Before traveling to Brazil it is important to know a few things to make your time there more pleasant and above all safer.
If you visit places outside Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo you should learn some Portuguese as most Brazilians don’t speak English. So don’t expect people at tourism agencies, bus stations or restaurant to understand you and give you the necessary information in a language you understand. The best thing would be to bring a phrasebook with you when vacationing in Brazil. Please note that there is a big difference between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese Portuguese (the same way there is British English and American English) so you should make sure to get a phrasebook for Brazilian Portuguese.
When traveling through Brazil just forget about punctuality. Busses will never leave at the time shown on the timetables (if timetables are available) and if you book a tour don’t be surprised if it start 30 minutes after the scheduled time.
Enjoy the juice bars. Brazil has the best juices in the world due to the big variety of exotic fruits available in this country. You will find juice bars at every street corner and the juices and smoothies are the best way to quench your thirst on a hot day.
Brazilians are the nicest and warmest people and they will make you feel very welcomed in their country. Even if you don’t speak the same language they will find a way to communicate with you and share their joy of life with you. Just be aware that they are not quiet people, they love to talk very, very loud, probably in order to be heard above the noise of car horns, TV sets and sound trucks driving through the neighborhoods blasting advertisements from a huge amount of speakers.
In Brazil exists a big gap between the poor and the wealthy. About 6% of Brazilians live in favelas and are subsisting day by day. Drug related crimes and gangs are on the rise in the favelas and tourists should take all the necessary precautions when traveling through Brazil. Like in any other part of the world there are places you shouldn’t visit at all. There are other parts of the city to avoid at night. And always try to leave your valuables at home or at least in the hotel safe. Money belts are a good idea to use. And be aware of children who start to crowd you. Some of them are highly trained pick-pockets. And if you want to take a taxi around town stick to the taxis recommended by your hotel instead of van taxis.
Be aware that Brazilians are very affectional people and don’t always respect personal space like Americans or Europeans do. It is very common for people to kiss you on both cheeks when first introduced and Brazilians are not shy about putting their arms around you or touching your arm when relating a story.
And last but not least…don’t be afraid to take a swim in the Amazon river if you want to do it. Piranhas (probably) won’t eat you. Even though these little creatures do have a mouthful of very sharp teeth and do occasionally hurt a swimmer they don’t actually strip the flesh from your bones in seconds. So it is quite safe to refresh yourself by taking a plunge into the river.
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