Backpacking in Brazil

Backpacking in Brazil: swaying palm trees, pearly white beaches, surfing lessons and a caipirinha in my right hand at the end of the day. That was pretty much the idea of my visit to Brazil. My first long-distance trip in almost 2 years.

In fact, my move to Barcelona caused me little need to travel for the last 1.5 years. Until in September, a friend asked in our friend group if anyone didn’t feel like going on a trip in January. My travel heart suddenly skipped a beat and I thought, yes, I do want to go away again! Both definitely wanted to go to Brazil once so the choice was quickly made. It’s summer in this great Latin American country so that’s perfect, we thought. Backpacking in Brazil it is!

backpacking in Brazil
Rio de Janeiro

Backpacking in Brazil 3 weeks

Brazil is a very large country and with over 8.4 million square meters plus 207 million inhabitants, it is not surprising that the climate is also different all over the country. We decided to go to Rio de Janeiro and not take a domestic flight from there, at least so as not to cause more CO2 emissions. Everything we did by bus, car and boat. In all, we spent three weeks in the fifth largest country in the world. Curious about our itinerary for 3 weeks?

Our itinerary for Brazil in 3 weeks:

Week 1:

  • Monday Day 1: Flight to Rio de Janeiro from Barcelona
  • Tuesday day 2: arrival Rio de Janeiro
  • Wednesday Day 3: Rio de Janeiro
  • Thursday Day 4: Rio de Janeiro
  • Friday Day 5: Rio de Janeiro – Ilha Gigoia
  • Saturday Day 6: Rio de Janeiro – Ilha Gigoia
  • Sunday Day 7: Rio de Janeiro – São Paulo

Week 2:

  • Monday Day 8: São Paulo
  • Tuesday day 9: Monte Verde (by car)
  • Wednesday Day 10: Monte Verde
  • Thursday day 11: Monte Verde
  • Friday day 12: Monte Verde – Ubatuba
  • Saturday Day 13: Ubatuba
  • Sunday Day 14: Ubatuba – Paraty (by passenger van)

Week 3:

  • Monday Day 15: Paraty
  • Tuesday day 16: Paraty – Ilha Grande
  • Wednesday day 17: lha Grande
  • Thursday day 18: Ilha Grande
  • Friday Day 19: Ilha Grande – Rio de Janeiro (by boat & personal van)
  • Saturday day 20: Rio de Janeiro
  • Sunday Day 21: Rio de Janeiro
  • Monday Day 22: Flight from Rio de Janeiro to Barcelona
Backpacking in brazil
Rio de Janeiro – Santa Teresa

Preparing is half the battle

While preparing our trip, we mostly looked at beautiful beaches. Due to time constraints, we skipped some places like Ilha Bella and Buzíos above Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, we were unlucky with the weather. Backpacking in Brazil is sometimes tricky. Sometimes in summer it can rain for 2 weeks in a row and sometimes it is bright weather for 2 weeks in a row.

You can guess we had the rain showers. Overall, we had no sun in the places we wanted to surf, which took away the fun of taking surf lessons. So, unfortunately, no surf lessons. We’ll just save those for spring in Spain! Fortunately, though, the weather was lovely and warm and also – when it wasn’t raining – great beach weather! So: pack that bikini!

Packing list for backpacking in Brazil in summer

Because it can rain quite a bit in January (so in the south it’s not so bad, you can definitely go there in the Brazilian summer, but we didn’t want to take a domestic flight), it’s useful to adjust your packing list slightly. Be sure to bring a poncho, umbrella and backpack rain covers. Something that keeps your phone dry is also handy to bring. Oh yeah, and anti-mosquito spray, gallons! I had 2 jars of anti-mosquito sprays with me for 3 weeks, which was really too little.

backpacking in brazil

Tip for Brazil’s #1 travel essential: your bikini

Besides these practical things, of course the most important thing, because yes, the sun is really shining: your bikini! I myself have quite an awkward size (large cup and narrow size-65cm-), so I am always very critical of quality and brand. Buying a bikini at the hunkemöller is out of the question for me.

Large cup bikini

That’s why I have some favorite brands for swimwear and surfwear. For me, the brands are: Freya and Protest. Freya because they just make super beautiful and strong swimwear for large cup size and Protest because I just get really happy with all their clothes for summer (except the bikinis that is, I wish I could wear them haha). In addition, I like the fact that it is a Dutch-based brand that is pushing for more sustainable solutions for swimwear.

Sustainable swimwear

But why then? Well, in fact, did you know that in the men’s swimwear line, they make the boardshorts out of recycled polyester? So their PVRE boardshorts (for surfing) are recycled, and they also work with renewable bamboo for men’s “regular swimwear. That’s a lot nicer diving in the sea. So even if you go to Brazil with your boyfriend or a male friend, he also has the choice to get on his surfboard responsibly.

Surfing with large cup size

For women, they also have a whole new line since February with different types of bikinis such as tankinis and halter bikinis. For example, what I want to do for surfing is a good bikini from Freya and then a surf suit from Protest over it, for example. After all, don’t want my expensive (yes unfortunately Freya’s bikinis are not that inexpensive) bikini to be damaged by surfboard waxing.

Another side benefit: the scenario where you have just managed to hold yourself upright on your surfboard and then find out that while coming up, your bikini bottoms have dangled halfway down your knees will no longer occur!

backpacking in brazil
Ilha Grande

Not a surf fan? There are so many beautiful beaches where you install yourself and don’t move, just for that delicious papaya juice or caipirinha. I wrote down my top 3 and will be coming online asap as well as the top 3 recommendations from Brazilians, so that bikini will come in handy anyway!

Number 2: Slippers

When you go backpacking in Brazil, of course the first thing you throw in your backpack is your Havaianas flip-flops, but did you know that in Brazil there are so many beautiful and fun versions that we don’t have in the Netherlands or Europe? So did you forget your flip-flops? Don’t worry, you can just find them in almost any store, even pharmacies! And, of course, a nice gift for those back home or yourself ;-). Basic slippers start from 8 euros and special ones start from 60 to 70 real, which is converted around 15 euros.

Number 3: Mosquito spray

When you go backpacking in Brazil, having a yellow fever vaccination is highly recommended. Most mosquitoes like our Dutch blood, at least mine do, so always take that vaccination. In addition, mosquitoes carrying Dengue and Zika are still prevalent. For the latest status, check RIVM. My friends in Brazil all said that in the region where they live (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) the Zika virus never occurred within their circle of friends or among friends of friends. Still, be wise and read the latest news on RIVM and seek advice at a travel clinic. And during your stay: lubricate and spray. Oh and don’t forget to bring some long-sleeved shirts and long thin pants too. Ciao annoying mosquito!

backpacking in Brazil

Number 4: Ear plugs & credit card

Every traveler knows this by now, especially if you ever sleep in dorms. Earplugs are super important for a night’s sleep. Especially in cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo where it is always noisy, a few sets of earplugs are no luxury. And another tip: do you have a credit card? Then use it to book your flights, bus tickets, etc. In fact, you are then often automatically insured for baggage loss.

Number 5: World plug & power bank

Even though I didn’t end up using it, I would take it with me: a world plug. Brazil uses a mains voltage of 127 / 220 V and the frequency is 60 Hz. It may vary by region, and some appliances require a voltage converter. During my trip I used my laptop and the adapter said 110 to 220 volts was fine, however, my adapter broke. To this day, I don’t know if it is due to difference in mains voltage, but if I were to go back, I would bring a voltage converter. Just to be sure. [bol linkje erin zetten]

Besides a world plug, a power bank is also a lifesaver when you’re on Google Maps all the time. So you can always get home safely with Uber.

Another tip: buy a ring that you stick on the back of your phone that you can stick your finger through. That way they can’t pull the phone out of your hands so easily.

With this topic, I come to the question:

Is Brazil safe to travel?

First of all, Brazil is big, so I’ll limit myself to my own experiences now. We were put on notice by a lot of people that Rio de Janeiro is dangerous and that we should be incredibly careful. So the first day we walked around a bit like skittish deer with a nondescript bag and all jewelry left at home. After 2 days we became more relaxed and the ring on my phone I mentioned above definitely helped.

backpacking in brazil
Rio de Janeiro – Lapa

Until one of our hostelmates returned from a night out in Lapa (Rio de Janeiro) and told us that his telefooon had been nicked from his pocket. Drama for him, of course, because all his photos from his entire six-week trip through South America were on that phone.

Too bad it doesn’t have an automatic back up in the cloud, tip #1! He was walking down the street at night and I suspect not completely sober, so make sure you always stay clear enough that you know what you’re doing. Actually, that’s always true no matter where you are ;-).

There are definitely some things I would recommend you do in cities like Rio and São Paulo:

  • Always use Uber. This is a safe and inexpensive way to get yourself from a to b
  • Back up your photos and make sure your contacts are all in the cloud
  • Write down important phone numbers of travel insurance companies and banks to quickly block your bank card in case of stolen bank cards, if necessary
  • Make a copy of your passport
  • Go out with local people and use common sense or intuition. As a woman, prefer not to go out alone. It can be done, but better not.
  • Mark your hostel or hotel in Google Maps so you can always find your way back
  • Always do a free walking tour on one of the first days. This way, you can get a lot of information from the guide on where it is or is not safe to walk around
  • Buy a Brazilian SIM card from TIM. Costs 30 real and you immediately have 10GB of data to use Uber and Google Maps. We bought it at the TIM store in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Would you like to track your spending? Then use Splitwise. Super handy app. Even if you are on vacation with a girlfriend or boyfriend, for example!
  • Don’t wander around at night alone or in pairs. Backpacking in Brazil is great, but you also just want to recount it with a smile. Use your instinct, when something doesn’t feel right, just leave.
  • Do not wear jewelry or other items of value.

What are the costs of backpacking in Brazil?

In the three weeks I was here I spent about 1,000 euros. You will spend most of it on lodging and also travel expenses. Hereby saying that we were able to share many things and we did not do over the top luxuries. We also did a lot of cooking ourselves. Partly because I love to cook and eat vegan. You can eat really fine vegan food in a lot of places, but deciding for yourself what to eat and what time to eat was something we often liked anyway.

In Rio de Janeiro we slept in a fine hostel, had our own room with bathroom. It wasn’t top notch but that’s what you paid for. We paid about 75 euros for 3 nights for the two of us, which is one of the cheapest options we had in all the country. Hostel Lapa 166. Furthermore, you have most of the cost of transportation. In this, we made a conscious decision not to also travel by plane within the country, this allowed us to keep the cost of backpacking in Brazil relatively low.

Distribution of costs 3 weeks travel Brazil

  • Transportation and Accommodation: 50%
  • Eating out & going out & fun things: 30%
  • Groceries (such as water food etc): 20%

My flight via Lufthansa I had found through Google Flights and cost 670 euros. For the time of year, that was a good deal. Perhaps you can find better deal because flying from Barcelona is more expensive in general than via Schiphol Airport. Fortunately, you can make backpacking in Brazil as expensive as you want as you can see.

– Part of this blog is in collaboration with Protest