It is possible to fly directly from the UK to Brazil and British Airways runs the majority of these routes between London Heathrow and São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport. The Brazilian national airline TAM also offer direct flights between the UK and Brazil. Several airlines also provide connections routed through Amsterdam and Paris including Air France and KLM.
Flying times from UK
If you are flying direct to Brazil the journey will take 11 to 12 hours. Connecting flights will add an average of three hours to that travel time.
Brazil sits between four different time zones. The country's Atlantic islands are just -2 hours behind GMT as is Rio de Janeiro and the eastern seaboard. Brasilia is a further hour back and the west of the country is -5 hours behind GMT.
Brazil does not require UK citizens to have a visa. Immigration authorities may check to see if you have enough money for your trip and ask the address of the first hotel you are staying in. Your passport will also need to be valid for at least six months from your arrival date.
Climate and weather
Brazil is a huge country and climate varies greatly from region to region. In general winter in Brazil falls between June and August and summer hits its peak in January. It gets very hot in summer, reaching 30 to 40⁰C in the northern and central areas. Brasilia, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are all in the warmest part of Brazil. The country's climate is tropical with rainforests and rivers causing high humidity levels. It is best to dress for the heat but always carry waterproof clothing too, as rain showers hit often and can be very heavy.
Do's and don'ts
Make sure you pronounce the currency correctly. Real is spoken as 'hey-al' and the plural reais is 'hey-ice'.
Remember to ask permission before taking photographs of people.
Try to learn a few Portuguese phrases. There are few English speakers in Brazil and trying to converse in Portuguese will make you many friends.
Brazil's currency is the Real with each made up of one hundred centavos. You can exchange your pounds for reais before you leave the UK but you might find you get a more favourable exchange rate once you land in Brazil. You can use your debit and credit cards at many stores, hotels and restaurants in most cities and towns and there are plenty of ATMs available as well. If shopping in markets or travelling to more rural areas you will need to ensure you have cash on you.
Most restaurants will add a 10% service charge to your bill, but if the service is not included you should consider leaving a tip. Bars and cafes may also have a tip jar on display. Always tip your hotel porter, usually with around 20 reais. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.
Food and drink
Brazil is home to high quality coffee and to cachaça liquor – used to make the world famous caipirinha cocktail – so be sure to experience both during your trip. Mirroring the many different cultures and peoples of Brazil, the country has a rich and varied cuisine, from curries and stews to barbecued meats and savoury fruit dishes. Steak is a popular choice but the country is also known for its seafood. Feijoada, a meal containing meat, black beans and rice, is the unofficial national dish. The cheese breads served with many main meals are a delight and well worth a try and you should always expect generous portions of everything. Meals in Brazil are a sociable occasion and can last for several hours.
Holidays, festivals and celebrations
Brazil is well known for its carnival celebrations – the one in Rio de Janeiro is world famous – and the best visual spectacle of the year is the ‘Carnival of Brazil’ which takes place before Lent begins. Samba dancers, colourful costumes and extravagant floats take to the streets and major cities come alive. Carnival is a great time to visit Brazil especially the key cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Vitória. The majority of the country is Catholic and major Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas are widely celebrated across the country. Throughout the year, there are also various regional and national festivals and celebrations to attend in smaller towns and cities. Independence Day for Brazil is celebrated on 7th September each year.
Brazil has everything from heritage hotels and luxury beach resorts to boutique guesthouses and jungle lodges. It is also possible to join a cruise to explore the Amazon River and the wildlife that call this incredible part of the country home. In general, hotel standards are high and most properties offer a full range of facilities and amenities.
Large cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro keep their shops and markets open into the evening so you can really make the most of a full day out shopping. You will find plenty of stalls and street traders offering souvenirs and haggling is expected. In Salvador, antiques, jewellery, art and musical instruments are commonly found whilst there are indigenous Amazonian wares and ornaments in Manaus.
Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Footprint are all excellent guidebooks. For books on the history and culture of Brazil try ‘A Short History of Brazil’, by Gordon Kerr, ‘A Concise History of Brazil’, by Boris Fausto and ‘Brazil’, by Michael Palin. For those that prefer fiction, some recommended novels are ‘Bahia Blues’, by Yasmina Traboulsi, ‘The Violent Land’ and ‘Captain of the Sands’, by Jorge Amado and ‘A Death in Brazil’, by Peter Robb.
Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.
For current information on Brazil the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We will also be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.