Before the Olympic Games, I went on a 3-week trip to the huge country in South America. The country convinces with a lot of friendliness, life, authenticity and also with a bit of chaos.
Here I would like to give you some suggestions on the route, tips on safety and behavior in Brazil.
In these 3 weeks, I got to know Brazil as a country where everything is possible. Positive as well as negative. Empty streets should be always avoided, even by day, even if you are moving in a safe small town.
Many friends warned me to go alone to a country where abductions and violence are the order of the day. If you know this and always be careful, you can explore the city and the countryside. The typical tourist with socks in the sandals and hanged camera you should not give. Alone a big backpack is conspicuous enough in Brazil. You do not need fear if you consider my tips.
Tips for your Brazil trip
It helps, of course, if you speak at least a little bit of Portuguese. My language level was enough to ask for the way and to have a chat with the taxi driver. Spanish also helps to exchange with other tourists - from Chile and Argentina. With English alone, you will not be able to go very far when you are in less touristy areas.
If you run away in the big city, you should not ask on the road straight after the way, but in shops or restaurants. The best outfit is to adapt to the domestic population. Wear a t-shirt/top, shorts and a pair of flip-flops or sneakers. For cooler days in the south go also jeans. The clothes should be clean and well maintained, but not too chic. Avoid eye-catching prints or fashion jewelry.
A little money and the passport is best seen in the front pants pockets. An extra belly pocket, which you can wear under the clothes, you do not. For water, camera and city map you can take a small bag or a bag with you. With this outfit, you are ready to discover the famous Rio de Janeiro and the rest of the country!
Due to the size of the country, it is more sensible to limit itself to a certain region in three weeks. I chose Rio de Janeiro and the surrounding countryside to the south of São Paulo. As I plan separate trips for the north and south.
Day 1-4: Discover Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is worth one or several visits. For a 3-week backpacking trip, you should schedule at least 5 days in the city.
Cheap hostels are enough (5-20 € the night including breakfast). I found the location in Botafogo, the district of Rios, which is also known for its many restaurants. It is a bit quieter than Copacabana and by fewer tourists also safer. The Meiai Hostel or the Gaia Comfort Hostel I can recommend. With the metro, you are fast in the city center or also at the Copacabana and in Ipanema (per ride R $ 3.80).
These famous beaches are beautiful to look at and invite you to stroll and sunbathe. They are less suitable for bathing. The water is very dirty and does not smell very inviting.
My highlights in the city: the sunset in Ipanema on the Arpoador rock. The afternoon/evening on the Sugar Loaf (about 17 € by cable car). Beach walks and strolls in Ipanema and Copacabana. As well as the juices of tropical fruits (natural, sugar-free).
Many of Rio de Janeiro's attractions can also get explored on a guided tour.
Take a stroll or a walking tour through the city center. You can admire colonial buildings alongside the most modern skyscrapers. I especially liked the old houses between the Uruguaiana station and the Praça Mauá. For very hot days are air-conditioned shopping malls or museums. In the evening you can also go out in Lapa.
The center of Rio and São Paulo should be always avoided on weekends and evenings.
If you're lucky, you'll see small monkeys and toucans in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. In the botanical garden (R $ 10) you have greater chances to discover this. Favelas you should only visit with a guide. Are you traveling by bus or taxi from and to the international airport in Rio de Janeiro? You will get some insight into the surrounding favelas.
Day 5-7: Holidays in Búzios
Beaches and nice cafes, as well as great snorkel places, is in Búzios only three hours from Rio. There is especially the Rua das Pedras. It is nice to stroll around and you will find cheap restaurants with live music. The "Carioca" lured with delicious fresh food. The bossa nova, the beach restaurants offer fresh fish dishes.
You can discover the distant beaches and the turquoise blue water with the schooner. (R $ 130, restaurant visit, bus, and boat as well as water on board). The one or the other sea turtles also looks over in Arraial do Cabo.
