Monday, March 30, 2009

Brazil: Boa viagem

See some of the many parts of Rio, Brazil from a tourist's perspective.

We hope you have enjoyed this month's journey to Brazil. If you found this blog helpful in any way, please let us know by leaving a comment. If you have any travel stories or helpful suggestions please send them along.

Have a wonderful time in Brazil and Boa viagem!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Explore Brazil's rich culture and history through its music.

This video from the BBC is 59 minutes long, but worth every second!

Monday, March 23, 2009

BRAZIL: What to Expect

Here are some frequently asked questions about travel to Brazil:

Q- Will I be able to use my American cell phone in Brazil?

A- There is no easy answer to this question. Some carriers do provide service in the major cities of Brazil and some do not. Most phone companies have roaming fees that get pretty steep after a few calls home. Another option is to bring with you an old GSM (Global System for Mobile communications: originally from Groupe Spécial Mobile) cell phone. Make sure it is unlocked and you can purchase a new sim card in Brazil to go in it. Electronics are taxed high and are very expensive in Brazil, so bringing your own (preferrably an old one that does not cause PTSD if lost) will save you money and time. If you have friends or family that you are visiting in Brazil, you should probably get a phone on the same network. Most phone companies have lower rates for calls and messaging within the same network. OR you could simply ask the taxi driver or another local Brazilian what cell company they use. More info.

Q- I am going to Brazil for the first time and I dont speak Portuguese (and very little Spanish). How do I communicate?
A- Crossing the language barriers are often the most difficult part of traveling out of country. The best idea is to plan ahead and take some Portuguese classes to learn the basics. Bring a Portuguese/English dictionary with you so you can have it as a reference whenever you are trying to find your way and especially ordering food. If you are allergic to anything that is a common food ingredient, have any life-threatening medical conditions or physical limitations, it is imperative to learn that in Portuguese. You may even want to keep a note card with you explaining this information in Portuguese in the event that you cannot speak or the person does not understand your accent.

Q- I know that my looks and accent give away the fact that I am a tourist and can make me a target for theft in Brazil. How do I blend in as much as possible so I can avoid any unwanted attention?

A- Don't wear conspicuous clothing. If everyone is wearing dark, formal clothing and you show up in a Hawaiian print shirt and socks with sandals, you will instantly stand out, especially to a street thief. Make yourself and your valuables as inaccessible as possible. Be aware of your surroundings, carry your money and valuables in a front pocket of your pants or a flat pouch worn under your clothing. Don't weigh yourself down with too many purchases and bags, especially if you are traveling on public transportation or walking through crowded streets.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Brazil: Food!

One of the best reasons to visit Brazil is the FOOD!

The Brazilian cuisine is versatile. The Brazilian culture results from a mixture of European, Amerindian, African and Asian cultures and this is reflected in its food.

Brazil can be subdivided in 5 regions with their own distinct culinary traditions:

Brazilian regions, (c) Dona Brasil

1-The Central West was opened up relatively recently and the cuisines of hunters, fishers and ranchers are gradually being replaced by the cuisines of other Brazilian regions.

2-The cuisine of the Northeast is heavily influenced by the African and Portuguese cuisines.
3-The North is covered by the Amazon rainforest. Its biodiversity results in a unique availability of ingredients and the Amazon river provides abundant stocks of fish.
4-In the Southeast lives the major share of the Brazilian population. When people talk about the Brazilian cuisine, they often mean the cuisine of this region.
5-The cuisine of the South is heavily influenced by the cuisines of European immigrants and the abundance of high quality meat produced on the pampa's.

Roast Suckling Pig

The southeast features delicious roast suckling pig and cracklings of fried pork skin.

Feijoada with orange, rice, couve mineira and farofa.Feijoada is often called the national dish of Brazil. It is a delicious stew made of beans and various types of meat. It is eaten with white rice and side dishes like farofa and couve mineira. As feijoada contains a lot of fat, it is often eaten with slices of pineapple or orange. In many restaurants, feijoada is served daily at lunch time. Traditionally, every part of the pig was used for feijoada, including the tail and the trotter.
Feijoada with orange, rice, couve mineira and farofa.Flan, or crème caramel, is one of the most common dessert dishes in the Latin world. Coming originally from the border area of France and Spain, this simple yet elegant dessert has spread in popularity as far as the Philippines and Japan.

As always you must keep in mind that food safety standards and regulations are different for each country. You definitely want to make sure you know where your food and drink are coming from and that they were prepared safely. To do so in Brazil be sure to only eat at inspected and certified restaurants. If you decided to take your chances at any street vendors or non-regulated restaurants, beware! It may be cheap and taste delicious, but you may also PAY a much higher price with your health later.

Now would be the best time to remind you of some products you can take with you to ease your pain in the event "tummy trouble" does hit. Hopefully you wont need them at all.

Thank you to, and for the great info in this post.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brazil :What do I pack?

