A Visa is required when entering Brazil among most non-Brazilians and the Visa must be obtained before your departure. Some countries and their citizens are exempted from this rule, normally these countries that don’t require Visa from Brazilians. For more information contact the Brazilian embassy/consulate in your country.
There are several kind of Visas but the main categories are Tourist- Student- and Work Visas. Tourist Visas are processed by the Brazilian diplomatic offices within two days and are valid for 90 days (tourist-visa) or 10 days (In Transit). They may be extended for another additional 60 or 90 days (at the discretion of the Federal Police Officer) upon a formal request at a local Federal Police’s office in Brazil. It is recommended to apply for an extension, if any, at least 15 days before the current visa expires. Work and Student Visas can be issued for a maximum period of two-years.
Holders of expired visas have to pay a penalty, a charge that is multiplied with the number of days that exceeded the stay.
When applying for a Visa, you need your passport valid for at least six months, a single passport-sized photograph, Black/White or Colored. You also need a round-trip ticket or a statement from a travel agent, addressed to the Brazilian diplomatic office, stating that you have the required ticketing. If you only have one-way ticket, the diplomatic office may accept a document from a bank or similar organization proving that you have sufficient funds to stay and buy a return ticket. Visitors under 18 years of age must submit at notarized letter of authorization from their parents of a legal guardian.
After passing through the Immigration Officials, you must go to the Baggage-Claim Area. In the main International Airports (1st category), your flight number is indicated above the conveyor-belt, where you should collect your luggage. Before leaving the baggage-claiming area, you have to pass through a gate with two buttons: (a) a Green-Button if you have nothing to declare, and (b) the Red-Button if you have something to declare. If the Green Light goes on, you may walk straight out, but if the Red Light goes on you will be selected for a baggage search. Do not discuss with the Officer, in case the Red Light goes on even if you have pushed the Green-Button. It’s just a random check system used by custom officials.
Former strict import controls have been substantially liberalized as part of the Brazilian government’s efforts to open the nation’s economy to foreign competition. However, upon arrival to Brazil you must fill in a customs declaration.
Exempted Goods to Declare:
Books, magazines and periodicals;
Clothes and other personal articles for domestic or professional use or consumption, according to the purpose of his/her trip;
Others goods purchased abroad, in value up to US$500.00 in sea or air travel, or up to US$150.00 in land, river or lake travels.
Regardless of any purchases made abroad, every passenger arriving in Brazil is allowed to buy merchandise free of customs duties up to US$500.00 at the Duty Free arrival stores, at the main Brazilian International Airports. Don’t list, in the customs declaration, goods purchased at the Duty Free shops on arrival in Brazil.
If you are not a business-traveler, you really don’t need to bring a formal dress, coat or tie, unless you are being invited for a marriage, a student’s graduation, a cocktail-party or any special government’s event. In theaters, in the cinema or even the luxurious night clubs and good restaurants, as well as at a dinner’s party of a friend, mainly in the evening/night hours, you will be well dressed by wearing a shirt with long sleeves and long pants or trousers. Common sense should prevail, because inappropriate dress can cause unwanted attention.
For sightseeing and leisure, casual clothing and good walking shoes are both desirable and appropriate. For beach vacations, you will need lightweight sportswear, a bathing suit, a sun hat, and sunscreen. It should be avoided to offend the local sensibilities and mainly the women should not expose too much bare skin if they don’t want to be molested. Women should also never go topless to a beach or a swimming-pool ! Of course, the best is to travel light with few items of clothing that are easily washable in a hotel or in an inland stream. Synthetic fibers are easier to wash and to dry. Shorts and bathing wear are not allowed for visiting many museums (mainly the ones exposing sacred arts), churches and theaters. However, you may wear shorts during the day and most restaurants, cinemas, malls or shops will permit entrance during the day, mainly in the beach-towns. During the winter-period, temperatures in the south and southeastern regions may vary from -4° C to 18° C, depending on the places to be visited. Therefore, a coat or a jacket should be added in the luggage.
Many large cities have significant criminal problems, but most of the violent crimes occur in low-income suburbs; however, no area is immune from crime and violence. Better safe than sorry should be your motto while travelling anywhere in the world, allthough almost all guides and books or newspapers write about Brazil and south America as if it were the only unsafe places on earth ! Although not every tourist is a crime victim, petty theft is an always present threat in the cities, so take the following precautions:
* If you work on the elements of vulnerability, you can significantly reduce the risks. For starters, you should take with you only those items which you are prepared to lose or replace. Travel insurance is essential for replacement of valuables and the cost of a good policy is a worthwhile the price to pay for minimum disturbance or even abrupt termination of you travel plans. Loss through petty theft or violence is an emotional and stressful experience which can be reduced if you think ahead. The less you have, the less you can lose.
