The majority of European nationals need nothing more than a valid passport and a return ticket to enter Brazil. You will need to fill in an entry card on arrival which allows you to stay for a period of up to ninety days. The immigration officials will keep one part of this card and attach the other to your passport. Make sure you don’t lose this part as your departure will probably be delayed.
Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and US citizens need a visa which you can acquire from the Brazilian embassy in your home country. To ensure you are aware of the full entry requirements for entering Brazil contact your nearest embassy before travelling.
Once you have your tourist visa, you can extend it for up to another ninety days if you apply at least fifteen days before the first one expires. You can only do this once. After this you need to leave the country and re-enter if you want to stay on. While there are no rules stipulating that your return cannot be on the same day, it is customary to wait at least one day before re-entry.
The currency used in Brazil is the Real (R$) and it is made up of one hundred centavos. Notes come in denominations of R$1, R$5, R$10, R$50 and R$100 and the coins in use are 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c, and 50c and R$1.
The official language is Portuguese but in most of the touristy areas you will find somebody who speaks English.
Rio is humid all year round, with trade winds cooling the air during some months. June to August are the coolest months and December to March are the hottest.
Rio has hospitals in most of its suburbs. Some of these include:
Hospital Miguel Couto, R. Bartolomeu Mitre, 1108, Gavea (Tel. +55 (0)21 274-2121).
Hospital Souza Aguiar, Praça da República, 111, Centro (Tel. +55 (0)21 221-2121
Hospital São Lucas, Trav, Fred. Pamplona, Copacabana (Tel. +55 (0)21 548-5552)
Pharmacies are called Farmacia. They are noticeable with snake symbols outside as snakes are symbols of medicine. Opening hours are between 9am-6pm although they are known to open later in some instances.
Rio is three hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
Most shops are open between 9am-6pm from Monday to Friday and from 9am-1pm on Saturday. Some of the bigger shopping centres and shops open later, many until 10pm, as well as on Sundays.
Government offices open between 9am-6pm from Monday to Friday and also on Saturday mornings while banks open between 10am-4.30pm on weekdays.
Riotour is Rio de Janeiro’s tourism agency. It provides maps, brochures and has a telephone service called Alo Riotour (021 542-8080) which gives information in English.
The current rate of VAT in Brazil is 11%.
When changing cash or travellers cheques you will usually find the best exchange rates in a ‘Casa de Cambio’. The other option is to use any of the major banks but in the larger cities only the head offices offer an exchange facility. It is also worth noting that the foreign exchange departments often close at 1pm, although some do remain open until 2pm or 3pm. Certain branches will only change a minimum of US$100 while others impose a fee of $20 no matter how large or small the amount being changed. Therefore, it is worth looking around before exchanging any foreign cash. US dollars are the most convenient currency to change.
Credit cards and bank cards can be used at ATMs to withdraw cash, once they show the Cirrus symbol and credit card logos.
The electrical current in Rio de Janeiro is 110V or 120V, 60Hz AC.
The country code for Brazil is 55 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial the country’s international access code, followed by 55, the local area code, which is (0)21 for Rio de Janeiro and the local number.
The easiest way to make an international call while in Brazil is to call operator assistance on 000111 or 107.
Post offices are open from 8am-6pm on weekdays and from 8am-midday on Saturdays.
Tipping in not compulsory but a tip of ten to fifteen per cent is generally expected. Most restaurants, however, include a service charge in your bill but if you are very pleased with the service you could also leave a little extra. Taxis are not usually tipped although most people do tell the driver to keep the change.
They are New Years Day (January 1st), Carnival (February 24th-March 4th), Easter, Tiradentes Day (April 21st), May Day (May 1st), Corpus Christi (June 19th), Independence Day (September 7th), Our Lady Aparecida Day/Patron Saint of Brazil (October 12th), All Souls Day (November 2nd), Proclamation Day (November 15th) and Christmas Day (December 25th).
It is worth noting what Brazil’s public holidays before travelling, as the majority of businesses, banks and shops shut for the day.