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Brazil Travel Information

The Basics

Time

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.

Electricity

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. Two-pin plugs with a grounding pin are standard.

Language

The spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, however Spanish and English are also used in the cities.

Travel Health

Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria are prevalent in Brazil, so insect repellent and protective clothing is essential if visitors will be travelling to the countryside. Malaria exists below 2,953 feet (900m) in most rural areas, and outbreaks of dengue fever occur frequently.

Visitors travelling from infected areas outside the country require a yellow fever certificate, and vaccination is recommended for those travelling to rural areas, as outbreaks have occurred in recent years.

Typhoid vaccinations are recommended if travellers intend to spend a lot of time outside of major cities. Milk in rural areas is not pasteurised, so it's best to avoid it. Hospitals in the major cities are fairly good, with cash and card payments both acceptable and travel insurance common.

Tipping

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 was 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 such as barbers 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.

Safety Information

In Brazil's metropolitan areas, 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 favelas, foreigners are advised to take precautions. Visitors should not attempt to visit these township areas, even on a guided tour. Violent crime is on the increase due to the establishment of drug and criminal gangs around Rio and São Paulo.

Muggings are frequent and visitors should dress down, conceal cameras and avoid wearing jewellery or expensive watches. Bank- and credit card fraud is common, including card cloning from ATMs, so tourists should keep sight of their card at all times and not use an ATM if they notice anything suspicious.

Thefts are common on public beaches and visitors should avoid taking valuables to the beach. The threat of personal attack is lower outside the main urban centres, but incidents do occur. 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.

Local Customs

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 colonisation 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 but generally not too formally.

Business

Business practices vary quite substantially from city to city in Brazil: highly formal in São Paulo but more relaxed in Rio de Janeiro and other centres. Multinational companies have similar business etiquette to those in 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 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's 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 host 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.

Communications

The international access code for Brazil is +55. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free WiFi are widely available in tourist centred areas. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.

Duty Free

Travellers to Brazil can enter the country with 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars; 24 units of alcoholic beverages, with a maximum of 12 units per type of beverage; and goods to the value of USD 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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We are looking for contributors for our Brazil travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Brazil or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.