Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. A visa is required for U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. All other passport holders must check with the Brazilian Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. Visas must be obtained in advance from the Brazilian Embassy or consulate. There are no "airport visas," and anyone not possessing a valid visa will be refused entry into Brazil. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
Before traveling to South America, we recommend you see a healthcare provider at least 4-6 weeks prior to your trip (particularly one who specializes in travel medicine). These professionals will have the most up-to-date information about required vaccinations and how to protect yourself from illness. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know all of the countries you will be visiting. If you have a medical condition, you should discuss your travel plans with any doctors you are currently working with. You can also check the CDC website, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/.
It is recommended that travelers drink and brush their teeth with bottled water. Avoid eating uncooked vegetables, ice and fruits or vegetables that may have been washed in local, untreated water. Do not purchase food from street vendors. A good sun block and insect repellant should be worn at all times.
The currency used in Brazil is called the Real. One real is made up of one hundred centavos - cents. Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos and R$1. Coins are very similar in appearance and it can be difficult to tell them apart unless you pay careful attention. Owing to the low value of 1 centavo, Brazilian traders will sometimes round up prices to 5 centavo increments. Banknotes have denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 reais. There are banks and exchange booths at most airports where you can exchange US dollars for the local currency. Foreign currencies can also be exchanged in banks, "casas de cambio" (exchange booths or stores) and hotels. The US dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency (if the US bill is in poor condition or torn, many places will hesitate to take it). It is best to bring smaller notes (up to $20), as larger bills are more difficult to exchange. Always know the current exchange rate when you exchange your money. Look around for competitive rates. It is best to exchange your money inside the casas de cambio and not with vendors on the street.
Brazil has 110 V/220 V at 60 Hz, with a type A, B or C socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you'll need a converter and possibly an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is available throughout most of Brazil. Many of the hotels we use offer this service free or at a small charge. There are also Internet cafés in main cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
General business hours in Brazil are:
Banks: Mon-Fri, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Business Offices: Mon-Fri, 8:30 or 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Government Offices: Mon-Fri, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Stores: Mon-Sat 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; Major shopping centers are frequently open Sun, 3:00 p.m.-9:00 or 10:00 p.m.
Supermarkets: Mon-Sat, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
While in Brazil, look for art and handicrafts, jewelry, Brazilian music CDs, havaianas (Brazilian flip-flops), and hand-woven hammocks as souvenirs and gifts to bring home. If you are in Rio on a Sunday, visit the Hippie Market in Ipanema for good buys. Ask your Travel Director, Local Travel Expert, or local host for advice.
We suggest the following tipping rates: A 10% service charge is usually added to restaurant bills, so double check before leaving a tip. If the charge is not added, 10% is customary for good service. Tipping your bartender after he makes your first Caiparinha generally ensures attentive service. Entering a nightclub you may be given a card on which your drinks will be tallied. A 10% service charge is usually added to your bill, so a tip is not necessary. If you lose the card, you may have to pay R$100 or more when you leave, so be careful with it. Taxi drivers are usually not tipped, but it's customary to round up the fare to the next real. In general, tips for your concierge if he arranges an activity for you and for beach vendors if they deliver drinks or snacks are not necessarily expected, but appreciated.
Because the main cities in South America are generally quite a distance from one another, flying is often the best way to travel. Bus and train service is available as well.
Rio's subway system is a convenient and fast way to get around the city. Tickets can be purchased from a machine or ticket booth at the entrance to the stations, and free subway maps are available at most ticket booths. You can buy one-way, round-trip or 10-ride tickets. For areas not covered by the subway, a pass to connect to the integrated Metrô/bus service is free; just ask for a ticket for your destination at the ticket booth.
During the day, the bus can be a convenient way to travel. The fare is paid when you board. Buses tend to stay on the main streets, so it is fairly straightforward figuring out which to take. The route number and final destination are displayed in big letters on the front of the bus. Smaller signs posted inside the front window and on the side of the bus list the intermediate stops. Buses only stop if someone wants to board, so when you see your bus coming, wave your hand at the driver. To avoid pickpockets, try to sit near the front of the bus. In the evening, when fewer passengers ride, it is better to take a taxi.
For travel between Av Rio Branco in Centro and the Zona Sul as far as Barra da Tijuca, minibuses are a fast alternative to the bus. Their destination is posted in the front window.
Taxis are also a reliable way to get around town. Metered taxis can be hailed anywhere, plus there are taxi stands throughout the city. Radio taxis may work with a set fee for your destination; ask when you arrange the transportation (by phone) or before you get in the cab.
Clothing recommendations will vary with the areas you are planning on visiting. Generally, casual clothing is fine, though shorts should not be worn when sightseeing in churches, cathedrals, museums and other sites where they might not be appropriate. Pack according to the time of year you are traveling and general temperatures predicted, always remembering to bring comfortable walking shoes (essential), a sun hat or visor, and a sweater or jacket for cooler evenings. Also, don't forget a swimming suit, sun screen and sunglasses. If you are traveling to a jungle or rainforest, long-sleeved shirts, pants and insect repellent are advisable for protection from mosquitoes.