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Moving to Brazil

From the Amazon basin to the beautiful beaches along its northern and eastern shores, Brazil is South America's largest country and holds much for expats to explore and discover. Whether heading to glamorous Rio de Janeiro or bustling São Paulo, expats are in for an exciting experience.

Living in Brazil as an expat

Brazil is home to an ever-expanding expat population. With a resource-rich economy and booming mining, agricultural and manufacturing sectors, there is an extensive range of job opportunities for expats moving to Brazil. Sadly, Brazil also has a somewhat unequal income distribution and this can be seen throughout the country. Despite these issues, this relatively young democracy has become South America’s leading economic power.

Most expats moving to Brazil head to São Paulo, the country's largest city. With a population numbering over 12 million, the city exudes a vibrant energy matched by none other. Brazil's finance, technology and services industries are centred in São Paulo, drawing in expats from all over the globe. The result is a truly international city made up of a diverse population. Rio de Janeiro is another major expat hub, and abounds with natural wonders to explore, from pristine beaches and lush rainforests to gushing rivers and towering mountains.

Speaking at least basic Portuguese will be vital for expats who want to settle in the country. Without it, they might get frustrated when conducting business and taking care of everyday affairs.

Cost of living in Brazil

In comparison to many popular expat destinations around the world, the cost of living in Brazil is inexpensive, especially if earning in a foreign currency such as the US Dollar. Coversely, those earning in the local currency will find they have far less purchasing power and might have a harder time budgeting.

Expat families and children

Brazil is a wonderful place to raise a family. The basics are covered: all of Brazil's major cities have numerous international schools, and the country has an extensive network of both public and private healthcare options available. When it comes to being out and about with the family, there's no shortage of fun things to do to keep the little ones engaged. Beach days, forest hikes and festivals are just a few of the many outings families can look forward to.

For the adventurous expat, Brazil holds a world of wonders. New arrivals will soon settle into the rhythm of this vibrant South American country. 


Fast facts

Population: 212 million

Capital city: Brasília

Neighbouring countries: Brazil is bordered by Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana to the north; Colombia to the northwest; Bolivia and Peru to the west; Argentina and Paraguay to the southwest; and Uruguay to the south.

Geography: Brazil occupies about half of South America with a long coastal region to the east. It has a vast and complex network of rivers, including the famous Amazon River. About two-thirds of the massive Amazon rainforest is within Brazil's borders. The rest of the country has a diverse landscape ranging from plateaus and plains to mountains, hills and highlands.

Political system: Federal presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Roman Catholicism with

Main language: Portuguese

Money: The Brazilian Real (BRL) is divided into 100 centavos. Expats will need a residence visa to open a bank account. ATMs are widely available, although some only operate during certain hours for safety reasons.

Tipping: Standard 10 percent

Time: Brazil has four time zones: GMT-2, GMT-3, GMT-4 and GMT-5.

Electricity: 110V/220V, 60Hz. Plugs with two or three round pins are generally used.

Internet domain: .br

International dialling code: +55

Emergency contacts: 190 (police), 192 (ambulance), 193 (fire)

Transport and driving: Motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road. The types and extent of public transport services available vary widely from city to city.

Weather in Brazil

The weather and climate in Brazil are quite varied due to its large size. The country has five main climatic zones. While some areas are typically hot all year round, others are more subject to seasonal variations.

São Paulo and Brasília are situated on a plateau, enjoying mild weather and average temperatures that are in the 70°F (20°C) range. Coastal regions and cities, like Rio de Janeiro, have warmer climates. Temperatures in Rio are often around 86°F (30°C) in summer. Expats should stay hydrated and indoors on especially hot days. The yearly average is a pleasant 80°F (26°C).  

The subtropical climate in the south means that summers are hot and winters can get slightly chilly. Temperatures from July to August can drop below freezing. Expats may occasionally find themselves waking up to morning frost.

The Amazon Basin experiences warm and wet weather all year round. It is known for incredibly high levels of humidity. The temperature tends to hover around 90°F (32°C). The Equatorial Amazon gets a lot of rain from November to May. June and October are the best times to travel to this region, as they are the driest months.

