) is the largest country in South America. Famous for its soccer tradition and its annual carnival
in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife and Olinda, it is a country of great diversity. From the bustling urban mosaic of São Paulo to the infinite cultural energy of Pernambuco and Bahia, the untouched wilderness of the Amazon rainforest and world-class landmarks such as the Iguaçu Falls, there is plenty to see and to do in Brazil.Regions
Brazil is the fifth largest country on earth. So large is it that, for economic planning purposes, it had to be divided into five regions. The five regions (below) are drawn around state lines, but they more or less follow natural, economic and cultural borderlines.The North -- the Amazon, the rain forest and frontier life, with remarkable indian influence.The Northeast -- strong black culture (especially in Bahia) mingles with early Iberic folklore. This is often considered the country's most beautiful coastline, and has the sunniest and hottest climate; but it is also the country's driest and poorest region.The Central West -- The Pantanal wetlands, great farms, young cities, the cerrado and the Federal District, with its outworldly modernist architecture.The Southeast -- São Paulo and Rio are the largest cities of the country's economic and industrial hub, which also has some century-old colonial towns.The South -- is a land of valleys and pampas where a strong gaucho culture (shared with Uruguay and Argentina) meets European influences.
See also: List of Brazilian statesCities
Brazil has many exciting cities, ranging from pretty colonial towns and coastal hideouts to hectic, lively metropolises; these are a few of the more prominent travel destinations:Belém -- The second largest city in the Amazon region. Religious festivals (Cirio de Nazare), traditional market (Ver-o-Peso).Brasília -- The capital of Brazil, and an architectural spectacle. Noteworthy buildings include a basket-shaped Cathedral, the beautiful Arches Palace (seat of the Ministry of Justice) and others.Curitiba -- The capital of the state of Paraná is known for its innovative urban solutions, it still keeps its traditional spirit and features of the european immigrants, mostly from Italy, Germany and slavic countries.Florianópolis -- The major city in Brazil located in an island in the Atlantic Ocean, with lakes, lagoons, amazing nature and more than 40 clean, beautiful and full of nature beaches.Recife -- A major city in the Northeast region, originally settled by Dutch colonizers. Nicknamed "The Brazilian Venice", it is built on several islands linked by many bridges. Rich in history, art and folklore. Do not miss neighboring Olinda and Porto de Galinhas. The city is also a gateway to the amazing archipelago of Fernando de Noronha.Rio de Janeiro -- World famous, beautiful city that welcomes visitors with that big statue of an open-armed Jesus atop Corcovado Hill.Salvador -- The first capital of Brazil is home to a unique blend of indigenous, African and European cultures. Its Carnival fun is famous, and the influence of African culture and religion is remarkable.São Paulo -- Brazil's largest, richest and most cosmopolitan city, where you can find traces of most major cultures of Earth, including Italian, Japanese, German, Russian, Jamaican, Greek and Arab.
Other cities also attract a good deal of travellers:Belo Horizonte -- Capital of Minas Gerais, is a convenient starting point to explore the state's colonial past.Buzios -- Trendy seaside town with 25 beaches. 192 Km north of Rio.Campo Grande -- Very green and many parks.Campos do Jordão -- An european-style city, in the state of São Paulo. It's famous by the fresh climate and the Winter Classical Music Festival.Corumbá -- "Capital" of Pantanal.Cuiabá -- The major gateway to Pantanal, near several beautiful places like: Chapada dos Guimarães with it's water fall "Véu de noiva", Curvelandia's caves and rivers, fishing in Barão de Melgaço.Gramado -- A very beautiful german-like city in the highlands of Rio Grande do Sul, known for its wonderful "Natal Luz" (The Christmas-Light), the most impressive Christmas festival of the Latin America. It's also known for the Film Festival.Fortaleza -- A good base for exploring the beaches of the northeastern coast, including Jericoacoara.João Pessoa -- The easternmost Brazilian city, where the sun rises first. Nicknamed "Jardim das Acácias" (Acacia Garden), rather unexplored, with a warm climate, good-hearted people and beautiful beaches.Maceió -- One of the many northeastern coastal cities, with Caribbean-blue beaches.Manaus -- The capital of the Amazonas State. The best place to go to visit the Amazon Forest. Also features the Army Zoo, where wild fierce animals are kept (for soldier training purposes, but open to public visit), and the unique indian-influenced cuisine.Natal -- Sunny beaches and dunes. Has the reputation of being the sunniest Brazilian city.Olinda -- A colonial town, popular for its culture and arts scene and a Carnival that rivals those of Rio and Salvador. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its XVI and XVII-century buildings.Ouro Preto -- Another colonial town, with the largest sample of the baroque art in Latin America. It was once the financial center of Brazil, during the gold rush. The entire city is part of the World Heritage Site by UNESCO.Penedo -- A small town in the state of Rio de Janeiro, near the border with São Paulo. The city was settled by finns and both languages - finnish and portuguese - are spoken in this city.Porto Alegre -- An urban destination in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. Has a very active nightlife.São Luís -- Founded by the French in the 17th century and soon taken over by Portuguese forces after a quick Dutch occupation, São Luis is a fascinating town that managed to preserve its Portuguese influenced colonial buildings and is also known for its rich popular culture. The island also share cultural similarities with Jamaica and is known as the Brazilian reggae capital.Vitória -- Midway between Rio and Salvador, it is a beautiful city between the mountains and the ocean.Other destinations
Bonito (Mato Grosso do Sul) -- Lots of rivers where you can go diving.Brotas - city featured in Amazing Race 9, it has lots of extreme sports, and a large forestCaldas Novas and Rio Quente - The world's largest hydrothermal complexCanoa Quebrada - Magic place and real paradise, with excellent nightlife and more sandstone cliffs - 2.5 hours east of Fortaleza) Chapada dos Veadeiros – Cerrado wildlife and stunning waterfalls.Guaruja - Devoted to tourism with dozens of beaches that stretch along its avenues and urban zones.Iguaçu Falls -- The world-famous waterfalls.Jericoacoara -- A small beach stop-off for many travellers through the state of Ceara.Minas Gerais -- A rugged inland state rich in colonial history, including the historical mining towns such as Ouro Preto, Mariana, Congonhas do Campo.Pantanal -- The world's largest wetland hosts lots of eco-tourism and vast biodiversity, including crocodiles, piranhas etc.Paraty - A 18th century well-preserved colonial town on the coast, just 260km West from Rio de JaneiroCurvelândia - A small city with several caves, rivers with limpid waters.Mato GrossoUnderstand
History and Economy
Until 1500, Brazil was inhabited solely by indigenous people, mainly of the Tupi
ethnic groups. Actual settling by the Portuguese began later that century, with the extraction of valuable pau-brasil
wood, from which the country draws its name. The following four centuries saw further exploitation of the country's natural riches (gold and rubber) besides the rise of an economy based on agriculture (sugar and coffee) and slave labor, millions of Africans taken to the new world in a forced diaspora. Meanwhile, extermination or Christianizing of natives kept its pace, and the 19th century saw a second wave of European (mainly Italian and German) immigration, adding to this unique and complex set of factors that generated today's equally complex and unique Brazilian culture and society.
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 7 September, 1822. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, it has also overcome more than two decades (1964-1988) of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue a democratic ruling, while facing the challenge of keeping its industrial and agricultural growth and developing its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, today Brazil is South America's leading economic power and a regional leader. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem. A consequence of this is a high crime rate, specifically in large cities.
After 20 years of democracy, the country has grown strong, and despite the social problems of the unequal income distribution, the people have remained happy and festive.Culture
Owing to Brazil’s continental dimensions, varied geography, history and people, the country’s culture is rich and diverse. It has several regional variations, and in spite of being mostly unified by a single language, some regions are so different from each other that they could have become different countries altogether.Music
plays an important part in Brazilian identity. Styles like choro
and bossa nova
are considered genuinely Brazilian. Caipira
music is also in the roots of sertanejo
(the national equivalent to country music). MPB stands for Brazilian Popular Music, which mixes several national styles under a single concept. Forró
, a north-eastern happy dancing music style, has also become common nationwide. New urban styles include funk
- name given to a dance music genre from Rio's favelas
that mixes heavy electronic beats and often raunchy rapping - and techno-brega
, a crowd-pleaser in northern states, that fuses romantic pop, dance music and caribbean rhythms.
A mixture of martial arts, dance, music and game, capoeira
was brought to Brazil by African slaves. Distinguished by vivacious complicated movements and accompanying music, it can be seen and practiced in many Brazilian cities. Candomble
are religions with African roots that have survived prejudice and persecution and still have a significant following in Brazil. Their places of cult are called terreiros
and many are open for visitation.Indigenous
traits can be found everywhere in Brazilian culture, from cuisine to vocabulary. There are still many indigenous groups and tribes living in all Brazilian regions, although many have been deeply influenced by "western" culture, and several of the country's surviving indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing completely. The traditional lifestyle and graphic expressions of the Wajãpi indigenous group from the state of Amapá were proclaimed a Masterpiece of the World's Intangible Heritage by UNESCO.
