Getting to Brazil
Most international travelers enter Brazil by plane. The two main gateways are Rio de Janeiro and, increasingly, São Paulo. Most major airlines service both Rio’s Tom Jobim airport and São Paulo’s Guarulhos airport. From the United States, American Airlines (U.S. tel. 800/433-7300, www.aa.com), Continental (U.S. tel. 800/231-0856, www.continental.com), Delta (U.S. tel. 800/241-4141, www.delta.com), and United (U.S. tel. 800/241-6522, www.ual.com) all offer daily flights from major cities including New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Los Angeles. Air Canada (Canada tel. 888/247-2262, www.aircanada.ca) has direct daily flights from Toronto, and British Airways (U.K. tel. 0845/702-0212, www.britishairways.com) operates direct flights from London.
Currently, one Brazilian carrier offers international service. TAM (U.S./Canada tel. 888/235-9826, www.tam.com.br) provides flights to the rest of Latin America, Europe, and major cities in the United States and Canada, including Miami, New York City, and Toronto.
From Europe, Portugal’s national airline, TAP (www.flytap.com), offers flights to northeastern capitals such as Salvador, Recife, Natal, and Fortaleza (with connections in Lisbon). If you’re going to Manaus, TAM and United operate direct flights from Miami that are much more convenient than flying all the way to São Paulo for a connecting flight. American Airlines currently offers direct flights to Salvador and Recife via Miami.
If you’re planning to travel around to far-flung regions of Brazil, it may make sense for you to buy a Brazil Airpass, which can only be purchased abroad (much to the chagrin of Brazilians) along with your international ticket. Currently, TAM offers a pass that allows you four domestic flights to any destination TAM flies to (which is basically everywhere). The pass costs US$529 (if you travel to Brazil on TAM). Otherwise it costs US$699, with an additional US$180 per flight. Various restrictions apply, such as no refunds once you’ve made your first domestic flight. Rebooking costs US$100.
Due to the rising price of fuel and increased airport taxes, flights are more expensive than they used to be. A round-trip flight (without taxes) for $1,000 from New York to Rio or São Paulo is considered a very good deal these days. To shop around for cheap fares, consult www.expedia.com, www.travelocity.com, and www.cheaptickets.com. In the United States, a very good travel agency (run by friendly English speaking Brazilians) is the Houston-based Globotur (U.S. tel. 800/998-5521, www.globotur.com). It consistently comes up with great fares for travelers in the United States and Canada. Also recommended is Brazil Nuts (tel. 800/553-9959 or 914/593-0266, www.brazilnuts.com). Based in Naples, Florida, it has a highly informed staff and can book flights and hotels as well as customize tours to both major and off-the-beaten path destinations.
Many international cruise ships to South America make stops along Brazil’s Atlantic coast. The biggest port of call is Rio de Janeiro (www.portosrio.gov.br). Other popular stops include the perpetually sunny northeastern beach capitals of Fortaleza (www.docasdoceara.com.br), Recife (www.portodorecife.pe.gov.br), and Salvador (www.codeba.com.br). Although an entire cruise can be quite pricy, sometimes portions can be purchased at substantial discounts. In terms of river travel, those who have lots of time to burn and aren’t averse to roughing it can sail down the Amazon River from Iquitos in Peru or enter the Pantanal by Rio Paraguai from Asunción, Paraguay.
Although it’s possible to drive or travel by bus to Brazil from all neighboring countries, in most cases distances are quite enormous. Apart from Santa Elena de Uairén in Venezuela, the most accessible and common entry points are from Brazil’s neighbors to the south, including Argentina and Paraguay at Foz do Iguaêu and Uruguay at Jaguarão.
There is frequent bus service between Rio, São Paulo, and the capitals of the south from Montevideo (Uruguay), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Asunción (Paraguay), and even Santiago (Chile). Roads are generally quite good. International bus companies include Pluma (tel. 0800/646-0300 throughout Brazil, www.pluma.com.br) and Crucero del Norte (tel. 11/5258-5000 in Buenos Aires, www.crucerodelnorte.com.ar).
If you’re coming from Bolivia, a favorite route of backpackers is to hop aboard the Trem da Morte (Train of Death)—whose name comes from the dangerous of habit of riding along the train’s roof—that runs between Santa Cruz and Quijarro (near Corumbá), a town at the southwestern edge of the Pantanal, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. For more information, contact the Ferroviaria Oriental (www.ferroviariaoriental.com), whose main office is in Santa Cruz.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition