Brazil is a vibrant country which invites you in with open arms. Despite us knowing close to zero Portugese we were able to get around ok and in fact, our vulnerability opened us to a lot of kindness. Such kindness we don't regularly experience in Sydney because everything is so comfortable and familiar, you don't need help. The highlight of our three weeks in Brazil was experiencing the relaxed nature of the Brazilian people and the worst part was the significant amount of time we spent just getting to places. Here is a list of the most pertinent points.
I love good food and sadly this was lacking in Brazil. It´s such a large country yet there is little variety in the foods. Meals often involve a dry piece of meat, rice, beans and a dry sawdust like powder called farofa. It's not cheap with meals for two averaging around $30 for the both us, sometimes even $50 which never was good value. One thing that we found tolerable was the 'per kilo' buffet places they have everywhere where you pile your plate with food and then weigh it.
Instead of McDonald's, their favourite fast food chain is 'Bobs Burgers' which is actually even worse than McDonalds and you're looking at around $6 a burger which ain't cheap. I tried the popular Acai which comes in a sorbet like form. It's a superfruit that tatses very sweet, nice to try but I didn't repeat the experience. My favourite thing was the abundance of fuit. Our free hostel breakfasts always had a array of delicious fruits and I had a fruit shake at least once every day. We were wary about tap water so we only bought bottled water.
Brazil is a BIG country (in fact larger than Australia) and since we were movig cities every 2-3 days this meant that 30% of our time there was spent on a bus or plane. Transportation is not cheap and since it is impossible to book anything online this was a big hassle for us to get to places in an affordable way. The biggest cost in Brazil was transportation and amounted to $2100. I found that the long haul buses were safe and comfortable but even so, by the end of a 12 hour bus trip you just wanted to get off.
The currency is Real and 1 Australian dollar bought 2 reals. We found our Australian mastercard only worked on Banco de Brasil and HSBC ATMs but these were widely available. All bus companies and some restaurants took credit cards without a fee but most of our hostels did charge a fee so we paid those in cash. The rate we got from a local ATM was higher than back in Australia. Brazil is the most expensive of the South American countries and we spent a whopping $5800 so it's a good thing we started off here as it can only get better for our budget.
We started off in Rio de Janeiro and found that the people were so comfortable and relaxed in themselves and what they were doing. No one got irate at each other or really cared what other poeple were doing and everyone was just very cool. I loved that there was really large women with heaps of cellulite walking around in tiny bikinis with an air of confidence - that's how people should be living.
No one here could possibly be called efficient. You just have to wait in line at the supermarket to see just how relaxed the people are here. Folks just do things on their own time and you can stand there and get frustrated or just go with the flow. It's the Brazilian way.
Brazil is an outdoors kind of country. The cities are cool in their own way but the best parts are the beaches and natural attractions like Iguassu falls. Salvador was my favourite city with the strong Afro-brazil presence adding an extra spark of personality and colour. Praia do Forte was my favourite beach with the water being the perfect temperature and clear and the waves managable compared to Ipanema or Cococabana beach.
Toilets are clean and well supplied with toilet paper. And you can find them easily as well. Only downside is that you can't flush toilet paper down, you have to put it in bins next to the toilet otherwise you're likely to block it. Barring Ouro Preto, most of the hostels we stayed at were clean and well maintained.
You hear stories about people being mugged and pickpocketed, and we were particularly worried about walking around Salvador with our camera but once you get used to a place and know where the main, busy streets are you can relax a bit but we always maintained a degree of caution and never put valuables in our pockets. Overall our trip in Brazil was quite safe.
The seasons correlate with Australian seasons so in March it was the beginning of Autumn. However the whole country is very humid and we got mostly sunshine during the day with the occasional thunderstorm at night. Only in the moutainous town of Ouro Preto were we able to walk around with breaking out in a sweat in the first five minutes. The high humidity really limited how much walking around (especially with a heavy backpack) I was able to do.