Globo, the national television network, also plays an important role in shaping the national identity. Nine out of ten households have a TV set, which is the most important source of information and entertainment for most Brazilians followed by the radio broadcast. TVs broadcast sports, movies, local and national news and telenovelas
(Soap Operas)– 6-month-long series that have become one of the country’s main cultural exports.People
Throughout its history, Brazil has welcomed several different peoples and practices. The lack of British or Dutch-style puritanism in colonial history has contributed that Brazil constitutes a melting pot of the most diverse ethnic groups thus mitigating ethnic prejudices and preventing racial conflicts (though long lasting slavery and genocide among indigenous populations have taken their toll). Nevertheless, race (or, better saying, skin colour) is still a dividing factor in Brazilian society and you will notice the skin typically darkens as the social class gets lower: wealth and middle-class are mostly white; many middle-class are mixed; and the majority of poor people are black or indian. Nowadays, however, Afro-Brazilians and Amerindian populations are increasingly aware of their civil rights and of their rich cultural heritage.
In general, Brazilians are a fun-loving people. While attitude in the South may be somewhat colder and more reserved, from Rio upwards people usually boast a captivating attitude towards life and truly enjoy having a good time. Some may even tell you that beer, football, samba and barbecue is all they could crave for.
Almost everyone can dance and Brazilians are usually at ease with their bodies. While talking, they may stand closer to each other than the regular American or Northern European, and also tend to touch each other more. It’s not uncommon to touch each other on the shoulder or arm occasionally while speaking and visitors should not take this as impolite or as a violation of personal space.
Friendship and hospitality are highly praised traits in the Brazilian society. Family values and social connections are also strongly valued and the distinction between known and unknown people may acquire a significant weight in day-to-day interaction. To people they have met, or at least they know the name, Brazilians are usually very open, friendly and sometimes quite generous. Once introduced, until getting a good reason not to, a typical Brazilian may treat you as trustfully as he would treat a best friend. This may have an agreeable impact, but it also means that outsiders not always get the same special treatment as locals. Nevertheless, Brazilians are reputedly one of the most hospitable people in the world and foreigners are usually treated with respect and often with true admiration.
Attitudes towards foreigners may also be subject to regional differences: The state of Santa Catarina welcomes their Spanish-speaking tourists with bilingual signs and welcome committees.In Salvador, the largest city of the Northeast, anyone talking, acting or looking like a tourist (even other Brazilians!) could be charged higher prices, such as in parking lots, in restaurants, etc.
Whereas the "Western" roots of Brazilian culture are largely European (evidenced by its colonial towns and even sporadic historic buildings between the skyscrapers...), there has been a strong tendency in the last decades to adopt a more "American Way of Life" which is manifest in urban culture and architecture, mass media, consumerism and a strongly positive feeling towards technical progress. In spite of that, Brazil is still a nation faced to the Atlantic, not to Hispanic America, and the intellectual elites are likely to look for Europe (especially France), not the US, as source of inspiration. Many aspects in Brazilian society (such as educational system) are borrowed from French and may seem strange to Anglo-Saxon visitors.
Brazilians are not Hispanic, and there even those who question whether Brazil is part of Latin America.
The contrasts in this huge country equally fascinates and shocks most visitors, as well as the indifference of many inhabitants towards the social, economic and ecological biases. Whereas an emerging elite of young, well-educated professionals indulge in amenities of modern society, child labor, illiteracy and inhuman housing conditions still exist even in regions blessed by economic growth and huge foreign investments.
As much as Brazilians acknowledge their self-sustainability in raw materials, agriculture, and energy sources as an enormous benefit for the future, most of them agree that without huge efforts in education there will hardly be a way out of poverty and underdevelopment.Holidays and working hours
Brazil observes the following holidays
:New Year - 1 January Carnival - February/March (Movable - 7 weeks before Easter, see box for precise dates. Monday and Tuesday are the actual holidays although celebrations usually begin the Saturday before and last until the morning of Ash Wednesday, when shops and services normally remain closed)Holy Friday - March/April (movable) two days before Easter SundayTiradentes - 21 AprilLabour Day - 1 MayCorpus Christi - June)Independence Day - 7 SeptemberPatroness of Brazil - 12 OctoberAll Soul's Day - 2 NovemberRepublic - 15 NovemberChristmas - 25 DecemberWorking hours
are usually from 8 am or 9am to 6 pm. Street shops tend to close at noon on Saturday and only open again on Monday. Shopping malls normally open from 10 am to 10 pm from Monday to Saturday. Some also open on Sunday afternoons. There is no siesta
(that's Hispanic usage, not Portuguese).Get in
Visa requirementsCitizens from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay may enter the country with a valid ID card and stay up to 90 days.No visa is required for stays of up to 60 days from holders of passports from Venezuela.No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days from holders of passports from Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Rep., Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay and Vatican CityCitizens from the following countries currently need a visa for Brazil: Angola, Armenia, Australia, Canada, Cape Verde, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, Taiwan, the United States, former Soviet countries and others not listed above (complete list here - Portuguese only).Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy with all countries including the United States, meaning that whenever prices and restrictions increase on Brazilians visiting the US, Brazil adopts the same measures for American visitors. As of March 2007, the current cost is 110 USD to 170 USD for a 90-day visa (plus up to $90 for an agency to handle getting you the visa), but check before you travel in case of another increase. If you live close enough to the embassy or consulate for your area (other regions won't accept application), you can go in person, but you must go two times about one week apart (check the list of consulates and embassies). Don't forget they are closed on Brazilian holidays as well as those of your country.
When you are travelling from certain tropical regions to Brazil you need a yellow fever vaccination and the certificate showing you had this.
It is illegal to bring in animals, meat, dairy, seeds, plants, eggs, honey, fruit, or any kind of non-processed food without a permit. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.By plane
Most travelers from other continents will land in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. There are also regular flights from Europe (Lisbon) to Recife, Fortaleza, Natal, and Salvador. Some regional airports such as Belem and Manaus are also served by flights from Miami, French Guiana, Suriname and Guadeloupe. Besides, weekly 4-hour flights connect Fortaleza to Cape Verde (with further connections available to Senegal).
Charter tourism flights from Europe often land directly in Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, and Natal. Direct flights from Sāo Paulo and/or Rio de Janeiro to Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Milan and Zurich are also available. North American cities served by direct flights include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, New York, Toronto and Washington.
Varig airlines was the country's largest, and it is now recovering some of its routes. Check carefully before making reservations and always reconfirm before travel. As of January 2007, however, it is no longer a member of the Star Alliance code-sharing consortium (which includes United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, USAirways, and other major carriers). Check all code shares carefully before booking. TAM is now the largest company, with flights from Paris, London, Miami, New York, Lima and Mercosur capitals. GOL flies from several South American cities.
Direct flights are available to most South American capitals (Buenos Aires, Santiago, Montevideo, Asunción, La Paz, Lima, Bogotá, Caracas), as well as to other regional hubs (Córdoba, Rosario, Santa Cruz de la Sierra). Other Latin American cities with direct connection to Sāo Paulo or Rio de Janeiro include Mexico City and Panama City.
South African Airways offers direct flights from Sāo Paulo to Johannesburg or Cape Town, with onward connections to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East. TAAG Angola Airlines
also has two weekly direct flights from Rio de Janeiro to the Angolan capital of Luanda.
Asian cities with connections to Brazil include Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka (Japan), and Seoul (Korea).By car
The main border crossings are at:Chuy/Chuí, Bella Unión/Barra do Quaraí, Artigas/Quaraí, Aceguá/Aceguá, Río Blanco/Jaguarão, and between Rivera/Santana do Livramento (from Uruguay)Paso de los Libres/Uruguaiana, Santo Tomé/São Borja, Bernardo de Irigoyen/Dionísio Cerqueira, Tobuna/Paraíso (Santa Catarina), Comandante Andresito/Capanema, and between Puerto Iguazu/Foz do Iguaçu (from Argentina) Ciudad del Este/Foz do Iguaçu, Salto del Guaira/Guaíra, and between Pedro Juan Caballero/Ponta Porã (from Paraguay)Puerto Suarez/Corumbá, Cobija/Brasileia/Epitaciolandia, San Matías/Cáceres and between Riberalta/Guayaramerin/Guajará-Mirim (the bridge over Mamoré river will be ready in 2007) (from Bolivia)Iñapari/Assis Brasil (from Peru)Letícia/Tabatinga (from Colombia)Santa Elena/Pacaraíma (from Venezuela)Lethem/Bonfim (from Guyana)
The conection from Colombia to Brazil has no continuity inside both countries, and traffic is restricted to the twin-cities area (Leticia and Tabatinga).By bus
Long-distance bus service connects Brazil to its neighboring countries. The main capitals linked directly by bus are Buenos Aires, Asunción, Montevideo, Santiago de Chile, and Lima. Direct connections from the first three can also be found easily, but from Lima it might be tricky, though easily accomplished by changing at one of the others. Those typically go to São Paulo, though Pelotas has good connections too. It should be kept in mind that distances between Sāo Paulo and any foreign capitals are significant.
