All You Need To Know Before You Go To Brazil As A Digital Nomad

For those who have never been in South America, coming to Brazil for the first time can be challenging. Brazil is great, I love it. There’s a reason I keep on coming back and never want to leave, but it isn’t always easy. If you know what to expect, take certain things in account, and make the right preparations beforehand, it will make your life as a Digital Nomad in Brazil a lot easier. And let me help you with that, making your life easier.

Weather

Brazil is the perfect escape from the European or American winter. Except from the far South it never gets really cold (American and European standards of cold), not even in their winter. Due to the size of the country, there’s a lot of regional variation in climate. Most of Brazil is very tropical, so while you don’t want to take temperatures too much into account when you go to Brazil, you do want to consider humidity and rainfall.

The north coast will be warmer, less humid and less rainy than the southern regions. The further south you go, the more humid and rainy it gets, especially during their summer period. The rain showers in rainy season won’t take all day though. A few hours at most. Pantanal and the Amazon get a lot more rain all year round. When you go to Pantanal and the Amazon you won’t go for the weather anyway, it’s still good to take everything in consideration.

Check out my blog post article with more weather information and best times to go for specific places in Brazil which are great for Digital Nomads.

Visa

Europeans are lucky, they don’t need to require a visa upfront, you can get it at the airport on arrival. When you’re from the USA or Canada, you will have to have it all arranged upfront, but it’s a piece of cake.

Quick Good To Know Visa Facts

  • Your passport needs to be valid at least six months from the date of arrival to be able to enter Brazil.
  • Brazil gives a tourist visa which is valid for 90 days.
  • Don’t lose your Arrival Card which you will get during your flight, you need this on your departure day for customs reasons.

Check out my more detailed blog post about visas in Brazil and contact your local embassy or consulate for the latest information for your country.

Internet, Wifi And Sim Card

Now that entering the country has been set, let’s start with the most important thing for a Digital Nomad: Internet connection. I would suggest to get a sim card as soon as you arrive in Brazil. Just in case you can’t find internet where you are or if something happens to the internet at home.

The fastest speed and coverage you will have with VIVO and TIM. Don’t expect high speed internet or internet at all during peak hours or with bad weather conditions. Early mornings, when everyone is asleep will be the best time if you need to download big data, upload big data or make a phone call via Skype.

To get a local sim card, it’s best to go to a proper store, where hopefully a nice and friendly customer support can help you out. It’s no problem to buy a sim card as a tourist, but it’s a problem to get the sim card activated. Even though law has changed a few years ago, most stores aren’t aware of this law change and still ask for a CPF, which you won’t have as a tourist. (CPF is a personal ID number in Brazil)

If they won’t let you use your passport number (don’t forget to bring your passport to the store) to activate the sim card, hopefully the friendly customer support is in a good mood, and might help out by letting you use their CPF. You might have to pay a little fee. Everything is for sale, even a CPF code 😉

If you have local friends in Brazil, your life will be much, much easier. With a CPF you can get a sim card on literally every corner of the street. You can get your credit after all is activated. You can buy a data package by texting the code of the data plan which is all super easy.

With a CPF your flights and many other things will be cheaper in Brazil as well. Crazy, but true. So get your local friends and ask them to use their CPF. Very, very helpful.

Money, Money, Money

The official local currency in Brazil is the Real / Reais (R$). The currency changes a lot, so check the current exchange rate on www.xe.com before you arrive in Brazil. It can make your stay in Brazil either very cheap or very expensive, all depending on the exchange rates.

ATMs

The best exchange value you will get by directly withdraw cash at an ATM. You will find ATMs almost anywhere in Brazil, but finding an ATM that works with your American or European bank card is a lot harder.

Most ATMs which work with your card are the ATM from HSBC or Banco do Brasil. If you have different bank cards it might be a good idea to bring them both, just in case. And if you have a pin with more than four digits, you will have to change that before you arrive. Brazilian banks won’t recognise them.

The limit of most ATMs is R$1,000 or less, depending on the machine.

Both your own, and the Brazilian bank will charge you with a transaction fee. But in general you will be better off than in any casa de câmbio. You don’t have to walk around with a lot of cash and you don’t have to stand in line for it either! Easy as it is.

ATMs in Brazil have some kind of actual office hours. Safety in Brazil is still an issue and therefore ATMs don’t work 24/7. Most ATMs close around 10pm, but for your own safety, avoid using ATM machines at night, getting money during daylight, preferably in highly visible locations will be best.

They also seem to run out of money every now and again. Especially with certain national holidays like New Years and Carnival. Make sure you have enough money with you during those periods.

In general banks are open on weekdays from 10am to 4pm.

Credit Cards

Credit cards might be a better option than getting money out of an ATM, as you won’t have to pay any ATM fees. Although a shop might add some substantial percentages to the transaction or have some some kind of credit card fee. It will be up to you to see which charges will end up being cheaper.

Prices paid by credit card will often be non negotiable, while paying by cash you can often get a certain discount. So keep this in mind.

Credit cards are widely accepted in Brazil. Most bigger shops, restaurants and hotels accept credit cards from Visa and MasterCard. You might have a bit more difficulties using them in the rural areas. Gas stations generally don’t accept them either.  

Be careful with your pin number and always keep an eye on your credit card as fraud with credit cards does happen in Brazil, and you don’t want to be in that position.

Casas De Câmbio / Money Exchange

Almost everywhere in Brazil you will find Casas de cambio, a place to change your foreign cash to Brazilian Reais. There will always be some kind of commission, even when it says it doesn’t. They have to life from something too. The rates won’t be best, so my advice is to use the ATM, your Credit Card or exchanging money at a bank. Only use Casas de cambio if you have to. It will definitely be the more expensive option.

When you do exchange money and you have some left by the end of your trip, you will need to show your original receipt to be able to change back your unused Reais. So it’s advised to keep the receipt until you left Brazil again to get the best exchange rates.

Traveler’s Checks

I don’t know if there are still people who use travelers checks, but regardless, in Brazil, most places won’t accept them. So please, stop using them, we’re living in 2018. If you really want to stick with them, the only bank that will take them is The Banco do Brasil and it will cost you almost €20 service fee.

Language Barrier

English is worldwide the number one language spoken by non natives, but not very widely in South America / Brazil. So, unless you’re planning on being in Brazil only for a few days it’s good to know at least a few Portuguese phrases. You will be able to get around in bigger cities without but your life will simply be a lot easier if you do.

I hoped to get by with some Spanish, but the Brazilians aren’t a fan of that. I might even be hated for it when I started in Spanish just trying to make an effort and be able to make myself understandable.

My personal tip #1, do try the Portuguese thing, not the Spanish thing

You will find a lot of gringo groups online, people you can connect with and have faced the same problems as you when they arrived. As well as the language barrier. Meet them and see what advice they give you to make your life in Brazil easier.

My personal tip #2, Brazilians love to learn English, a language exchange with a local will be
the best and most fun way to learn from each other

Transport

The first times I was in Brazil I had nothing planned, did everything last minute, and that costs! Flights in Brazil can be so affordable when you book them in advance, but can also be expensive when you book them last minute. Therefor I ended up taking a lot of long distance busses, something I won’t like to do anymore.

Traveling By Air In Brazil

As Brazil is big, traveling by air would definitely be the easiest and fastest option. It can take days by special busses to get to another destination within the same country. Brazil is the second biggest country in the world with the highest number of airports so you won’t have a problem finding an airport to your next destination. GOL, TAM and Azul are the main carriers in Brazil.

Best Prices For Those Who Plan

Try to book as long in advance as possible to get the best prices and most options. Especially during the holidays, in July/August, around Christmas and Carnival).

For the real planners in advance, there’s a Brazil Airpasses with special discounts prices. The flights have to be all within 30 days, the route can’t be changed after you book it and you will need to book them outside of Brazil, all at the same time. It sounds like a hassle, but the Brazil Airpass is often money well spent.

Airport Taxes

You might be used to pay airport taxes when you book your flight. For domestic flights within Brazil airport taxes need to be paid when you check in at the airport. Prices diverse depending on the size of the airport.

Confirm Your Flight!

Brazil isn’t the only country or carrier who does this, I was recently in Georgia and almost denied to my flight because I didn’t confirm my flight 3 days in advance. There was still enough space, so after paying a higher fee than the actual flight price I was able to take my original flight. Don’t let such happen to you and always reconfirm your flight about 48 hours before departure.

Traveling by Long Distance Bus In Brazil

Especially in Southern Brazil you will find a lot of great long distance busses. In general they are comfortable and clean. Every bus will have a break every few hours, even if there’s a toilet on board.

Tickets can be bought at one of the many agents in every town. Advised is to get your ticket at least a day in advance, especially during peak seasons. Seats are numbered and can be picked when buying the tickets. Bus tickets are non refundable, so make sure you pick the right date, time and destination.

Different classes

Long distance busses in Brazil have different classes to pick from, each with their own price tag of course.

