We were warned about the danger and the chances that we would be robbed, stabbed, or shot. Before we crossed over into Brazil, I took off my necklace and locked my purse away in my backpack. We would take extra precautions, follow some safety tips and did not carry or wear anything visibly that might looks good to a thief. My phone, even though it is taped up to look like it’s broken, usually stayed in our lodging while we walked around.
We took precautions because of the warnings and because of the actual statistics of danger. With all the safety concerns, should Brazil be on your bucket list? Or will they help you kick the proverbial bucket for you if you go there?
When we first entered the country we were a bit anxious to see the sights and then get back out. It didn’t help that we started our time in Brazil by accidentally ending up staying in a favela – one of the places that tourists are warned to stay away from.
We thought that once we crossed back into Argentina we would feel relief, that we would feel safer. But after our time and experience in the country what we felt when we left was surprising.
After we crossed the border out of Brazil 73 days later, I put my necklace back on, put my phone in my pocket and got out my purse. There was a slight feeling of being a bit safer, but another feeling was much more dominant.
We felt sadness, a longing or a missing that happens when one says goodbye. It was almost that moment again on the dock in the middle of the jungle saying goodbye to our newfound friends that we had only spent four days with. We had found a beautiful country with beautiful people. Brazil surprised us and unexpectedly captured our hearts.
Many places have surprised us on this trip, like Colombia. All I ever heard about before going to Colombia was the danger. Originally we planned to only spend two weeks there before moving on to Ecuador. We stayed three months and wished we had a bit more time on our visa. We were particularly impressed with the transformation of the city of Medellin, once the murder capital of the world.
Brazil was also advertised to us as being very dangerous, and this I don’t doubt at all, though one could be lulled to believe otherwise by the friendliness of its people. The incongruity isn’t lost to me, but despite this, Brazil has a lot to offer.
Five Stunning Destinations in Brazil
We were both overwhelmed at times with the beauty of the places we were able to visit. Here we present five destinations that will give you memorable experiences that will stay with you for a long time.
Foz do Iguaçu
Iguazu falls can be seen from both Argentina and Brazil. Argentina has multiple trails and views. Brazil has only one trail but it has the best view in my opinion, especially if you catch it on a sunny day.
Rio de Janeiro
The harbor of Rio de Janeiro is listed as one of the seven wonders of the world. Admittedly, I was skeptical before going, could it really be that good? It is definitely amazing and I won’t be disputing its listing. Cycling in Rio de Janerio is also a great way to see the city. The iconic Ipanema beach is beautiful and if you are a beach person (we’re not), you’ll love the beaches in Brazil.
The Amazon Jungle
Exploring the jungle has been a lifelong dream for me. Even though we ran from the guy with the machete, had a friend bitten by a Piranha, and got lost in a small waterway, it was an experience I would not want to have missed. We included some tips for your own jungle tour along with our story about getting lost.
Before we decided to visit Brazil I had never heard of Chapada Diamantina. I just saw a picture online of a really cool cave and decided to mark it on the map. Trin is in charge of most of the trip planning. When I find something cool I’d like to visit I just mark it on our shared google map. He will do additional research and see if there is a way we can fit it in.
We found the caves enchanting, but there is more to the park than just the caves. Above ground, the park was beautiful and intriguing. It is worth hanging around a for a few days of hiking to see the colorful riverbeds and waterfalls that never reach the ground.
In a remote corner of Brazil along the coast lies a 383,000-acre park of pure white sand dunes. Each year these sand dunes collect water during the rainy season and display a beautiful array of blue, green and clear pools.
There are three main access points. Our favorite, the one that made me cry with its beauty, was the view access from Santo Amaro. Next was Atins at the far end of the park. The most popular tours are from Barreirinhas which, although it is third on our list of great views, is still quite amazing.
We felt that all of them were worth the visit, but don’t leave out the little town of Santo Amaro. It used to be harder to get there but the new highway that they have built now provides easier access to the town.
The Best Part of Brazil: The People
Brazil can be/is dangerous but there is so much more to it than the violence carried out by a minority of the population. Most of the people we met welcomed us with open arms.
