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Holiday destinations don’t come much more exciting than big, bold, beautiful Brazil.

Bountiful in sights, sounds and sheer charisma, this samba-dancing, sun-drenched tropical cocktail of a country is a delight to explore. Beach lovers will be in their element here, as there’s over 7,000 kilometres of golden coastline to explore and a stretch of sand to suit every taste – from showy city beaches like Copacabana to deserted, palm-fringed swathes of silver, like the tranquil bays of Ilha Grande. The Brazilians have an infectious joie de vivre too, and certainly know how to celebrate. At no time is this more evident than during Carnival, when the city of Rio de Janeiro erupts in a jubilant display of music, dance and costume. Order another round of caipirinias, let your hair down and join in with wild abandon!

Top holidays in Brazil

Culture and history

Three centuries of Portuguese colonisation has coloured the country’s culture. The language, predominant religion (Roman Catholic) and colonial architecture all derive from Portugal. Music and dance are almost seen as religions in their own right and the world-famous carnival in Rio brings Brazil to a halt for a week as the fervent festivities continue day and night.

Traditional Brazilian meals include feijoada, a rich stew of black beans and pork that may also contain sausage, chops, pigs’ ears and tail. This hearty dish is served on white rice with chopped kale and orange slices. A good choice of European, North American and Asian dishes should also be available if the thought of pig stew doesn’t melt your butter.

Brazil goes bananas over football, of course, and the country hosted the 2014 World Cup.

Interestingly, Brazil has more plastic surgeons per capita than anywhere else in the world. Rather than a private affair, as it is in Europe and the US, cosmetic surgery – seen as showing you care about yourself – is a badge of honour and a show of wealth.

When it comes to the nation’s history, the time before its colonisation by the Portuguese is somewhat hazy. There’s evidence of human inhabitants in the country’s north east dating back some 50,000 years. However, no traces of advanced civilisations have been found. It seems that people lived peacefully in small tribes spread out across this vast and fertile land. There were probably upwards of 1,000 tribes living in Brazil when the Portuguese appeared on the scene in the 1500s. Over the proceeding centuries the European settlers gradually wiped out the native people of Brazil. Many died through violence, and more still through illnesses to which they had no immunity. Those remaining were forcibly introduced to Christianity and suffered the suppression of their traditional cultures.

In the century after their arrival the Portuguese warded off attacks from both the French and the Dutch, both countries seeing the monetary potential in Brazil. And indeed there was – firstly in the form of sugar. From the mid 1500s sugarcane was introduced to Brazil on a huge scale, and with it came boatloads of African slaves to work the land. Other cash-rich crops included the gold rush of the 18th century centred on the Minas Gerais region, the rubber boom in Amazonas and then coffee in the southern states around Sao Paulo. All this industry demanded a huge and cheap workforce. It is estimated that a staggering 3.5 million African people were brought to Brazil before slavery was finally abolished in the late 1800s.

Brazil’s independence from the Portuguese crown came in 1822, first as an empire, and then in 1889, just after abolition, as a republic. The decade before the dawning of the 20th century Brazil opened its doors to immigration. And the people came in their millions from Japan, Germany, Italy, the Middle East and beyond. All these new arrivals added their integral contribution to the cultural mix that makes Brazil such an exciting place to visit.

Things to do

On Saga’s holidays to Brazil you’ll enjoy some of the country’s most impressive sights. From the thundering cascades of Iguassu Falls to the outstretched arms of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue. You’ll travel deep into Amazonas to the jungle city of Manaus, founded in 1669 and entirely surrounded by the Amazon Rainforest. Down south you’ll be able to people watch on Avenida Paulista, Sao Paulo’s glitzy central avenue. Then travel north to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil’s first capital city. Dating back to 1549 this important UNESCO World Heritage Site has some impressive colonial architecture still intact, and there’s gold here too, in the many churches built by the Portuguese. Saga’s trips to Brazil also include an array of Amazon and South America cruises – so you can stop off along the coast on tour to other distant lands.

Rio de Janeiro

One of the world’s most famous cities, Rio de Janeiro’s glittering bays and dramatic forested mountains never fail to impress. Hitting the beach is a way of life here and locals live in flip-flops as they kick back on Copacabana or take a sunset stroll along the beachside promenades of Ipanema and Leblon. Touring the lofty heights of Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado allows for magnificent views of the city in all its glory, while the shady paths of Tijuca Forest offer jungle hiking in the middle of the city. Just like the open arms of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro welcomes all. 

Flight time

It takes just under twelve hours to fly from London to Rio de Janeiro.

Currency

Real -

The currency in Brazil is the Real (BRL or R$) which is divided into 100 centavos.

ATMs are widely available but exchanging travellers cheques is becoming increasingly difficult.

Passports and visas

It’s a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport. UK passport holders will not need a visa to enter Brazil.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

A few basic Portuguese phrases…

Hello – ola

Goodbye – adeus

Please – por favor

Thank you – obrigado

I’m sorry – desculpe

Yes – sim 

No – nao

The bill please – a conta por favor

Timezone

Brazil is three hours behind GMT between February to October, and two hours behind between October and February.

Electricity

You’ll need an adaptor to use British appliances as sockets take three-pin N type plugs. 

Electricity varies across the country: in Brasilia and Recife it is 220 volts, while in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo it’s 127 volts, or 220 volts in some larger hotels.

Language

Portuguese -

The official language in Brazil is Portuguese, although English is spoken in most tourist regions. There are also over 150 indigenous languages spoken across Brazil. 

Tipping

Tipping in Brazil is not customary.

Almost all restaurants and bars add a standard 10% service fee to the bill (‘contra’) which is not compulsory but usually paid.

Round up taxi fares to the nearest whole number and tipping the chamber maid early on will ensure good service throughout your stay.

Climate

You can expect the weather to be hot and dry in central areas of Brazil. While along the coast and in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon it will be hot and humid. 

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

With more than 200 million inhabitants, Brazil has the fifth highest population in the world.

Smoking

Smoking is forbidden in all public places except in designated areas.



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