Sao Paulo Travel Information
Brazil spans four time zones: Rio and Sao Paulo: GMT -2 (GMT -3 April to October); Brasilia and Belm: GMT -3 (GMT -2 October to March); GMT -4 in the West.
Brazil has a variety of electrical voltages, sometimes within the same city. The better hotels offer 220 volts, 60Hz. If not, transformers are available in electrical stores. Outlets often accept a variety of plug types.
The spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, however Spanish and English are also used in the cities.
Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended for all travellers. Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria are prevalent in Brazil. Insect repellent and protective clothing is essential. Malaria exists below 2,953 feet (900m) in most rural areas, and outbreaks of dengue fever occur frequently. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended for those travelling to rural areas as yellow fever outbreaks have occurred in recent years. Visitors travelling from infected areas outside the country require a yellow fever certificate. Tap water is heavily treated resulting in a strong chemical taste; bottled water is, however, freely available for drinking purposes. Typhoid vaccinations are recommended if travellers intend to spend a lot of time outside of major cities. Milk in rural areas is not pasteurised. Hospitals in the major cities are fairly good, but most doctors will want cash payment, even for travellers with insurance.
Nearly all hotels add a service charge to the bill, usually 10 percent. Most restaurants also add 10 percent or more to the total of the bill, but must make it clear that they have done so; waiters appreciate another five percent if their service has been good. Otherwise, a 10 to 15 percent tip is customary. Brazilians don't normally tip taxi drivers, except if they handle bags, although they may round up the total. Hotel staff expect small tips and most other service personnel, including barbers, shoe shiners, and petrol station attendants, are usually rewarded with a 10 to 15 percent tip. Parking attendants earn no wages and expect a tip of around two real.
Brazil is politically stable and seldom a target for terrorist activities. In metropolitan areas, however, crime is a fact of life. Rio in particular is regarded as one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world and, although violent crime is generally limited to the slum areas, foreigners are advised to take precautions. Visitors should not attempt to visit slum areas (favelas) unless on a guided tour. Violent crime is on the increase due to the establishment of drug and criminal gangs around Rio and Sao Paulo. Muggings, often involving firearms, are frequent and visitors should dress down, conceal cameras, and avoid wearing jewellery and expensive watches. Valuables should be deposited in hotel safes. The threat of personal attack is lower outside the main urban centres, but incidents do occur, and women should be aware that sexual assaults have been reported in coastal holiday destinations. Beware of unofficial taxis and those with blacked-out windows and be particularly careful on public transport in Rio, Recife and Salvador.
Brazil is a diverse cultural and ethnic melting pot, but most social customs will be familiar to visitors. As a result of three centuries of colonization by the Portuguese the Brazilian culture is actually recognisably European in many ways. Physical appearance is considered important by most Brazilians and care is taken to dress well, although not generally formally.
Business practices vary quite substantially from city to city in Brazil: very formal in Sao Paulo, but more relaxed in Rio de Janeiro and other centres. Multi-national companies have similar business etiquette to Europe or the US, while local businesses require a few more considerations, particularly preferring face-to-face meetings over phone calls or written communication. Brazilians place a very high value on personal relationships within business environments and will generally only conduct business through personal connections or with those whom they have already established a personal relationship. Nepotism is considered not only acceptable but actually desirable, because it is seen as ensuring trust and good relationships in business. All meetings are preceded by handshakes and small talk, and visitors should avoid the temptation to rush things; even after the meeting is over it is considered rude to rush off. Entertaining is common, either at a restaurant or someone's home, again with the emphasis on building personal relationships. Punctuality is flexible, except when meeting at a restaurant, when tardiness is considered impolite, and a small gift or flowers for the hostess is common when invited to a home. Business suits are expected, especially for first meetings. Portuguese is the dominant language, and although English is widely spoken in business an interpreter might be required. Business cards, as well as written documents, should be printed in both English and Portuguese. Business hours are 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Brazil is +55. Mobile phone networks cover the main cities and towns, and phones are available to rent. Internet cafes are widely available and most hotels provide internet access. Every town has a central telephone office called a Posto Telefonico where long distance calls can be made, and public phone booths are everywhere, operated by phone cards.
Travellers to Brazil can enter the country with 400 cigarettes or 25 cigars; 2 litres of alcoholic beverages and goods to the value of US$500, without incurring customs duty. Restricted items include fresh produce, meat and dairy products. Strict regulations apply to temporary import or export of firearms, antiquities, tropical plants, medication and business equipment.
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