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Sure, you can get there from here: Tips on enjoying your Brazil vacation

By Staff
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The miraculous mountaintop statue of Christ the Redeemer greets visitor to Rio de Janeiro. ()

Despite seemingly unlimited options for visitors, Brazil has long struggled to take advantage of its tourism possibilities, according to the Latin Business Chronicle.

But as foreign investment has grown in Brazil (nearly doubling in 2004, according to the LBC) so has its quest for tourists. Brazil is attractive for those looking to commune with nature, engage in adventure sports or just to party and enjoy fun in the sun.

Here are some tips for those looking to make a Brazil vacation a reality.

Getting there

Transportation: Although it's possible, driving from the United States to Brazil is not recommended. Aside from the tremendous distance, road conditions are often poor and safety an issue. Fortunately several major airlines (American, Continental, Delta, Tam, Varig) have routes to Brazil, usually into Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the main gateways into Brazil, with flight times generally ranging from eight to 13 hours, depending on departure location. Taking into account time at airports, plane changes, customs, etc., it will probably take a full 24 hours to get from your front door in the States to your final location in Brazil.

Rates vary depending on the time of year, with round-trip flights running from $750 to $1,300 per person.

Entry documents: Proof of citizenship in the form of a passport and photo I.D. are necessary to enter Brazil. Also, a tourist visa is required through one of the several Brazilian consulates in the United States; these currently cost $100. While it's not necessary to go to a consulate in person to get a visa, it will probably cost extra to do it remotely. Visas need to be used within six months but once used are good for five years.

In Brazil

Carnival: Carnival takes place every February, leading into the Catholic holiday of Lent. The most notorious and famous of these celebrations take place in Rio de Janeiro and in Sao Paulo, where samba schools have their yearly contests for best dancing, floats and presentation. Still, Carnival is a nationwide celebration in Brazil, with every major, and most smaller Brazilian cities having a celebration to call their own.

While Carnival proper is a four-day affair, you can normally count on more than a week of festivities. As this is the most well-known celebration in the country, you'll need to plan and book early to secure transportation and lodging.

Money: You will need to exchange foreign currency into Brazilian reais (pronounced hey-eyes; the singular is real, pronounced hey-al). The symbol is R$. The current exchange is about R$2.25 to US $1. To get the best rate, look for a place to exchange money before you travel. Most major U.S. credit cards are accepted in Brazil.

Shopping: In tourist areas there are always malls and other established shopping venues. Street vendors are very common as well, and buying from them is often a fine idea, especially if you are looking for clothes or crafts.

Keep in mind that Brazilians are well-known hagglers and will generally quote you a high price to start. Negotiating with vendors in Brazil is not considered rude and is usually expected.

Crime and safety

Brazil is a country with large-scale social inequality, where a large portion of the population survives on the equivalent of less than US $200 per month. In consequence crime rates can be extremely high, especially in larger cities. But if you take the same precautions as you would in any large U.S. city, your trip should be safe an enjoyable. Some tips:

• Don't wear flashy clothes or flaunt money or jewelry.

• If you are traveling as part of a group, stay with your group.

• Be especially careful when outside in the evening - stay in well-lighted areas.

• Never take valuables with you to the beach.

• Never go anywhere with strangers.

Such simple precautions are usually all one needs to avoid problems in Brazil, where the population is world-renowned for its friendliness.

Brazil Facts

Official Name: Federative Republic of Brazil

Capital: Brasilia

Population: Approximately 190 million

Size: 8,511,965 sq km (slightly smaller than the United States)

Largest cities: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia

Electric current: 110, 127 or 220 volts, depending on location

Medical emergencies: Hospitals are available throughout the country, and Brazilian law requires that all patients be treated, regardless of ability to pay or nationality.

Language: Portuguese. In tourist areas, finding a Brazilian that speaks at least some English is usually not difficult.

Official Currency: Real (pronounced hey-al)

Weather: Warm throughout the year in most tourist destinations, with temperatures reaching more than 100 Fahrenheit in the summer in the north of the country. But remember that this is the southern hemisphere - winter in the States is summer in Brazil.

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