It was not uncommon to sit down for a meal with a streetside vendor and have them ask questions about where we were from and if we liked Brazil. They all seemed so happy to have guests in their country. Even though the language barrier prevented most verbal communication they would smile and do all they could to ensure we enjoyed our time.
We never got the impression that the vendors were giving us the Gringo price. In many other countries here in South America, vendors will give a higher price to visitors, many call this the gringo price or the gringo tax. Here in Brazil, the vendors seemed fair to everyone.
Vendors That Care About Their Customers
In one food place where we had a meal, we found that one of the deserts we ordered was not quite fresh. They took it back and were so apologetic, and they took it off our bill without us even asking. Then she threw away the rest of the batch. She was not going to sell old items to anyone, even if she could get away with it. I understand that in the USA this is the expected response, but here in South America, it is not. Outside of Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, we found vendors will sell anything they can, moldy or not.
Cleanliness also seems to be at a higher standard here. In Brazil, eating with your fingers is frowned upon. Most napkins on the tables (a bonus for even having them) are a bit more like wax paper than a regular paper towel. This is so that patrons can use them to grab the food. The point is so you don’t get your fingers dirty. The downside is that the napkins don’t work as well for wiping your mouth. I’m all for the higher standards. I didn’t catch any vendors licking the knife used to cut the cake for display as I did in Bolivia.
Humility and Hospitality
On our last full day in Brazil, as we rode the metro in Salvador to the airport, we expressed to one of the Brazilians standing there with us how much we enjoyed his country. Not only is it beautiful but the people are friendly.
“Brazilians are humble,” said the guy whose name was Ravi.
So I know that a man named Moses in ancient history wrote a book and said in the book that “Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth.” I’ve always wondered how a humble person could say they were humble, because, well, it’s not so humble to say so. But somehow both Moses and Ravi pulled it off. The statement had no arrogance in it. He was simply stating the truth and it was what we also experienced from the Brazilian people.
“They are hospitable,” he said. We nodded our agreement and assured him that we loved our stay in his country.
Unfortunately, drugs and violent gangs are often all we hear about a country or a city. We hear about it because it makes sensational news. It elicits emotions from viewers. That is how papers and news outlets make money. The problem is that violence is often not the majority. It only takes a few to give a city a bad name.
It only takes the over-reporting of negativity, whether it is true or not, to make a country look bad. And somehow we always believe the bad stuff even without looking at the actual facts. It is why every single one of us plays a part in the environment and culture around us.
If you are kind, if you are positive, you may never make the news, you may never have the spotlight, but you are helping to drive the culture in the right direction. It only takes a few to drag an entire country down. People remember the bad stuff – don’t give them something like that to remember.
Don’t just believe every bad thing you hear either, make sure there is actual evidence to back it up. Remember everyone has an agenda when spreading a false accusation. Represent your country well. In the long run, it does benefit you because the entire country benefits.
How do you represent your country, city, and family? What do your interactions with strangers say about you? Have you ever let your emotions dictate what you believe?
What it Costs
Originally our goal for Central and South America was to try and keep our costs under $50 a day on average for both of us. We knew that some countries would be more expensive than others. We were happy with our final average for Brazil being $55 a day. Our total average overall is still under $40 a day and that includes a cruise in the Galapagos.
We spent more on transportation in Brazil because we took a number of flights. Brazil is large. For safety reasons and to save time we took seven flights between our major destinations.
Visa fees are included in the transportation costs. Thankfully it is no longer $160 each for a visa. It has been reduced to $40 each for USA passport holders and the visa can be obtained online.
Entertainment includes paid tours like our jungle tour, tours in Lencois Manesis, and tours in Chapada Diamantina, bicycle rentals, and entrance fees to parks.
Will We Ever Go Back?
Absolutely. There is so much more to see in Brazil than we were able to fit in during our short stay. It might be a number of years before we get back. With our pace of travel taking a couple years for each continent it will be a while but always a possibility.
What opportunity will you take today to make the world a little bit better? Let us know in the comments if you were able to pay something forward this past week. Did you buy a stranger a coffee?
Retired from Corporate America at the age of 43 along with her husband Trinity. In 2016 they sold their home to begin a nomadic life of slow travel. Bonnie writes of their experience on the road in each country. Subscribe to follow her stories here.
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