The national land transport authority has listings on all operating international bus lines.By boat
Amazon river boats connect northern Brazil with Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. The ride is a gruelling 12 days upriver though.
From French Guiana, you can cross the river Oyapoque
, which takes about 15 minutes.By train
Train service within Brazil, let alone from other countries, is almost nonexistent. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and the most famous way to enter Brazil by train is on the Trem da Morte
, or Death Train, which goes from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to a small town just over the border from Corumbá in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. There is still a train line from there all the way to São Paulo which at the moment is not in use, but bus connections to São Paulo via the state capital, Campo Grande, are plentiful. The journey itself is reputedly replete with robbers who might steal your backpack or its contents but security has been increased recently and the journey can be made without much difficulty. It goes through the Bolivian agricultural belt and along the journey one may see a technologically-averse religious community which resembles the American Amish in many ways.Get around
Air service connects all major areas of Brazil. Note that not all air routes are as direct as they would seem on a map, and are often required to go through hubs such as Brasilia or Sāo Paulo. Besides the traditional airlines Varig
(see bankruptcy notice above
) or TAM
, there are also cheaper "no frills" airlines such as BRA
booking over the internet. For international travelers, air passes for in-country flights may be available while buying your flight to Brazil.
Booking online for domestic flights can be frustrating for non-Brazilian citizens. Often, you will be asked for your CPF national identity number after paying by credit card. Of course, as a foreigner, you don't have one. Some airlines such as GOL will accept American Express cards (but not VISA or Master Card) without a CPF. If all else fails, try calling or e-mailing the airline and ask how to proceed.
Beware of flight listings at the airport which only show the final city in route (which you're probably not aware of). Always know and check your flight NUMBER, not just the city you're flying to (it might not be listed). Expect that a more distant city might be the only one listed for your flight, but the plane will still stop at the airport for which you have a ticket. Strangely, international flights are just the opposite, with only the first destination in Brazil shown -- even though the same flight may go directly to other cities.
Many domestic flights in Brazil are considered "international," giving flyers a chance to purchase items at a "duty free" store in the airport. (There may be passengers on board from other South American countries who have not yet cleared customs.) Also, you must go through immigrations and customs again upon arrival, even though you never left Brazil. Foreign travelers on flights within Brazil do NOT fill out a new immigration form, but show the carbon copy of the one completed upon arriving internationally (with their passport and visa stamp).By car
The atlas called "Guia de Estradas" can be bought in several newstands. It provides not only maps and distances but also information about current conditions of the roads (which can be indeed very bad). There are the usual car rental companies at the airports. A car is a good idea if you want to explore scenic areas, e.g. the historic cities of Minas Gerais, the Rio-Santos highway, or the beaches in North-East Brazil.
Driving anywhere in Brazil requires a maximum amount of attention. In a recent year, Brazilians won first, second, and third place at the Indy 500 auto race -- which should give you an idea on how they drive -- Velozes e Furiosos!
If you're bold enough to drive at all in Brazil, at least consider avoiding night-time driving. The problem behind Brazil's roads is the presence of potholes (mainly because of lack of investments from the government) and animals (which are left free near roads by the locals). When driving you should be carefull and aware of this, as it is the primary source of road accidents.
Remember: in Brazil the cars are driven on the right side of the road, following the French hand side.If you drive, be careful: a flashing left signal means that the car ahead is warning you not to pass, for some reason. If the car ahead of you wants to show you that it is safe to pass it will flash the right signal. This arrangement seems to be the opposite of the rest of the world, but the idea behind this is really simple. The right signal is the same signal to indicate that you're going to stop on the side of the road, so it means you're going to slow down. On the other hand the left signal is the same signal to indicate you're going to pass the car ahead, meaning you're going to speed up.Flashing, twinkling headlights from the cars coming on the opposite side of the road means caution on the road ahead. Most of the time, it indicates that there are animals, cops or speed radar ahead.Keep the doors locked when driving, especially in the larger cities, as robberies at stop signs and red lights is not unheard of in certain areas. You'll make it much easier for the robber if he can simply open up the door and sit down. Be equally careful with keeping your windows wide open, as someone might put their hands inside your car and steal a wallet, for instance. Leave your handbags and valuables under the seat or as close as possible to your body, so you can hold them back in case of a theft.By bicycle
In rural areas in Brazil the bicycle is a common means of transport. This does not mean that cyclists are respected by car, truck, or bus drivers. But you may find good roads with little traffic outside the cities. It is also easy to get a lift by a pickup or to have the bike transported by a bus.
Cycling is not very stimulated in big cities. Two exceptions are Rio de Janeiro and Recife where there are cycle tracks along the beaches.By train
Brazil's railway system was mostly wrecked during the military regimes. Today there are few passenger lines left: From Curitiba to Paranaguá - This scenic 150km-long railroad links the capital of Paraná to the coastal cities of Morretes and Paranaguá, through the beautiful Serra do Mar mountains covered with mata atlântica forest. The trip takes about 3 hours and has bilingual guides. Trains leave daily at 08:00 and prices start from about R$ 40 (round-trip)From São João del Rei to Tiradentes - This 35-minute trip on a steam train is almost like time travel. The train operates Fri-Sun, with departures from São João at 10:00 and 15:00 and 13:00 and 17:00 from Tiradentes. The round trip costs R$ 16.From Belo Horizonte to Vitória - Daily trains operated by Companhia Vale do Rio Doce leave Belo Horizonte at 07:30 and Vitória at 07:00. Travel time is about twelve and a half hours. Tickets are sold at the train stations and a single 2nd class fare costs about R$ 25. Seats are limited and it is not possible to reserve, so it is advisable to buy in advance.From São Luis to Carajás - interesting because part of it passes through the Amazon rainforest.From Macapá to Serra do NavioBy bus
Long-distance buses are a convenient, economical, and sometimes (usually if you buy the most expensive ticket), rather comfortable way to travel between regions. Bus terminals in cities play a role akin to train stations in many countries.
Brazil has a very good bus transport system, Basically, long distance routes depart from capital cities or economical centers, so if the city is big it will have connections to neighbouring capitals at the very least. One can expect just about any town to have a bus route to the capital or a regional economic center. Generally speaking bus tickets are bought at bus terminals at the end points or at the scheduled stops along the route. The facility of flagging a bus and hopping on (if there are available seats) is widespread in the country. This is less likely to work along a few routes where armed robberies have happened frequently, such as those leading to the border with Paraguay and to Foz do Iguaçu.
ANTT, the national authority for land transportation, has a search engine (in Portuguese) for all available domestic bus lines.By boat
In the Amazon region as well as on the coast west of Sao Luis, boat travel is often the only way to get around.Talk
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, spoken by the entire population (except a few very remotely located Indian tribes, and some recent immigrants). Brazilian Portuguese has a number of pronunciation differences with the language spoken in Portugal, but speakers of either can understand each other. However, European Portuguese (Luso) is more difficult for Brazilians to understand than the reverse, as many Brazilian television programs are shown in Portugal.
Note that a few words can have a totally different meaning in Brazil and Portugal. An example of this is "Rapariga" which in Portugal means young girl, and in Brazil mean prostitute.
"Legal" (leh GAL
) is slang meaning that something is "great" or "cool" -- not that it's lawful to do. It could be very illegal! Also, "no"
doesn't mean "no" as in English and Spanish, but rather "in the"
as a contraction of em + o
in Spanish). Não falo Inglês no Brasil.
