THE ULTIMATE BACKPACKING GUIDE TO BRAZIL
Brazil is the biggest country in South America covering almost half of the continent. A country rich in stunning natural beauty, Brazil has something for everyone. Incredible wildlife in the Amazon and Pantanal, thriving nightlife in Rio and São Paulo and golden beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. Our complete guide to backpacking Brazil gives you all the information you need to make the most of your time in this amazing paradise, and save a few pennies along the way.
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RIO DE JANEIRO – One the most magical cities in the world, Rio is an absolute must on any Brazil itinerary. Beaches, amazing weather and world famous attractions are just the tip of the iceberg.
ILHA GRANDE – A beautiful island with no less than 102 beaches and a dozen or so scenic hiking trails.
PARATY – A cute little colonial town surrounded by 65 islands and hundreds of beaches.
IGUACU FALLS – Formerly one of the seven wonders of the world, these spectacular falls straddle the Brazil/Argentina border and will leave you in awe.
PANTANAL– Wetlands home to thousands of species of wildlife. Book 3/4/5 day excursions for an experience you will remember for a lifetime.
BONITO/BODOQUENA – eco-tourism hotspot on the edge of the jungle.
FLORIANOPOLIS – A collection of beautiful beaches and islands in Brazil’s South West “home to Brazil’s most beautiful people”
SALVADOR – More authentic and less touristy than Rio. Famous for colourful buildings and churches connected by underground tunnels.
OLINDA – This well-preserved colonial town sits atop of a hill overlooking an amazing beach. The cultural heart of the North East
JERICOACOARA – Small, chilled out town with tranquil beaches. Very popular with travellers.
MANAUS – “The gateway to the Amazon” This is the place for jungle expeditions.
ILHA DO MEL – Collection of islands and beaches with no roads and amazing scenery. Peaceful during the week with a party atmosphere on the weekends.
Wherever there are backpackers there is usually a variety of accommodation to choose from. Most opt for hostels and why not? It's the perfect place to meet other travellers, make friends and have fun. If you need a little peace and quiet pousadas and guest houses offer a more relaxed atmosphere.
⇓Here is where we stayed and recommend⇓
⇒ Other recommended hostels made to us by travellers we met along the way
- Rio de Janeiro – Lemon Spirit, Mambembe & Mango Tree
- Ilha Grande – Che Legarto, Studio Beach & Bier Garten
- Paraty – Backpackers house, Paraty Beach, Geko house
- Foz do Iguacu – Bambu, Manga Rosa, Tetris Container
- Bonito – Che Legarto, CLH suites, Papayo
⇒ Accommodation costs can amount to a considerable portion of your budget whilst travelling but there are ways to reduce these costs -
- Take the night bus – If your next destination is going to take you 8 or more hours on the bus, then you may want to consider the night bus. You’ll save on a nights accommodation and most buses are pretty comfortable. Just be aware that the air-con will be on the whole time so dress warm and bring a blanket.
- Airbnb – Whilst hostels are fun, sometimes you just need a little peace and quiet. You’ll be surprised at the price of some Airbnb listings, sometimes half the price of a hostel.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing is awesome! It’s free but, more importantly, you get to meet like-minded people who know the local area inside out. Couchsurfing is a fantastic way to save money and enrich your travelling experience.
Brazil is so large that getting around can be both time consuming and expensive. On the plus side buses are modern, comfortable and plentiful. The table below shows the journeys we did and the companies we used, none of which we can fault.
⇒ Top Tip - book bus tickets at the bus station rather than online. 99% of the time they will be cheaper, sometimes by as much as 50%.
⇒ Local buses - Cost between 3-4.5 BRL depending on where you are. Uber is also becoming very popular in major cities across Brazil and is cheaper than taxis. If you do use taxis make sure they run the meter or agree a price upfront.
⇒ Hitchhiking - You must always take extra care when attempting to hitchhike anywhere. If you are considering hitchhiking here (which we did) then read this first http://hitchwiki.org/en/Brazil
⇓Here is a summary of our main transport costs in Brazil⇓
⇒ Bus companies and booking sites
- TAM, BR, Gol, Varig, Webjet & Azul
⇒ In summary, travel in Brazil costs
⇒ Days in country – 29
⇒ Total spend – 6,563 BRL £1,580
⇒ Average daily spend– 226.30 BRL £54.50
⇒ Average Accommodation per night – 78.70 BRL £19
⇒ Average transport cost per hour – 15.60 BRL £3.80
⇒ Biggest expense – Pantanal trip 1,140 BRL £278
**The numbers above are our spend in Brazil for two people!**
⇒ BREAKFAST - Fresh fruit such as banana, mango and pineapple are in abundance and super delicious. Or get yourself to one of the hundred of little bakeries you'll find everywhere for an empanada. These delightful little pastries are normally filled with meat, cheese, potato or any combo of the above and will only set you back 4 BRL.
⇒ LUNCH - Lunch on the go is usually the order of the day for us. There is a plethora of street vendors to take your pick from offering up a variety of choice. Meat on a stick, Tapioca, Quiejo Coalport (similar to halloumi) are all inexpensive and tasty options. Our personal favourite is Acai. Frozen and blended acai berries topped with granola and bananas - sooo good. Honestly, we've lost count of how many we've had.
⇒ DINNER - For an authentic Brazilian meal, head to one the eat-by-weight joints. This is a buffet style set up where you load up your plate before it is weighed to determine its cost. As with everything, head a few streets back from the main strip for cheaper prices and a more local atmosphere.
Another option is the BBQ joints. Here you help yourself to unlimited salad and sides etc and the staff walk around with various platter of sizzling BBQ meat. You will be given a card when you enter with a green side and a red side. If you have this on your table green side up, they will offer you the meat. If you have the red side up, well, they will probably still offer it to you anyway. If you're really hungry then this is a great way to get your fill as the meat is also all you can eat.
⇒ DRINKS - Given the abundance of fruit, fresh fruit juice is available everywhere, much like coconuts. If you crave something a little stronger then Bohemia and Skol seem to be local lager of choice.
Brazil's national cocktail is the caipirinha. Generous servings of cachaca, sugar and lime are what gets these cheeky little devils our seal of approval.
⇒ COOK FOR YOURSELF – A lot of hostels will have kitchens available to use. The money you save can get you a few extra beers in the evening.
⇒ CHECK THE PRICE – Always check prices first as some tourist heavy places massively over-inflate prices and some don’t display prices at all. In the case of street sellers, never be afraid to negotiate a little, just try not to be disrespectful with silly offers or aggressive bartering.
⇒ PLAN AHEAD – If you know you’re going to be out and about all day prepare a lunch and take a few snacks. Simple cheese and tomato sandwiches and packs of peanuts and fruit are a good way to watch your expenses and maintain a fairly healthy diet.
⇒ TO TOUR OR NOT TO TOUR? – Think twice before booking a tour as these can often work out poor value for money. Free lunches and transport may make it seem like a bargain but with a little research, you can more often than not see what you want to see at a fraction of the cost.
⇒ LOCAL BEER – Most locals drink either Bohemia or Skol. Worth noting that cans from the shelve are a little cheaper than those from the fridge so if you’re looking to stock up for later, take from the shelf.
⇒ SAFETY - As always, wherever you are, keep a close eye on your belongings and be weary of any over-friendly individuals offering unsolicited assistance. Keep your wits about you at all times as pickpocketing and scams towards tourists can occur. If you ever feel unsafe make your way to a crowded area or into a shop/restaurant as quick as you can. If in immediate danger, make as much noise and draw as much attention as you can. We have never had a bad experience here but you always need to be aware. Good practice for any country you’re in is to have the phone numbers for the emergency services, tourist police and your nation’s embassy stored in your phone.
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