Friday, 31 December 2010

Tourist Visa for Brazil

Brazil generally operates a reciprocal system for visitors to the country, and their visa requirements. If your own country requires that Brazilian citizens apply for a tourist visa in advance of travel (including USA, Canada, Australia, India & Singapore), then Brazil also requires citizens of your country to apply at your nearest Brazilian Consulate for a Brazil Tourist Visa. Cost varies due to this of course – with some present example costs at present for attending personally being US$140; C$81.25 AU$49; R1,200; S$40. This is usually for a 90-day Tourist Visa.

Citizens of Mercosul countries (Argentina, Uruguay, & Paraguay) and all other countries in South America (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana) also receive tourist visas on arrival in Brazil, although Venezuelan citizens only receive 60 days.

Brazil tourist visa

Most citizens of European Union countries (including United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic and most Mediterranean countries) also receive 90 days on arrival at the airport/border in Brazil, with no prior organisation necessary.

Other countries whose citizens receive 90 day Tourist Visas on arrival in Brazil include: New Zealand; South Africa; Namibia; Hong Kong; Macau; South Korea; The Philippines; Thailand; Malaysia; Israel; Morocco; Tunisia; Costa Rica; Honduras; Guatemala; Panama; Bahamas; Barbados; and last but definitely not least Trinidad & Tobago.

Citizens of Taiwan, Bhutan and the Central African Republic receive a ‘Laissez-Passer’ visa for 90 days, as Brazil has no diplomatic relations with these three countries at present.

Citizens of all other countries may require a little more organisation still, and prices vary. The full list can be seen below. Always check with your nearest Brazil Embassy or Consulate for up-to-date information though.

How to Make the Perfect Caipirinha

Caipirinha (Kye-Pee-Reen-Ya!) is the traditional cocktail of Brazil, the drink that you will see on the table at every beach quiosque, being passed around any family Sunday churrasco, and the one that you will receive for free on any boat trip worth the name.

There are only three principal ingredients for a traditional caipirinha (four if you count crushed ice as an ingredient): freshly squeezed lime juice; white sugar; and cachaça (cash-ass-ah!), Brazil’s legendary sugar cane spirit. It is the easiest cocktail in the world to make, but also surprisingly easy to mess up. If you want to impress your Brazilian hosts and Brazilian friends, a good first step is to master the gentle art of making a good caipirinha.

If you want to practice on your own first, you can buy a socador de limão. This is the wooden mortar and pestle combination that is used to grind the juice out of the fresh limes. This needs to be done with a little care though. The lime juice takes the bite from the cachaça, while the sugar takes the tang from the lime juice.

Monday, 27 December 2010

It Comes From Brazil – Açai

Açai Tree
Açai is the world’s latest Superfruit, one of those high protein fruits whose nutrient-rich content leaves it open to the application of modern marketing terms. The fruit is popular all over Brazil, although it is mostly eaten as the frozen pulp in a type of sorbet  around the coastal areas, usually with extras such as bananas, strawberries, granola and honey. The açai fruit itself comes from the thin açai palm tree which grows up to 30m high in the floodplains of the Amazon region. The palm also grows in other countries in the Amazon basin such as Peru, and even up through the jungles of Central America to Honduras and Belize. At the moment though, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, açai comes from Brazil. 

Açai fruit attached to thin branches

This may be because cultivation of the açai fruit has been easier in Brazil, with larger tracts of flat lands around the state of Para in particular which also have access to the larger Amazon tributaries for transporting away from the area, unlike those countries further up the river system. The palm may be thin but it is also sturdy, allowing Amazon natives to scale the trunk to harvest the fruit. The palm fruits hang down from the top of the trunk in panicles attached to thin branches. Each panicle contains perhaps 20-50 of the small grape-sized fruits, and there may be up to 1,000 of the fruits growing on each tree in their biannual crop. The fruits begin life green but gain their dark purple colour under the equatorial sun, which is when they are harvested, pulped and transported. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Around Brazil – Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

The options for Nightlife in Rio de Janeiro have long been famously excellent. The meat markets in Ipanema; the Gentleman’s Clubs of Copacabana; masked balls around the Lagoa; blocos passing along the avenidas; samba in the Sambodromo; chorinho in the street; and lately baile funk parties in the favelas. Rapidly growing in popularity, the district of Lapa has a mix of them all.

The turn of the century buildings in Lapa, tucked under the arches that carry the little yellow bonde tram up to Santa Teresa, had long been neglected and never made part of Rio’s glamorous nightlife scene. Over the last 15 years or so though, Lapa has turned itself into possibly Rio’s favourite nightlife area. As with other semi-abandoned districts close to the centre of our world cities – Hoxton in London and San Telmo in Buenos Aires spring to mind immediately – the large colonial houses and warehouses were too central and too spacious to remain dormant.

The antiques market of Rua do Lavradio in Lapa was perhaps responsible for germinating the revitalisation of the whole area, stemming from people simply selling old furniture out of the front of their houses. The Saturday market developed into a typical carioca street fair, with samba and choro bands providing the entertainment. Cafes and bars sprang up as well and began to stay open after the market finished for those still in the party mood, which is usually quite a few people in Rio. The logical next step was to turn the huge empty spaces into larger bars and clubs. The Scenarium Club opened initially in 1999 as a space to house furniture and antiques for rental to the theatre, television and cinema worlds, before opening as a fully fledged cultural centre in 2001. 

Monday, 1 November 2010

Around Brazil – Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro

Tijuca Forest - Trail to Tijuca Peak
Rio de Janeiro has many surprises hidden away but perhaps one of its most impressive secrets is either completely hidden or visible from just about every part of the city. The Parque Nacional Floresta de Tijuca is the forest covering the mountains that dominate Rio, with the city centre, the Zona Sul of Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, and Barra da Tijuca all sitting between the slopes of those mountains and the waters of the Atlantic or Guanabara Bay.

As an escape from the city within the city, Tijuca Forest is perfect. Access is easy whether driving yourself, being part of a tour group, or taking the metro to Saens Pena and catching a bus or minivan up the hill to Alto da Boa Vista. The climb up the winding roads through Usina, behind the Jardim Botanico or past the Itanhanga Golf Club in Barra da Tijuca takes you into the cooler mountain air almost immediately, as the humid city air becomes clean enough for mosses to grow on damp tree trunks. 

The whole area was originally cleared of trees, cut down for timber by the colonialists in order to build the developing city of Rio de Janeiro, and later to make space for coffee plantations. The idea of replanting it is reputed to have come from Dom Pedro II, with a Major Archer charged with the task in order to save Rio’s water supply. Major Archer passed on the replanting task to 6 men who had not quite been freed from slavery, and worked from 1874 to 1888 before abolition meant they were joined by others. They planted 100,000 seedlings between them. The park was later turned into a recreation area with bridges, fountains, lakes and leisure areas for turn of the century cariocas. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Where to Go in Brazil

If Rio de Janeiro is the obvious starting point for anybody visiting Brazil for the first time, there are many other places that can combine with or without Rio that might suit your ideas. Other places we can recommend may depend on the amount of time you have available.

Iguazu Falls is probably one of the Top Ten Must See places in South America, and being just two hours flight away can make a perfect week-long Brazil break, visiting two very special places. Don’t make the mistake that many visitors to Brazil make of thinking that Iguazu Falls is ‘just a waterfall’ and not really worth making the effort to see. Many people say this, but all come away impressed and nobody regrets visiting Iguazu. It is one of the Big Three Waterfalls in the world, but completely different in aspect to Victoria Falls in Africa, and Niagara Falls in North America. Like those two, the river is also the border between two countries, so just as you can visit Zambia and Zimbabwe or Canada and the USA together, at Iguazu Falls you can not only cross the Rio Iguazu to Argentina but also visit Paraguay across the Rio Parana too. Three countries for the price of one. Iguazu is completely different in aspect to the other big two, more picturesque perhaps as the waters split into some 275 separate falls across the 3km width of the escarpment. You can get close to Iguazu Falls than its rivals, with helicopter rides over them, boat rides that take you right under the falling curtains of water, and the walkway that takes you to look down into Devil’s Throat. The most powerful part of Iguazu is completely mesmeric, and after seeing it from below on the boat, the water disappearing into the canyon makes for a memorable experience for anybody.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Are You Ready for Your First Visit to Brazil?

There are many options for a first visit to Brazil of course, so if you can’t decide between them, you could consider a few different options.

The best known places in Brazil are probably Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, the Amazon Jungle and Iguazu Falls, maybe with The Pantanal thrown in for serious nature-lovers. Brazil is also renowned across the world for the quality of its beaches, and with 8,000km of coastline it is easy to understand why this might be. There are wonderful stretches of sand splashed along almost the whole length of Brazil’s Atlantic shores and on many of its offshore islands too.

