What You Should Know Before Travelling to Brazil

By 12 April, 2022

The largest country in South America, Brazil, is one of the most diverse and fascinating places in the world. With the magnificent rainforest filled with exotic plants and wildlife, golden-sand beaches, and fantastic weather, Brazil is known as a tropical paradise offering an idyllic escape from winter blues.

But rich nature is not the only reason why Brazil is so extraordinary. The country boasts a colourful culture of vibrant carnivals, lively music, delicious cuisine, and world-class art museums. Here, you can experience the hot passion of soccer and relish a cup of the nutty, sweet flavour of Brazilian coffee. All in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer towering over Rio de Janeiro.

It is impossible to learn about the wonders of Brazil without visiting the country. But before you get on the plane, you have to research your destination to find out about the local laws, safety measures, or the required documents. After all, lack of preparation might cut your visit short or even put you in conflict with the law. Here is what you need to know to avoid any precarious situation:

Local Laws

Before going to Brazil or any other foreign country, you need to familiarise yourself with the local laws to avoid accidentally breaking any rules. A costly fine or a stay at a police station is hardly a pleasant memory from your visit. Some of the laws that visitors must respect in Brazil include:

  • the legal drinking age is 18;
  • foreigners must carry a passport ID or a photocopy of it at all times;
  • gambling is banned;
  • using cellphones in banks is not permitted;
  • topless sunbathing is illegal.

You should also think twice before lighting up a cigarette. Since 2014, it is illegal to smoke in public places, and you need to seek out specifically designated smoking areas. The same applies to e-cigarettes. Additionally, it is not possible to purchase any vaping products in Brazil, which were banned for safety reasons, as vapekit.co.uk reports, so you will have to learn more about travelling with your kit if you’re a vaper.

Furthermore, Brazil has very strict rules regarding drugs and implements severe penalties for offenders, often involving long prison sentences. That is why you should not carry any items for strangers, especially baggage and parcels, because you might become involved in drug trafficking and face detention regardless of the circumstances.

Entry Requirements

To boost foreign tourism and business travel, Brazil allows travellers from certain countries to enter the country without a visit visa (VIVIS). This includes the U.S., UK, European Union citizens, South American countries, and more. Whether you are on a family vacation, business trip, or work in transit, your stay cannot exceed the period of 90 days, but it is possible to request an extension for additional 90 days.

Of course, you need a valid passport. You also should have proof of onward and return flights, all documents required for the next destination, and documents showing proof of travel purpose.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, only fully vaccinated passengers can travel by air to Brazil unless they are exempted. Before boarding the plane, you will have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, in printed or electronic form, and a negative COVID-19 test. Nowadays, it’s important to always review the boarding policies of your chosen airlines to avoid delays and hassle.

Health Precautions

It is highly recommended to purchase a travel insurance policy for your trip to Brazil. This will cover you for health issues, medical assistance, and transport to a hospital in case of an accident or serious illness. Though foreigners are entitled to emergency medical treatment in Brazilian public hospitals, they often struggle with overcrowdedness and long waiting times. You can access medical assistance in private facilities, but only if you present evidence of sufficient funds or insurance.

It is also essential to plan ahead and get vaccinated for certain diseases before travelling to Brazil. At least a month before your trip, you should check official websites to find out about any current health risks or outbreaks. Talk to your doctor and ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations. Some of the diseases you can prevent by getting vaccinated include Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Rabies, and Yellow Fever.

Insect-borne diseases are a serious risk in Brazil, and there are no approved vaccines for Malaria or Zika virus. There is also a possibility of contracting water-borne, food-borne, and other infectious diseases. Though in big cities like São Paulo there should be no problem, in more remote areas of the country you should be careful. To protect yourself:

  • drink boiled or bottled water;
  • avoid raw or undercooked food;
  • don’t swim in freshwater;
  • ensure your accommodation is insect-proof and use insect repellent;
  • wear long, loose, and light-coloured clothing,
  • avoid contact with dogs and other animals.

Personal Security

Being in an unfamiliar country, you should always be cautious. Unfortunately, the crime rate in Brazil can be high, especially in areas adjacent to impoverished neighbourhoods or during festivals, such as Carnaval. Foreign tourists are often victims of street crime such as pickpocketing, purse snatching or theft from cars. There are also flash mob robberies (arrastões), in which a group of thieves swarm an area and snatch valuable items.

As long as you stick to main tourist routes, remain cautious, and use common sense, you should be relatively safe. You need to keep your personal belongings safe, including your passport and other travel documents. Avoid any displays of affluence, such as an expensive watch or camera equipment, and do not wander alone at night or in isolated areas. You also need to be wary of new acquaintances.

You might be curious about the offered favela tours to see a Brazilian slum. However, any visit to a favela can be dangerous since the security situation there is unpredictable. Even when travelling by car, you might be exposed to risk. Never go there alone, and if you decide to go on a tour, make sure to choose a reputable, responsible tour operator.

Local Societal Norms

Like every country, Brazil has its own set of societal norms that you should follow to avoid coming off as rude.

Generally speaking, Brazilian people are friendly and free-spirited, which shows in their behaviour and etiquette. Physical contact is common and part of simple communication with touching arms, elbows, and backs. Brazilians also have no problem with close proximity to one another, which may be uncomfortable for people who value personal space. When greeting, men shake hands, while women usually kiss each other on the cheeks.

When invited by a Brazilian person, it is impolite to arrive on the designated time; come no earlier than 15-30 minutes after. A gift for the hostess would be much appreciated but avoid giving anything purple or wrapped in purple since it is a colour associated with mourning. Similarly, you should not gift anything sharp, like knives or scissors, because it might be interpreted as an intention to ‘sever’ ties with someone.

For dining etiquette, Brazilians always wash their hands before eating and do not touch food with their fingers. Even fruits should be picked up with a napkin or toothpick. Moreover, leaving unfinished food on one’s plate is considered impolite because it suggests that you did not enjoy it. You also need to avoid burping or talking with your mouth full.


The Brazilian population communicates using Portuguese. Unfortunately, English is not widely spoken, with only 5% of the population speaking that language, which may be challenging for some visitors. It would be amazing if you learned some basic phrases to communicate with shop assistants or the staff at restaurants.

Brazilians often use gestures in communication, which help them to emphasise their point. However, some gestures might have a different meaning than in your country. For example, the OK hand gesture is extremely rude and obscene; instead, use “thumbs up” to show your approval. Additionally, rubbing your palms together means that something ‘doesn’t matter’, or it is not a ‘big deal’.

In Conclusion

Brazil is a fascinating country that draws millions of tourists each year. From the vibrant streets of Rio de Janeiro to the exotic wildlife of the Amazon, you can explore and discover the beauty of this country.

If you are planning a trip, do not forget to prepare in advance and find out about the local laws and safety measures. It is also important to familiarise yourself with the local customs and communication etiquette. Get vaccinated for certain diseases and stay aware of any potential danger. Be prepared for your trip to Brazil and enjoy your stay!

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