Brazil World Cup 2014 Travel Guide
As the distances are so enormous, most visitors don’t hope to get to all the regions and major cities, so we’ll pick our hat-trick of World Cup host cities from the 12 involved. General visitor information is available on the Visit Brazil website. And don’t forget to top-up your TravelSim South America SIM card so you can stay in touch while you are abroad.
There are a few basics that you need to know before planning a trip to Brazil. It’s big and it’s varied; from north to south, the journey will take about the same time as it does to travel from New York to Los Angeles and from east to west, compare it with the travel time from London to Moscow.
A large percentage of the population lives near the coast and, despite the size of the country, about half of Brazilians live in cities. There’s the mega-metropolis of Sao Paolo with around 22 million and Rio de Janeiro with million, but there are several other million-plus cities to explore.
A diverse landscape also means lots of different weather conditions. In the north, it’s often warm, humid and rainy. The Amazon basin sees the heaviest rainy period from December to May. The coastal zone down as far as Rio is generally hot. South of Rio, the weather is more seasonal, although winter temperatures in July don’t normally fall below 10C.
Rio de Janeiro
Even though it’s been talked about so much, we can’t leave Rio out of our Brazilian team. There are just too many good things going on there. The usual rules apply: be sensible and take local advice.
The city is named the Cidade Marvilhosa by the locals and there’s no denying that it contains a multitude of marvels. Beaches, history, culture, food, carnival and a stunning natural setting produce an irresistible blend for visitors to enjoy.
We decided to pick out a couple of more unusual attractions that will take you off the beaten track. A visit and tour around some of the city’s favelas isn’t as scary and daunting as it sounds. The Brazilian authorities started a pacification program in 2008 to drive out the drug gangs ruling many of the favela districts. This process has generally been successful and welcomed by the local population. Many of the favelas are opening up to tourism, with Santa Marta, Vidigal and Tavares Bastos the most popular. Get a taste of their nightlife, shops, restaurants, music and dance culture. Many locals now offer favela walking tours, which offer the added benefits of local knowledge and a group setting if you feel a bit apprehensive.
If you’re in Rio on the first Saturday of the month, enjoy a different shopping experience with a great atmosphere at the monthly Rio antiques market (Feira do Rio Antigo), which takes place on Rua do Lavradio, Lapa. Before you buy enough to furnish a house, remember that you’ll need to ship your purchases home. You should be able to find lots of smaller, more portable souvenirs as well. The atmosphere cranks up in the afternoon with music and drama performances taking place on various pop-up stages.
Joining our Brazil team as star striker, beach-goers will love Recife, the capital of the sugar producing state of Pernambuco. The city has fantastic, long stretches of sand at the neighbouring Pina and Boa Viagem Beaches, although swimming is restricted due to shark attacks. Don’t panic, just be sensible and follow the regulations. It’s also a haven for divers, with many preserved shipwrecks to explore.
Recife has an atmospheric old town, Recife Antigo, where you can wander the streets and enjoy remnants of the Portuguese and Dutch colonial architecture, art galleries, bars and restaurants. Recife Antigo is a great place to experience frevo, a fast, frenzied and acrobatic dance style. You can discover it on the streets any night of the week, but it’s showcased in February during the city’s carnival.
If you’re a seafood fan, then you’re in the right place to dive into the regional cuisine. Ingredients such as crab, clams and octopus are much in evidence on local menus.
A short hop from Recife is the city of Olinda, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982. It’s a nice place to explore during an afternoon’s sightseeing.
Our third pick for our Brazilian hat-trick, Salvador, is a really hip town. Capital of the north east Bahia state, it was also Brazil’s first capital city up to 1763 and has a fantastic collection of colonial architecture.
There’s a real African vibe in the city, evidenced by the cuisine, music, dance and architecture. Bahia cuisine is known for its well-peppered dishes based on palm oil, coconut milk and seafood. Abará (black eyed pea paste), acarajé (deep fried balls of black eyed peas), bobó de camarão (marinated shrimps), vatapá (shrimp and coconut paste) and beiju (flat bread) are typical local dishes.
Once you’re done with tasting the local dishes, work off some calories by jumping on the dance floor and immersing yourself in some African rhythms and dance. Listen out for axé (meaning magical power), samba-reggae and ijexá, played by percussion bands. Try to dance capoeira, a mixture of dance and fight originating in Angola and accompanied by the berimbau, an instrument with African origins. If you’re enraptured by the Bahian spirit, then come back in February for the city’s carnival. It’s actually bigger than the Rio carnival, with around two million visitors, although it’s less commercial.
Stay in Touch
There’s no need to stress about the hassles of staying in touch with friends and family or making reservations when you’re on the road. The easy, one-stop solution is a TravelSim South America SIM card for cheap international calls. Just buy your TravelSim roaming SIM card and top it up as needed. Check coverage and rates in Brazil for your cheap international calls.