Famous for football and the annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil also has a negative reputation of being an unsafe travel destination. While a bit of that might be true as you do have to be aware and extra cautious, I found this aspect to be wildly exaggerated. In my opinion, Brazilians are some of the most friendliest people in the world. Even with a language barrier, they go above and beyond trying to help. The natural beauty in this country is unmatched anywhere else; there are white sand beaches, lush rain forests, stunning waterfalls, clear blue lagoons, beautiful mountains on the ocean’s edge, and many more. Here is my experience one month solo backpacking in Brazil.
Spending just over a month in Brazil, I was able to hit up a lot of places. Below is a map of my journey. My route started in the largest city of Sao Paulo, looping through the south before making my way to Rio de Janeiro. From there, I flew to the northeast region starting in Sao Luis and ended the Brazilian leg of my trip in Fortaleza before heading to Uruguay.
When I was in Brazil in February/March 2019, the exchange of the Brazilian Real (BRL) to the Canadian Dollar (CAD) was 2.8 BRL to $1 CAD.
Flights within Brazil aren’t too bad if you don’t book last minute. But when you see a good price and want to purchase, it will ask for your Brazilian CPF number (similar to a social security number in the US or Social Insurance Number in Canada; see how to get a CPF as a foreigner). To get around this, I booked my flights through Expedia. If I recall correctly, I might have paid a bit more (around $10 CAD).
I first flew into Sao Paulo from Indonesia through a grueling two-day journey, with layovers in Perth and Johannesburg. My flights were a part of a larger expedition: my Mini Round the World Trip with Aeroplan.
- Florianopolis to Sao Paulo 4500 British Airways Avios points and $11.10 CAD
- Rio de Janeiro to Sao Luis $248.80 CAD
- Fortaleza to Sao Paulo $117.05 CAD
Food & Drinks
Brazil is a country of immigrants and it definitely shows in its food scene. The cuisine is heavily influenced by African, Amerindian, Japanese and European flavours. Below are some examples of what I ate in Brazil and how much they cost:
- Acai bowls ranges from 9 BRL ($3.21 CAD) to 16.5 BRL ($5.89 CAD)
- Coxinha – fried and battered dough with shredded chicken meat inside 4.5 BRL ($1.61 CAD)
- Sao Paulo’s massive mortadella sandwich 26 BRL ($9.29 CAD)
- All you can eat “rodizio” sushi 62.59 BRL ($22.35 CAD)
- Tapioca flatbreads 6 BRL ($2.14 CAD)
- Pastel carne – deep fried pastries with meat 3.5 BRL ($1.25 CAD)
- All you can eat “rodizio” Brazilian churrasco (BBQ) 58 BRL ($20.74 CAD)
- Brazil’s national cocktail, Caipirinha 5 BRL ($1.79 CAD)
- Brazil’s national soft drink, Guarana ~ 5 BRL ($1.79 CAD)
Make sure you check out what makes it to the Top 5 Eats in Brazil
Being the fifth largest country in the world means there is a lot of ground to cover. Unlike other countries like Canada and Russia where there’s a lot of barren land, Brazil has attractions in all of its regions. From the jungles of the Amazon in the north, and the animal-rich area of the Pantanal in the west, to the surreal beaches and African culture in the east, and the hustle and bustle of Sao Paulo and Rio in the south. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if you think about it), the biggest portion of my budget was transportation. Bus trips between cities are quite long and expensive. They are, however of great quality–big and comfortable chairs recline back to allow for somewhat good sleep. To save time you can book flights between cities but keep in mind that booking last minute will be more costly.
The main websites I used to search/book for bus journeys were Busbud and Clickbus. However, by booking on the websites, there is a booking fee (around $6 CAD). Hence I usually book at the bus station unless I am stretched for time.
