Here is some basic quick tips and information I would have liked to know before backpacking around Brasil.
Bus travel was more expensive than I thought it would be. Brasil was the most expensive country in South America for bus travel. However, the bus services here were absolutely top notch and safe. We did most of our bus travel overnight as we were covering some very large distances and didn’t want to waste the day away on a bus.
Prices for buses vary, but as a guide, it cost around 10-16 Reals per hour (Aug. 2016). Brasil is quite advanced with its’online booking systems, and I found that bus prices online were not very different (if not different at all) to prices at the terminal. I always used Busbud.com to book, which also have many promo codes so you can keep getting cheaper buses! Like ‘sharetheride’ gives you about 10% discount.
Make sure you sit in your allocated seat number even if the bus is empty, as often the buses will pick up people throughout the night, and this can become awkward if you are told to move in the middle of the night, but someone else has moved into your seat.
Public buses were very easy to use, but DO NOT trust Google Maps directions to give you the correct bus numbers/codes to take. I never got the correct number from Google Maps and was always waiting for buses to arrive that didn’t exist :(. It’s best to look at the bus schedules at the bus stations or on blogs. Public buses are about 3 Reals.
Public Trains, such as in Rio de Janeiro are about 4 Reals per one way trip. Ask at the train station for multicards/ concession cards as these can be cheaper.
Taxis are quite expensive, so I used Uber a lot throughout Brasil. In bigger cities you can also choose ‘Uber English’ to find English speaking Uber drivers.
If you know where you want to go within Brasil, it is much better to book your plane tickets between Brasilian locations in advance as often the tickets are the same price as the bus tickets, if not cheaper!
I went with the Vivo sim card. The sim card cost 12 Reals, and the data plan I chose cost 10 Reals for 600mb per week. If you can’t speak Portuguese, it is best to go into a Vivo shop and get them to set up your sim card. It use to be that foreigners couldn’t get a prepaid sim card. Now it is possible, but they require ID for this, so remember to take your passport with you.
Planning ahead advice:
Brazil is huge, way bigger than I had imagined, and hence a lot harder to ‘wing’. You can’t simply bus around the coast and up to Manaus. We tried, and it was taking very long and costing a LOT. Unless you are planning on spending many months travelling through Brasil, I would advise to plan a lot of it first. At least do some research on the best routes through Brasil.
I felt very safe in Brasil. Just be smart about your belongings. Like really anywhere in the world, don’t go flashing your phone around on public transport or public places, don’t leave your belongings alone on the beach, keep your wallet out of your pocket, taxi or uber home at night in the bigger cities, don’t keep all your valuables on you – and everything will be fine :D.
Hardly any shops carry the right change for money, and many ATMs insist on only giving 100 Reais notes. Make an effort to change these whenever you can! Supermarkets are a good place to change big notes. Buy some gum or something and pay with a big note :).
Be aware that fake money is a problem here. Watch the shop keepers put the money in the till, as there are stories of them swapping fake money with your note, and not accepting your money as it is ‘fake’.
Don’t flush your toilet paper down the toilet:
Just don’t, it’s bad.
I ate everything put in front of, salads and all! Someday you may get sick, but I would rather just wait until that happened. I find that when i’m trying to be careful with food, I seem to have more problems with sickness. You just never know! Just be smart about it, if the restaurant looks really grotty, try somewhere else. Or go where everyone else goes!
It may not be practical to learn Portuguese before travelling here, but I know I would have got a lot more out of this trip had I known a little Portuguese or even Spanish. Most people I met knew some Spanish which seemed to help them. However, I went without knowing the tiniest amount of either language and I managed over 1 month of travel here. You definitly pick it up as you go, and I had a little phrasebook that helped me a lot! Learn the basics if you can, as it is definitely not safe to assume that anyone knows English.