Brazil

Addresses — When writing addresses in Brazil, the street number follows the name of the street (“Av. Atlântica 2000″ would roughly translate as “2000 Atlantic Ave.”). Often in smaller towns a street name will be followed by the abbreviation “s/n.” This stands for sem numero (without number), and is used when a building sits on a street but has no identifying number. Other words you might come across are: loja (shop or unit), bloco (building or block), and sala (room or suite, often abbreviated “sl.”). In mailing addresses, the postal code usually follows the two-letter state abbreviation.

Business Hours — Stores are usually open from 9am to 7pm weekdays, 9am to 2pm on Saturdays. Most places close on Sundays. Small stores may close for lunch. Shopping centers are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 8pm most places, though in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo they often stay open until 10pm. On Sundays many malls open the food court and movie theaters all day, but mall shops will only open from 2 to 8pm. Banks are open Monday through Friday either from 10am to 4pm or from 9am to 3pm.

Credit Cards — If you need to report a lost or stolen credit card or have any questions, you can contact the agencies anywhere in Brazil with the following numbers: American Express (tel. 0800/785-050), MasterCard (tel. 0800/891-3294), Visa (tel. 0800/891-3680), and Diners Club (tel. 0800/784-444).

Electricity — Brazil’s electric current varies from 100 to 240 volts, and from 50 to 60Hz; even within one city there can be variations, and power surges are not uncommon. For laptops or battery chargers, bring an adaptor that can handle the full range of voltage. Most hotels do a good job of labeling their outlets, but when in doubt check before plugging in! Brazilian plugs usually have three prongs: two round and one flat. Adapters for converting North American plugs are cheap (R$3/US$1.50/£.75) and widely available.

Embassies & Consulates — All embassies are located in Brasilia, the capital. Australia, Canada, the United States, and Great Britain have consulates in both Rio and São Paulo. New Zealand has a consulate in São Paulo.

In Brasilia: Australia, SES, Quadra 801, Conjunto K, lote 7 (tel. 061/3226-3111). Canada, SES Av. das Nações Quadra 803, lote 16 (tel. 061/3424-5400). United States, SES Av. das Nações Quadra 801, lote 03 (tel. 061/3312-7000). Great Britain, SES Av. das Nações Quadra 801, lote 8 (tel. 061/3329-2300). New Zealand, SHIS QI 09, conj. 16, casa 01 (tel. 061/3248-9900).

In Rio de Janeiro: Australia, Av. Presidente Wilson 231, Suite 23, Centro (tel. 021/3824-4624). Canada, Av. Atlântica 1130, 5th floor, Copacabana (tel. 021/2543-3004). United States, Av. Presidente Wilson 147, Centro (tel. 021/3823-2000). Great Britain, Praia do Flamengo 284, Flamengo (tel. 021/2555-9600).

In São Paulo: Australia, Alameda Ministro Rocha Azevedo 456, Jardim Paulista (tel. 011/3085 6247). Canada, Av. das Nações Unidas 12901, 16th floor (tel. 011/5509-4321). United States, Rua Henri Dunant 500, Chácara Santo Antonio (tel. 011/5186-7000). Great Britain, Rua Ferreira de Araujo 741 (tel. 011/3094-2700). New Zealand, Al. Campinas 579, 15th floor, Cerqueira Cesar (tel. 011/3148-0616).

Emergency Numbers — For police dial tel. 190; for ambulance or fire department dial tel. 193; for fire dial tel. 193.

Internet Access — Web access is widespread in Brazil; Internet cafes are inexpensive and ubiquitous. Even in the smallest of towns we found at least one Internet cafe. Prices range from US$1 to US$4 per hour; luxury hotels usually charge the most, anywhere up to US$15 per hour.

