Updated: Aug 25, 2018
If you are traveling to Brazil you will most likely need a visa. If you have a U.S Passport it is going to cost you $160, and only a money order from the post office is accepted. The good news is, it will last 10 years, and I’m already positive you’re going to want to make another trip. If you live in NY (like I do) you are going to take a trip to the Brazilian consulate (225 East 41st Street between 2nd and 3rd ave) any weekday between 2-4pm except Thursday’s. It is usually a same-day process, but in the case that they are unable to process it right away I suggest going at least 3 weeks before your trip. You will also need a passport picture (to be attached to the visa), your active passport and at least 2 blank visa pages. Lastly, you will need to complete an online application and bring the printed confirmation with you. LEARN MORE
Unless you are traveling with someone who speaks Portuguese, I recommend you learn some. I went on this trip thinking the people would speak English or at least Spanish and reality slapped me real hard in the face. So, buy a book or download an app on your phone, and make sure to learn at least the basics.
You will need an adapter for your electronics, I found a great option here .
I used packing cubes for the first time and loved it. I traveled a lot within Brazil, and at each location had different activities planned. Having things packed into categories helped me save time when constantly getting ready for a different adventure. I always recommend bringing a sweater and a long pair of pants on any trip, you just never know what the weather might surprise you with.
It was scarier to tell people I was traveling to Brazil than actually being there. Yes, there is danger like in every other place in the world so do your best to avoid threatening situations. If a street looks sketchy it probably is, so take a different route. Wake up early and take advantage of daylight, feel free to take public transportation to save your money for uber’s during night time. Leave your passport in your suitcase and walk around with an ID. NEVER travel with all your money on you. I would go out with 300 Reals, which is about $100 dollars, but would always have leftover money at the end of the day. Don’t just walk around with your phone in hand if you are not using it and always keep an eye on your belongings.
The trip started off in Foz do Iguaçu, where we visited the waterfalls. Take a tour of the falls on both the Brazil and Argentina side or you will regret it. I recommend starting in Argentina early in the morning because it takes a lot longer to get through. Prepare yourself for a lot of walking, bring a waterproof camera/phone or cover and have a water cape or raincoat for yourself.
Our next stop was Salvador, which was the first capital of Brazil. It was also the first slave port in the Americas, making it a center of Afro-Brazilian (Preto) culture. We visited Pelourinho district, where we witnessed very beautiful colorful examples of Portuguese colonial architecture. We also visited Porto Da Barra Beach, which has been named one of the best beaches in the world. You can watch a beautiful sunset here. I recommend walking towards the end of the beach near the lighthouse because it will be less crowded and nicer for pictures. Across the street from the lighthouse, there is a small tattoo shop called “Roka Tattoo” where I spontaneously got my second tattoo.
Third and longest stop was in Rio De Janeiro, were we accidentally ended up staying in a favela. If you don’t know what a favela is, they are considered the slums of Brazil. I can write an entire article about our experience in the favelas but you probably wouldn’t finish reading it so I’ll make this short. The favelas are filled with the lower-class people of Brazil, but they are also filled with love, color, and culture. We stayed in Babilônia, a favela filled with beautiful art throughout its walls. This was one of the few pacified favela’s, which means there are police checkpoints inside to prevent violence. If I’m being honest the entire thing is BS. The drug lords control the favela’s and the police are just an act, but I didn’t write this to get into the politics of Brazil. Instead, I want you to know that in our tour of Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, we learned that the drug lords have strict rules protecting the tourist. Our interest in their communities helps them earn money and it would not be wise to drive us out. But please keep in mind, these communities are not there for our entertainment, these people face real struggles every day. So be considerate and grateful when visiting, be respectful of the place they call home.
Our last stop was in São Paulo, this city is filled with great art and great architecture. We visited Beco do Batman, an outdoor graffiti gallery located in an alley. Arrive early in the morning to avoid the large crowds. Make sure to walk around the neighborhood because although the alley is the main attraction, you will find beautiful art all throughout the streets.
Brazil touched my heart in a way that is very hard for me to share with other people. This trip was not perfect, I faced challenges I didn’t expect. Yet it all helped me appreciate the experience more. I was able to really push myself during this trip and come back home doubting everything. That might not make much sense to you, and it’s actually a bit frustrating for me. But Brazil taught me that the life I’m living right now is not the one I dream of living. And that there are a lot of changes and a lot of work I need to put in to get to where and who I want to be. I encourage you all to travel and discover new places, you will discover new portions of yourself and life will be more satisfying.