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 precedes 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.
Drinking Laws -- Officially, the legal drinking age in Brazil is 18, but it's not often enforced. Beer, wine, and liquor can be bought on any day of the week from grocery stores and snack stands. Drinking is allowed in public places and in motor vehicles. Drinking is now prohibited in most soccer stadiums. For drivers, the legal alcohol limit is 0.00. This is now strictly enforced.
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) 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; www.brazil.embassy.gov.au). Canada, SES Av. das Nações Quadra 803, lote 16 (tel. 061/3424-5400; www.canada.org.br). Great Britain, SES Av. das Nações Quadra 801, lote 8 (tel. 061/3329-2300; www.uk.org.br). New Zealand, SHIS QI 09, conj. 16, casa 01 (tel. 061/3248-9900; www.nzembassy.com/home.cfm?c=44). United States, SES Av. das Nações Quadra 801, lote 03 (tel. 061/3312-7000; www.embaixada-americana.org.br).
In Rio de Janeiro: Australia, Av. Presidente Wilson 231, Ste. 23, Centro (tel. 021/3824-4624). Canada, Av. Atlântica 1130, fifth floor, Copacabana (tel. 021/2543-3004). Great Britain, Praia do Flamengo 284, Flamengo (tel. 021/2555-9600). United States, Av. Presidente Wilson 147, Centro (tel. 021/3823-2000).
In São Paulo: Australia, CHEK Santos 700, ninth floor, Jardim Paulista (tel. 011/3171 2889). Canada, Av. das Nações Unidas 12901, 19th floor (tel. 011/5509-4321). Great Britain, Rua Ferreira de Araujo 741 (tel. 011/3094-2700). New Zealand, Av. Campinas 579, 15th floor, Cerqueira Cesar (tel. 011/3148-0616). United States, Rua Henri Dunant 500, Chácara Santo Antonio (tel. 011/5186-7000).
Emergency Numbers -- For police dial tel. 190; for ambulance or fire department dial tel. 193.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Gasoline costs approximately R$2.80/liter. Most cars will also work on ethanol (alcohol) which costs only R$1.80 per liter. However, ethanol burns faster, so its effective cost works out to a bit more, close to R$2.20 per liter.
Insurance -- For information on traveler's insurance, trip-cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
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 phrasebook is Say It in Portuguese (Brazilian usage) by Prista, Mickle, and Costa; or try Conversational Brazilian Portuguese by Cortina.
Legal Aid -- In larger Brazilian cities there are special police detachments for dealing with tourists, called DEAT (Delegacia Especial Atendimento ao Turista). See the "Fast Facts" sections in each chapter for contact details. If you find yourself involved with the police, demand to be taken to the nearest DEAT station. DEAT officers speak English, and are normally better trained.
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$1.80. Parcels can be sent through FedEx or regular mail (express or common); a small parcel -- up to 2.5 kilograms (5 1/2 lb.) -- costs about R$55 by common mail and takes about a week or two.
Maps -- Good maps aren't Brazil's strong suit. Better to buy one before you come. In Brazil, your best bet for city maps is the Guia Quatro Rodas -- Mapas das Capitais; this pocket book for sale at all newsstands (R$12) 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$42), 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.
Passports -- See www.frommers.com/planning for information on how to obtain a passport.
Police -- For police dial tel. 190.
Shopping -- Clothing sizes follow the European numbering (36, 38, 40, and so on) or are marked P (pequeno = small), M (medio = medium), and G (grande = large); U stands for tamanho único (one size).
Smoking -- Smoking is prohibited on planes and long-distance buses. It is also prohibited in restaurants in Rio and São Paulo. Other Brazilian cities are expected to implement restaurant smoking bans in the near future.
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 at most airports, and international departures are a hefty R$108. 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).
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 per bag. Room service usually includes the 10% service charge on the bill.
Toilets -- Public toilets are rare in Brazil, except in shopping malls. You'll do better seeking out hotels and restaurants. Toilets 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.
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.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.