 
 

Embassy Contacts for Brazil


Brazilian embassies

  • Brazilian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 238 2700

  • Brazilian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7747 4500

  • Brazilian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 237 1090

  • Brazilian Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6273 2372

  • Brazilian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 366 5200

  • Brazilian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 475 6000

  • Brazilian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 3516


Foreign embassies in Brazil

  • United States Embassy Brasília: +55 61 3312 7000

  • British Embassy, Brasília: +55 61 3329 2300

  • Canadian Embassy, Brasília: +55 61 3424 5400

  • Australian Embassy, Brasília: +55 61 3226 3111

  • South African Embassy, Brasília: +55 61 3312 9500

  • Irish Embassy, Brasília: +55 61 3248 8800

  • New Zealand Embassy, Brasília: +55 61 3248 9900

Public Holidays in Brazil

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Tiradentes Day

21 April

21 April

Labour Day

1 May 

1 May

Corpus Christi

3 June

16 June

Independence Day

7 September

7 September

Our Lady of Aparecida

12 October

12 October

All Souls' Day

2 November

2 November

Republic Day

15 November

15 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Safety in Brazil

Despite the country’s natural beauty and friendly people, Brazil continues to experience challenges with social inequality and poverty. An unfortunate consequence of this has been the country's continuously high crime rates. Safety and security in Brazil is, therefore, a concern for many expats contemplating a move there and a reality that cannot be ignored.


Crime in Brazil

Crime levels are high in Brazilian cities. This is especially true in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. These cities experience regular incidents of pickpocketing, robbery, assault, burglary and murder. Crime rates are slightly lower in other cities, such as Brasília and Recife.

Mobile street gangs and organised criminal groups generally operate from within densely packed and typically low-income parts of the city known as favelas. Foreigners have traditionally been advised not to enter but with an increasing police presence and improvements in general safety, it isn't uncommon for expats to visit or even live in a favela.

Most crimes are opportunistic, taking place in popular tourist areas and on crowded public transport. Hotspots for these crimes include beaches, hotels, bars and nightclubs. Expats should keep their valuables out of sight when driving, as incidents of smash-and-grabs and carjackings are also common. 

For safety reasons, many expats in Brazil’s larger cities live in apartments or houses in secure closed compounds that have 24/7 security. 


Kidnappings in Brazil

Incidents of kidnapping have been known to occur in Brazil. Express kidnappings, in particular, are a risk. This type of crime involves the victim being kidnapped at gunpoint for a short period and taken to an ATM to withdraw cash or to shops to use their credit cards. Express kidnappings are common around banks and ATMs. Expats should avoid using ATMs in isolated areas, especially at night. 


Road and transport safety in Brazil

The country has an extensive road network. Road conditions in Brazil are generally good, though road markings and lighting are variable across the country.

Brazilian drivers are notorious for driving aggressively. Expats driving in Brazil should do so with caution and drive defensively. Due to the safety concerns and driving conditions, expats may want to reconsider their need to drive, and rather make use of the public transport system if possible.

Using the Brazilian public transport system is generally safe, but expats should still be aware of the risk of pickpocketing at crowded transport hubs and on buses and trains.


Safety tips for Brazil

Here are a few basic safety tips to help expats stay safe in Brazil

  • Expensive jewellery and equipment should be kept out of view. These items make a person an attractive target for criminals.

  • Avoid ATMs in isolated areas, especially at night. It’s best to choose an ATM in a hotel or convenience store.

  • Avoid walking alone at night. If travelling at night, rather use a taxi over other forms of public transport.

  • Be careful when leaving and arriving home. Before leaving, expats should make sure there is no one outside who could pose a threat, and when arriving home they should make sure that no one has followed them.

  • When stuck in traffic or stopped at traffic lights, be vigilant as carjackings and holdups are common at intersections

Working in Brazil

Expats working in Brazil are often attracted by its image as a fast-growing economy with a prosperous future and famously beautiful attractions.

The unemployment rate remains moderate. That said, job prospects have diminished while the competition for jobs has increased. This has partially been a result of structural problems, including a slow-moving bureaucracy, corruption and weak infrastructure.

The Brazilian economy is expected to recover though. The government has also put a lot of effort into boosting growth by investing in large-scale infrastructure projects as well as scientific and technological development. This has attracted an increasingly skilled workforce. 