Language — The language of Brazil is Portuguese. If you speak Spanish you will certainly have an easier time picking up words and phrases. In the large cities you will find people in the tourism industry who speak good English, but in smaller towns and resorts English is very limited. If you are picking up language books or tapes, make sure they are Brazilian Portuguese and not Portuguese from Portugal: big difference! A good pocket-size phrase book is Say It in Portuguese (Brazilian usage) by Prista, Mickle, and Costa; or try Conversational Brazilian Portuguese by Cortina.

Liquor Laws — Officially Brazil’s drinking laws only allow those over 18 years to drink, but this is rarely enforced. Beer, wine, and liquor can be bought any day of the week from grocery stores and delis. Beer is widely sold through street vendors, bakeries, and refreshment stands.

Mail Mail from Brazil is quick and efficient. Post offices (correios) are found everywhere, readily identifiable by the blue-and-yellow sign. A postcard or letter to Europe or North America costs R$1.60 (US80¢/£.43). Parcels can be sent through FedEx or regular mail (express or common; a small parcel — up to 2.5kg/[5 1/2 lb. — costs about R$45/US$23/£12 by common mail and takes about a week or two).

Maps — Good maps aren’t Brazil’s strong suit. Your best bet for city maps is the Guia Quatro Rodas — mapas das capitais; this pocket book for sale at all newsstands (R$12/US$6/£3) has indexed maps of all state capitals, including São Paulo, Rio, Salvador, Manaus, Brasilia, and Recife. Unfortunately it does not include any highways. The best highway map is sold with the Guia Quatro Rodas Brasil (for sale on newsstands for R$35/US$18/£9.30), a Brazilian guidebook.

Newspapers & Magazines — There are no English-language newspapers or magazines in Brazil. Foreign papers and magazines are only easily found in Rio and São Paulo. The most popular Brazilian newspapers are O Globo and Jornal do Brasil, published out of Rio, and Folha de São Paulo, the leading business paper published in São Paulo. The most popular current affairs magazine (the equivalent of Newsweek) is Veja, published weekly. In Rio and São Paulo, Veja magazine always includes an entertainment insert that provides a detailed listing of nightlife, restaurants, and events.

Restrooms — Restrooms in Brazil can be marked in a few different ways. Usually you will see mulher or an M for women and homem or an H for men. Sometimes it will read damas or D for ladies and cavalheiros or C for gentlemen. It’s not a bad idea to carry some toilet paper with you as in many public restrooms, the toilet attendant doles out sheets only grudgingly.

Safety — Sometime in the 1980s Brazil began developing a world reputation for violence and crime. Some of this was pure sensationalism, but there was a good measure of truth as well. Fortunately in the early ’90s things began to turn around. Governments began putting money back into basic services, starting with policing. Though still not perfect by any means, Rio, São Paulo, and Brazil’s other big cities have bounced back to the point where they’re as safe as most large international cities. Statistically, of course, Rio and other big Brazilian cities still have very high crime rates. Most of that crime, however, takes place in the favelas and shantytowns of the far-off industrial outskirts. Avoid wandering in or near the hillside favelas. At night use taxis instead of public transportation, and stick to well-lit and well-traveled streets. Don’t flash jewelry or wads of cash. And beware of pickpockets. Outside of the main cities, Brazil remains quite safe.

Smoking — The bad news for nonsmokers is that Brazilians tend to smoke more than in the U.S. and Canada. The good news is that in recent years smoking regulations have begun to be enforced and even Brazilians are starting to cut back. Most public buildings are now nonsmoking, as are all long-distance buses and planes. Though most malls, bars, clubs, and many hotels and restaurants do not have nonsmoking areas, you can always try. Ask for area para não-fumantes, the nonsmoking area.

Taxes — There are no taxes added to goods purchased in Brazil. Restaurants and hotels normally add a 10% service tax. In Rio, the city also levies a 5% tax on hotels. All airports in Brazil charge departure taxes; this is usually included in the ticket price but it’s wise to check. Domestic departures cost around R$21 (US$10/£5) at most airports, and international departures are a hefty R$108 (US$54/£27). Payment can only be made in cash with U.S. dollars or Brazilian currency but not in a combination of both.