I don't speak English in Brazil.English
is not widely spoken except in some touristy areas. One can always find a way to get around, especially among students and in financial zones. Don't expect bus or taxi drivers to understand English, though, so it may be a good idea to write down the address you are heading to before getting on the cab. In most big and luxurious hotels, it is very likely that the taxi fleet will speak some English.Spanish
speakers are usually able to get by in Brazil, especially towards the south. While written Portuguese can be quite similar to Spanish, spoken Portuguese may be much harder to understand by those who know some Spanish. Compare the number 20 which is veinte
(BAYN-teh) in Spanish to vinte
(VEEN-chee) in Brazilian Portuguese. Even more different is gente
(people), pronounced HEN-teh in Spanish and ZHEN-chee in Brazilian Portuguese. Body language
Brazilians use a lot of body gestures in informal communication, and the meaning of certain words or expressions may be influenced by them.The thumbs up gesture is used everywhere and all the time in Brazil.The OK gesture (thumb and finger in a circle), on the other hand, may have obscene connotations in Brazil. Avoid it if you can, people may laugh at you, or be offended (usually if they are drunk). Use thumbs up instead.A circular movement of the forefinger about the ear (a gesture that Germans use to indicate telephone for you) means you are crazy!, the same as in English.Stroking your two biggest fingers with your thumb and stating that something costs a long time is a disguised way of saying that something is expensive (same as French) (not in whole country).Clicking your middle finger with your thumb multiple times means a long time.Joining your thumb and middle finger and snapping your index finger upon them means fast (not in whole country).Stroking your lips with your index finger and snapping it means delicious, grabbing your earlobe with your index and thumb means the same (not in all country).Making a fist with your thumb between the index and middle finger is the sign of good luck (not in whole country).Touching the palm with the thumb and making a circular movement with the hand means I am being robbed! (sometimes meaning that some price is too high) (not in whole country).The Hush gesture is considered extremely unpolite, just about the same as shouting "shut up!" to someone.An informal way to get someone's attention (similar to a whistle in other cultures) is a hissing sound: "pssiu!" It is not perceived as unpolite, but gets really, really, REALLY annoying if repeated too often. They also call cats with a similar sound, rather than the kiss noise others (the French again) produce.Buy
Brazil's unit of currency is the Real
(pronounced 'hay-AHL'), plural Reais
('hay-AYS'), abbreviated BRL, or just R$. One real is divided into 100 centavos
. Prices are written as R$1,50 (means one and fifty cents) for example.
Bank Machines often take VISA and other non-Brazilian credit cards. Check for the Cirrus or Visa Plus logo. Shell Petrol/Gas stations with a shop might also have an ATM which does. Banco do Brasil may have many ATMs but usually only one per branch which accepts foreign credit/debit cards. There is often a long line of people waiting, as the machines are used by locals to pay bills. BankBoston, HSBC, Bradesco, and Citibank also accept PLUS and Cirrus ATM cards and usually have shorter lines. Credit card advance is through the ATMs (with the four digit PIN) ONLY -- no manual transactions.
Recently, it has become nearly impossible to wire money to Brazil from outside the country, unless the recipient is a resident with a bank account. Do not count on someone to able to send you any funds via Western Union, Moneygram, etc. should you run short. Those that are allowed are subject to a 38/100 of 1% tax if paid in Reais.
In terms of the most common form of payment, cash in small bills is king in Brazil. If you have too many large bills, especially in the small towns and tourist destinations, you will find vendors often don't have enough small bills to make change. Therefore, make sure you carry a lot of small bills. Further, traveler checks are not easily or cheaply cashed in Brazil, except at international airports, which almost every main city of each state has: Sāo Paulo, Rio, Curitiba, Salvador, Fortaleza, etc only to name a few. Brazilian banks charge really big to cash traveler checks and the process can take a while, so don't try it if you are in a hurry. It's good to go informed before you use this kind of service as only a few Brazilians would know about how its done.
Brazil redesigned its money in 1997 or 1998, and old coins are still in circulation. Old coins look more like each other than new coins of the same denomination, so read the numbers.
There are R$0.01 coins (copper), R$0.05 (copper), R$0.10 (bronze), R$0.25 (bronze), R$0.50 (silver) and R$1 (silver with a golden border). Bills come in the following denominations: R$1 (green), R$2 (blue), R$5 (purple), R$10 (red), R$20 (yellow) R$ 50 (orange) and $100 (blue).
There are two different R$10 bills. One is reddish and made of the same paper as the other bills. The other one is blueish and made of plastic material. Although the blueish ones are still valid and fully accepted everywhere, they are no longer being printed and are slowly disappearing as banks replace them for the red paper ones.Exchange rates
The Real is a free-floating currency. As of January 2007, R$ 1,00 is worth about:US$ 0.47€ 0.36£ 0.24
An exchange office is called a casa de câmbio
. Some banks also exchange foreign currency, and you may be asked show your passport.
can be difficult to sell after you leave South America, so convert any cash to US dollars if leaving the country for another continent.Shopping
It's not a bad idea to pack light and acquire a Brazilian wardrobe within a couple of days of arrival. It will make you less obvious as a tourist, and give you months of satisfied gloating back home about the great bargains you got whenever you are complimented on your clothing. Brazilians have their own sense of style and that makes tourists - especially those in Hawaian shirts or sandals + socks - stand out in the crowd. Have some fun shopping, and blend in. Another good reason for buying clothes and shoes in Brazil is that the quality is usually good and the prices often cheap. However, this does not apply to any foreign brand as imports from cheap labor countries are rare (if existent at all) and Brazilian labor is more expensive - therefore, do not expect to find any good prices on brands like Diesel, Levi's, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. To figure your Brazilian pants size, measure your waist in centimeters, divide by 2, and round up to the next even number.
Store windows will often display a price followed by "X 5" or "X 10", etc. This is an installment-sale price. The price displayed is the per-installment price, so that, "R$50 X 10", for example, means 10 payments (typically monthly) of R$50 each. The actual price is almost always lower if you pay in cash.
Make sure any appliances you buy are either dual voltage or the same as in your home country. Brazil is 60Hz, so don't buy electric clocks or non-battery operated motorized items if you live in Europe or Australia. The voltage, however, varies by state (see Electricity
Brazil uses a hybrid video system called "PAL-M." It is NOT at all compatible with the PAL system of Europe and Australia. Television began in black and white using the NTSC system of the USA and Canada, then years later, using PAL for its analogue colour -- making a totally unique system. Nowadays, most new TV sets are NTSC compatible. Digital video such as DVDs are also compatible with NTSC (all digital colour is the same worldwide), but make sure the DVD region code(s), if any, match your home country. (Brazil is part of Region 4.) Prices for imported electronic goods can be quite expensive due to high import tariffs, and the choice of domestic electronic gadgets is not very wide.Eat
Brazil's cuisine is as varied as its geography and culture. On the other hand, some may find it an unrefined melange, and everyday fare can be bland and monotonous. While there are some quite unique dishes of regional origin, many foods were brought by overseas immigrants and have been hybridized through the generations. In Brazil, Italian and Chinese food can often be as baffling as Amazonian fare.
Brazil's national dish is feijoada
, a hearty stew made of black beans and pork (ears, knuckles, sausage and pieces of beef (usually dried). It's served with a side of white rice, garnished with collard greens and sliced orange. It's usually not served in restaurants, and ones that do, typically have it only twice a week (usually Wednesday and Saturday). A typical mistake made by tourists is to eat too much feijoada
shortly after arriving. This is a heavy dish, you need to get used to it before you eat it. Even Brazilians usually eat it parcimoniously. While you are at it, try the caipirinha
, Brazil´s signature drink made of wedged limes, sugar and cachaça.
can be found in coastal towns, especially in the Northeastern part of the country.
In even the smallest most towns it is easy to find self-service restaurants with good food. Brazilian restaurants can have varying degrees of cleanliness. Customers are allowed by law to visit the kitchen and see how the food is being handled.
Most of the self-service restaurants offer two kinds of deals: an all-you-can-eat fixed price (called "rodízio"), or you go "por quilo" - pay-by-weight, very common during lunchtime throughout Brazil.
Brazilian snacks, called lanches
, include a wide variety of pastries. Look for coxinha
(deep-fried chicken balls), empadinha
(a stuffed pastry, unrelated to Latin American empanadas
: try out the palmito
heart of palm variety), and pastel
(fried turnovers). Another common snack is a misto quente
, a ham-and-cheese sandwich. Pão-de-queijo
, a roll made of cassava flour and cheese is very popular - pão-de-queijo and a cup of fresh Brazilian coffee is a classical combination.
Regional cuisines:Southern - Churrasco is Brazilian barbeque, and is usually served "Rodizio" ou "espeto corrido" (all-you-can-eat). Waiters carry huge cuts of meat on steel spits from table to table, and carve off slices onto your plate (use the tongs to grab the meat slice and don't touch the knife edge with your silverware to avoid dulling the edge). Traditionally, you are given a small wooden block colored green on one side and red on the other. When you're ready to eat, put the green side up. When you're too stuffed to even tell the waiter you've had enough, put the red side up... Most churrasco restaurants (churrascarias) also serve other types of food, so it is safe to go there with a friend that is not really fond of meat.Mineiro is the "miner's" cuisine of Minas Gerais, based on pork and beans, with some vegetables. Dishes from Goiás are similar, but use some different ingredients such as pequi and guariroba. Minas Gerais cuisine if not seen as particularly tasty, has a "homely" feel that is much cherished.The food of Bahia, on the northeast coast has its roots across the Atlantic in West Africa. Coconut, dende palm oil, and seafood are the prime ingredients. Tip: hot ("quente") means lots of pepper, cold ("frio") means less or no pepper at all. If you don't dare to eat it hot you should try acarajé (prawn-filled roasties) and vatapá (drinkable black beans soup).Espírito Santo and Bahia have two different versions of moqueca, a delightful tomato-based seafood stew prepared in a special type of clay pot.Amazon cuisine draws from the food of the indigenous inhabitants, including various exotic fish and vegetables. There is also a stupendous variety of tropical fruits.Ceará's food in the coastline has a great sort of seafood, is known to have the country's best crab. It's so popular that literally every weekend thousands of people go to Praia do Futuro in Fortaleza to eat fried fish and crabs (usually followed by cold beer).
