Backpacking in Brazil

Brazil is a sprawling nation, with richly diverse landscapes for backpackers to discover.  Sandy beaches, bustling cities, the splendour of the towering Iguazu Falls, the grandeur of Christ the Redeemer, the mighty Amazon and its lush rainforests and amazing wildlife and pulsating nightlife are all major draws for backpackers looking the next place to explore.  Discover the heavenly Brazil vibe for yourself and backpack around this glorious country of contrasts.

Kit List

  • Visa
  • Relevant vaccinations
  • Sun cream
  • UV Protective sunglasses
  • Suitable clothing
  • Insect repellent
  • A sense of adventure!

Itinerary

There are many routes to take around the world’s fifth largest country. There is no well-trodden backpacker trail, as such, when compared to neighbouring countries.  There are good facilities in all major towns, and at a variety of budgets. That said, Brazil is pricier than its South American neighbours, so backpacking with limited means does require some really careful budgeting.  

This itinerary aims to maximise time whilst hitting all of the high points. It would take around three weeks to check the boxes in each place, but of course, more can be seen in longer periods, as well as detours to other fabulous places.

Start in Rio and stay in a budget hostel. Explore the city’s delights, including the highlights of Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statues. There is a wealth of other attractions in the city, and a Rio de Janeiro City Pass will allow discounted entry at many fabulous places. Spend a few days relaxing on the stunning beaches.  Party on the streets of Lapa; with cheap drinks from street vendors and an electric atmosphere, this is a much cheaper way to have fun at night than the discos and nightclubs.

Move South to Sao Palau and experience the heady nightlife, visit pretty Ibirapuera Park, the cathedral, Liberdale, and the square around Patio do Colegio. The municipal theatre is a must-see.  Paulista Avenue has great weekend markets and an art museum. The subway is a perfect way to move around the city with ease.  

Head to Salvador.  Flying is certainly the quicker option, but a two-day land journey back tracking past Rio is absolutely the cheapest bet.  Take time to learn about the country’s African roots and admire the colonial architecture.  Watch local dances and festivities for free in squares all around the city, and visit the cathedral and beaches.  Boat out to nearby islands, head inland slightly and trek in the mountains, and visit sleepy little towns. 

Continue North to Manaus, the gateway to the tropical Amazon rain forests.  Shop around for good quality guides to get the best rates for your jungle adventures.  Be left speechless by the jungle sights that unfold.  Be sure to take daytime and night-time trips out on the water.  Take time to explore Manaus itself, with a show-stealing opera house and culturally rich museums.

Journey onwards to Iguazu Falls to see the incredible 250 foot high crashing waterfall on the border between Brazil and Argentina.  This is one of Brazil’s must-see attractions for good reason.

Return to Rio for international flights, or to arrange onward land transport.

Other popular destinations, not included above, are the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ouro Preto with its colonial charms, mines and cobbled streets, and the jungle retreat of Pantanal, with its high chances of spotting local wildlife.

Transport

Buses connect all of Brazil’s major cities, and allow cheap means to explore this country.  Buses may be very cramped, however, take days to reach your destination, and long delays are common.   Reasonable flights can be booked to travel between destinations if time or comfort is more precious than the cost.

Accommodation

The cheapest places to stay around Brazil are small family run rooms for rent or youth hostels.  Facilities and standards can vary widely, so it is best to have a look before handing over any cash.  Most budget places only have cold water showers, and often in shared bathrooms.

Language

Before starting any backpacking adventure, it would be useful to learn a few basic phrases in the local language, Portuguese.  At the very least, carry a small phrasebook with you for those moments when language barriers are problematic.

Safety Considerations

Travellers will need to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever and take anti-malarial medication to visit the Amazon Region.  Other recommended vaccinations for backpacking around any areas in Brazil include hepatitis, polio, and tetanus.

Many of Brazil’s major cities have high incidences of crime.  Avoid carrying, and certainly displaying, expensive items.  Try to remain in a group when walking around, especially at night.  Don’t wander into favelas and slum areas; be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.

Lock all valuables in safety deposit boxes when in hostels, and make sure all valuables are secured when taking long bus journeys.  

Don’t be tempted to dabble with drugs; penalties are harsh for those caught.