Brazil has a variety of electrical voltages, sometimes
within the same city, The better hotels offer 220 volts. If not,
transformers are available in electrical stores. Outlets often
accept a variety of plug types but the two-pin type is
The spoken language in Brazil is Portuguese, however
Spanish and English are also used in the cities.
Nearly all hotels add a service charge to the bill, usually 10
percent. Most restaurants also add 10 percent or more to the total
of the bill, but must make it clear that they have done so; waiters
appreciate another five percent if their service has been good.
Otherwise, a 10-15 percent tip is customary. Brazilians don't
normally tip taxi drivers, except if they handle bags, although
they may round up the total. Hotel staff expect small tips and most
other services, including barbers, shoe shiners, and petrol station
attendants, are usually rewarded with a 10-15 percent tip. Parking
attendants earn no wages and expect a tip of around two real.
Brazil is politically stable with no natural enemies and no
terrorist activities. In metropolitan areas, however, petty crime
is a fact of life. Rio in particular is regarded as one of the most
crime-ridden cities in the world and, although violent crime is
generally limited to the slum areas, foreigners are advised to take
precautions. Visitors should not attempt to visit slum areas unless
on a guided tour. However violent crime is on the increase due to
the establishment of drug and criminal gangs around Rio and Sao
Paulo. Muggings, often involving firearms, are frequent and
visitors should dress down and conceal cameras, and avoid wearing
jewellery and expensive watches. Valuables should be deposited in
hotel safes. The threat of personal attack is lower outside the
main urban centres, but incidents do occur, and women should be
aware that sexual assaults have been reported in coastal holiday
destinations. Beware of unofficial taxis and those with blacked-out
windows and be particularly careful on public transport in Rio,
Recife and Salvador. Armed criminals intercepted a taxi carrying
foreigners at night from Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport
to central Rio in May 2006; incidents like this occur at random
along this road, particularly at night.
Brazilian culture is European based and most social customs will
be familiar to visitors.
Generally business practices are different throughout the
country: very formal in Sao Paulo, but more relaxed in Rio de
Janeiro and other centres. Multi-national companies have similar
business etiquette to Europe or the US, while local businesses
require a few more considerations, particularly preferring
face-to-face meetings above phone calls or written communication.
Brazilians place a very high value on personal relationships within
business environments and will generally only conduct business
through personal connections or with those whom they have already
established a personal relationship. All meetings are preceded by
handshakes and small talk, and visitors should avoid the temptation
to rush things; even after the meeting is over it is considered
rude to rush off. Entertaining is common, either at a restaurant or
someone's home, again with the emphasis on building personal
relationships. Punctuality is flexible, except when meeting at a
restaurant, when tardiness is considered impolite, and a small gift
or flowers for the hostess is common when invited to a home.
Business suits are expected, especially for first meetings.
Portuguese is the dominant language, and although English is widely
spoken in business an interpreter might be required. Business
cards, as well as written documents, should be printed in both
English and Portuguese. Business hours are 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday
The international access code for Brazil is +55. The outgoing
code depends on what network is used (e.g. 0014 for Brasil
Telecom), which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g.
001444 for the United Kingdom). The area code for Brasilia is 61,
but the access code to make a call within the country from another
area also depends on what network is used (e.g. (014)61 for Brasil
Telecom). GSM 900and 1800 mobile phone networks cover the main
cities, and phones are available to rent. Internet cafes are widely
available. Every town has a central telephone office called a Posto
Telefonico, from where long distance calls can be made, and public
phone booths are everywhere, operated by phone cards. For cheaper
calls, visitors can connect to an operator at home and place a
credit card or collect call. Sending mail overseas is expensive,
but the postal system is generally reliable.
Travellers to Brazil can enter the country with 400 cigarettes
or 25 cigars; 2 litres of alcoholic beverages and goods to the
value of US$500, without incurring customs duty. Restricted items
include fresh produce, meat and dairy products. Strict regulations
apply to temporary import or export of firearms, antiquities,
tropical plants, medication and business equipment.