Brazil Trip 101

11 04 2012


Brazil is an emerging, Portuguese-speaking South American nation known for its soccer, housing most of the Amazon rain forest, the Samba, Havaianas, and the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. You get to hear a lot about their more famous cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Brasilia.

Economically, Brazil is growing at almost the same rate of economic development seen as a country with potential to eclipse the combined economies of the current richest countries. Like Russia, China and India, it is viewed to be in a similar stage in terms of economic development. However, despite massive gains in their economy, they also have social problems  particularly in the gap of wealth between the rich and poor. This disparity is one to note especially for those travelling to Brazil.

Planning out the flights

Planning our trip to Brazil took 3-4 months. As with most trips, you would have to consider your budget. Your budget will dictate whether you fly in during Brazil’s tourist off-peak or peak season. Peak season is usually during the Carnival which celebrated 46 days before Easter. It is a weeks worth of celebration, pageantry, music and dance. It also means higher cost of local flights, and accommodations. Our group opted to travel a few weeks after the Carnival.

International flight

Buy your international flights as soon as you have made the decision to visit Brazil. Using CheapFlights, we were able to get a SGD$1619 round trip flight from Singapore to Sao Paulo (via Doha) on Qatar Airways. This will entail an 8-hr stop over on the way to Sao Paulo, and a 4-hr stop over on the way back to Singapore. Visa-in-transit may be available in Doha if the city is still alive and you have the energy to do some sight-seeing. If not, there are lounges available in Doha at US$ 300 to US$ 400. For the backpackers, the Doha transit terminal is pretty clean so setting yourself up to sleep on the benches or floor is not a bad idea.

There are also certain corners and rooms that allow you a few hours on a more comfortable seat. The person-in-charge will also provide you a blanket for additional comfort. The rest rooms are well maintained.

Local flights

Choose which cities you want to visit. Each city has something to offer.

  • Salvador was a former capital thus have a lot of old Portuguese architecture. It is also known to be where Capoeira originated.
  • Sao Paulo is also a former capital and have some old Portuguese architecture.
  • Manaus or Belem are your gateway to the Amazon rainforest.
  • Foz du Iguacu is a town bordering Paraguay and Argentina. From here, it is less than a 10 minute bus ride to Iguazu Falls.
  • Rio de Janeiro is where most tourists are. While most of the above are roughly off-the-beaten track for day-to-day tourist, Rio is the place to be if you also want to interact with fellow travellers. That is, of course, aside from the many beaches, sites and sounds you experience here.
  • Most cities are along the east coast of South America. You won’t miss out on the beaches.

Our trip covered Sao Paulo – Foz du Iguacu – Rio de Janeiro – Sao Paulo. We didn’t stay much in Sao Paulo but ventured out a short time to see a few sites and have dinner. It basically served as our gateway to Brazil. The reason why is because 1) the flights were cheaper if we enter via Sao Paulo then via Rio, 2) the people are relatively more good-looking in SP (not that there were any ugly people in Brazil to begin with 🙂 ), and 3) the Guarulhos airport is, in my opinion, less crowded, more efficient and cleaner than the Galaeo airport in Rio.

There are a lot of budget airlines (includes TAM, GOL, etc..) that run local flights within Brazil. We booked our local flights on GOL simply because it was a lot more convenient to book through them. SP – Iguazu – RJ flights cost SG$ 325 while the last RJ – SP flight cost SG$84.20.

Where to stay

Foz du Iguacu

There are a lot of hotels around the town, however, it is best to book rooms ahead of time. Weekends usually see a spike in the hotel occupation due to local tourists from SP and RJ.

We booked ours at Hotel Florença Iguaçu.

Rio de Janeiro

There are more options for backpacker dorms and lower class hotels in the city. More so as you near the beaches. For us, we booked a room at a backpackers in for a few nights then moved to an apartelle-styled hotel for the last night.

Cafe Rio Hostel
Mercure Rio De Janeiro Botafogo

Plan out what to do

If you are travelling in a group, it is always best to layout your objectives for travelling before planning out and deciding on what to do. Most disagreements later on in the trip may be  due to unaligned objectives.

As a group, we divided the task of finding out what-to-do by city per person. While we did not do everything suggested, we prioritized and below is what we came up with:

Sao Paulo

  • Catedral Ortodoxa
  • Palácio da Justiça
  • Estação da Luz (Sao Paulo Railway)

Foz du Iguacu (first three bookings were done via Falls Vision Receptivo)

  • Rafting Iguassu River
  • Macuco Safari Boat Ride
  • Rappelling
  • Tres Fronteiras

Rio de Janeiro

  •  Street party in Lapa
  • Christ the Redeemer
  • Sugarloaf Cable Car Tour
  • Santa Teresa Mosaic Stairs
  • Rio Hang Gliding
  • Surf / Beach bumming at Ipanema and Copacabana
  • Watch a soccer game at the Engenhao Stadium
  • Flea markets (open at plazas every Sunday)
  • Learn Samba or Capoeira

While there are still a whole lot more to do, especially in terms of religious sites, museums and island tours, a week can only allow you to do so much.

Things to do before you depart:

  1. Make sure you get your yellow fever vaccine. This is an immigration requirement when you enter Singapore.
  2. Get some travel insurance. Columbus Insurance offers a good deal with the best value for your money.
  3. Change your SG$ to US$ as early as you can, and where you can get the best exchange rate possible. Get small bills as well which you can exchange for Qatar Reals.
  4. Get a combination lock. This is to ensure your important items (passports, extra cash, important documents) are secure in your dorm.
  5. Brush up on your Portuguese or at least have an offline translator app installed. Most Brazilians speak little or no English. You don’t have to know a lot, since learning the language is also part of the fun, but at least get the “thank you”s, “how much”s, and “excuse me”s down.
  6. Get your sunblock and insect repellent ready. Also, it is best to have a small first aid kit ready in case an upset stomach looms to turn your trip to a downer.
  7. Psych yourself to have fun, enjoy, and experience a different way of life. The people of Brazil are a fun-loving people. Get into their culture, get to know them, and do what the locals do… Have fun! 🙂

We have made our Brazil Itinerary available via GoogleDocs.




6 responses

11 04 2012
The Cubicle Renegade

this is my 2014 goal 🙂

11 04 2012

hahaha… i’m done with this overview post but I want to add in some pictures.

I will go to the details per city in my succeeding posts. hope it helps with your plans though i think it will be expensive since it will be Olympics year.

11 04 2012
The Cubicle Renegade

it’s world cup year!!!!

11 04 2012

oops.. had the dates reversed. :p Watched a football match there. it was a definite experience! and it was just a playoffs game for a local tournament. can’t imagine how rowdy and exciting it will be on a world cup scale.

9 05 2012

yay thanks for the useful info mike! i can’t wait to go to brazil! wooot!

9 05 2012

Best place to be specially in the coming years with the world youth day, world cup and olympics lined up with Rio as hosts… Daming improvements in terms of their infrastructure din!

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