Tips for the foreigner traveling to Brazil.
It's also to refresh my memory for the next time I travel there. I'll be adding
to this list as things come to mind.
In comparison to Jamaica, Brazil is a "peice-of-cake", as far as
daily happenings. Brazilians don't cling on to you like some people from other
countries, there isn't any high pressure salesmen on your back the whole time.
There is still crime and danger in Brazil, but if you keep your expensive
items, and flashy clothes at home, you shouldn't have any problems.
Learn some Portuguese Phrases
Bus - Onibus (O-nee-boosh)
Do yourself a favor and learn about the Brazilian bus system before you get
on one. Get a map of the area that you are going to be traveling in. The bus
system is actually one of the most professionally operated public systems
in Brazil, definitely better managed than the airport. Any problems I had
were because of my own fault. It helps to know what to expect. And you need
to know your route. They don't have a radio that announces each stop, but
you can ask them to alert you at a stop.
Once you know which bus to take, find a bus stop. Watch for the bus that you
need, the bus won't stop for you unless you wave him down. Enter through the
front of the bus. You will meet an operator working a turnstile, you pay him,
or if you have a bus pass, you swipe it there. If you have any questions,
ask him (Called the Cobrador, or "Collector"), he's the only one
who can talk to the driver (I talked to the driver a few times, there wasn't
any problem, but I think it might have been impolite). Then you pass through
the turnstile and sit down. Or if the bus is full, find a place to stand and
something to hold on to, both hands if possible. When you want to stop, stand
up and pull the chord that runs down the length of the bus. This chord is
way up high on some buses, I had some people ask me to pull it for them, because
it was out of their reach. A good thing to know is; if the bus stops at a
bus station, and if you need to catch another bus, and what that bus is called.
Once you get inside the station, you can get on any bus, no charge, but if
you step a foot outside of the station, you'll have to pay to get back in.
Executive Bus R$4.50
This bus is yellow, it has Air conditioning, nicer seats, less people, and
they stop anywhere on the way.
Regular Bus R$2.10
This bus was green. This bus is hot and cramped 90% of the time I was standing.
The bus driver drives like a bat out of hell, so if you're standing, get a
good hold and get your feet set, it's survival of the fittest, even the grannies
have to hold on for dear life if they take the Regular Bus. One version of
this bus is the accordion bus, that bends around corners. People always stand
in the middle of it, I wonder how many fingers get crushed in it.
- Telefone (Teh-leh-fawn-ee)
First you have to buy a phone card, Cartão Telefonico (Cah-town
. These were R$6 for 40 credits, which is about 5 minutes
or less if you call a cell phone, which are the only numbers you'll probably
dial, The phone system in Brazil is a complete rip off. If you are going to
stay in Brazil for a month or more, it might be worth it to bring a cell phone
and open a cell account, I didn't try this, but next time I might.
Phone Booth - Orelhão (Oh-re-lya-own)
Orelhão means Big Ear. If you're over 5'8", remember to duck under
the Orelhão, I banged my head on it a few times.
Rember these steps:
GET READY: Get your phone number that you are going to dial ready first.
PUT THE CARD IN: Pick up the receiver, watch the digital display, it
will say "Coloque Cartão
" that means "Put your
card in", after you slide your card in the card reader, it will say "Aguarde
which means "Hold on".
DIAL THE NUMBER WITHIN 5 SECONDS: Then it will show you how many credits
you have on the card, now you only have about 5 seconds
to start dialing
your number, if you don't start dialing in time, you'll have to take your
card out and start over. As you talk on the phone, the credits drop about
1 every 5-10 seconds.
- Comida (co-mee-da)
Restaurants - Restaurantes (Hes-tow-ron-chees)
Clothes - Ropa (Hoe-pa)
Clothes communicate more than you think, they tell people where you're from,
and a little about what you think,
Just like any country, you want to communicate that you want to meet in the
middle. You don't want to communicate that you are a foreigner who thinks
he's above the locals, and that you want to live in your own protected bubble.
I would applaud someone for wanting to just be themselves, but in Brazil,
doing this can actually put you in danger. Some clothes can inadvertantly
communicate, "It might be worth it to rob me"
. So if it's
a question of safety, I would suggest going more with the flow. If you're
white as snow, get a tan, either a little bit before, or as quick as you can
once you get there. Wear flip-flops (chinelo) or running shoes (tenis), don't
wear sandles with snaps ect, you'll look like a foreigner. Buy the flip-flops
in Brazil if you can. Fellas, Put on a pink whitey-tighty swim suit (sunga)
and walk around town in your flip flops, you'll look completely normal here
(Ha ha, I'm Joking, although, I've seen it many times).
Flip-Flops : Chinelo (shee-nelu)
Running Shoes : Tenis (ten-ees)
Male swimsuit : Sunga (soon-gah)
There are professional theives in Brazil that have spent their lives learning
to react when opportunity calls. Unfortunately, when they see a lost tourist,
they see a paycheck coming. They have many different ways of robbing people.
If you're in a dark or hidden area, they'll use a knife. Some travel in groups,
robbing people at night at knifepoint. Some stalk people for days waiting
for the right moment. If someone sees you with a large amount of money and
you put it in your backpack, they might follow you at a distance, for as long
as they can. The second you put it down, they'll snag it. If you lock it up,
they'll slice the back open with a razor. If you lock your bike up, they'll
cut the lock. Some gangs surround buses and make the driver pull over at gunpoint,
robbing everyone aboard. This happened to a busload of Japanese, they hadn't
even set foot in the city.
It's pretty simple really, don't make yourself look like a target. Don't wear
expensive jewelry, or any for that matter, don't flash money or electronics
around. I carried a camera with me all around Rio, but I always made sure
of my surroundings before I took it out, and then I quickly hid it back away.
Making sure that if anyone was looking at me, I would look back and acknowledge
them, and if they looked like they might try something, I gave them the look
like it wasn't going to be as easy as some old lady.
A week before I came to Brazil, a guy from Finland was stabbed in the neck
right by where I'm staying. He was taking pictures, and probably didn't want
to give his camera to the theives. I know how he probably felt, I would probably
resist as well, it's instinct, I value my camera. But, I think if you pay
attention to what you're doing, you won't have a problem. Just never get overconfident,
more people die from overconfidence than anything else.
Police - Policia
Slang: Os Homens
The Brazilian Police have two distice groups, the Military Police or P.M.
(Prononced peh-emmy) and the Civilian Police
P.C. (peh-seh). Both are very corrupt and are might beconsidered even more
dangerous than the theives they are protecting you from. If they catch you
doing something illegal, they might give you an old fashioned Brazilian beat-down,
or they will want you to pay them a bribe. If you are smart you will avoid
illegal behaviour all together, but in the case that you do find yourself
in a tricky situation, be sure to be extra respectful of the police. If you
don't speak any Portuguese, you may find yourself in a much more difficult
situation, as many foreigners seem to expect Brazilians to speak their language.
If you can avoid that stereotype, then you will be much better off from the