Thursday, March 11, 2010

If you are going to come visit Brazil

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Greetings!
Below is the information I'm collecting and working on to send out to folks who are thinking of coming to Brazil, or have definitely planned to come! I hope you find it helpful. Please send me new and different questions and I'll add info to the email as I send to different people. Hopefully it's all clear, but if you have questions, def. let me know! I can't wait for folks to visit us and I want to do all I can to make it the easiest process possible!



ACCOMMODATIONS
You're welcome to stay here with me and Eder for free in our apartment (we'll have a spare room as soon as the place is finished - we're hoping by late April. Keep in mind, the little baby might be quite loud. Other factors to consider - we live about 30-60 minutes away from most tourist spots snuggled nicely in a densely-populated working class neighborhood called Vila Canaria (near Castelo Branco - you can googlemap it to see where it is in the city). During peak hours, the bus ride to our house from the city center or beach can take an hour or two, so you may want to consider that... possibly staying with us for a time and splitting your time between us and a more convenient location. I'll work on getting some good hotel, hostel recommendations.


FLIGHTS and LUGGAGE:

We have found that any online site is just as cheap as travel agencies. I go for
www.kayak.com because it compares other travel agency sites and finds the lowest. You could also call a good travel agent in Miami - Renata - her number is (305) 468-9989 to see if she can get a better price for you.

You'll most likely fly into Sao Paolo (GRU is the airport initials) or Rio (GIG) and then connect to the local TAM airline to fly up to Salvador (SSA). Its best to buy one ticket all the way through, even though when you arrive to Brazil via Sao Paolo or Rio, you'll have to pick up your bags and go through customs and then check them in at TAM airlines. There is a direct flight on American airlines from Miami to Salvador once or twice a week which I think would make the trip quicker.

In terms of luggage - the Brazilian government mandates all airlines to allow customers two free 70-pound suitcases as check-in in addition to carry-ons. I recommend you try and bring all you think you’ll need because almost everything here is quite expensive and not worth buying once you’re here. Also, good to have extra room in your suitcases for when you return because the markets are great to purchase things.

TOURIST VISA:
While Brazil is a great place to visit, this part makes you work for it...
You must get your visa from your local Brazilian consulate in the jurisdiction where you live.
Note: YOU CAN'T PROCESS VISAS THROUGH THE MAIL. MUST BE IN PERSON - EITHER YOU OR A THIRD PERSON WHO GOES TO DROP IT OFF AND/OR PICK IT UP FOR YOU.

HERE'S WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO BRING WITH YOU TO THE CONSULATE:
1) one official passport photo
2) a US Postal office (ONLY) money order - if you are going to get the visa yourself - it should be IN in the amount of $130. If you have a friend going to the consulate for you, it needs to be $150

3) application filled out online - here's how to do the application

  • Find your local Brazilian consulate page - for NY it's: http://en.brazilny.org/index.php?/consulado/anchor/tourist/). You may have to bi-pass your internet browser's warnings about the page...
  • Info you'll need when you fill it out is a local address in Brazil where you're staying (you can use Eder's: Rua Sao Pedro; Travessa 11 de Maio #14; Vila Canaria; Salvador, Bahia. Phone number is: 71 3215-4137). You'll also need the dates you plan to go for the application.
  • Once you submit the application online, you'll receive a confirmation number and a final page. note the confirmation number if you can't print it, and you can print it when you get to the consulate (only an option for those who go themselves in person since it requires an original signature). Once you print it, you can paste your photo to the top, and DON'T FORGET TO SIGN IT if someone will be bringing it for you.

4) proof of residency (just photocopy your drivers' license or a utility bill) to prove to the consulate you're using the right place
5) your passport (make sure they are not nearing date of expiration)
6) your plane tickets itinerary (purchased) - can be a print out of the email confirmation

Since it could take up to a week for you to get the visa issued, you should plan on dropping it off at least 5 days before you will need to pick it up. You can get the visa up to 90 days prior to arrival to Brazil. Best NOT to wait til the last minute.

In NY, the Brazilian consulate is very strict about drop off and pick up times. You may ONLY drop off the visa between 10am and 12pm (best to get there at 10am). You may ONLY pick it up when it's ready between 2:30 and 4:00 pm. Each consulate has their own rules so you should consult their website to get the correct info.


PACKING LIST:
Like I said, everything is more expensive here, so plan on bringing down what you may need. some essentials include:
- sunscreen (twice as expensive here as it is there) and aloe gel for burns
- bug repellent and something to ooze the itch if you get burned
- good gifts for folks if you wanted to include: chocolates, kitchen stuff, (still trying to think of other things), things for kids

- if you bring a camera, try and bring a SMALL one, you’ll want to use electronics as inconspicuously as possible. Best to leave most expensive stuff behind if possible, so that you don’t have to worry about it. Of course, when you get here you could leave stuff with us at our house if you go travel or stay elsewhere.


MONEY:

- you can retrieve money in the local currency (Real) from any bank ATM. I think there is an HSBC ATM, there are a couple Citibank ATMs, or you can just pay the fee to withdrawal from a Brazilian bank different from your own. (you’ll want to make withdrawals during the day, in a bank not at an ATM on the street, and best if you’re with someone).
- you can use your credit card to purchase things in most places
- you can exchange money when you get here if you bring cash, don't need to come with the local currency

- any transaction (ATM, Credit card) gets charged 3% fee for the amount of money spent or withdrawn, so in that case, it’s best to bring down as much cash as you are comfortable with.
- The Real is really strong against the dollar (1.83 reais for 1 dollar) so plan on spending more than any other Latin American country - here’s the website where you can see the daily conversion - http://www.xe.com/ucc/

Car Rental

We have some cheap options if you want to rent a car. It comes out to about $30/day. Let us know if you’re interested and we can reserve for you from here. You can pay with credit card. There’s plenty of public transportation so you don’t need a car, but it can be a nice convenience. Gas is about U.S. $5/gallon.

Books:

I don’t have a good set of book recommendations for when you come down. But, my limited list says that any Jorge Amado book would be great – he’s one of the most famous authors from Brazil. If you want non-fiction, the Concise History of Brazil – Boris Fausto, has it all and is really good. Of course, for traveling, the Lonely Planet is great.

Day-trips and short Trips close to Salvador:

Arembepe –

Cachoeira

Ilhia de Itaparica

Morro de Sao Paolo

Praia do Forte

Penedo

Lencios/Chapada Diamantina/Capao

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