Christ the Redeemer - Rio de Janeiro
When visiting a new country, it helps to adapt more quickly if visitors already have a certain familiarity with the first place that they visit. For this reason, if you must pick a place to arrive in Brazil then it has to be Rio de Janeiro. Photos, postcards, films, documentaries and music videos, most people can spot Rio without even needing to think about it. The iconic Christ The Redeemer statue overlooking the city is also the symbol of Rio.

You may be able to see it from the plane or boat as you arrive in Rio, but if not then a clear day gives you a guaranteed view of Cristo during the journey from the airports to the city centre or further on to Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches. The first sight of the statue balanced on top of the sheer rock that is Corcovado is bound to bring a smile to the face of any overnight traveller. If you arrive at night, then the statue is lit up and can be seen glowing eerily through the clouds, high in the sky, with nothing but darkness underneath. He is an impressive sight, and one that you are unlikely to tire of seeing, no matter how many times you visit Rio de Janeiro.

Orientation may be a problem in Rio at first, with new visitors never sure whereabouts in the city they might be. Cristo often comes to the rescue, appearing between high buildings on the beach roads, or gazing directly at you in the city streets. He is a reassuring sight at all times.

The journey from the airport or marina will also take in Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the wires stretched across the gap between the crown of Pao de Acucar and neighbouring Urca at the entrance to Guanabara Bay. The first sight of the tiny cable cars rolling their way up to the top can induce a giddy sensation, even for people on the ground way below.

Overlooking Copacabana Beach from Sugarloaf Mountain

The first view of the curve of Copacabana Beach after exiting the tunnel from the city is another special moment, with 4km of sand full of Brazilian bodies, beach volleyball and football nets, with surfers catching waves in the background and patterned pavements and sand sculptures in front. The surrounding mountains are green and granite, and dwarf the high-rise buildings of Copacabana and Ipanema. The Two Brothers stare down the length of Ipanema Beach, another iconic image of Rio.

All of these exotic images will be implanted in your brain forever. If you have a hotel or apartment to check into, you may be surprised to find that even after a long journey to arrive in Rio, staying inside and relaxing is the last thing you want to do. There are so many sights and sounds out there that you may just drop your bags on the bed, take out your shorts and flip-flops, and head right back out, full of life and energy. Rio de Janeiro can have this affect on everyone, which is why we recommend that you make it part of your first visit to Brazil.
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Are You Ready for Brazil?

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Are You Ready for Brazil?

You may have already travelled to Brazil, or you may have only read about Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon River and Jungle, Iguazu Falls and those Brazilian Beaches before and are excited about seeing them for yourself.

We’re here to help you plan any kind of trip to Brazil – when to go on beach holidays; where to go for wildlife encounters; the best spots for family vacations; adventure ideas for trekking, scuba-diving, surfing & kite-surfing and so many more; where to study university and language courses, and foreign exchange programs; how to handle business visits to Sao Paulo; which areas cultural, historical and natural tours – whatever your reason to visit Brazil, there may be some information on the blog to help you out. Even if you just want to choose where to visit. With a country that covers half a continent, there is such a variety of interesting and beautiful places that deciding where to go in Brazil can be more difficult than it sounds...

There will be lots of practical administration tips too, on organising tourist, business and student visas, especially after arriving – because when you arrive in Brazil, the organisation is often not yet finished. Brazilian banks and accounts have their own wonderfully frustrating administration peculiarities, while moving to the country from abroad can also be an intimidating prospect. A little help from us will prepare you in advance.

We can help with international flight and cross-border bus information, with the domestic journeys and with car hire too. We can advise you on the best areas to stay in each part of Brazil, which city districts might suit you best, which to avoid. We can throw in some restaurant reviews, some nightlife tips and especially some cultural tips to help you deal with Brazil and Brazilians!

The best information on Brazil can only be found from people who are actually in Brazil, living and working, travelling and enjoying, and having all the first-hand knowledge of the kind of places that most people dream about visiting on holiday.

We’ve already been there, we’ve made our way through the processes for visiting and living, and we’ve helped many others through them too. When it comes to visiting Brazil, we’ll try our best to help make your Brazil tour or trip as well-organised and safe as possible. Are You Ready for Brazil? Then keep reading!