1. Apply for a Visa at least a month in advance
Be sure to reserve those cheap airline tickets well in advance since you’ll have to leave your passport at the Brazilian embassy for at least three weeks to get your Visa. Canadians must produce a series of documents to get a Brazilian Visa and if you’re missing any, your application will be denied, causing further delays.
2. Don’t expect any bargains
Unlike many other South American countries, Brazil isn’t cheap, so expect to pay about as much as you do here in Canada for a good hotel, a nice restaurant and other activities. To get the best bang for your buck in terms of accommodations, I recommend AirBnb!
3. Don’t expect to get by on your Spanish
Although many Spanish speakers can grasp written Portuguese, Brazil’s official language, understanding the spoken language is a whole other story, so don’t expect to get by on your Spanish or even on your English. You’ll have to get more creative to be understood!
4. Don’t drive long distances
Since it’s a big country, you may be tempted to rent a car so you can see different cities at your own pace, but that would be ill-advised. While most tourist cities are safe (if you’re in a good part of town), the remote areas you’ll have to drive through can be very dangerous.
5. Don’t expect Brazil’s bus system to be as efficient as ours
If you decide to go from city to city by bus, be sure to get to the terminus a few days in advance. For the most part, only citizens can buy bus tickets online since a Brazilian ID is required. The easiest way to travel is by plane, which obviously costs more money.
6. Don’t lose your consumption card
This concept is foreign to Canadians: when you order a drink, the bartender writes it down on a card. When you leave the bar, you have to present this card to pay your tab but if you lose it, you may have to pay a hefty fine, even if you only had one drink! Don’t expect anyone to warn you about this either, although even if they do, it will be in Portuguese!
7. Don’t go to favelas on your own
You may have heard that Rio’s favelas are now safe and that is true, to an extent. Tourists feel much safer now that crime is down in many of these shanty towns, but that’s not the case everywhere. The safest way to see the real Brazil is through a guided tour. If that’s too dull for you, you could always go on a guided scooter tour with Happy Moto. We hear following the guide as he zigzags between taxis and trucks on those steep, narrow roads is quite a thrill!