* Don’t bring any jewelry, chains or expensive watches, and if you have to wear a watch, then use a cheap one worth a few dollars. Even better, buy your cheap watch in Brazil and keep it in your pocket, not on you wrist.
* Be prepared for the worst – make copies of your important records: a photocopy of your passport (page with passport number, name, photograph, location where issued and expiration date, and all visas), tourist card (entry/exit card, issued on entry to Brazil), travellers check numbers, credit-card numbers and its phone number for cancellation, airline tickets and essential contact addresses. Keep one copy on you, one copy with your belongings and exchange one with a travel companion.
* By law you must carry a passport with you at all times, but many travellers opt to carry a photocopy (preferable certified) while they amble about town, and leave the passport locked up somewhere safe. A passport is worth several thousand dollars to some people, so keep a close eye on it. If you do loose it, a photocopy of the lost passport and a copy of you birth certificate can usually speed up the issuing of a new passport at embassies and consulates.
* Credit cards are useful in emergencies, for cash advances and for regular purchases. Make sure you know the number to call if you lose your credit card and be quick to cancel it if lost or stolen.
* There are certain key things you can do to reduce attention from criminals. Your style of dress should be casual and preferably something that blends in – clothes bought in Brazil would be an obvious choice. Various types of money belt are available to be worn around the waist, neck or shoulder; and leather or cotton material is more comfortable than synthetics. Such belts are only useful if worn under clothing – pouches worn outside clothing are an easy prey and attract attention.
* If you have a camera with you, never wander around with it dangling over your shoulder or around you neck – keep it out of sight as much as possible. It’s also unwise to keep it in a swanky camera bag, which is an obvious target. One advice could be to carry the camera in a sturdy plastic bag from a local supermarket.
* Get used to keep small change and a few banknotes in a shirt pocket so that you can pay small expenses without extracting large amounts of money which could quickly attract attention. This easily accessible money is also useful to rapidly please a mugger. If you carry a wallet, keep it in you front pocket, and don’t use it on public transport or in crowded places where is might attract unwelcome attention.
Most restaurants and bars include a 10% service charge on the bill. It is customary to leave a bit extra for extra good service. When not included on the bill, 10% is the general rule. There are many places where tipping is not customary but a welcome gesture. The local juice stands, bars, coffee corners, street and beach vendors are all tipped on occasion.
Because of the massive amount of unemployment in Brazil, some services that may seem superfluous are customarily tipped anyway. Parking assistants are the most notable, as they receive no wages and are dependent on tips, usually the equivalent of 25c to 50c. Petrol-station attendants, shoe shiners and barbers are frequently tipped as well. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped. Most people round the price up, but tipping is not expected. In deluxe hotels, tip porters R$1.00 per bag, chambermaids R$1.00 per day, R$1.00 for room and valet service. For moderate and inexpensive hotels, tips tend to be minimal. At this level salaries are so low that virtually anything is well received.
* You can dial direct (DDI), which is cheaper, to most countries in the world, by first dialling 00, the long distance operator code (21 for Embratel or 23 for Intelig) and then the country’s own code followed by the area code and the number you want to contact. Should the area code start with a zero, the zero must be dropped.
* The local telephone directories have a full list of country codes as well as the major area codes, but this information is also available free of charge from the international operator on 000333. The operators speak English and also offer a translation service in French, Japanese, German, Italian and Spanish on 0800 – 7032111.
* If you already know the number you wish to call, but want to make the call collect, person-to-person or use your telephone credit card, contact the international the operator on 0800 – 7032111.
Postal services are quite good in Brazil, but it happens that some consignments take very long time to arrive or just disappear, and it also occurs that some packages/letters has been torn open before arrival. Post offices are named “Correios” and are normally open weekdays from 8:00 to 18:00 and Saturdays until noon. Mailboxes are small yellow boxes, that sit atop metal pedestals on street corners.
Sending mail from Brazil:
An airmail to the United States and to most parts of Europe, cost from R$1.10. Airmail takes on average 5 weekdays to reach the foreign receiver. Brazil postal service has both national and international express mail services (SEDEX). There is also an Express Mail Service (EMS) for international mail and this is often as fast as a courier service and a lot cheaper.
Receiving mail in Brazil:
Mail can be addressed “poste restante” and be sent to any major post office in Brazil and the system seems to function reasonably well. The address must include the address of that particular post office and they will hold the mail for 30 days.
The internet is well developed in Brazil, so most hotels will have access to the web and there are cyber-cafes in many of the main shopping centres.
Electrical current is not standardized all over the Brazil, so it’s a good idea to carry an adaptor. Most of the country uses 127 volts current, 60 cycles AC. Recife, Brasilia and various other cities have 220 volt service. Many of the larger hotels also offer 220 volts. If there is any doubt, check with the front desk of the hotel or the owner of the house or apartment. Transformers to boost the current from 110 volts to 220 volts are available in most good electrical supply stores. Speaking of plugs, the most common power points have two round sockets.