Time Zones — Brazil has three time zones. The coast, including Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and as far inland as São Paulo and Brasilia, is in one time zone. The ranching states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, the Pantanal, and the Amazon around Manaus are in the second time zone, 1 hour behind Rio. The third time zone includes the state of Acre and the western part of the Amazon, 2 hours behind Rio. The time difference between cities in Brazil and North America varies by up to 2 hours over the course of the year as clocks spring forward and fall back for daylight saving time. From approximately March to September Rio de Janeiro is in the same time zone as New York City. From October to February, Rio is at least 1 and often 2 hours ahead of New York (for example, noon in New York City is 2pm in Rio).

Telephones — International GSM cellphones usually work in Brazil. Charges can be high — usually US$1 to US$1.50 (£.50-£.75)per minute. A better option is to buy a local SIM card, which gives you a local Brazilian number and allows you to pay local Brazilian rates (about R$1/US50¢/£.25 per minute for local calls, R$1.40/US70¢/£.40 for long distance). There is no charge to receive calls if you are in your home area. Outside your area code, roaming charges of about R$1/US50¢/£.25 per minute apply. There are a number of cellphone providers that sell SIM chips in Brazil, but the only one that provides service throughout the country is TIM (www.tim.com.br). There are TIM kiosks in all major malls and airports and department stores. Note that after you buy a TIM SIM chip, you will have to call and register your account (as part of its anti-crime laws Brazil does not allow anonymous cellphone accounts). You will need to give your name and passport number. Cards that allow you to add credit to your account are available at newsstands throughout Brazil. Public phones in Brazil can be found everywhere and are called orelhões. To use these phones you need a phone card, for sale at all newsstands. Ask for a cartão telefonico. Dialing a local number is straightforward; just dial the number without the area code. However, for long-distance dialing, telephone numbers are normally listed with a three-digit prefix, followed by the area code, followed by the seven- or eight-digit number (for example, 0XX-21-5555-5555). Since phones were deregulated, a number of very competitive companies have sprung up. The two digits that fill in the XX are the number of the appropriate service provider (in Portuguese this is called the prestadora). Any phone can be used to access any service provider. In some cities there may be a choice of two or three providers. The only code that works in all of Brazil (and the only prestadora code you need to remember) is the one for Embratel — 21 (which also happens to be the area code of Rio). So, if you were dialing long distance to a number in Rio, you would dial 0-21 (selecting Embratel as your provider), 21 (Rio’s area code), and 5555-5555 (the number). Dialing long distance to a number in São Paulo, you’d dial 0-21-11-5555-5555.

To phone internationally, you dial 00 + 21 + the country code + area code + phone number. International collect calls can be requested by dialing 000-111, or automatically by dialing 90 + 21 + country code + area code + phone number. Major long distance company access codes are as follows: AT&T tel. 0800/890-0288; MCI tel. 0800/890-0012; Sprint tel. 0800/888-8000; and Canada Direct tel. 0800/890-0014.

To dial from the U.S. or Canada to Brazil, dial 00 + 55 (the country code) and then the area code without the 0 (for example, 21 for Rio, 11 for São Paulo).

Tipping — A 10% service charge is automatically included on most restaurant and hotel bills and you are not expected to tip on top of this amount. If service has been particularly bad you can request to have the 10% removed from your bill. Taxi drivers do not get tipped; just round up the amount to facilitate change. Hairdressers and beauticians usually receive a 10% tip. Bellboys get tipped R$1 to R$2 (US50¢-US$1/£.25-£.50) per bag. Room service usually includes the 10% service charge on the bill.

Water — The tap water in Brazil is increasingly safe to drink. However, as a result of the treatment process it still doesn’t taste great. To be on the safe side, drink bottled or filtered water (most Brazilians do). All brands are reliable; ask for agua sem gas for still water and agua com gas for carbonated water. However, you can certainly shower, brush your teeth, or rinse an apple with tap water.

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