South America Travel Tools
We constantly try to offer new content on Travel Tools that will help you plan your trip to South America.
Click on links below for Information on Visas and Travel Insurance:
General Pre-departure checklist below:
- Visa: When entering the country do not tick “Working” as the purpose of your stay. This applies for people intending to live and work in Brazil and requires about 6 months bureaucracy.
- If you continue your trip to Bolívia, Colômbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Equador, Nicarágua, Panamá, Paraguai, República Dominicana e Venezuela you must have a Yellow Fever Vaccine.
- American and Canadian citizens need a visa to enter Brazil. Citizens from most Western European countries do not need a visa to enter Brazil. This page by the Brazilian Tourism Agency is up to date about visa requirements to visit Brazil.
- Should you plan a visit to the Argentinean Side of the Falls in Iguazu, Argentinean Visa Rules apply.
- Vaccination against yellow fever is mandatory for all people when visiting the following states of Brazil: Acre, Amazonas (Manaus), Amapá, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, Tocantins.
Note: There is no control, so consider this Brazilian Law as a “recommendation”.
- Language spoken: Portuguese
- Time difference GMT: -3 (From end of Oct-Mid Feb diff -2, in European Summertime diff -4)
- International dialing codes: To call Europe dial 00 21 followed by country code then area code (dropping the 0) followed by the number.
- Public telephones on street with phone cards to be bought at Newspaper Kiosk. Roaming services for cel phones available but very expensive. Check with your local provider.
- Internal flight baggage allowances: Normal IATA rules
Export/Customs Arrival Formalities
- On arrival in Brazil you will be required to fill out a tourist card, half of which will be kept by the Federal Police, the other part you must retain until your departure from the country. Keep it safely in your passport. If you lose it, you will have to request another one when you depart and fill it out again. IMPORTANT: on no account should you tick the box marked ‘business’, even if you are going to a conference, congress or business meeting, as you may be refused entry if you do not have a work permit.
- Accompanied Baggage Declaration: You are allowed to bring in personal articles for domestic or professional use or consumption and other goods in value up to US$ 500,00. Attention with foodstuff, animals, plants etc. If you bring, for instance, a great piece of Parma ham or authentic Swiss cheese with you, it may be confiscated. Hint: Regardless of any purchases made abroad, every passenger arriving in Brazil is allowed to buy merchandise free of customs duties up to US$ 500,00 at the Duty Free arrival stores, at the main Brazilian International Airports. At airport customs there is a random selection process for checking luggage. After claiming your bags you have to press a large button. If the light is green, walk straight through; if it lights up red, your bags will be inspected. Depending on their mood, they send every one to pass their luggage through the x-ray. The process at land borders is much more rigorous, especially for those coming from Bolivia.
Our Guides await outside in public area after luggage pick up. Please look for the signs.
Money – currency: Brazilian Real (BRL),
- Credit cards: The major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted in large cities. Better exchange rates as changed into cash. Machines are usually brought to the client and charged in front of him.
Important: Advise your bank or credit card issuer that you will be traveling to South America. As they check your usual pattern most likely payment will not go through just when you most need it. (it preferentially happens on weekends when you cannot reach anyone).
- Travelers’ cheques very rarely accepted. Don’t bring them
- Banks are plenty in the cities. ATMs easy to find.(International withdraw possible)- Rates at hotel receptions are not really good. Best is to cash at ATM.
- If bringing foreign cash, we recommend US$.
- Is it possible to obtain local currency before entering the country? No, only small amounts at airport exchanges at bad rates. Right after Passport Control at Brazilian airport money can be exchanged.
Local customs/local etiquette
- Going out at night: About 100 Dollars in local currency and in small bills and a Credit Card. Hotel Card and any document with photo (drivers license is ideal) – never the passport. Hangover medicine (“Engove” is just a miracle, must try!)
- Tipping: Tipping in restaurants is normally 10%. Usually this is included in the bill under service charge. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, although it is common to round up the fare.