Job market in Brazil

The majority of foreigners who find jobs in Brazil are highly skilled expats who work in industries with skills shortages. These include IT, engineering, construction, oil and gas. 

Qualified expats working as software engineers, programmers and database managers are highly sought-after. Jobs in finance and engineering are highly competitive. Thus, due to much competition for available jobs, a number of years of experience may be needed even for entry-level positions in some cases. 

The majority of expats working in Brazil tend to be based in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo is the home of Brazil’s stock exchange, while Rio hosts a number of thriving oil companies. 


Finding a job in Brazil

Expats wanting to live and work in Brazil can use a number of resources in their job search. Local publications are good for researching various industries and contain job listings in a range of sectors, though expats may need to enlist the help of someone fluent in Portuguese.

The safest and best-paying option for employment in Brazil would be to get transferred to the country through an international company. 

Online job postings are also a good place to look, although expats should be wary of possible scammers. 


Work culture in Brazil

The Brazilian work environment is known for appearing very formal on the surface with a much more casual atmosphere when it comes to personal interactions. Relationships are very important to Brazilians when doing business. Expats will have to put a lot of effort into networking if they want to be successful.

There are no set business hours in Brazil, though most businesses are open sometime between 8am and 6pm. Many businesses open from 8.30am to 5.30pm, while executives will often start and finish working later. Lunch is usually taken between 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

Doing Business in Brazil

Despite overall growth stagnating in the country in recent years, Brazil is still one of the biggest economies in South America. The country's role as host of the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, along with policy changes, have resulted in a solid foundation for it to remain competitive in the future. As part of these changes, the state has especially focused on technological advancement, industrial development and creating a friendlier environment for expats doing business in Brazil.

Brazil did however do poorly in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, ranking 124th out of 190 economies. In some sections, though, Brazil did achieve a respectable ranking, such as in enforcing contracts (58th), but expats should be aware that tax in Brazil can be difficult to navigate, with the country ranked at 184th when it comes to paying taxes.


Fast facts

Business hours

Business hours are often from 8.30am to 5.30pm. However, executive staff tend to work from 9am or 10am until after 5.30pm. Most businesses close during holidays and festivities. This is especially the case for Carnival.

Business language

The business language in Brazil is Portuguese. It is worth noting that Brazilian Portuguese can differ significantly from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal, while differences in regional dialects within the country are minimal enough to be understood. Expats should consider using an interpreter for meetings.

Dress

Business attire in Brazil is generally formal and elegant. Appearances are important and are seen to convey a person’s self-worth, as well as how much respect one has for others. Overdressing is preferable to being too casual.

Gifts

When invited to a colleague’s home, expats should bring flowers or a small gift for the hostess. Purple and black gifts should be avoided as they are traditionally mourning colours. Good quality alcohol is a safe bet, especially for dinners. Gifts are usually opened when they are received.

Gender equality

Traditional gender roles are still very prominent in Brazilian culture. Machismo is something that expat women will have to get used to, whether in a social or work environment. Women are under-represented in executive positions. While they are usually treated with respect, they will often have to work harder to maintain the respect of their colleagues and business associates.

Greetings

Expats should greet their colleagues with a firm handshake and eye contact. Women should extend their hand first when wanting to shake hands with a man. Women generally air kiss when greeting each other, starting on the left. 


Business culture in Brazil

Unsurprisingly, given its size, there are significant regional differences in Brazilian business culture that expats should be aware of. The business environment in São Paulo is known for being formal. Businesspeople from the region value objectivity, honesty and technical skills.

Attitude towards time

In some ways, Rio de Janeiro is known for being more relaxed, especially when it comes to punctuality. People from the city tend to be more image-conscious and focused on short-term results. These differences are somewhat muted at multinational companies which are more similar to European business environments. 

Communication

Expats who want to get ahead in the Brazilian business world should make an effort to learn how to communicate at the level of locals. The language of business is Portuguese, which is spoken by most of the population. Non-verbal communication also plays an important role. Interactions are often full of gestures and can be very physical, accompanied by long, firm handshakes, air-kissing and slapping on the back. Personal space is not especially sacred. People who are overly reserved are likely to be seen as aloof or odd.

The physical nature of interactions in the Brazilian workplace has a lot to do with the emphasis on personal relationships in the national culture. A lot of value is placed on the traditional family structure and friendships, which has various effects on the business world.

It follows that Brazilian people usually prefer face-to-face meetings over phone calls and written communication. The emphasis on personal relationships, even in the business environment, also means business is often conducted through personal connections. As such, nepotism is an accepted reality that many expats will have to contend with. 

Hierarchical structure

Brazilian business tends to be hierarchical, with age, experience and etiquette all being highly respected. Expats would do well to avoid criticising others (especially senior figures) at meetings, which would cause them to lose face. Given that it is a culture that puts a high value on social groups, an expat’s outsider status is likely to come into sharp focus in conflict situations.

In contrast, building relationships and friendly communication are very important. People take precedence over appointments. This is not a licence to be late but it does mean that expats should greet their associates properly, be willing to engage in banter and allow their hosts to initiate talking business.


Dos and don’ts of business in Brazil

  • Do be on time but don’t get impatient with Brazilian associates who happen to run late

  • Do arrange meetings well in advance

  • Do try to speak some Portuguese – it will be well received by local associates

  • Don’t talk about the wealth gap or the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest

  • Do be informal but not overly familiar, especially at first and until trust has been built

Visas for Brazil

The Brazilian visa process has undergone many changes in recent years. Previously, almost all travellers needed a visa to enter the country, but the Brazillian government recently waived the visa requirements for many foreigners. Expats should contact their local Brazilian embassy to make sure which visa rules apply to them.

Expats hoping to make a more permanent move to Brazil should prepare themselves for a long and drawn out visa application process. It is advisable to make use of the services of an immigration lawyer to make the process less stressful.


Tourist and business visas for Brazil

Expats from certain countries don’t need a tourist visa or a business visa to enter Brazil. These countries include the US, UK, South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland. That said, the list of exempted countries may change without prior notice. It is therefore important to check with a Brazilian embassy when planning a holiday or business trip. Visa-free travellers and those with visit visas are allowed to stay in Brazil for up to 90 days. Visas may be extended by another 90 days.


Permanent visas for Brazil

Foreigners wishing to live in Brazil long term can apply for a permanent visa. There are several types of permanent visas including those for investment, family reunification and retirement.

The requirements for a permanent visa for Brazil are quite stringent. Expats wishing to apply for this visa should prepare themselves for a long wait filled with bureaucratic processes and much paperwork.

*Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Brazil

Expats intending to work in Brazil will need to apply for a work visa and have a temporary or permanent residence permit. As with many large countries, Brazil has its fair share of bureaucracy, particularly when dealing with government institutions. Obtaining a work permit for Brazil can be a lengthy process. 


Work permit process in Brazil

It is necessary for an expat to first find a job in Brazil, either with a Brazilian company or a company based in Brazil, before applying for a work permit. The company then acts as a sponsor and is required to get approval to hire a foreign worker from the Ministry of Labour. Once permission has been granted, the applicant can apply for a work permit at a Brazilian embassy or consulate in their home country.

Several documents including application forms, bank statements, qualifications and police clearance are required to apply for a Brazilian work permit. Applicants will also usually have to undergo a medical examination.

Work permit applications for Brazil can take between two and three months to be processed. Once approved, they are generally valid for two years and can be renewed once. After four years, more permanent residence options become available to the expat.

Documents may need to be translated into Portuguese and certified. An applicant should check this with their potential employer.

*Work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Brazil

In comparison to most major European or North American destinations, the cost of living in Brazil is fairly low. Out of 209 destinations worldwide, São Paulo ranked 130th and Rio de Janeiro ranked 160th in the 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. 

In reality, many expats are surprised to learn that in relation to salaries the cost of living in these cities is actually pretty high. The dream of lying on a beach sipping drinks from a coconut without a care in the world is quickly replaced by the reality of high prices, especially if expats aren't earning in a foreign currency. Of course, expats will find it less expensive to live in rural areas than in the cities. However, some costs may still be fairly high.

Expenses vary widely across categories. In general, accommodation, transportation and manufactured goods are expensive. Food costs vary based on whether expats decide to eat out or cook at home. Services are relatively inexpensive because labour costs are low throughout the country.

