On the Road

Brazil, Costs and Culture – Expat Index

Population

170 million but as no one uses condoms here you can bet they’re trying to get those numbers up.

Climate

Brazil is enormous with Amazonian rainforest along the equator, tropical beaches along its east coast, running down to semi-tropical areas and the south of the country even gets frost. Brazil is in the southern hemisphere and so the seasons are reversed, which is handy if you plan to be here for half the year and hate winter as you can avoid it permanently if you time it right. Winter here starts around June.

Economy

Brazil is famous for having one of the worst distributions of wealth in the world, meaning that the cities are quite modern but most of the people are dirt poor. In the cities this translates as fancy neighbourhoods with organic cafes, beauty salons and upscale nightclubs while populous slums with open sewers look down from the hilltops and dodge bullets.

Elsewhere, especially in the North East there are fishing villages where illiteracy is still an issue and in the country there’s still indentured labour. For many, the only chance they have is to make a name for themselves with a gun.

Government

Brazil is a democratic country (whatever that means) and usually quite corrupt though President Lula has tried to make many changes and the economy has done better under socialist rule, the real growing in strength against foreign currencies – making it more expensive for travelers than before.

Religion & Culture

Brazilians are catholic in name but really they’re quite lax with plenty of loose sexuality, drink and drugs – but they may still cross themselves when passing a church. Brazil has a very body-orientated culture, producing amazing dancers and football players but less intellectuals and writers.

Visas

90 days stamp of entry which can be extended for another 90 days maximum per 365 days. Seems like they don’t want tourists living in Brazil but you can overstay and then pay about $3 a day up to a ceiling of about $300 so it’s no real problem to overstay and then come back with a new passport – just don’t get caught in the meantime. Work visas a complete pain to get.

Language

Portuguese is the national language but it differs substantially from Portuguese in Portugal and has its own quirks of grammar and pronunciation. Only the rich and those working in the tourist industry speak any English and you’ll need at least the basics to live here with any ease. It’s a beautiful language in any case and fairly easy to learn.

Rent

Sao Paulo and Rio can be expensive with studio apartment rents between $150-500 depending on the area. A house in a village in the North East can be got for $150 though. Hostel: The cheapest places to stay are pousadas charging at least $8 and up. A real dive might be found for $4 in a dodgy part of town.

A meal out

The usual rice, beans and meat can be had at cheap street joints for $2 but it’s easier to spend more.

Transport

Buses around the country can drain your budget as the distances are large and petrol is expensive. Flights aren’t much cheaper but can save a lot of time.

Living Estimate

$500 for a cheap life in the main cities, $800-1000 to live in style. Villages in the north east can be managed on $200-400 a month though.

Travel Estimate

$25 a day going cheaply, $50 if you plan to travel much.

Overview

Brazil is a very viable place to live if you can get by with beer, barbeques, a beach and some samba/forro. That’s pretty much the Brazilian dream and people consider themselves content if they can get all the above plus enough sex and food to eat.

If you’re an intellectual type you may struggle for conversation in Brazil but it’s easy to meet people and have fairly casual friendships. Brazilians are warm but don’t trust that easily and making real friends might take some time.

There are plenty of foreigners living in Brazil and as the country has a bit of everything – good weather, fun people, parties, beaches, fairly cheap living – it’s easy to see why.

Where to live in Brazil

As far as cities go, Rio de Janeiro is probably the best bet with street parties, samba clubs, first world facilities and beautiful beaches. It’s more expensive though and can feel a little sinister with the civil war conducted by the military police against the population of the favelas, the slums.

Sao Paolo is an awful metropolis and the biggest city in South America but the Paulistas are a lot of fun and there are good night clubs, if that’s any kind of motivation.

Mostly, the traveler looking to live in Brazil will be aiming for small villages along the coast that attract an eclectic crowd – Jericocoara, Canoa Quebrada and Pipa are likely spots.