Leito: Those busses are extremely comfortable. The seats can almost be turned into a bed. ‘Semi-leito‘ means your seat won’t able to fully be put in horizontal position. Those busses have a hostess on board handing out bed linen and serving snacks and drinks. So that’s all pretty good. They usually drive at night so you save money on a hotel, but miss out on the scenery.

Executivo: Those busses will bring you to your destination a lot quicker than the cheapest option as it has less stops. It also has reclining seats and air conditioning. Not a bad deal, but of course not as great as the Leito.

Comum: Those busses have a lot more stops, so it will take you a lot longer to get to your end destinations. The comfort can be reasonable but with comum it all really depends on the bus you get. Sometimes it has a toilet or air conditioning aboard, but don’t count on it and ask / check before you buy your ticket.

Traveling By Public Transport In Brazil

For locals, busses and minivans are the most common way of public transport within a city. Foreigners however often use metro’s, subways and taxi a lot more frequently.

Public Transport; Metro & Subways In Brazil

The bigger cities have a metro system and subways which are a lot easier to deal with as a foreigner, a lot safer and a lot cleaner. Except for Carnival in Rio, metros don’t function at night.

Public Transport; Busses In Brazil

You can buy your bus ticket in the bus and it won’t cost much. They can be super crowded and take a long time before you reach your end destination because of all the traffic. Busses function at night as well, especially in the bigger cities. Less frequently, but they do. I don’t recommend to take them. It’s still a lot safer to take a taxi home, especially as a foreigner.

Public Transport; Taxi In Brazil

Don’t ever just flag a taxi on the street in Brazil. Always use any kind off app on your phone, call one to pick you up or go to special taxi stands which you find anywhere.

Prefixed prices (negotiated or not) and meters are both very common in Brazil, depending on where you are and how you get it. If you use a metered taxi, the tariff should be 1 at day time and 2 between 11 pm and 6am, on Sundays and in December.

Traveling by Boat In Brazil

Especially in the Amazon, the North and North-eastern coast it’s common to transport by boat. The Amazon rivers are by far the most important and most used ways of transport in that area.

I took a 5 day boat from Colombia to Manaus, in the middle of the Amazon, and it was one of the most memorable experiences I have. Even more popular options for this trip are from Manaus to Belem or backwards from Manaus in the direction of Colombia or Peru. This direction takes another day, due to the stream of the river. From own experience, I would advice to experience this once in a lifetime trip!

Brazil has about a thousand islands in front of their beautiful coastline, also here it’s very common to use a boat for transport.

Traveling by Train In Brazil

Except from tourist attractions you won’t find a lot of trains in Brazil. The few scenic train trips you can consider are:

  • Curitiba – Morretes
  • Belo Horizonte – Vitória

A truly tourist attraction is the Smoking Mary steam train between Tiradentes – Sao Joao del Rei or between Ouro Preto and Mariana.

Traveling by Car In Brazil

Depending on the region, roads in Brazil are either good, bad or very bad. Some areas are only reachable with a 4×4. The best roads are in the South. The more north and inland you go, the more difficult it gets. Brazil has right hand traffic and Brazilian drivers can be slightly aggressive. They will switch lanes without indicator or will overtake on the right if they think you’re going to slow.

There are a lot of car rental companies (locadora) in Brazil and it won’t be a problem to rent a car as long as you have a driver licence (preferably international), a passport and for insurance reasons you have to be at least 25 years old.

I advice not to drive at night. If you chose to drive at night, always have the doors locked and don’t stop for red light on an empty crossing, just like the locals won’t stop for red. They will slow down to see if other cars are coming but due to crime it is allowed by law in Brazil to cross red light at night, so don’t worry to do the same.

Another reason to not drive at night is that there won’t be a lot of streetlight. So it will be a lot harder to see speed bumps and potholes.

Good Preparation Is Half The Work

If you’re planning to go to Brazil as a Digital Nomad, it’s good to be prepared. Make some local friends up front for example. There’s this thing called the web, and it allows you to meet people from all over the world. Your life in Brazil will be a lot easier and so much more fun when you have local friends who can help you out settling in.

Learn some Portuguese before you arrive, at least a few basic phrases, this will definitely make your life a lot easier as most people won’t speak English.

Brazil is a great country to be, for Digital Nomads and tourist. Challenging, but great!

If you like kitesurfing or want to learn kitesurfing; Active Workation will have another Workation in Brazil December 2018 with a bunch of other Digital Nomads, Remote Workers, Entrepreneurs and Lifestyle Seekers. Check it out and join us if you’re interested!

You have any questions or comments, let me know, I’m happy to answer them 🙂

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