- Barter/haggling: There is not a wide tradition of bargaining for everyday items and services, but it’s worth checking to see if you can get a discount for buying a lot or for paying in cash. If you are shopping in tourist markets you might be able to bargain a little.
Useful words & phrases:
- far – longe – lown-jeh
- near – perto – peh-toh
- store, shop – loja – loh-jah
- street – rua – ruh-wha
- money – dinheiro – dee-nay-roh
- expensive – caro – kah-roh
- cheap – barato – bah-rah-toh
- waiter – garçom – gar-ssom
- to pay – pagar – pah-gar
- beer – chopp – shoh-pee
- water – agua – ah-gwha
- sparkling water – agua com gas – ah-gwah kohm ghahs
- restroom – banheiro –bah-nay-roh
- How are you? – tudo bem? – Tou-do baym?
- Do you have,,,? – Você tem… ? – Vou-say tay-hm?
- How much costs…? Quanto custa isto? – Kwan-toh kuh-stah est-oh
- My name is – meu nome é – Mah-ou no-mee eh
Dress code: Rio has its particular swinging style. Relax! Underdress, make it look casual. Go to the beach just in shorts and at night just trouser and shirt outside.
At Night: Long trousers (jeans or cotton), Cotton Shirt (locals leave it over the waist), Ladies a light blouse for the Air Conditioning in the Restaurants. Good shoes. No ties, no blazer unless specifically the case.
Sao Paulo is more formal, Rio Night Rules apply all day.
On the Beach: Sun Lotion (apply in Hotel, don’t carry it to the beach), Shorts, T-Shirt, 20 Reais for basic beer supply, Sunglasses, Flip-Flop-Sandals. No documents if nearby the hotel.
During Day and Excursions: Bermudas, Strap-Sandals, Polo Shirt, Small digital or disposable camera in the pocket, Sunglasses, Sun Lotion (applied in Hotel even if it is cloudy!). About 50 Dollars in local currency and in small bills and a Credit Card. Hotel Card and any document with photo (drivers license is ideal) –never the passport
Electrical supply: The electrical current is not standardized in Brazil. In Rio and Sao Paulo it is 110 or 120 volts, 60 cycles AC. In Manaus and Salvador it is 127 volts. Recife and Brasilia have a 220 volt service. Most sockets are for round two-pin plugs. 4 and 5 star hotels will provide adapters if required. If you will be using electrical equipment it is advisable to bring an adapter with you.
Annoyances: Mosquitoes are rare on the coast. You find them in the Amazon and Pantanal, but with a normal repellent this should not bother you too much.
Security issue: Brazil is very safe compared to the 80s, especially Rio leaves everyone surprised. Still, some basic rules are helpful
- no jewelry, chains or expensive watches
- Walk around with copies of all important documents. No need to have the original passport and/or flight tickets on you.
- Try to blend in with the locals as much as possible. Wear casual clothes (Avoid wearing socks with sandals – this is a strong indicator of a tourist! )
- Don’t wander around with a camera dangling around your neck or with a camera in a camera bag. Small discreet cameras or disposable ones are best. If you really want to take your SLR disguise it in a plastic bag.
- Keep small change in a shirt pocket so you don’t have to delve into bag all the time to pull out your wallet.
- Take the minimum with you when you go to the beach – wear your swimsuit and take a towel or sarong to sit on. Have just enough money for food and drinks.
- Use taxis which are plentiful and cheap. Avoid buses unless you are certain you know where you are going.
- An additional warning: the most common insurance claim handled in Brazil is from people who have been robbed by visitors they take up to their room.
- By all means, do not get involved with drugs.
- The most important thing to remember is that if you take care, there is no reason to be afraid of visiting Brazil. Be sensible, not paranoid.
Smoking: Smoking is not allowed in public buildings.
Shops: Shops and services are generally open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. Shopping centres are open from 10am until late. Some centres open on Sundays.
Banks: Open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Automatic machines are available 24 hours a day. Check for those which accept international credit cards.