Brazil is not only one of the most colorful, happy, and spirited countries in the planet, it is also the place I am blessed to call my home (just as much as the United States). As a native Brazilian who left Brazil shortly after graduating from high school, and has never forgotten about the amazing food, the warm people, the wonderful music, and the beautiful landscape that this country has to offer, I am enthusiastic to share with you some tips to help you make the most out of your experience in Brazil.
First and foremost, if you are going to Brazil during intersession, you are in it for a trip of a lifetime! January is possibly THE BEST time to be in Brazil. It is summer time, most people are on vacation, many are relaxing at the beach, and sipping on a ‘caipirinha’ while listening to the numerous street players who walk around the beach playing samba from right to left. In fact, if you are going to Brazil this coming intersession I would GREATLY suggest that you arrive in Brazil before New Year’s Eve, and that you spend the last day of 2014 in Copacabana Beach with thousands (if not millions) of people who will be there, eager to celebrate.
New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest and most popular events, along with Carnival, in Brazil. In Rio de Janeiro, the event gets even better. Here you will find millions of people (last year there were 2 million people at the beach on New Year’s Eve) wearing white clothes for good luck and for world peace in the coming year. Some in the crowd may wear a splash of color – red is for romance, yellow for success, green for health, etc. Whether you are wearing white or not, whether you believe in the color superstitions that Brazilian people believe in or not, you are in it for a celebration you will never forget. Fireworks at the beach, champagne, live music, ocean breeze, good energy from the crowd… it is bound to be a party you will remember for years to come.
So, what do you do when you wake up in Rio the next day? Well… here are some important things you will NOT want to miss:
- Beaches: Brazilians LOVE to hang out at the beach! In fact, most Brazilians like to go to the beach in the early morning and stay until the sun sets. You can buy food, drinks, accessories, and even clothes at the beach in Brazil. It is also a great place for people watching! Here, people gather to play beach volleyball, footvolley, surf, play music, dance… in Brazil, everything happens at the beach. This is where you are going to want to go while in Rio:
- Ipanema Beach: Where most locals hangout
- Copacabana Beach: More crowded and touristy but a lot of fun
- Barra da Tijuca: This is where you go if you want to surf (or watch people surfing 😉 )
- Buzios: Elected one of the 10 most beautiful areas in the world, Buzios is just about 2 hours from Rio by bus/car. Take a weekend to go there!
2. Sightseeing: even though these are the most “touristy” places in Rio, they are still well worth exploring.
- Cristo (aka Corcovado): voted one of the seven wonders of the world, this site offers beautiful views of the city. Take the train to go up there.
- Sugar Loaf: also wonderful view of the city. Perfect place to take pictures.
- Arpoador: This is where you want to be for the sunset.
- Santa Teresa: Charming old neighborhood in Rio. Go to small bars or restaurants here and walk around the beautiful streets.
3. Nightlife: Brazilians really know how to party! If you are just looking for a bar to have a “gelada” (ice cold beer) you are going to want to go out at 8 pm, if you are looking to have dinner, probably 9 pm… now if you want to go to a nightclub, don’t arrive before 1 am.
- Bars at Lapa – A former run-down collection of 19th century mansions has now been rehabilitated. Here you will find many restaurants, and cute bars with live music. Great place to go eat, dance and have a blast!
- Samba Practices happen from November until carnival (Feb or March) and they are extremely fun to watch! I recommend watching the schools Beija Flor or Mangueira. Here you will find a schedule of their rehearsals.
- Nightclubs: parties start at 1 am and go until sunrise. There are plenty of nightlclubs to explore in Rio! Click here to know where to go.
4. The food!! Don’t come back to the States without trying:
To finish off, let me just warn you that we Brazilians are extremely warm. We do not know what “personal space” is, we touch people when we are chatting with them, we hug, we greet people with multiple kisses… so be ready to hug and kiss back! Also, do not try speaking Spanish to Brazilians… they are unbelievably proud of their Portuguese!
I hope you have a wonderful time in Brazil! Please let me know what you enjoyed the most about my country by posting a comment below.
~ Renata Berto, International Programs Associate