My Bus Routes in Brazil
- 6 hr bus from Sao Paulo to Curitiba 96.47 BRL ($34.45 CAD)
- 11 hr sleeper bus from Curitibia to Foz do Iguaçu 249.95 BRL ($89.27 CAD)
- 16 hr bus from Foz do Iguaçu to Florianopolis 226.05 BRL ($80.73 CAD)
- 6 hr bus from Sao Paulo to Paraty 101.88 BRL ($36.39 CAD)
- 5 hr bus from Paraty to Rio de Janeiro 75.9 BRL ($27.11 CAD)
- 5 hr bus from Sao Luis to Barreirinhas 60.18 BRL ($21.49 CAD)
- A whole day of travelling from Barreirinhas to Jericoacoara, which includes riding a pick up truck, bus, and a 4×4. 121.5 BRL ($43.39 CAD)
- 4×4 and a bus from Jericoacoara to Fortaleza 73.7 BRL ($26.32 CAD)
I have never taken as much Uber as I have in Brazil. In total, I took 32 Uber rides and spent a total of 573.52 BRL ($204.83 CAD) for an average of 18 BRL ($6.40 CAD) per trip. Uber is super popular in the country with ads for the service all over. It is a good alternative to public transport, especially during at night.
If you do not have Uber yet, please use my referral link so that you can get free rides and/or discounts. I would also earn some free rides and/or discounts! Win-Win!
I found hostels in Brazil lackluster in quality compared to the ones I’ve been to in Southeast Asia and Western Europe. I’ve encountered dorm beds where there was no outlet near the bed, which made charging your phone and setting an alarm pretty difficult. Having stayed in numerous hostels during my one month solo backpacking Brazil, here are some of my recommendations:
Curitiba: Curitiba Casa Hostel for 1 night for 46 BRL ($16.43 CAD)
This cozy and quiet hostel is walking distance to most attractions in Curitiba such as the Curitiba Botanical Gardens, the Mercado Municipal and the bus terminal. The rooms are clean, comfortable, and breakfast is served with their own homemade jams! The staff are friendly and hospitable. I got to learn a lot more about Brazil and its controversial president (Bolsonaro).
Florianópolis: Tucano House for 3 nights at 37.3 BRL ($13.33 CAD) per night
A true backpacker’s hostel. This social hostel makes it easy to meet people with their day activities and organized dinners. In addition, the staff were also quite helpful regarding my need to buy new glasses in Florianópolis.
Paraty: Casa Viva Hostel for 3 nights at 30.56 BRL ($10.91 CAD) per night
This hostel boasts a big outdoor pool and view of the mountains. Located a 10 min walk from the historic town, it is a little out of the way compared to other accommodations. Facilities such as the beds and bathrooms were basic but clean. In conclusion, this hostel is a really good value for a night’s stay.
Barreirinhas: Hostel Lencois Park for 2 nights at 36 BRL ($12.86 CAD) per night
A cozy and clean hostel. It was great base for tours and hikes to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. The owner is super knowledgeable of the area and goes the extra mile for his guests! He helped me venture to Jericoacoara with public transportation (a whole day of travelling with 4 transfers)!
There are endless things to do in this massive country. These are some highlights of my one month solo backpacking in Brazil:
- Checked out Sao Paulo’s graffiti scene at Beco do Batman. FREE
- Learned more about Brazil’s most famous architect and Brazilian modern art at the Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba. Regular price is 28 BRL ($10 CAD). However, I was able to get away with the student price of 10 BRL ($3.57 CAD)
- Checked out the many amazing beaches around Florianópolis. FREE
- Walked around the historic centre of the colonial town of Paraty. FREE
- Got amazing views of Rio’s skyline and nature from the Sugar Loaf Mountains (Pão de Açúcar). Taking a cable car up is 110 BRL ($39.29 CAD). However, I was able to get away with the student price of 49 BRL ($17.50 CAD)
- Explored São Luís’s colonial centre, founded by the French in 1612. In addition, it is also one of Brazil’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. FREE
- Flew with a charter flight tour over Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. 350 BRL ($125 CAD)
- Lagoa Azul tour in Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. 70 BRL ($25 CAD)
- Hiked and hit up the beaches in Jericoacoara National Park. FREE
The largest waterfall system in the world can be found at the border of Brazil and Argentina. This natural wonder was one of my must-visits in South America. Since most of the falls are on the Argentina side, the panoramic views from the Brazil side are the best, whereas a visit to the Argentina side will give you a chance to get up close and personal (in which you will definitively get wet!)
The entrance fee to enter the Iguaçu National Park (Brazil side) is 70 BRL ($25 CAD) and can be explored in about two to four hours depending on how crowded it is. There are platforms all over the trail, perfect for taking those panoramic pictures.
