms and suites which look like gaudy dominatrix playgrounds.
On the other hand, older motels such as the Playboy in São Paulo, which claims to be Brazil's first motel, have lightened up their looks to keep up with the times.
As you travel Brazil roads, you might notice that some motels are making the M in "motel" look like an H on their signs. That doesn’t make much sense since these motels are probably OK by zoning laws and the lettering alone wouldn't be enough of a hint, should they be trying to look more like a hotel on the inside.