Here is a feature essay on travelling to Brazil: Please note, it was written while I was at university in the United States so the spelling will follow their style. All images are courtesy of Daniel Wara Lima.
BRAZIL: A TRAVEL GUIDE
Limited only by imagination, Brazil offers the curious adventurer an astounding variety of culture and natural wonder. From pulsing night life in the music-fueled cities, to the quiet magnificence of the pristine beaches and rain forests, Brazil will thrill and tantalize any eager traveler. The major cities range from Brasilia, the capital; the historic jewel of Salvador in the Northeast; São Paulo, Brazil’s high-cultured, fashion forward metropolis, and unforgettably, Rio de Janeiro, perhaps the most famous Brazilian city, with its opulent beach-front glamour and centre-stage attitude, it is the cidade maravilhosa (marvellous city).
So many choices of cities can often distract keen travelers from the extraordinary jungle that weaves itself throughout the country. Spend an afternoon whale watching off the coast of Santa Catarina, or take a river trip up the Amazon that will immerse you in awe-inspiring views before descending into waterfall-cooled canyons. It is far too easy to be seduced by the dangerous charm of Brazil, by the sheer contrast between super-urbanization and untouched, idyllic jungle – this country is not for the timid tourist.
Brazil has recently been chosen as the host for the 2014 FIFA world cup, and the 2016 Olympics. Daniel Wara, a student from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (São Paulo Catholic University) says “these events will really help to bring Brazil into the spotlight, particularly from a tourist standpoint. It’s definitely the time to come to my country. ”
Flights to Brazil leave from Burlington Airport, Vermont, starting at $795 return trip. On Delta Airlines, who provide some of the cheaper flights, stops occur in Detroit and Atlanta before flying into Rio de Janeiro totaling a travel time of around 15 hours. Brazil has a reciprocal visa policy with all countries, meaning that whenever prices and restrictions are applied to Brazilians visiting a country, Brazil adopts the same measures for that country’s visitors. According to the policy, U.S. Citizens have to pay at least $131 for a tourist visa and $191 for a business visa.
What to do in Brazil is ultimately decided by where you are in the region. In Rio de Janeiro, Gabriella Prestes, another Pontifícia Universidade Católica student, suggests “the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are beautiful. To get a feel for native Brazilian lifestyle, try playing Futvôlei with locals, it’s a mixture of soccer and volleyball. There are loads of kiosks on the boardwalk, make sure to try a Caipirinha, a typical Brazilian drink, it’s made with lemons, sugar and cachaça. Delicious!”
The iconic Brazilian monument, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), is a must see while travelling through the region. The statue, depicting Jesus Christ standing with his arms held out wide, is located at the peak of the 2,300 ft Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. Daniel commented “it’s been made one of the New Wonders of the World. The view on a clear day is awesome; you can see Sugar Loaf Mountain, downtown Rio de Janeiro and Rio’s beaches.” The best way to get up there is by the Corcovado train – the railway itself is older than the monument. It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., departing every half an hour. It takes about 20 minutes to get up the mountain, for Brazilian Real $38.00, about $19.00 USD.
São Paulo, the world’s fifth-largest urban area, offers a more urban, multi-cultural experience. As Gabriella mentioned, “it’s the most multi-cultural city in Brazil. You’ll find the largest population of Japanese people outside Japan over in Liberdade. There’s a Buddhist temple on São Joaquim road, Karaoke bars and sushi resturants.” Tourists can take a helicopter ride over the city, and take in aerial views of city landmarks such as Ibirapuera Park and Avenida Paulista. The ride leaves from Camp de Marte Airport, and costs around 80 US dollars for an hour. São Paulo is actually the helicopter capital of the world, given that its mega-rich inhabitants try to escape the notorious traffic jams.
At four million square miles, with 500,000 species of animals, spreading over eight other countries, the Amazon is an incredible, carpeted green maze of rivers and forests; the best way to see it is to take a tourist riverboat. Most of the boats are fairly luxurious, with air-conditioning, showers, and buffets of fruits and other foods. Starting out at the city of Manaus on the Rio Negro, the boats travel upstream to the meeting point of Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes, which form the Amazon River. Margaux McGuigan, a resident of Manaus, explained that the city also has places worth seeing, “the opera house and city markets are definitely worth a look on your way to the boat tours.” The Amazon is home to literally thousands of animal species, from snakes to jaguars, river dolphins and armadillos, not to mention the array of hundreds of birds and butterflies. Margaux explained the journey in more detail:
“The first destination most riverboats head for is Lake January, which is sourced by water both from the Rio Negro River and the Amazon itself. At Lake January there are usually a few wildlife sightings – monkeys, alligators, and birds. From Lake January the riverboat will proceed on to the Ariau River. Once passengers arrive in the Rio Branco River, usually between days 4 and 8, travellers can do some hiking or canoeing before returning to Manaus. The trip back is done uninterrupted, usually only takes 2 or 3 days.”
The riverboat trips generally take around 12 days to complete, although less comprehensive day trips are also available. Prices start from 75 USD per day, and range up to 350 per day depending on the company and standard of the boat.
There is often a conception that Brazil is a violent or crime-ridden destination. According to media sources, Brazil still possesses high rates of violent crimes; however, the situation has been improving in recent years, thanks to increased police intelligence, and efforts by the Brazilian government. “The situation is definitely far worse in the slums; in most city centres I don’t think females travelling alone should feel threatened,” says Daniel. By staying in groups or in the safer, more tourist areas, travellers can avoid this type of problem. Being conscious of personal safety is an obvious element of travel to any country.
Given such a varied climate, the weather in Brazil can affect traveller’s pursuits. Particularly when venturing into the Amazon, it is important to consider the season and what this means for flora, fauna and wardrobe. Brazil is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the seasons are reversed from the U.S. Temperatures are higher just before December, and some waterways can be clogged with vegetation, meaning that there may be less chance for animal sightings. Between March and June is recommended, temperatures are cooler and certain flowers flourish between these months, including acacias and morning glories. For most people, the more determinant travelling factor is the rain. December to May period can have many rainy days, and that can spoil many visits to the Amazon.
Brazil is wonderfully varied and will certainly please and delight any visitor, from avid shoppers and city slickers, to nature lovers and soul-searchers. This startlingly diverse country will surprise its tourists at the most unexpected turns, whether it is the shocking economic inequality, seen when one travels from the ultra-rich suburbs of Sao Paulo to the slums of Rocinha in Rio, or watching the African influence fade into German-European as one travels southward. Perhaps you would like to explore Portuguese colonial architecture in Salvador, or watch people playing Capoeira on the lighthouse lawns of Barra. Whatever the pleasure, Brazil will undoubtedly satisfy.