Brazil is a beautiful country with attractive people, breathtaking sites, vibrant nightlife and diverse cultural activities. Many tourists fall in love with Brazil from the moment they arrive, however it’s still important to brush up on a few of the local customs before visiting. Here are thirteen things not to do in Brazil to ensure that your visit is hassle free and enjoyable.
1. Be Afraid to Show Some Skin on the Beach
Brazilians are known for baring some skin on the sand and you shouldn’t be shy to do so either. Of course, the tiny bikinis and short-shorts are popular, but not everyone’s bodies look like the ones in the Brazilian travel brochure. In Brazil, people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so don’t be ashamed of your few extra pounds.
2. Speak Spanish
Many visitors travel to Brazil expecting to hear Spanish, but unlike its South American neighbors, Brazil’s native language is not Spanish. Brazilians speak Portuguese and usually a bit of English. So please don’t be that ignorant tourist attempting to converse with the locals in broken Spanish.
3. Be Flashy with Your Money
Although Brazil is a relatively safe country, there are still many poor areas, even in the tourist towns. So we advise you not to be overly flashy with your money or valuables. Don’t wear your most expensive watch or wave around your new camera, because it will be pocketed. Just take common sense precautions when walking around busy areas with your belongings.
4. Drink Alone
It is customary practice in Brazil to share your beer with others and sometimes even strangers will show up with their own glasses. This is because Brazilians enjoy drinking beer “estupidamente gelada” (stupidly cold) and most bars only sell only sell beer in 700 ml bottles. So, if you order a beer in a Brazilian bar be prepared to share, as drinking it alone will seem both selfish and odd to the locals.
5. Be Impatient
Things move at their own pace in Brazil, so it’s best that you understand that before you visit the beautiful South American country. You’ll quickly learn that long lines are common for everything from ATMs to grocery stores, so be prepared to wait patiently. It’s also best you learn one ironic Brazilian phrase before you go – “estou chegando,” which literally means, “I’m arriving.” However, when a Brazilian says this, they may still be at home. They really mean to say I’ll be arriving at some point soonish. So relax and take in the breathtaking sights.
6. Make the “OK” Sign
In many countries making a circle with your thumb and finger is the signal for “okay,” however in Brazil it means something very different. The “okay” sign is a highly offensive rude gesture in Brazil, so refrain from doing it. However, thumbs up does mean something to similar to okay, literally “beleza” or “beauty,” and is frequently used.
7. Tip Regularly
Tipping is not a common practice in Brazil and many locals will not expect you to tip, however they will appreciate it. Tipping is only mandatory to hotel staff and restaurant waiters.
8. Lose Your Consumption Card
Many bars and nightclubs in Brazil will operate using a consumption card system, where each customer is given an individual card on entry to record food and drink orders. Patrons are expected to settle their bill before leaving, and not doing so results in large fines. So don’t misplace your consumption card during a night out.
9. Expect Only Beautiful Sights
Yes, of course Brazil is one of the most beautifully diverse countries in the world, but don’t expect perfection. Brazil is still a developing country, don’t be surprised when you come across extreme poverty, favelas, drug-torn cities and rude people, especially if you venture outside of the popular tourist areas. Don’t ever try to visit the favelas alone as they are run by drug lords and can be extremely dangerous.
10. Skip the Amazon
Although Rio de Janeiro is one of the most popular destinations in Brazil, don’t be afraid to venture out into the more remote areas. Take a trip to the Amazon Rainforest, Iguaçu Falls, visit smaller towns like Olinda and Ouro Preto or travel to the Fernando de Noronha archipelago to experience some of Brazil’s best kept secrets.
11. Sit Quietly in a Restaurant
Be prepared to yell at your waiter. Although this may not be the customary practice in your home country, it is not considered rude by any means in Brazil. Don’t wait for the waiter to approach you to take your order or clear your plates, the customer is in control in Brazilian eateries. So learn a few key phrases to avoid being the last patron served: garçom (“gar-sohn”) means waiter, com licença (“con lee-sin-sah”) means excuse me and oi is hey.
12. Flush Toilet Paper
No matter how nice the facilities appear or how shiny the porcelain looks, do not trust the plumbing in Brazil. It is a must that you dispose of your toilet paper in the receptacle provided, as flushing it down will only lead to a major clog.
13. Try to Enter without a Visa
Although there are a few visa exempt countries (mainly South American and Caribbean nations), the U.S. is not one of them. Brazil requires a visa for visitors traveling from Canada, and most European, Asian and African countries too. So check the list of countries that require a visa before visiting Brazil. The process is very straightforward.