Brazilian cuisine also has a lot of imports:Pizza is quite popular in Brazil. In Sāo Paulo travellers will find the highest rate of pizza places per inhabitant in the whole world. The variety is extremely vast, with restaurants offering usually more than 50 types of pizza. In particular, Europeans will discover that in Brazil, pizzas contain more cheese and other ingredients than in Europe. It is worth noting the difference between the European "mozzarella" and the Brazilian "mussarela". They differ in flavor, appearance and origin (Brazil: cow milk, Europe: buffalo milk), still, "mussarela de búfala" sometimes is also available. The Brazilian "mussarela", which tops most pizzas, is yellow in color and has a stronger taste which is widely appreciated and could be compared to the Swiss Emmental cheese. In some restaurants, particularly in the South, pizza has no tomato sauce. Other dishes of Italian origin, such as macarrão (macaroni), lasanha and others are also very popular.Middle-eastern and Arab (actually Lebanese) food is widely available. Most options offer high quality and a big variety. Some types of middle-eastern food, such as quibe and esfiha have been adapted and are available at snack stands and fast food joints nation-wide.São Paulo's Japanese restaurants serve up lots of tempura, sushi and sashimi. The variety is good and mostly the prices are very attractive when compared to Europe, USA and...Japan. Most Japanese restaurants these days also offer the rodizio or buffet deal, with the same quality as if you ordered from the menu. Sometimes, however, it can be quite a departure from the real thing. The same can be said of Chinese food, again with some variations from the traditional. Cheese-filled spring rolls, anyone?Restaurants
Eating out is a great bargain and a pleasure in Brazil. Service varies in quality but is usually inexpensive. Even in "expensive" Rio, and in the tourist areas where prices are marked-up, you can have an excellent meal at one of the better restaurants complete with drinks for US$10.
Note that the locals tip only 10% of total service amount. This value usually included in the bill. Use this as an opportunity to make somebody's day for extra special service. If you are going to stay for some time, choose a good reastaurant for everyday eating, make some friendship with a waiter (usually by giving him an extra tip) and you will enjoy excellent service.
Many inexpensive restaurants are weighted self-service
, or por quilo
. You pile up your plate with whatever you want, then place it on a scale at the counter, and pay by weight. These restaurants, being the least expensive, are those where Brazilians prefer to eat. Service may be hard to get if you can't speak Portuguese, but this is the place to go if you want to eat good and cheap.
Brazilian restaurants often serve only for two, and you can't order a portion for a single person. It's usually not even indicated on the menu, so you may have to infer from the price or just ask. Also, a Brazilian couple sitting at a restaurant table usually sits side by side, rather than across from each other.
Fast food is also very popular, and the local takes on hamburgers and hot-dogs ("cachorro-quente", translated literally) are well worth trying. Brazilian sandwiches tend to come in many varieties, including various combinations of ingredients like mayonnaise, bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, corn, peas, raisins, french fries, ketchup, eggs, pickles, etc. The fast food chain Bob's
is nationwide and has been around almost as long as McDonald's.
Brazilians handle sandwiches with napkins and use utensils to eat french fries.Drink
Liquor and beer
Brazil's most famous alcoholic drink is cachaça
), an extremely potent sugar-cane liquor known to knock the unwary out quite quickly. It can be tried in virtually every bar in the country. Famous producing regions include Minas Gerais, where there are tours of distillers, much in the same way as you'd tour vineyards in the Sonoma Valley or in France, and the city of Paraty. Pirassununga is home to Caninha 51, Brazil's best-selling brand. In a city near Fortaleza there is a cachaça museum (Museu da Cachaça) where you can learn about the history of the Ypioca brand.
The strong flavor of cachaça - also known as aguardente
("burning water") - can be tempered (hidden?) in cocktails like the famous caipirinha
, a combination of cachaça with sugar and lime juice. The same mixture using vodka instead of cachaça is nicknamed a caipiroshka
; with white rum, it's a caipiríssima
Another interesting concoction is called capeta
, made with cachaça, condensed milk, cinnamon, guarana powder (a mild stimulant), and other ingredients, varying by region.
Drinking cachaça straight, or stirring in only a dollop of honey, is a common habit on the Northeast region of the country.
If you enjoy fine brandy or grappa, try an aged cachaça. Deep and complex, this spirit is nothing like the ubiquitous clear liquor more commonly seen.Beer
in Brazil has a respectable history thanks to German immigrants. Most Brazilian beer brands tend to be less thick and bitter than actual German, Danish or English beer. The most popular domestic brands are Brahma
, and Skol
. Traditional brands include Bohemia
. Other international brands available are Carlsberg, Stella Artois, Guinness, Miller, Budweiser and others. There are two ways of drinking beer in bars: draft or bottled beer. Draft lager beer is called chope
('SHOH-pee'), and is commonly served with one inch of foam, but you can make a complaint to the bartender if the foam is consistently thicker than that. In bars, the waiter will usually collect the empty glasses and bottles on a table and replace them with full ones, until you ask him to stop, in a "tap" charging system. In the case of bottled beer, bottles (600ml) are shared among everyone in the table and poured in small glasses, rather than drank straight from the bottle. Brazilians like their beer nearly ice-cold - hence, to keep the temperature down, bottles of beer are often kept in an insulated polystyrene container on the table.
While imported alcohol
is very expensive, you may find a large assortment of vodka, wine and rum brands in any local supermarket. They come relatively cheap and don't taste that bad. If you really want imported vodka, gin, or Scotch, your best bet is to buy this at the duty-free shop at the airport coming in (Brazil is one of the few countries where you can buy duty-free goods on your way in).
Rio Grande do Sul is the leading wine
production region. There are a number of wine-producing farms that are open to visitors and wine tasting, and wine cellars selling wine and fermented grape juice. One of these farms open to visitors is Salton Winery
, located in the city of Bento Gonçalves (Rua Mário Salton, 300, Distrito de Tuiuty, CEP 95700-000. Bento Gonçalves, Rio Grande do Sul. Tel: +55(54) 2105-1000).
The Sao Francisco Valley, along the border of the states of Pernambuco and Bahia, is the country's newest wine-producing region. Brazilian wines are usually fresher, fruitier and less alcoholic than, for instance, French wines. Popular brands like Sangue de Boi, Canção and Santa Felicidade
and others with prices below R$ 6.00 are usually seen as rubbish.
If you happen to be in Minas Gerais, look for licor de jabuticaba
(jabuticaba liquor) or vinho de jabuticaba
(jabuticaba wine), an exquisite purple-black beverage with a sweet taste. Jabuticaba
is the name of a small grape-like black fruit native to Brazil.Coffee and tea
Brazil is known world-wide for its high-quality strong coffee. Café
is so popular that it can name meals (just like rice
does in China, Japan and Korea): breakfast in Brazil is called café da manhã
(morning coffee), while café com pão
(coffee with bread) or café da tarde
(afternoon coffee) means a light afternoon meal. Cafezinho
(little coffee) is a small cup of sweetened coffee which is usually served for free after meals in restaurants (just ask politely). Bottled coffee is being replaced by stronger espresso cups in more upscale restaurants. Chá
, as tea it's called in Portuguese, is most commonly found in its Assam
version (orange, light coloured). Some more specialised tea shops and cafés will have Earl Gray and green tea available as well.Mate
is an infusion, similar to tea, that is very high in caffeine. A toasted version, often served chilled, is consumed all around the country, while Chimarrão
, the heated, bitter equivalent of mate
, can be found in the south, and is highly appreciated by the gaúchos
is a cold version of Chimarrão, common in Mato Grosso.Soft drinks
If you're on the beach on a hot day, nothing beats coconut water
, or água de coco
- but be careful how you pronounce the word coco
(hint: stress the first o
as you would in the word orange
, otherwise it will sound to them like you are ordering poo!).