Day 8-13: Rainforest Idyll at Ilha Grande
Relax and be an eco-tourist, this works great on Ilha Grande, about three hours from Rio. The island was earlier inhabited by indigenous people. There are a prison and the ruins of a hospital as well as an old aqueduct. Hiking trails through the rainforest take you to the beautiful beaches on the island. Agencies offer boat and snorkeling tours to the more remote lagoons and beaches. The hikes are worth it. So you can discover natural pools and a waterfall on the way to the Praia Feiticeira. With some luck see also some monkeys (about 1.5 hours, back you can take a taxi boat, about R $ 20).
A little longer hike (about 2.5-3 hours on the way) leads past the beaches of Palmas and Pouso. Here you can swim between you and the fresh water of the coconut, to the beach Lopes Mendes. This wide white sandy beach provides surfers great waves and also enough shade. It has crystal clear water with the surrounding forests of the mountains. They will make you believe in being on the most beautiful beach in the world. After the noise of Rio de Janeiro, this is a nice way to relax and let the soul dangle in the hammock.
The island paradise can get reached by boat from several cities. It is best from Angra dos Reis, R $ 15, about 1.5h, faster from Conceição de Jacareí in about 30 min). Many agencies offer transfers from Paraty or Rio by bus and boat. This transfer costs more (for example, R $ 80 from Paraty to Ilha Grande).
You should take cash for hostel/hotel and restaurants, as there is no ATM on the island. Besides, it rains and much in the evening hours. A raincoat or umbrella is helpful. The damp climate also keeps your things from drying on the leash. I stayed five nights on the island and could have stayed longer. The hostel is a bit more difficult to find, as it is about 10 minutes from the place in the middle of the rainforest. Surrounded by fruit trees and various animal sounds. You can spend the one or the other rainy evening relaxing in the hammock.
Day 14-17: Enjoy the Paraty
The colonial town of Paraty on the Costa Verde offers relaxation and adventure. The coast in the south-west of Rio is not called for nothing. You get surrounded by mountains and Atlantic rainforest. The colonial buildings in Paraty are a UNESCO world heritage site and are worth a few walks.
Especially after the rain, there is a nice picture. From Paraty, you can visit different waterfalls and natural slides in the forest. As also Cachaça distilleries (jeep tour approx. R $ 70). The town has fantastic sugar cane schnapps, from which the Caipirinha is also made. A boat trip or a kayak trip to the surrounding small islands is also worthwhile. You can discover the wildlife and the countryside.
Day 18-21: Culture in São Paulo
From Rio, you can take the plane to São Paulo or further north. From Paraty, it is also possible to take a bus to São Paulo and then continue from there.
São Paulo as a huge metropolis has little to offer. You can eat very well and the view of the city by day and by night is fascinating. Shopping malls are also available for shopping. In the Liberdade district, you can have a wonderful Japanese meal. Thousands of Japanese live there. A bus ride through the center is worth to see the variety in a safe way. I especially liked the graffiti and the modern skyscrapers. The paths are quite long and in the rush hour, one may ever need something longer for the way home. It is safer when you visit the city with a tour guide.
The Pinacoteca Gallery impressed me most of the museums. It had landscape paintings from North and South America (entry R $ 6). The MASP is, overpriced and shows only a few pictures (but very famous of Cezanne, Picasso etc., R $ 25). Before, you should inform yourself about temporary exhibitions on the internet pages. In March the MIS presented an exhibition for director and producer Tim Burton.
The Parque Ibirapuera is a wonderful change in the middle of the city. Here you can meet all the groups of the company, who are sporting like almost all Brazilians. A weekend walk is worth it. There you will also find the Museu Afro Brasil, which offers free admission on Saturdays.
Try the juices, Tapioca from the street beach (Banana and Cinnamon Cake). You can try some unknown stuff like Churrasco (grilled) and the Feijoada.
Travel budget for Brazil
The land itself can be very cheap if you want, but you can also spend a lot of money. I stayed in cheap hostel dorms and ate in middle-class restaurants and often used the taxi or the metro to the bus. You should budget at least € 1,000 per person for the 3 weeks.
Your journey in Brazil will definitely be an adventure!