Should You Add Brazil to Your Bucket List?

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?Ā OrĀ 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.Ā  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.

Trin and Bonnie standing on a heart shapped rock on a a plateau in Chapada Diamantina one of the places to visit in Brazil
Standing on a plateau in Chapada Diamantina

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 dockĀ 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.

Wonderful Surprises

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 particularlyĀ 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.Ā  Here we present five destinations that will give you memorable experiences that will stay with you for a long time.

Foz do IguaƧu

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 viewĀ in my opinion, especially if you catch it on a sunny day.

Iguazu Falls as seen from the Brazil side, Iguazu falls Argentina, places to visit in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

The harbor of Rio de Janeiro is listed as one of the seven wonders of the world. Admittedly, I wasĀ 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 iconicĀ Ipanema beach is beautiful and if you are a beach person (we’re not), you’ll love the beaches in Brazil.

Rio de Janiero from Sugar Loaf, places to visit 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.

Patrick in the leaky canoe, Amazon tours, places to visit in Brazil

Chapada Diamantina

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.Ā  Trin is in charge of most of the trip planning.Ā  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 theĀ colorful riverbeds and waterfalls that never reach the ground.

Trin swimming in the crystal clear water of a cave in Brazil

 

LenĆ§Ć³is Maranhenses

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.Ā Our favorite, the one that made me cry with its beauty, was the view access from Santo Amaro. Next was AtinsĀ at the far end of the park. The most popular tours are fromĀ 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.

Walking through LenĆ§Ć³is Maranhenses National Park the Most beautiful place in the world, places to visit in Brazil

 

The Best Part of Brazil: The People

Brazil can be/is dangerous but there is so much more to it thanĀ 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.

Circle of people in a cave

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.Ā  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.

Beautiful San Pedro center, one of the places to visit in Brazil
Salvador, Brazil

Humility and Hospitality

On our last full day in Brazil, as we rode theĀ 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 thatĀ 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 somehowĀ 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.

Armed police sitting along the side of the street in a favela in Rio
The favela where we stayed in Rio

Sensational News

Unfortunately,Ā drugs and violent gangsĀ 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’tĀ 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.Ā  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 includesĀ 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 saveĀ 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.

 

Total cost of 73 days in Brazil is $4,000
You read that right: $9 a day for two people to eat. This includes eating out.

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.Ā  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?Ā  Let us know in the comments if you were able to pay something forward this past week.Ā  Did you buy a stranger a coffee?

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13 thoughts on “Should You Add Brazil to Your Bucket List?”

  1. Loved your comments about negativity and how a person represents their country, city, and/or family. It is soooo very true. I always try to make sure that something I hear or read is true (whether good news or bad). But I also feel that someone who always talks about bad about something or someone, is the same kind of person who will not hesitate to talk bad about you as well. Good food for thought in this blog.

    Reply
    • I agree with your statement about the people who talk badly about others. I had one “friend” who constantly kept telling me bad stuff about others. I didn’t tell her anything about myself for the exact reason you mentioned and started to keep my distance, don’t give her any fuel. šŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. Hi you two!
    Another great post. The last part about sensational news rings so true! We had some folks that told us Lima,Peru is not worth going to because they had friends that visited Lima and did not like it! ( they stated this without having any first hand on the ground experience!) Lima is totally worth a visit in our opinion. We are in Peru now on day 17 of 6 more to go. Great country. Blog post coming!
    Thanks for the info on the Brazil Visa cost being reduced from $160 to $40!
    That is good news. Is it still a 10 year stamp?

    We are considering Brazil next year. It will depend on how quickly we get settled in Medellin!

    Stay safe and have fun!

    John and Susan

    Reply
    • Hey John and Susan,

      Interesting thing about Lima half the travelers we met loved Lima the other half didnā€™t like it. Most of the ones who didnā€™t like it were only there a day. No one can make a love/hate decision about a city that big in one day! Peru is amazing and Iā€™m so impressed that you did the long trek to Machu Picchu!

      The visa stamp was reduced to two years along with the price drop. So I guess technically itā€™s the same price if you go every year the next ten years but most of us wonā€™t be going that often so Iā€™m very happy:).

      Best of luck settling into Medellin!

      Bonnie

      Reply
  3. I’ve been to Brazil for work (Sao Paulo and Rio) but never as a tourist. Thanks for summarizing some of your favorite places. The sand dunes look amazing. Glad to hear too that the Visa cost has gone down considerably.

    -DGuy

    Reply
    • Do you still go for work and if so do you get a bit of extra time to explore while you there?

      The sand dunes are great but if you go make sure itā€™s the time of year before the pools dry up.

      Yes we were very happy about the Visa. It changed earlier this year

      Reply
  4. I loved your post! While the details and photos are terrific, the $$ info is super-appreciated. Was your accommodation cost so low due to travel hacking? Since you moved around, I figured you weren’t able to secure long-term rates.

    Brazil sounds like a place we need to add to our list!

    PS…I look for ways to pay it forward so it’s nice you do as well. That often looks like me seeking out a homeless person to feed.

    Reply
    • Thank you Amy! We sometimes get a weekly discount at some places but we donā€™t often stay longer than that. We try for a house sit when we need a longer break. Our last house sit was in Colombia.

      We find that Airbnb is normally the best price for a couple and we get a private room. That is all we used in Brazil.

      I hope you get to go once you start your nomadic life (so excited for you). We are always here is you have any other questions.

      Reply

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