If you want a Coca-Cola
in Brazil, ask for coca
, as "cola" means "glue", in Portuguese (but if you say "Coca-cola", everybody will understand).Guaraná
is a carbonated soft drink made from a berry (the guaraná
) native to the Amazon area. The major brands are Antarctica
Fruit juices are very popular in Brazil. There are fruit juice bars at nearly every corner. Açai
(made of a fruit from the Amazon) is absolutely delicious and very nutritious on top of that. It is normally served cold and has a consistency of soft ice. Don't let the crazy purple color stop you from eating it! Maracuja
(passion fruit) Caju
(cashew) and Manga
(mango) are also great juice experiences. Don't be afraid to try what you see on the menu. Brazilians have great taste when it comes to mixing juices. Be aware that orange juice
in Brazil is called suco de laranja
, which can confuse Spanish speakers who aren't careful.Sleep
High season in Brazil follows the school holidays calendar, December and January (summer) being the busiest months. New Year, Carnival (moveable between February and March, see Understand
above) and Holy week are the peak periods, and prices can skyrocket, especially in coastal cities like Rio and Salvador. Also, during those holidays, many hotels restrict bookings to a 3 or 4-day minimum and charge in advance.Hotels
are plentiful in just about all areas of Brazil and can range from luxury beach resorts to very modest and inexpensive choices. The Brazilian tourism regulation board imposes specific minimum attributes for each type of facility, but as the 1-5 star rating is no longer enforced, check in advance if your hotel provides the kind of services you expect.Pousada
means guesthouse (the local equivalent of a French auberge
or a British boarding house
). They are common in smaller tourist towns and can be quite comfortable (or downright awful...). The term implies that things like 24-hour room service, hot meals throughout the day, etc, are not available. However, most pousadas offer common meals (comprised exclusively of what the owner likes). Pousadas also tend to impose restrictions like a curfew or forbidding taking people in with you.
In wilderness areas like the Pantanal, travelers usually stay in fazendas
, which are ranches with guest facilities. In small towns of Minas Gerais people are fond of hotéis-fazenda
(farm hotels) where you can swim, ride, walk, play football, and camp as well as sleep in picturesque barracks.
Also there is great fun in going on a boat hotel
which will take you to inaccessible places on the rivers and lakes for great fishing trips or for simply relaxing and watching and photographing the wildlife which is very abundant in the Pantanal. The boats are large, safe, and comfortable with air-conditioned rooms (very necessary). Several small aluminum boats with outboard motor, carried by the boat hotel, driven by experienced fisher/guide will take 2 or 3 tourists to the best "points".Motel
is the local term for a "sex hotel", so be aware of the implications. There's no social stigma per se in staying in one, but the room service and rates are geared to consenting adults staying for 4 to 6 hour periods (alta rotatividade
) with utmost discretion and privacy. Youth hostels
(albergues da juventude
) are becoming increasingly common too.Learn
Because Portuguese is not as visible worldwide as English or Spanish, it is not easy to find Portuguese courses for foreigners in Brazil -- especially in medium to small cities. A good alternative is to befriend language students and exchange lessons. Brazilians are usually interested in learning foreign languages and are very patient to teach their difficult, but very cherished language.
If you come to Brazil with some initial notions of Portuguese, you will see that people will treat you much better and you will get by much easier. Spanish and standard Italian are easily understood, especially in São Paulo or the South, but English is of no use unless the person specifically knows how to speak it.
You can find language schools that teach Portuguese for as short as 2 weeks, or even longer:São PauloRio de JaneiroUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) - Offers courses at various levels in Portuguese for Foreigners. R$428 for one semester, or R$214 if you're a regular student at UFRJ.Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) - Its courses Portuguese for Foreigners are popular, but a bit pricey (R$1632 per semester for the beginner's levels).Instituto Brasil-Estados Unidos Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) - the National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics. A center with an
, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil
or República Federativa do Brasil
, ), is the largest and most populous country in Latin America, and the fifth largest in the world in both area and population. Its territory covers 8,514,877 km² between central South America and the Atlantic Ocean and it is the easternmost country of the Americas. It borders Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and the département
of French Guiana to the north, Uruguay to the south, Argentina and Paraguay to the southwest, Bolivia and Peru to the west, and Colombia to the northwest. The only South American countries not bordered by Brazil are Ecuador and Chile. The Brazilian coastline covers 7,367 km to the east. Numerous archipelagos are part of the Brazilian territory, such as Penedos de São Pedro e São Paulo, Fernando de Noronha, Trindade e Martim Vaz and Atol das Rocas.
Tropical climate is predominant. In the south of the country, subtropical climate prevails. Brazil is traversed by the Equator and Tropic of Capricorn. It is home to varied fauna and flora and extensive natural resources.
Brazil was colonized by Portugal from 1500 until its independence in 1822. The republican system has been adopted since 1889, however its parliament dates back to 1824, when its first constitution was ratified. Its current Constitution defines Brazil as a Federal Republic . The Federation is formed by the indissoluble association of the States, the Federal District, and the Municipalities . There are currently 26 States and 5,564 Municipalities .
The Brazilian population tends to concentrate along the coastline in large urban centers. While Brazil has one of the largest populations in the world, population density is low and the inner continental land has large demographical empty spaces. It is a multiracial country composed of European, Amerindian, African and Asian elements, more often combined in the same individual than separated into different communities. The official language is Portuguese , and it is the only Portuguese-speaking country in all the Americas. Catholicism is the predominant religion, though Protestant communities have experienced significant growth in the last decades. Brazil has the largest Roman Catholic population in the world.History
The territory of Brazil has been inhabited for at least 8,000 years by indigenous populations . It is generally accepted that Brazil was first discovered by Europeans on April 22, 1500, by Pedro Álvares Cabral, though this is contested by some .Colony
Until 1530 Portugal had little interest in Brazil, mainly due to the high profits gained through commerce with Indochina. This lack of interest led to several "invasions" by different countries, such as France in Rio de Janeiro and the Netherlands in Recife, so the Portuguese Crown devised a system to effectively occupy Brazil, without paying the costs. Through the Hereditary Captaincies system, Brazil was divided into strips of land that were donated to Portuguese noblemen, who were in turn responsible for the occupation of the land and answered to the king. Later, the Portuguese realized the system was a failure (only two lots were successfully occupied) and took direct control of the failed captaincies.
After the initial attempts to find gold and silver failed, the Portuguese colonists adopted an economy based on the production of agricultural goods that were to be exported to Europe. Tobacco, cotton, cachaça and some other agricultural goods were produced, but sugar became by far the most important Brazilian colonial product until the early eighteenth century . The first sugarcane farms were established in the mid-16th century and were the key for success of the captaincies of São Vicente and Pernambuco, leading sugarcane plantations to quickly spread to other coastal areas in colonial Brazil. The period of sugar-based economy (1530-c.1700) is known as the "Sugarcane Cycle" in Brazilian history. Even though Brazilian sugar was reputed as being of high quality, the industry faced a crisis during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the Dutch and the French started producing sugar in the Antilles, located much closer to Europe, causing the sugar prices to fall.
During the eighteenth century, private explorers who called themselves the Bandeirantes found gold and diamond mines in the state of Minas Gerais. The exploration of these mines ended up financing the Portuguese Royal Court's debts for a long time. However, the predatory way in which such riches were explored by the Portuguese Crown harmed colonial Brazil with excessive taxes (at some point, taxes amounted up to one fifth of all the gold and diamonds mined in the country, or 20 percent of total production, namely the quinto
). Some popular movements supporting independence came about against the abusive taxes established by the metropolis, such as the Tiradentes incident in 1789, but they were often dismissed with violence by Portugal. Gold production declined towards the end of the eighteenth century, starting a period of relative stagnation of the Brazilian hinterland .Empire
In 1808, the Portuguese court, fleeing from Napoleon’s troops which had invaded the territory of Portugal, moved aboard a large fleet, escorted by British men-of-war, with all the government apparatus to its then-colony, Brazil, establishing themselves in the city of Rio de Janeiro. From there the Portuguese king ruled his huge empire for 13 years, and there he would have remained for the rest of his life if it were not for the turmoil aroused in Portugal due, among other reasons, to his long stay in Brazil after the end of Napoleon's reign.
After João VI returned to Portugal in 1821, his heir-apparent Pedro became regent of the Kingdom of Brazil. Following a series of political events and disputes, Brazil conquered its independence from Portugal on September 7 1822. On 12 October 1822, Dom Pedro was acclaimed as the first Emperor of Brazil. He was crowned on December 1 1822. Brazil was one of only two countries among those of the 'new world' that housed an effective legal monarchical state (the other was Mexico), for a period of almost 90 years.
Organizing the new government quickly brought the differences between the Emperor and his leading subjects to the fore. In 1824, Pedro closed the Constituent Assembly that he had convened because he believed that body was endangering liberty. Pedro then produced a constitution modelled on that of Portugal (1822) and France (1814). It specified indirect elections and created the usual three branches of government but also added a fourth, the "moderating power", to be held by the Emperor. Pedro's government was considered economically and administratively inefficient. Political pressures eventually made the Emperor step down in April 7, 1831. He returned to Portugal leaving behind his five-year-old son Pedro. Brazil was then to be governed by regents from 1831 to 1840 until Pedro was old enough to assume his royal duties. The regency period was turbulent and marked by numerous local revolts including the Male Revolt, the largest urban slave rebellion in the Americas, which took place in Bahia, 1835.
