When to Come: Before you plan to visit Rio you must decide what it is you want to see. Do you want to see Carnival or do you want to see Rio de Janeiro, the city?
Carnival, which in 2019 takes place from 1-6 March and in 2020 from 21-26 February, is mainly about nightlife, exotic parades and wonderful parties. Rio’s Carnival is for the young or young-at-heart that have money to spend and burn. If this is what you want from your vacation, then Carnival is the time to visit.
If, on the other hand, you want to see the “Cidade Maravilhosa” – Marvelous City – that has fascinated travelers for centuries for its warmth and outstanding beauty, you should think of coming to Rio at just about any other time of the year but Carnival. That is when you learn about the true Rio de Janeiro, the world’s largest tropical city and its most beautiful.
Weather: Rio is blessed with a mild tropical climate where it is difficult to tell when spring becomes summer and summer, autumn. Rio’s average temperature is around 27ºC (80º F), which climbs into the forties (low hundreds) during the summer months that stretch from December through March. In the middle of winter, July, the temperatures can drop as low as 18ºC (65ºF) during the day!
Language: The language in Brazil is Portuguese and not Spanish, as you may have assumed. Spanish may help you get around.
Visa: Many visitors, although not most Europeans, do need a visa to enter Brazil and this can be obtained from your local Brazilian Consulate or on line. If you have any doubts about the need for a visa you should consult the airline with whom you will be flying. Tourist visas normally allow the visitor to stay for three months and can be extended for a further three months if necessary. A tourist visa does not give you the right to work.
Size: With an area of 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles), a coastline of over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 miles) of warm, white beaches and a population of over 205 million, Brazil is the world’s fifth largest nation in terms of area and population, and has one of the ten biggest economies.
There are 23 metropolitan areas in the country with a population of over one million, of which São Paulo is the largest with 21 million residents (and also the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere), and Rio de Janeiro second with just over 12 million.
Dress: Cariocas, as the local residents are called, dress casually outside the office. None of Rio’s top restaurants insist on collar and tie, although some downtown business clubs do.
Collar and tie still predominate in more formal office and business surroundings and most women wear dresses or skirts. Ladies should remember to pack a jacket or shawl when coming to Rio as some of the city’s buildings and restaurants can be a little over enthusiastic with the air conditioning.
When packing, keep in mind that Rio is a big, fashionable, cosmopolitan city and not a small tourist resort. However, if you forget to bring some items of clothing you will certainly be able to find what you forgot in any of the big shopping centers.
If you are heading further south in South America, even down to São Paulo, remember to pack some warmer clothes, especially during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months.
Drugs: If you can’t get through your vacation or business visit without smoking a joint or snorting a line then stay away. Brazil and its authorities, like most South American countries, and despite what you may think or read in the media, takes a dim view of drug offenses, including by foreign visitors, and your own consulate is likely to agree.
Money and Exchange Rates: Since July 1994 the currency of Brazil has been the Real (R$). Brazilians also understand dollars, so if you are bringing cash then bring US dollars as they are by far the most widely accepted and give the best rate. Most major credit cards are accepted throughout Brazil and there is a good network of ATM machines in Rio, although not all are linked to the international network.