A few practical tips from Brazil

We have been in Brazil the last few days and here’s our experiences:

  1. ATM Situation
    • We recently wrote about the 300 Reais daily limit from ATMs and the challenge in general with international ATM cards in withdrawing cash. We found that ATMs at Banco Bradesco are the best. It has English menus and works there were no problems with withrawing money. We tried a lot of banks — Santander, ITAU, etc. Bradesco was the best. The 300 Reais limit is still in effect.
    • When we landed at Rio de Janeiro, we could not find an ATM machine that worked at the airport. Bring some cash change in Reais (but not too much since f/x counters are a rip-off) just in case. Once in the city, go to a Bradesco to get cash out of their ATMs.
  2. Christ the Redeemer
    • Christ the Redeemer is one of the main tourist attractions in Rio. Tourist attractions generally make a good profit except, in Rio, it’s pretty backwards. They recently passed a law that requires you to buy tickets to Christ the Redeemer on the Internet. The ticket office in town does not sell tickets. There been almost no mention of this on the internet in English that we could find — we went and of course, were not admitted because we had not purchased tickets prior. At 48 Reais per adult, they left money on table. We did not see it since our stay was short.
    • Locals say this might change as it has really hurt. Trams are reportedly going up the mountain mostly empty. To be on the safe side, buy it online first at http://www.corcovado.com.br.
    • Update 6/16/2013: You can now buy tickets on site. No need to buy them online first.
  3. Food prices
    • A lot of people told us food in Rio and Brazil in general is expensive. Prices are similar to New York City’s — not really a sticker shock for us, but it may be if you are not used to New York prices. Portions are larger though.
  4. American Express acceptance
    • We did not run into a single issue with American Express acceptance in Brazil — that’s right, not a single one anywhere. If the merchant has a Cielo machine, you are good to go. Even if they don’t have one out, it might be hiding in a drawer (this was the case for us in Buzios at a small shop — they only had the Visa Redicard out). We asked if they had a Cielo machine and they did and our American Express charges went through. Cielo machine = American Express acceptance. We like using American Express abroad because we don’t have to deal with Dynamic Currency Conversion shenanigans with Visa and Mastercard.
    • Fraud alert – American Express has set its fraud alert to be extra sensitive in Brazil. We got alerted multiple times for legit charges even after we called American Express multiple times to let them know we were in Rio.
    • Using our American Express charge card without f/x fees, our rate was within 0.01 Reais of Interbank Rate when our charge went through. American Express gave us 2.04 and Interbank was 2.05. Yes, we understand it fluctuates in real time and 2.04 might have been the actual rate when it went through. Just pointing out that the rate was fantastic.
  5. Shopping
    • In general, everything is more expensive than what we can get in the US. But if you are into two things, they are cheaper here in Brazil – flip flops from Havaianas. (Someone on the team might have purchased a lot. Just saying) and bikinis from Salinas. (Just like flip flops)
    • If you do shop, you will often see a price with 5x or 8x or 10x next to them. Brazilians often buy things in installment plans with 0% interest. If you see a multiplier next to a price, the final price is the multiplier times the price.
  6. Traffic
    • Crazy! Take that into account going from point A to B.
  7. Safety
    • If you stay in Leblon, Ipanema or Copacabana, you will be fine. As with any major city, keep your city wits about and you will be fine.
  8. Beaches
    • Awesome. Every single one! There’s more than just Ipanema and Copacabana. If you have time, there are some really nice, secluded beaches in Barra. We were lucky that a great cultural ambassador to Brazil, Eloy showed the beach below to us. The beach was secluded on a Saturday! How nice is that?
Secluded beach in Barra. (c) The Flight Deal 2013

Secluded beach in Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janiero, Brazil. (c) The Flight Deal 2013

It was a great holiday.  Take these tips with you for your own adventure!


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