In 23 July 1840 Pedro II was crowned Emperor. His government was highlighted by a substantial rise in coffee exports, the War of the Triple Alliance and the end of slave trade from Africa in 1850, although slavery in Brazilian territory would only be abolished in 1888. When slavery was finally abolished, a large influx of European immigrants took place. By the 1870s, the Emperor's grasp on domestic politics had started deteriorating in face of crisis with the Roman Catholic Church, the Army and the slaveholders. The Republican movement slowly gained strength. In the end, the empire fell because the dominant classes no longer needed it to protect their interests. Indeed, imperial centralization ran counter to their desire for local autonomy. By 1889 Pedro II had stepped down and the Republican system had been adopted.Republic
Pedro II was deposed on 15 November, 1889 by a Republican military coup led by general Deodoro da Fonseca, who became the country’s first de facto
president through military ascension. The country’s name became the Republic of the United States of Brazil
(which in 1967 was changed to Federative Republic of Brazil
). From 1889 to 1930, the government was a constitutional democracy, with the presidency alternating between the dominant states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. However, several requirements had to be fulfilled for people to be eligible to vote. Thus, democracy was actually restricted to a small portion of the population.
A military junta took control in 1930. Getúlio Vargas took office soon after that, and would remain as dictatorial ruler (with a brief democratic period in between), until 1945. He was re-elected in 1951 and stayed in office until his suicide in 1954. After 1930, the successive governments continued industrial and agriculture growth and development of the vast interior of Brazil.
Provisional president Getúlio Dorneles Vargas ruled as dictator (1930–1934), congressionally elected president (1934–1937), and again dictator (1937–1945), with the backing of his revolutionary party coalition. He also served as a senator (1946–1951) and the democratically elected president (1951–1954). Vargas was a member of the gaucho
oligarchy whose riches were based on land property, and rose to power through a system of patronage and clientelism, but he had a fresh vision of how Brazilian politics could be shaped to support national development. He understood that with the breakdown of direct relations between workers and employers in the ever-growing factories in Brazil, workers could eventually become the platform of a new form of political power—populism. By applying such insights inspired on Italian fascism, he would gradually establish such mastery over the Brazilian political world that he would stay in power for fifteen years. Vargas was responsible for Brazil's military role in World War II on the side of the Allies.
Juscelino Kubitschek's office years (1956-1961) were marked by the political campaign motto of plunging "50 em 5"
(English: fifty years of development in five). Kubitschek sought to achieve this progress with the aid of foreign investment, which in turn would be given generous incentives such as profit remittances abroad, low taxes, privileges for the import of industrial machinery, and government grants of land. Kubitschek was responsible for the construction of Brasília, Brazil's ultra-modern capital, in the 1960s.
The military forces took office in Brazil in a coup d'état in 1964, and remained in power until March 1985, when a then fragilised government fell from grace because of political struggles between the regime and Brazilian elite. Some historians may argue that the dismanteling of the military dictatorship was merely a consequence of the regime's opening policy in the final years, but others will find that internal struggles for power within the government, combined with a strong popular disapproval of the dictatorship, were also partially responsible for the end of the regime. Just as the Brazilian regime changes of 1889, 1930, and 1945 unleashed competing political forces and caused divisions within the military, so too did the 1964 regime change.
Tancredo Neves was elected president in an indirect election in 1985, as Brazil returned to civil government regime. He died before taking office, and the vice-president, José Sarney, was sworn in as president in his place.
Democracy was re-established in 1988 when the current Federal Constitution was promulgated. Fernando Collor de Mello was the first president truly elected by popular vote after the military regime . Collor took office in December 1989. In September 1992, the National Congress has voted for Collor's impeachment after a sequence of corruption scandals were discovered by the media.
The vice-president Itamar Franco took office as the president. Assisted by the Minister of Finance at that time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Itamar Franco's administration implemented the Plano Real economic package , which included a new currency pegged to the U.S. dollar, the real. The new-found economic stability in the country after years of undergoing hyperinflation scenarios have increased the popularity of Fernando Henrique Cardoso as a politician . In the elections held on October 3, 1994, Fernando Henrique Cardoso run for president and won. Cardoso followed a neoliberal scheme that included the privatisation of various state-owned companies, limited intervention in employment relationships and, after the financial downturns in the late 1990s, a floating monetary exchange rate regime.
Reelected in 1998 , Cardoso guided Brazil through a wave of financial crises, including the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the Russian default in 1998. In 2000, Cardoso has demanded the disclosure of some classified military files concerning Operation Condor , a network of South American military dictatorships that kidnapped and assassinated political opponents.
Brazil’s most severe problem today is arguably its highly unequal distribution of wealth and income, one of the most extreme in the world. In the late 1990s, more than one out of four Brazilians continued to survive on less than one dollar a day. These socio-economic contradictions helped elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2002, in the hope for social and economic changes.Government and politics
The Brazilian Federation is based on the indissoluble association of three autonomous political entities: the States, the Municipalities and the Federal District. A fourth entity is originated in the aforementioned association: the Union. There is no hierarchy among the political entities. The Federation is set on five fundamental principles: sovereignty, citizenship, dignity of the people, social value of labor, freedom of enterprise, and political pluralism.
The classic tripartite division of power, encompassing the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches under the checks and balances system, is formally established by the Constitution. The Executive and Legislative are organized independently in all four political entities, whilst the Judiciary is organized only in the Federal and State levels.
Practically all governmental and administrative functions are exercised by authorities and agencies affiliated with the Executive. The form of government is Republican and democratic, and the system of government is Presidential. The President is Head of State and Head of Government of the Union and is elected for a four-year term, with the possibility of re-election for a second successive term. Currently the President of Brazil is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He was elected in October 27, 2002, and re-elected in October 29, 2006. The President appoints the Ministers of State and is assisted by them. Governors head the government in States and the Federal District, whilst Mayors are responsible for the government of Municipalities. Governors and Mayors are assisted by Secretaries.
Legislative houses in each political entity are the main source of laws in Brazil. The National Congress is the Union’s Legislative. It is a bicameral house formed by the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate. Deputies are elected every four years in a system of proportional representation, and represent the people. Senators are elected for eight-year terms, and represent the interests of the States. The ordinary law making process is described in detail by the Federal Constitution. The Executive participates by analyzing and eventually vetoing laws before they are formally enacted. Vetoes can be overturned by the Legislative. On certain matters, the Executive and Judiciary authorities may have exclusive prerogatives for legislative initiative. In the States and Municipalities the Legislative is organized in unicameral houses named, respectively, Legislative Assemblies and Municipal Chambers. Legislative houses may pass legal judgment in exceptional cases, and have administrative functions related to their personnel.
Judiciary authorities exercise jurisdictional duties almost exclusively. They can also enact laws related to internal court proceedings. Also, the Judiciary has administrative functions regarding its personnel. The Union’s Judiciary relates to the Federal Justice system. States have their own Justice system, and so does the Federal District. Municipalities rely upon the State or Federal Justice depending on the lawsuit nature. Both the Federal and State Justice systems are interconnected when appeals reach Higher courts. By historical tradition Brazilian Justice is also divided according to the specialized courts, so there are also labor, military and election courts.
The President, Governors and Mayors are elected by direct vote in the Executive. Likewise, the Legislative members are also elected by direct vote. No judicial authorities are elected. Judges are appointed after passing rigorous entry exams.
Voting is compulsory for those aged 18 or older. For people older than 70 and aged between 16 and 18 voting is optional. Voting is also optional for illiterate people. Candidates must have Brazilian nationality, be affiliated with a political party, and fulfill minimum age requirements as well as basic administrative conditions. No formal education is required, as long as the candidate is alphabetized. Four political parties stand out among several small ones: PT, PSDB, PMDB and PFL.Current problems
Brazil faces an uphill task in organizing its public administrative structure. Reforms have been undertaken in each administration, with mixed results. Public institutions are widely regarded as inefficient. Unprepared and underpaid civil service personnel, bureaucracy, underinvestment in infrastructure, illiteracy, informality in employment relations, social inequality, and rampant corruption are some of the major problems still requiring attention from authorities and reformists. Recent political scandals on corruption have further marred the reputation of public authorities in all branches of government, especially the Legislative.
Nonetheless, since the mid-1990s Brazil has been improving in some macroeconomic and social aspects, such as the taming of a soaring hyperinflation (up to 80 percent a month in the late 1980s), the overcoming of an economic downturn and a currency crisis in the late 1990s following the Asian financial crisis, and the full repayment of IMF's financial rescue packages in 2005, a decision that was shortly after followed by Argentina. Several reforms have helped raise per capita growth and the general quality of life in Brazil since the mid-1990s. A tax reform aiming at unifying the value-added tax in the country is currently being voted at the National Congress, and its approval and implementation are currently in the government policy agenda.Law
Brazilian Law is based on Roman-Germanic traditions. Thus, civil law concepts prevail over common law practices. Most of Brazilian law is codified, although non-codified statutes also represent a substantial part of the system, playing a complementary role. Court decisions set out interpretation guidelines; however, they are not binding towards other specific cases but in very few exceptional situations. Doctrinal works and comments of legal academic pundits have strong influence in law creation and in legal cases.
