I’m 5 weeks into my 6 month + trip throughout South America. I’ve been in Brazil for the whole time. Mainly because of the World Cup. Right now, I’m in the North East, in the state of Bahia, literally headed to a place called Itacare. I’m currently writing this on a organised/public coach. Meaning I have reserved my ticket to go straight to my destination, but in Brazil, things aren’t that straight forward. Countless stops and pick ups from locals, people standing on long haul journeys and bumpy roads all make it part of the backpacking experience.
For those who have been asking me, what’s Brazil like? Is it as they say? Full of Samba clubs, football and beach life. To an extent, yes. How is it in comparison to places in SE Asia? Well, here are something’s I have noticed and will give you some pointers about if you come to this country.
Brazil is a big ass country. I mean, it’s huge. From Rio to Salvador a bus trip is 36 hours. Look on the map. It doesn’t look that far. This place could be a continent on its own.
English IS NOT Brazilians second language. Learn Portuguese, you need to really. Even in Rio, a huge international city, you would think English would be almost known to everyone, I mean if they speak it in Paris then Rio, no problem! Wrong. Learn some basics. You will pick some up on the way. I found myself having a conversation, albeit broken Portuguese, fluently recently without knowing it until after the dialogue took place.
Brazil isn’t your Thailand. Its half the price of Australia and USA, so for holidays, yes you are going to save a buck or two. Backpacking? Its pricey. Laundry is standard 25 real minimum which is about 12 dollars. A good meal is around 30 real which is 15 dollars, transport such as bus rides are around 50 real for a 8 hour journey and beer is around 8 real for a small one. Of course, you can eat and drink locally, hand wash your things to make things cheaper. Try that I encourage it. But comparison to the costs of Asia, Eastern Europe and other parts of South and Central America, Brazil is pricey for a backpacker.
Food is basically pasties filled with quejo(cheese), cheeseburgers, steak or carbs. I originally lost weight but now have found weight has found me. Street food is cheap, like steak skewers and Tapioca wraps. However, its not as healthy as massaman chicken curry can be.
Want to take malaria tablets such as doxycycline? Buy a batch before you go. Nowhere seems to have them or know what they are.
It’s not all flip flops and t shirts. Tourists stand out so much more here. Maybe pack a pair of trousers and casual trainers too. Sometimes being a tourist can make life a little difficult for you. We stand a little more and that can cause more bad attention sometimes than good.
Always been interested in the Favela’s but worried about what you have heard? Well apparently its more dangerous now in some parts than some of the heights of the Favela’s 10 years ago (Rio De Janeiro). BUT, do a tour and party in the Favelas. Its an incredible experience and the tour I done through Books Hostel in Lapa suburb, was fantastic. A truly warming and wonderful experience, so eye opening and honestly one of the best travel things I have done to date. Similar to a slums tour in India for those who have experience that first hand, however I though the Favela tour was more interesting.
Not everyone woman will lap you up like other countries at first glance. Maybe if you get speaking to them they realise you are foreign, but unlike the Philippines for example, the women won’t try and find out about where you are from instantly.
However, a lot of local women were thongs, g-strings on the beach. Finally a bit of sense!
Transport isn’t all that frequent. Want a last minute ride to another location 7 hours away? We got up this morning at 3am to get 6 hours ahead. We are currently 10 hours past our wake up time with 2 hours to go. Detours are regular. Plan your travels more carefully.
The buses are actually better than you think facilities wise. You can book a conventional bus which is standard but with aircon, comfier seats, whilst some actually have WIFI and toilets. You can book Executive or Gold Class, obviously paying more but with far better comfort. The drivers still blast the roads as fast as possible though!
No train line here. Buses, Boats, Planes or Cars.
Taxi’s are more expensive here. No 20 minute ride for 3-4 dollars, you’ll be paying 10-15.
Rio is either beautiful or run down. There is no middle between that city. You have Barra which is full of beautiful beaches, trendy squares and yahts at sea, you can have Lapa which is similar to Manila just with more street parties and Caprinhas, or tourist places like Copacabana which at first glance is pretty, but can soon lead to Favela leading areas. The Favela’s are obviously a place to try and not stay in for obvious reasons, but like I mentioned worth a visit.
There is football everywhere. You can play keepy ups in the street, on the beach with locals or find a football pitch in every town. The last 2 days I’ve randomly played against some locals on the Beach and then played with a local school on a field. Just turn up if you fancy a game. You’ll see how skillful the youngsters are.
Hostels are around 10-20 dollars per night, but offer the facilities you want. Decent beds, aircon, tours, WIFI, free breakfast. You can find it here and generally hostels are good place to stay in Brazil.
Don’t make the gesture of an OK with your hands, its offensive here! Thumbs up is okay, unlike parts of Asia.
Religion is mostly towards Christianity, not Buddhism.
There is a more of resentment to foreigners or Gringos than there is in Asia. Brazilians don’t love the western culture as much as Asian culture does, they have their own style, way of living and are happy by that. They don’t really want to be like any other country.
There is a lot more rainforests and natural environments here in Brazil. More room for hikes and exploration. You can always find yourself close to some forest or adventure you want to go on. More so than Asia.
It’s generally a bit more dangerous. In terms of everything really, being out at night, pick-pocketing, journeys and violence, seems to be a bit more of the case here at the moment(2014)
Alot of foreigners get stuck here, more than you think. I know people who are teachers, work in hostels and travel who have just loved Brazil and can’t leave. You don’t hear that alot in the UK or Australia.
Dancing is an art here. Samba, Rumba, Salsa, its amazing to watch. It fills you with life and you will automatically get involved, amateur or professional. Its addictive.
These are based on several places I have been throughout Brazil and my own personal comparisons. Everyone has their own opinion but this is what I have found. I hope this creates a little insight for you to this intriguing and mammoth of a country!