Brazil is undoubtedly one of the most captivating and exotic countries to travel to and explore. Travellers are drawn by the world-famous beaches, the allure of Carnaval parties and the mysteries of the Amazon, among other draw-cards. But many travellers make some cliché errors when planning their travels. Make sure you get the most out of your trip to Brazil by avoiding these common tourist mistakes.
1. Not learning Portuguese beforehand
Don’t board a plane to Brazil without arming yourself with at least a few basic Portuguese survival phrases. It’s possible, but it’s not always easy to get by in Brazil with only English, as even in popular tourist hot spots the level of English is not that good. To really make the most of your trip, take a few Portuguese lessons before you go.
Think you can get by? Take our Portuguese language test now to test your skills!
2. Thinking Carnaval = Rio de Janeiro
Yes, we know, Rio de Janeiro is without a doubt home to the world’s most famous Carnaval celebrations. But if you want to escape the hordes of foreign tourists and overpriced Carnaval prices, head to one of Brazil’s other cities. You’ll find some kind of Carnaval celebration wherever you go, but some places have better parties than others. Salvador is considered one of the best in Brazil by locals, and each year draws bigger crowds. For an open-air party, try Recife or Olinda in the North. If you’re in Rio for Carnival but want to see something else nearby, make a beeline for Paraty for a few days. Not only is it a charming town, but it also has the best cachaça in Brazil.
3. Not respecting the power of a caipirinha
While we’re on the subject of cachaça – the national drink of Brazil distilled from sugar cane – heed this important piece of advice: cachaça is dangerously strong and will get you drunk much quicker than you realise. Especially when drinking it in a delicious caipirinha. Three caipi’s will easily floor even the most seasoned drinkers. The morning after will need obligatory hangover cures: coconut water, açaí and the local miracle pill Engov.
4. Wearing too much to the beach
How to spot a gringo on the beach: full coverage bikinis, long swim trunks, layers of clothing, a beach towel and loads of beach accessories. Take a lesson from the Brazilians and make for the beach with just your swimsuit, a canga (sarong), and a bit of money to rent an umbrella and buy snacks and drinks from the beach vendors. Keep it simple to enjoy your beach day. Feel confident in your “dental floss” bikini and people watch as much as possible.
5. Sticking to the beaches
As incredible as the beaches are in Brazil, don’t spend your whole holiday on the sand. Brazil’s cities are full of culture, and there are fascinating destinations to discover far from the famous coastline. From the Amazon to the Pantanal, the Pampas and wine country, the diversity is staggering. Your biggest problem will be fitting it all into your itinerary.
6. Forgetting the size of the country
When planning your trip to Brazil, don’t make the mistake of underestimating the sheer size of Brazil. It’s the fifth biggest country in the world, and that means you need to factor in sufficient travel time between destinations. While there are many internal flight options, sometimes the cheapest way for budget travellers is to take a bus. If you go down this route, you will need to carefully plan your itinerary, and prepare yourself for some long bus rides. Luckily, bus travel in Brazil is extremely comfortable and a great option.
7. Skipping São Paulo
Too many travellers write off the sprawling metropolis that is São Paulo. It’s long been a hub for business travellers but slowly leisure tourists are cottoning on to São Paulo’s many attractions. Sure, it’s a massive concrete jungle, but it is also boasts incredible culture, with endless museums to explore, superb food experiences and a world-class nightlife. As many flights into the country go via Sampa, make it more than a layover on your itinerary.
8. Expecting one homogenous Brazilian culture
Since Brazil is a huge country, with multiple influences, and a long history of immigration, the local culture varies significantly. The north is very different from the south. Officially, the country is divided into five regions: North, North-East, Centre-West, South-East, and South. Don’t make the mistake of expecting the people, culture and lifestyle to be the same across each zone. If you really want to know the country, you’ve got to travel further north and south of Rio, and head inland as well.
9. Not bringing enough money
Let’s be clear, Brazil is expensive. It is not an economical destination in South America, although the current dollar exchange rates have certainly made it more affordable. You need to plan your budget well, especially if you’re travelling over New Years or Carnaval season, where rates rise dramatically.
10. Being paranoid about safety
Yes, there are plenty of scary stories out there about safety in Brazil, and films like City of God have certainly not helped. But don’t let that put you off your travels. Crime does happen, especially in big cities, but if you follow the advice of locals and basic safety tips, you can easily enjoy your holiday without fear.
Have you travelled to Brazil and have more advice for first-time visitors? Let us know your tips in the comments below!