The Federal Constitution, promulgated on October 5, 1988, is the fundamental law of Brazil and it rules the system. All other legislation and court decisions must conform to its rules . As of April 2007, it has been through 53 Amendments. States also adopt their own Constitutions, but they must also not contradict the Federal Constitution . Municipalities and the Federal District do not have their own Constitutions; instead, they adopt "organic laws" (leis orgânicas
Legislative entities are the main source of statutes, although in certain matters judiciary and executive bodies may also enact legal norms. The Federation enacts federal laws by means of the two houses of the National Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The States, Municipalities and Federal District enact, respectively, state, municipal and district laws through local legislative houses. There is no hierarchy among federal, state, municipal and district laws. To avoid possible contradictions, the Federal Constitution determines which law fields each entity may legislate upon. Therefore, a certain law may be deemed unconstitutional if it invades a subject or territory reserved for laws of another legislative house.
Jurisdiction is administered by the judiciary entities, although in rare cases, the Federal Constitution allows the Federal Senate to pass on legal judgments. The Judiciary is organized in the Federal and State levels, though not in Municipalities. There are also specialized military, labor, and elections courts. The highest court is the Supreme Federal Tribunal.
The main criticism this system met over the last decades relates to the slow pace at which final decisions are passed. Lawsuits on appeal may take several years to resolve, and in some cases more than a decade to see definitive judgment.Foreign relations and the military
The contry is a significant political and economical power in Latin America, but deep-seated social and economic problems have kept it from realizing its goal of becoming a truly global leader. Between World War II and 1990, both democratic and military governments sought to expand Brazil's influence in the world by pursuing a state-led industrial policy and an independent foreign policy. Brazilian foreign policy has recently aimed to strengthen ties with other South American countries, engage in multilateral diplomacy through the United Nations and the Organization of American States, and act at times as a countervailing force to U.S. political and economic influence in Latin America. Brazil's foreign policy is a byproduct of the country's unique position as a regional power in Latin America, a leader among developing countries, and an emerging world power. Brazilian foreign policy has generally been based on the principles of multilateralism, peaceful dispute settlement, and nonintervention in the affairs of other countries.
The Armed forces of Brazil comprise the Brazilian Army, the Brazilian Navy (including the Brazilian Marine Corps and naval aviation), the Brazilian Air Force, and the paramilitary Military Police (State's Military Police). Brazilian armed forces are the largest in Latin America. The Brazilian Air Force is the aerial warfare branch of the Brazilian armed forces and one of the three national uniformed services. The FAB was formed when the Army and Navy air branch were merged into a single military force initially called "National Air Forces". Both air branches transferred their equipments, installations and personnel to the new armed force. The FAB is the largest air force in Latin America, with about 700 manned aircraft in service, and as of July 8, 2005, had 66,020 personnel on active duty. An additional 7,500 civilian personnel are employed by the Air Force. The Brazilian Navy is the largest navy in Latin America , with a 27,307-ton aircraft carrier, the NAeL São Paulo
(formerly FS Foch
of the French Navy), some American and British-built frigates, a few locally-built corvettes, coastal diesel-electric submarines (with a nuclear submarine under development) and many other river and coastal patrol craft. And the Brazilian Army, the land arm of the Brazilian Military.Administrative subdivisions
Geographically, mainland Brazil is commonly divided into five regions: North, Northeast, Central-West, Southeast and South.
The North constitutes 45.27% of the surface of Brazil and it is the region with the lowest number of inhabitants. With the exception of Manaus, which hosts a tax-free industrial zone, and Belém, with the biggest metropolitan area of the region, it is a fairly unindustrialized and undeveloped region. It accommodates most of the largest rainforest of the world and many indigenous tribes.
The Northeast has about one third of Brazil's population. The region is culturally diverse, with roots from the Portuguese colonial period, Afro-Brazilian culture and some Brazilian Indian influence. It is also the poorest region of Brazil , and has long periods of dry climate . It is well-known for its beautiful coast. The largest cities are Salvador, Recife and Fortaleza.
The Central-West has a low demographic density compared to the other regions , mostly because of the Pantanal, the world’s largest marshlands area , and a small part of the Amazon rainforest, in the northwest. However, much of the region is covered by Cerrado, the largest savanna in the world. It is also the most important area for agriculture in the country. The largest cities of this region are: Brasília (the capital), Goiânia, Campo Grande and Cuiabá.
The Southeast is the richest and most densely populated region . It has more inhabitants than any other South American country, and hosts one of the largest megalopolis of the world, whereof the main cities are the country's two biggest ones; São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The region is very diverse, including the major business centre of São Paulo, the historical cities of Minas Gerais and its capital Belo Horizonte, the third-largest metropolitan area in Brazil, the world famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and the acclaimed coast of Espírito Santo.
The South is the wealthiest region by GDP per capita and has the best standard of living in the country . It is also the coldest region of Brazil , with occasional occurrences of frosts and snow in some of the higher altitude regions . The region has been heavily settled by European immigrants, mainly of Italian, German, Portuguese and Slavic ancestry, and shows clear influences from these cultures. The largest cities of this region are: Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Londrina, Caxias do Sul and Joinville.States
Brazil is a federation consisting of twenty-six states (estados
) and one federal district (Distrito Federal
), making a total of twenty-seven "federate units".
The Brazilian states enjoy a significant autonomy of government, law making, public security and taxation. The government of a state is headed by a Governor (governador
), elected by popular vote, and also comprises its own legislative body (assembléia legislativa
Each state is divided into municipalities (municípios
) with their own legislative council (câmara de vereadores
) and a mayor (prefeito
), which are autonomous and hierarchically independent from both federal and state government. A municipality may include other towns (distritos
) besides the municipal seat; those, however, have no separate government.
The judiciary is organized at the state and federal levels within districts called foros
. The foros
in the state judiciary are called comarcas
. Each comarca
may include one or several municipalities. In the federal judiciary the foros
are called seções judiciárias
. One seção judiciária
corresponds to the area of one State or the Federal District, according to article 110 of the Federal Constitution. Seções judiciárias
may be divided in smaller units, called subseções judiciárias
.Geography and climate
Brazil is characterized by the extensive low-lying Amazon Rainforest in the north and a more open terrain of hills and low mountains to the south — home to most of the Brazilian population and its agricultural base. Along the Atlantic coast are also found several mountain ranges, reaching roughly 2,900 meters (9,500 ft) high.
The highest peak is the 3,014 meter (9,735 ft) Pico da Neblina (Misty Peak
) in Guiana's highlands . Major rivers include the Amazon, the largest river in the world in flowing water volume, and the second-longest in the world; the Paraná and its major tributary, the Iguaçu River, where the Iguaçu Falls are located; the Negro, São Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and the Tapajós rivers.
A number of islands in the Atlantic Ocean are part of Brazil: Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago, Rocas Atoll, Fernando de Noronha and Trindade and Martim Vaz.
Located mainly within the tropics, Brazil's climate has little seasonal variation . In southernmost Brazil, however, there is subtropical temperate weather, occasionally experiencing frost and snow in the higher regions. Precipitation is abundant in the humid Amazon Basin, but more arid landscapes are found as well, particularly in the northeast.
Although 90% of the country is within the tropical zone . There is little seasonal variation near the equator, although at times it can get cool enough for wearing a jacket, especially in the rain. At the country's other extreme, there are frosts south of the Tropic of Capricorn during the winter (June-August), and in some years there is snow in the mountainous areas, such as Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Temperatures in the cities of São Paulo , Belo Horizonte, and Brasília are moderate (usually between 15 °C and 30 °C), despite their relatively low latitude, because of their elevation of approximately 1,000 meters. Rio de Janeiro , Recife , and Salvador on the coast have warm climates, with average temperatures ranging from 23 °C to 27 °C, but enjoy constant trade winds . The southern cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba have a subtropical climate similar to that in parts of the United States and Europe, and temperatures can fall under zero degrees Celsius in winter.Economy
Possessing large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, as well as a large labour pool, Brazil's GDP (PPP) outweighs that of any other Latin American country, being the core economy of Mercosul. The country has been expanding its presence in international financial and commodities markets, and is regarded as one of the group of four emerging economies called BRIC. Major export products include aircraft, coffee, automobiles, soybean, iron ore, orange juice, steel, ethanol, textiles, footwear, corned beef and electrical equipment.
According to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Brazil has the ninth largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity (PPP) and tenth largest at market exchange rates. Brazil has a diversified middle income economy with wide variations in development levels. Most large industry is agglomerated in the Southern and South East states. The Northeast is the poorest region of Brazil, but it has attracted new investments in infrastructure for the tourism sector and intensive agricultural schemes.
[Brazilian Government webpage [http://www.brasil.gov.br/ingles/about_brazil/bras ]