Travel Basics – Brazilian Grand Prix

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Start planning your trip to the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos circuit in São Paolo on November 11-13.

Alice West attended the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2013.

Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world by both population (approx. 200 million) and area (8.5 million square kilometers) Boasting a 7500km eastern coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil is known for its diverse landscape which includes the epic Amazon rainforest and Iguaçu Falls as well as the infinite skyscrapers of São Paulo, the colorful colonial beauty of Salvador, and the sheer energy of the annual Carnaval festivals of Rio de Janeiro, Olinda, and Recife. All eyes were on Brazil in 2016 when Rio de Janeiro hosted the Olympics. Despite many concerns in the planning stages, the city delivered a relatively successful games.

Brazil is a diverse, colourful and inclusive country with a unique society made up of indigenous people as well as migrants from Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and Portugal – among many, many others. Brazil was the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery, and so a vast proportion of the Brazilian population is people of African descent, whose ancestors were brought over by the Portuguese settlers as far back as the seventeenth century. Brazilian is perhaps the perfect metaphor for its own cultural diversity: there’s something for everyone to tuck into here.

São Paulo is the capital city of São Paulo state, the wealthiest municipality in Brazil as well as the most densely populated. São Paulo is a bustling, urban jungle and home to the Brazilian Stock Exchange: a sprawling and cosmopolitan metropolis with a diverse population and staggering architecture. People from the city are known as paulistanos, whilst paulistas are people from the wider state of São Paulo. The city is colloquially known as Sampa or Terra da Garoa (land of drizzle).

Brazilian Visas
EU nationals (including Brits, for the moment) can enter Brazil as tourists without the need for a visa. Travellers from Australia, the USA and Canada need to apply for a visa. Currently, an Australian tourist visa costs around $40 USD, whilst Canadians can expect to pay around $80 USD for their Brazilian tourist visa, and US citizens a hefty $170 USD. Contact your local Brazilian Consulate for instructions on how to apply for your tourist visa, as these cannot be obtained at the airport. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your intended date of entry.

Safety

Some of the world’s highest crime rates are seen in Brazil, and São Paulo is no exception. Remaining vigilant at all times whilst out and about in Brazil is absolutely imperative. As in any major city, the key is to remain alert and to take no unnecessary risks. Avoid wandering around anywhere looking lost, avoid travelling alone, and keep your wits about you. Pickpocketing is fairly common, so keep all expensive possessions well hidden (or ideally, leave them at home) and avoid carrying large sums of cash with you. If you must, split cash between different pockets, and always have some cash on you in case you have to hand something over to avoid a confrontation.

Never enter a favela, even if invited. You will hear stories wherever you go of tourists who stumbled into favelas and ended up being shot dead when they inadvertently became caught in the crossfire of gang warfare. Be warned that the road from the train station to the track (Autódromo José Carlos Pace) borders a favela. As with many urban areas in Brazil and São Paulo, you will see a high police presence in and around Interlagos over race weekend, but it remains your responsibility to stay on high alert – even once through the turnstiles and inside the track.

Money

Brazil’s currency is the real (R$ or BRL ), which is divided into 100 centavos. Brazil has more ATMs than any country in the world, but they’re not all available 24 hours a day for safety reasons. Some close after 10pm and open again at 6am, whilst many will only dispense small amounts (sometimes just R$100) at night. Speak to your bank before you travel to Brazil as some bank networks are not compatible with overseas debit and credit cards. If in doubt, look for an ATM with your card logo on it. Withdrawal limits tend to be around R$1000 per day.

Health

Most crucially, the CDC has identified Brazil as an area affected by the Zika outbreak. Pregnant women or women trying to conceive are advised to think carefully about travel to Brazil. Brazil is malarial, so you should take the necessary steps to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes but needn’t take antimalarial tablets unless you plan on travelling into the Amazon region where nearly 99% of the reported malarial cases originate. All travelers to Brazil should check that their routine vaccinations are up to date, as you may need a hepatitis A and typhoid booster. Speak to your GP before you visit.

Brazil travel: need to know

  • Emergency telephone numbers in Brazil:  Police 190 / Ambulance 192/ Fire Department 193
  • Time zone: São Paulo operates on BRT (Brasilia Time), which is GMT – 3 hours. Daylight saving starts in October, when the clocks move forward by one hour.
  • Tap water is generally safe, but doesn’t taste great. To be on the safe side, it’s better to drink bottled water.

Climate

Brazil is mostly tropical, and São Paulo has a monsoon-influenced climate which is known for its rapid changes. Expect four seasons in one day here, especially in the winter months where the sun can reach 35 degrees centigrade on the same day as torrential downpours. You’ve seen the Brazilian Grand Prix before: sometimes it’s a washout, sometimes an absolute scorcher!

Language

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, and English is not widely spoken. Don’t expect taxi or bus drivers to understand any English, so plan your journeys ahead and either write down the address of your destination or be ready to point to the address of your destination in a guide book. All taxi drivers will understand the word ‘autodromo’ if you decide to take a cab to Interlagos.

Been to Brazil? Leave a comment with your travel tips!

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About the Author ()

Alice West is a freelance copywriter from the UK with a passion for traveling to F1 races around the world.

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