14 thing you need to know before visiting Brasil

Travelers are always exposed to culture shock when traveling. Brazil won’t be the exception. Although it is the only country in Latin America that speaks Portuguese, it shares some of the characteristics of their neighbors. Also has some things that you will only see here. I used to tourists and residents in two cities in Brazil.

As someone who grew up in Colombia, has lived in other countries, have been a tourist and nowadays lives in Brazil. I have some impressions to share with those who want to know the country. Ofc course, it is noteworthy that these impressions are based on my personal experiences and observations. The idea is not to criticize, is to reveal things that only when you are here you can see:

1. The first floor is not the first floor

Unless you are British, this is the first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Brazil. The first floor (which is at street level) of the buildings is not called ” the first floor”, it is the ground floor (Térreo). In the elevators, you will see a T (Térreo, ground in Portuguese ) or P (Portária, reception or lobby in Portuguese).

2. Pousadas are not synonymous of economy

In some Latin American countries, the term ” pousadas” is used for low-cost hotels. However, in Brazil, they have a higher level. When you are looking for lodging option, try words like “hostel” or “Albergue”, B&B is less used.

3. Queues, queues, queues

If you are British, you might feel at home here, otherwise, you will have to bring patience to do many queues. In Brazil, the queues reach a new level. You may have to queue for things you never did in your country, for example, going to the bathroom , taking the elevator, having lunch, paying your bill at the restaurant and possibly leaving the restaurant, being served in any commercial establishment, taking a bus,  entering a subway station, getting in and out of a party, etc.

For sure it’s an appropriate attempt of organing that leads me to wonder how other countries manage to function without queuing.

4. There’s gonna be food

The Western people are known by the amounts of food served. Brazil is not different. The food is always plentiful and delicious too. Meetings always have tons of food, different dishes, all delicious. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience one of the best cuisines in the world.

5. It’s gonna be loud

The Brazilian people (no attempting to generalize) are festive and loudly. It’s hard to find a place that congregates public and is quiet (except for libraries). Bars and restaurants are usually noisy to the point of not being able to listen to the music and when you repair you’re talking too loud to try to communicate with your friends sitting in front of you. On the other hand, you have secured a fun time at each meeting!

6. You can be late

I believe that only the Germans achieved the fame of punctuality. If you are German or very punctual person (like me), you can begin to relax with schedules. The bus may not pass every 20 minutes as said on the website. The show may not start on time. Your friends may arrive with an hour of delay to the meeting. But don’t worry. Things always end up working. Just know that if you arrive on time you might have to wait alone for a while or just learn how to be late. I still haven’t learned.

7. System of Comandas

In Brazil, there is a system of comandas in restaurants, bars, and Clubs. At the entrance, you get a piece of paper or a card (debit-like) which will register all you consumption. In the end, you have to give it back to the cashier to pay the bill. It’s important to keep an eye on it because if you lose you’ll have to pay a negotiated amount of money to the club. Also, do the math mentally. There may be a surprise at the moment of paying with all you’ve consumed, especially at parties.

8. Student Discount

Like most countries, you can get 50% discount on concerts and shows with your student ID with expiry date and photo. Don’t leave your student ID at home. If you are an international student or have any link with a university in Brazil, but has no ID card, I recommend doing the International ISIC.

9. Plug in adapter

The system of Brazil is different of any I’ve seen. And whenever I walk into an airport I feel like dying when I remember that forgot the Plug-in adapter at home. All my electronic devices are American standard incompatible with Brazil energy outlets. Therefore, buy an adapter once you arrive or bring it from home, you’ll need it.


10. Keep an eye on deals

Flying is very expensive in Brazil, it’s a gigantic country. So, stay tuned for companies discounts. You will save much money and time. The best site to do this is Melhoresdestinos.com.br. This leads us to the next point.

11. Avoid bus trips on holidays

If your plan is to travel by bus on a holiday, you can get stuck in traffic more than I’d like. It’s known by the Brazilian people and ignored by foreigners that highways are jammed at the beginning and at the end of the holidays. Like the Bus stations. Your bus may leave four hours after the scheduled time and you can do in six hours a trip that was to be done in two. Not a very nice situation, believe me.

12. The long weekend (feriadão)

The long weekend is a national custom and happens when a public holiday falls in the middle of the week  (Tuesdays or Thursdays).
In other countries, the holidays are transferred to Monday and Friday to join the weekend. In Brazil, they make a long weekend, not moving the dates. Some companies release their employees on the business day between the holiday and the weekend or vice versa creating a four-day holiday. Stay tuned for those dates usually roll offers, enjoy and meet another city in Brazil.

13. It might be messy

If you are coming to Brazil because of the great events that are coming soon, you can find most of the cities a little bit messy. The streets may be jammed, the monuments may be closed for restoration, public transport can be crowded and time-consuming services, in general, may be too much, etc. But it wasn’t always like that. the work began a long time ago, and  it was supposed to be ready for the arrival of tourists. But there are always problems and ended up delaying the works. So bring a little more patience and try to enjoy.

14. There’s gonna be love

The last, however, the most important point. Even with the cultural and social differences and with good and not so good things about Brazil. You will find tons of love. Prepare yourself, because for sure you will fall in love.
You will fall by the Brazilians. A warm, hearty, cheerful and intelligent people, always willing to receive you as you are at home. You will fall by the diverse and wonderful landscapes along the territory, with the food which is always good and never have an end, by the different traditions and rituals that accompany each region. And so on, I could go on listing the things that you will fall in love with, but I’ll let you come and discover them by yourself.

Cristian Figueroa

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