5 Reasons It’s a Great Time to Go to Brazil
Iguazu Falls (Photo by David Cogswell)
Americans are waking up to Brazil and discovering more and more reasons to visit the largest country in Latin America. Wildland Adventures, a Seattle-based adventure tour operator, just came up with a few new reasons why it is a great time to visit Brazil right now.
No Visa Requirement
One good reason is that the Brazilian government has waived its visa requirement for Americans from June through Sept. 18. That means you can avoid spending $250 for visa and fees, and find something else to spend that money on. That should not be too difficult.
“The visa requirements are a huge reason why many Americans don’t travel to Brazil,” said Gretchen Traut, Wildland Adventures’ Latin American program director. “It is something that would keep people from traveling to Brazil because there are so many other places in South America where they can go without needing a visa.”
Even better than saving the money on visa fees is saving the time and gargantuan hassle of navigating through the annoying bureaucratic sludge that governments almost always place in the way of getting a visa.
Visa requirements for Brazil normally include producing proof of residency, a passport picture, a yellow fever vaccination document, a photocopy of round trip tickets or a letter signed by a travel agent with confirmed round trip tickets, leaving your passport with the visa office for a few days while they process the application, and so forth.
The good news is that right now you don’t have to do that.
And who knows? If enough Americans take advantage of the opportunity to travel without a visa, and the tourism economy gets a good boost from it, maybe the Brazilian government will consider dropping the whole visa hassle for good, reciprocity be damned. Even if the U.S. continues to hammer Brazilians who want to visit the U.S. with the same kinds of hassles, it could still be an economic benefit to Brazil to drop it. But meanwhile, the opportunity to go without a visa is now.
Our Dollar is Strong
Currency exchange rates are determined by mysterious factors far beyond the comprehension of ordinary travelers. But when they are in your favor it is time to take full advantage of it. The dollar is strong in Brazil now. Even when the dollar was much weaker, buying power for Americans was great. Now it’s even better.
“Right now with the dollar so strong it’s such a great time to be there,” said Traut. “Even just a few years ago during the World Cup, prices for luxury lodges and hotels in Brazil were astronomical. Now they are affordable.”
Aside from the currency exchange rates, the hotel prices have gone down, but the exchange rate is the big factor.
“The exchange rate has been strongly in the dollar’s favor for about a year, but the visa fee was still deterring people from wanting to visit,” said Traut. “But now with that being lifted and the prices being good and the dollar so strong as well, it’s a great time to go.”
Independent of exchange rates, air fares for Brazil are quite reasonably priced. Wildland Adventures says that roundtrip flights between the U.S. and many popular adventure destinations in Brazil, including the Amazon and Pantanal, are going for as little as $450 in July and August.
Because the Olympics is taking place only in Rio, not across the whole country as did the World Cup, other places outside of Rio are more accessible and more available than they were during the World Cup.
“There is a lot more availability throughout Brazil and in peak destinations now,” said Traut. “During the World Cup it was almost impossible to find availability in any of the other major touristic destinations in the country. Key tourist destinations, such as Chapada Diamantia, the Pantanal, the Amazon, Iguazu Falls, were almost inaccessible during the World Cup. Now the Olympics are huge, but there is still availability throughout the entire country.”
With the Olympic crowds concentrated in Rio, “It makes it much nicer and easier to travel around Brazil and avoid crowds,” said Traut. “With the Olympics in Brazil I’ve been frequently asked, ‘Are we going to run into crowds?’ But the vast majority of tourists will be in Rio. There is still availability and there won’t be a lot of crowding in other touristic destinations.”
Besides these new and temporary reasons for visiting Brazil, there are still many reasons that are not new and not temporary, but are being discovered by many Americans. One of those reasons is Brazil as a culinary destination.
“The types of things people are interested in about Brazil really run the whole gamut from wildlife viewing to intense active adventures to cultural experiences,” said Traut. “Something that has been really growing among U.S. travelers is an interest in culinary experiences.”
Brazil is a rich cultural melting pot, and its culinary culture is unique and rich. Culinary adventure fits into Wildland Adventures’ definition of adventure.
“We focus on adventure, and on conscientious travel that reflects and shows our guests what it is like in each destination, making connections with local people and local communities,” said Traut. “We offer a wide variety of types of travel. We have lots of multi-generational families, from young kids to much older grandparents as well as fit younger and middle-aged people who are trying to do things that are more challenging.”
The company offers a range of levels of activity and exertion.
“Adventure can come in all different types,” said Traut. “We offer the physical experiences, such as rafting, horseback riding, trekking and snorkeling, but also the adventure of discovering new people, places, communities and different ways of life and really connecting with those as well. It’s an adventure of self-discovery and world discovery at the same time.”
Culinary enthusiasts have many new thrills to experience through Brazil’s cultural diversity and blending.
“In Bahia you have the spicy food and the African influence,” said Traut. “And then you go to Sao Paolo and you have the largest Japanese community outside of Japan, so there’s an amazing Japanese influence. And then on top of that all the Italians and the really amazing pizza they have there with Brazilian accents with all the exotic fruits they add to the pizza and different types of Portuguese cured meats.”
While the world focuses on the Rio Olympics, many of Brazil’s greatest adventure destinations will be off center stage and less in demand. They include the well-known destinations such as the Amazon and the Pantanal, as well as many lesser-known gems for adventurous explorers.
“Chapada Diamantia and Bonito are my two favorite adventure travel destinations in Brazil,” said Traut. “Chapada Diamantia is absolutely phenomenal for adventure travel and trekking in particular. It’s this area of huge table top mountains and waterfalls and caves and you can do multi-day treks through old mining villages. When I was there trekking last September it reminded me of the fantastical town of Makondo in ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. These small villages feel as if they have been lost in time.”
Traut’s other favorite adventure destination, Bonito, is in Mato Grosso do Sul on the Paraguay border.
“Bonito is famous for crystalline rivers you can go snorkeling and scuba diving in,” said Traut. “They have these epically large colorful tropical-looking fish in these waters. The reason the rivers are so clear is because of the limestone. It completely filters everything out of the waters. They are perfectly clear. You can look into the waters and see fish. They have rappelling, caving, rafting, tubing all kinds of adventures sports in the area.”
Wildland Adventures was founded 30 years ago in Seattle originally based on programs to Costa Rica and Peru. From there it expanded throughout Latin American and now offers programs in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, the Galapagos, Uruguay and Brazil as well as throughout Central America. The company is beginning to operate in Colombia and plans to soon introduce trips to Cuba.
The company excels at helping travelers organize trips to exotic destinations that pose challenges to American travelers.
“South America is such an excellent area of the world to really dive into right now,” said Traut. “What’s great for us is that Brazil is a massive country, almost as large as the continental U.S. and people don’t really know how to do it. Argentina and Chile can be easier to navigate on your own and plan a trip. Brazil is still difficult to penetrate for people and wrap their mind around and get a good grip on it.
“A lot of people are coming to us because they want to visit Brazil, they want hit certain areas but they have no idea how to link them together. They want to do custom trips, and that’s our specialty, working with our guests to tailor and customize a trip to their needs while showcasing Brazil in a unique way.”
Americans are about to move into Brazil 2.0.
“People are just slowly starting to realize that besides Carnival in Rio, Corcovado and the Christ on the Mount, there is so much more to see,” said Traut. “So I think people are just beginning to get a taste of how much more there is afield outside of Rio de Janeiro, especially for adventure travel.”
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