The larger Iguazú National Park (Argentina side) costs 700 ARS ($23.70 CAD) to get in. Instead of one single trail, there are multiple trails overlooking the falls. There is a boardwalk that brings you face-to-face with the Devil’s Throat, the main horseshoe falls where its spray and mist drenches everyone nearby.
There are additional options to spend more money with helicopter tours and boat rides (similar to Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls).
While the entrance fees are not that expensive, you should account for the time and cost of transportation to allow you to get the full Iguazu Falls experience. This area is quite remote; there isn’t much else to do. I only went here to see the falling water. Both the cities of Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) and Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) have airports where you can fly into. Domestic flights to either airport from either Rio or Buenos Aires cost around $150 CAD (one way, booked a month in advance). Buses will take up a hefty amount of travel time (my bus from Foz do Iguaçu to Florianopolis was 16 hours). Don’t count on it being cheap either; my bus ride cost 226.05 BRL ($80.73 CAD)
Unlike Canada’s Niagara Falls, where there is essentially two falls, Iguazu Falls consists of over 200 individual falls making a it a whole waterfall network spread across a few kilometres. The views are breathtaking and you are left speechless at the size of it all (that’s what she said). Despite the time and cost to get here, this experience was totally worth it and has been one of my highlights during my one month solo backpacking in Brazil.
Carnival in Rio
Carnival in Rio is considered the biggest carnival in the world with over two million people per day on the streets. For those who do not know, Carnival is a celebration prior to the fasting season of Lent. Carnival in Rio officially lasts for a week but festivities begin early with parties taking place prior to the start. As Easter and Lent occurs at different times every year, the dates of Carnival also changes but is generally around February and March. This year, it took place between March 1st – 6th.
Street festivals (blocos) are very common during carnival and are highly populated by the locals. These parties take place all over Rio and there are some that start early in the morning at 8 AM and go late into the night. Many of these parties have certain themes such as Beatles, drag, African, etc.
Rio Carnival is famous for its parades, which are filled with extravagant costumes and floats from numerous samba schools. I got a ticket to the first day of the parades which are reserved for lower level schools for
60 BRL ($21.43 CAD) from my hostel. Unfortunately, there was a massive storm that night (never seen rain that hard before in my life) and the parades were postponed. I went back to my hostel and called it a night. The following morning, I realized that the rain had stopped and the parades commenced late at night and lasted until morning. #FOMO.
- Keep your valuables (including phones) within your accommodation or be ready to guard it with your life. Pickpocketing is rife during the festival times. It gets super crowded that it becomes easy for people to steal your stuff without you noticing.
- The Rio Metro runs 24 hours during Carnival and is a great way to get around as many streets will be closed due to the blocos.
- As you can already imagine, Carnival is the busiest time in Rio. Make sure to book your accommodation in advance or else you might get stuck paying hundreds of dollars for a dorm bed in high demand areas such as Ipanema and Copacabana.
Being in the country for just over a month, I was bound to have expenses in the miscellaneous category. Here are some that I encountered while one month solo backpacking in Brazil:
- Going into Brazil, I had to get a visa which I could get online with VFS Global $45 USD. Brazil just announced that as of June 17th, 2019, Canadians along with Americans, Japanese, and Australians will no longer require visas to visit the country.
- ATM fees 24 BRL ($8.57 CAD). After learning that Banco do Brasil does not charge any ATM fees, I took out only from this bank. Make sure you use a debit card that doesn’t charge you for any foreign transaction fees. If you are from Canada, I recommend using STACK!
- New glasses 400 BRL ($142.86 CAD). Strong waves hit me when I was wearing my glasses in the water and I was not able to find it again in Florianopolis. #RIP.
- SIM card 10 BRL ($3.57 CAD)
- 4 GB data plan for one month with TIM 40 BRL ($14.29 CAD)
- Brazil’s most famous export, Havaianas 37.9 BRL ($13.54 CAD)
The Sum of One Month Solo Backpacking in Brazil
For the month I was there, I spent a total of $2,511.18 CAD which came out to $78.47 per day! By South American standards, Brazil is expensive to travel around. Day-to-day expenses such as accommodation and food are not too bad, but travel expenses will add up quick. Long distance bus tickets will cost a minimum of $50 CAD and upwards to $150 CAD. If you’re planning on seeing lots of Brazil, be prepared to pay for it.