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Brazil – Highlights & Tips

After 3+ weeks in Peru, it was off to South America’s largest country, Brazil, for 14 days. It was a balanced trip encompassing the bipolar metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, the island of Morro de Sao Paulo, and then to the stunning Iguazu Falls. Oh, and a quick jaunt to San Francisco in between it all.

- See & Do

Morro de Sao Paulo v181) Morro de Sao Paulo – An unassuming beach town with a cool vibe, endless stretches of sand, and a multitude of options to occupy your time. If you find yourself in Brazil needing a break, this is your ticket. 

2) Iguazu Falls – Though Argentina boasts a more intimate experience, the broad scope of the Falls from Brazil is impressive. Moving between countries is a breeze with the proper visa.

3) Rio de Janeiro – Charming, dangerous, and inviting all at the same time. The music, beaches, and drinks (with or without alcoholic) are fantastic.

4) Salvador – The point of embarkation for a trip to Morro, we only spent an evening in this colorful town, but we would have liked a chance to see more.

5) Sao Paulo – After simply flying into the international airport then boarding a bus for Iguazu, the advice to skip this massive city seemed spot on. There didn’t appear much to see and do.

6) So little time – Unless you plan to spend some serious time, Brazil is simply too large and offers too much to see it all. We would have liked to explore the northern coast as well as a few spots in the Amazon Basin.

 - Transportation 

1) Air – Despite its size, much of Brazil can be accessed by the several airlines in the country. Among the largest are TAM and GOL (supposed low cost carrier). Many low cost airlines come and go as well. We took a one-way flight from Rio to Salvador for $85 each on WebJet (you can only purchase tickets in person) and the next cheapest flight was $215 each.

2) Bus – Coastal areas are accessible by bus, but the distances between hot spots are immense. In many long haul cases (1+ days), the cost of a bus fare is more than a flight. For distances of less than 24 hours, there are several companies offering overnight journeys in seats that nearly recline into a bed.

3) Taxis – To and from airports can be expensive. In daylight, buses operating between transportation nodes and the city center are safe and cheap. Cities are full of taxis, but beware the cost. Be on guard when hiring a taxi as stories of armed robbery and theft of baggage are not exaggerated.

- Food

1) The Misto Quente is to die for… think of a grilled cheese with ham and a fried egg. Yum.

2) Churrasco (Brazilian BBQ) – Starve yourself all day then go hog wild for hours. Yep, this was delicious too.

3) Fried Eggs – Brazilians put fried eggs on everything and it is damn good. Next time you cook up a hamburger, throw an egg on top. You can thank us later.

- Drink

Antarctica on the Beach1) Caipirinha (the national drink) – Similar to a mojito, but made with strong Brazilian liquor called Cachaca. Greg wanted to drink these with breakfast! Many bars offer free caipirinha’s at Happy Hour.

2) Beers – If you are an indecisive person, prepare for the worst. When it comes to cerveza, Brazil boasts an array of options. Brahma, Skol, Sol, Antarctica, Nova Schin, and Kaiser appear everywhere. Bohemia was my favorite though.

3) Wine – Ash would steal wine from a death row inmate’s last meal. Sadly, cheap Brazilian vino is hard to find.

4) Fruit Juices – Appearing on almost every corner, bring along extra cash to indulge your taste buds at least twice per day.

- Culture & Citizens

1) Attire – Women have an updated fashion look while men enjoy t-shirts one size too small. Greg’s zip-off travel pants didn’t fit in so much.

2) Culture – Brazil has many geographic areas with unique influences. But regardless of the area, music (mainly samba) plays a large part.

3) People – Machismo among men was evident as they walk confidently and appear to sleep in a weight room. Most people were friendly and helpful.

- Safety

Christ the Redeemer v91) Hyper paranoia is AOK – Particularly in large cities, armed robbery is a legit worry. Travel in groups, trust your gut, and stay aware. If a situation doesn’t feel right, get out of there ASAP. Better to miss that sweet Thursday overnight in Lapa than to be relieved of your wallet and travel confidence.

2) Rio de Janeiro – The tales of danger here are not overblown. A gal visiting from New York City had three instances of being in harms way in just ten days. The best advice is to stay alert.

- Costs

1) General – Make no mistakes, Brazil is not cheap. In fact, the Real (Brazil’s currency) appreciated 35% from January 2009 – October 2009. Of the 16 most traded currencies in the world, the Real has been the best performer. So well in fact, a Big Mac in Sao Paulo costs more than in New York City.

2) Visas – Every American citizen must procure a visa ($130) to enter Brazil. Most visas allow access for up to five years at 90 days per trip.

3) Lodging – Larger cities have a plethora of options. Dorms range from $12 – $25 and privates from $25 – $45 per person. If visiting around Carnival, you should book months in advance and most hostels have a minimum stay requirement.

4) Food – Breakfast is generally included with your hostel, lunch $6 – $12, and dinner (entre & beer) $12 – $25 per person. Cooking at the hostel will cost you about $8 per person.

5) Transportation – Flights between domestic cities vary greatly from $75 to $350 one-way. A 12 hour bus will set you back around $80.

Despite the current economic climate, Brazil continues to shine and for good reason. It has much to offer by way of bustling cities, lazy beaches, verdant rainforests, and natural wonders. With the 2014 World Cup and Summer Games in 2016, this fascinating country will be known more for its merits than the popular Brazilian Wax.

- Greg & Ash

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