Pack everything you think you need and then remove half. After you have carefully removed that half, take out some more!

TRAVEL LIGHT, buy the necessities when you arrive. With the airline restrictions getting more and more strict it will cost you more than its worth in the long run anyway. Keep a change of clothes (or at least clean underwear) in your carry on baggage just in case you arrive in Brazil BEFORE your checked baggage. Be aware that most luggage holds on planes are not pressurized so things like aerosols and camera lenses may be subject to ruin if left to the fate of the cargo hold (not to mention the tough journey through baggage handlers and conveyor belts before it even makes it to the plane!)

The airport in Rio De Janeiro is fully equipped with shops to purchase the necessities, exchange money, disabled accessible, and plenty of information desks to direct you where to go. There are several choices of transportation to and from the airport to many of the hotels and tourist attractions along the beach road. All major airports in Brazil most likely offer these same services.

Remember all those copies you made when you were planning your trip? (copies of all legal documents, hotel reservations, tour bookings etc.) They should each get a special place in every one of your bags, all your travel companions' bags and, depending upon how irreplaceable, on your person as well. If you find yourself separated from your baggage (or your travel companions) and in need of explaining who you are and why you are here to a Brazilian official, you definitely want your documents with you to back you up. Especially if you don't speak Portuguese! IF you and your companion are separated and you both have a copy of the hotel reservation, it will be much easier to reconnect without losing time and money traveling back and forth trying to locate one another.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brazil: Stay Healthy on vacation!

With all the stress and worry of booking flights, finding hotels, coordinating schedules, getting the proper legal documents in hand and on time, arranging time off work or school, finishing that big project, closing that final deal, finding a house sitter, dog sitter, learning important Portuguese phrases etc. it is easy to understand how busy you will be from the moment you start planning your travel to Brazil.

How would your boss feel if you couldn't close the new overseas business because you were too sick to attend the board meeting? What good would all the planning for your vacation of a lifetime be if you spent 90% of it in the hotel bathroom, missing all the sights? Don't let your best friends' pictures and stories be the only way you have to experience Brazil.

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in Brazil and get vaccinated.

For travel to Brazil, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:
Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are armed (pun intended) with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in Brazil.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can effect your trip.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases(Dengue Fever, Malaria): use appropriate repellents containing DEET, and prescribed Malaria medication.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance
Don't let the possibility of getting sick in Brazil deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Brazil: Visa, Passport, Copies, Copies, Copies

Ready to go to Brazil... right now?

Too bad. You can't just tell your boss you will be gone for the next 3 weeks, book your flight and go. (So much for spontaneity!)

So, if you have decided that you would like to take a trip to Brazil in a few months, or even a year from now you should start NOW to make sure all your legal documents are ready to go.

A passport and visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil for any purpose.

You can apply for a passport at most local post offices. Be sure to bring a picture with you (or they may provide that service for you for an extra $15) and around $100 is a good estimate for the total cost for 1 adult. Download the passport application forms ahead of time to speed up your visit. It can take a few weeks up to a few months to get your passport approved and sent to you. If you need it right away you can pay an extra fee of $60 and have it expedited.

Brazilian visas must be obtained in advance from the Brazilian Embassy or consulate nearest to the traveler's place of residence. Immigration authorities will refuse entry to Brazil to anyone not possessing a valid visa. Obtaining a visa in person can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 business days and up to a few months if requested by mail.

All Brazilian visas, regardless of the length of validity, must initially be used within 90 days of the issuance date or will no longer be valid.

Timing the issuance of your visa correctly to be sure you are covered for the entirety of your trip is hopefully the biggest headache you will have to face when planning your trip. If you will be gone for longer than 90 days then you will need to renew your visa while in Brazil at a consulate or embassy there. It would be best to research all the locations you can get that accomplished BEFORE you leave. Start with asking the embassy or consulate in your home country.

The requirements for a visa for Brazil are as follows:
  • Application form
  • 1 Passport-size photo(2" x 2", white background)
  • Valid passport with 1 full blank page
  • Return ticket
  • Evidence of sufficient funds for stay
  • Visa fee payment
  • Clear copy of driver's license or ID card

The most important thing to remember is to MAKE COPIES!! Copy all your legal documents, trip itineraries, hotel reservations etc. Leave one set at home, have another set in each suitcase you pack and carry a set with you. You must show your original passport, but copies of other legal documents may be good enough to prove what's necessary to Brazilian officials, so you can leave the originals in a very safe place. Double check with the Embassy about the documents to which this may apply.

Travelers are reminded that they are subject to local law. Showing contempt to a Brazilian government official at the port of entry, or elsewhere, is a serious offense. (And, let's face it, aggravating government officials never got anyone good favor, so just don't do it... no matter where you are. )

Thank you to Express Travel Services, the Department of State, and the USPS for their contribution to this post.