Brazil has made significant strides in moving people out of extreme poverty over the past decade and in decreasing income inequality. However, there are still vast disparities in wealth between the richest and the poorest. Expats earning an international salary will be among the wealthy, and even those getting a local salary will likely find that they are firmly upper-middle class. While Brazil remains well behind the US and Western Europe in terms of overall development, expats living in a city and earning a good salary have access to most of the conveniences they can expect to find anywhere in the world.


Cost of accommodation in Brazil

Renting accommodation is pricey and will likely be an expat’s biggest expense. Expats on assignment from international companies may have a housing allowance to help offset the high cost. Expats can save on accommodation by living in a less central location, although they may find that transportation costs increase as a result.


Cost of eating out in Brazil

Food costs in Brazil vary. Restaurant meals are fairly expensive, while basic groceries are more moderately priced. Expats who choose to eat at home can manage food costs more easily. Major cities have upscale grocery stores that carry a wide range of imported items.

Shopping at local markets for basics, such as bread, grains, produce and meat, yields the lowest grocery prices. Locally-produced food is almost always less expensive. So, in cities on the coast, seafood will be less expensive, while beef and pork will cost less in inland farming regions.

Brazilians are lovers of beer and cachaça, the national liquor made from sugar cane. Both are readily available, as are a wide selection of wines and liquors. Prices for beer and wine are very reasonable, but imported liquors are expensive. Expats can save money by purchasing some at duty-free on their way into the country.


Cost of transportation in Brazil

Transportation expenses in Brazil are high. Cars cost much more in Brazil than in many other countries. Parking and insurance are also rather expensive. Expats can save on transportation by making use of the extensive bus and metro systems in Brazil's major cities. 


Cost of education and schools in Brazil

Expats with children will find that education costs in Brazil will rival, if not exceed, their rental expenses. Public schools in Brazil generally have a bad reputation, so expats and Brazilians with the resources to do so almost always send their children to private schools. Expats seeking to enrol their children in the highly regarded international schools, however, will find them very expensive.


Cost of living in Brazil chart 

Prices may vary depending on location and service provider. The table below is based on average prices for São Paulo in April 2021. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

 BRL 2,300

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

 BRL 1,500 

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

 BRL 4,800

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

 BRL 3,200

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

 BRL 3.90

Dozen eggs

 BRL 8.85

Loaf of white bread

 BRL 6.30

Rice (1kg)

 BRL 5.60

Pack of chicken breasts (1kg)

 BRL 15.80

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

 BRL 10 

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 BRL 30

Cappuccino

 BRL 7

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

 BRL 150 

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile) 

 BRL 1.40 

Internet (uncapped – average per month) 

 BRL 110

Utilities (average per month for small household)

 BRL 270

Transport

City-centre bus fare

 BRL 4.40 

Taxi (rate per km)

 BRL 3

Petrol (per litre) 

 BRL 4.50

Culture Shock in Brazil

Expats in Brazil can expect that culture shock will come in a number of stages. For many expats, overcoming culture shock in Brazil will be the hardest part of adapting to life in the country. Most find that the honeymoon stage lasts a bit longer than usual, making the later stages of culture shock more difficult. 

Brazilian locals tend to be incredibly welcoming and friendly, and the local population always seems to be happy and smiling. Expats who have a positive attitude and are keen to learn about the local culture will have a smoother transition into life in Brazil.


Meeting and greeting in Brazil

Expats should be prepared for lots of physical contact in Brazil. Brazilians will often greet with a kiss or a hug. It is also common for both men and women to either pat someone on the shoulder or place their hand on one's hand or arm to make a point. Even in crowds, Brazilians maintain much less physical distance than expats from Western countries normally find comfortable.

Learning the correct way to greet and address people is a vital part of living in Brazil. A stereotypical Brazilian greeting is the 'air kiss' – a kiss hello on each cheek. While this is a fun way to greet people, be sure to learn the appropriate contexts for this greeting.

Brazilians are very body-conscious. As such, expats often need to adjust to what may seem like overly forward or brutally honest comments about their health, weight and even hairstyle.


Inequality in Brazil

Perhaps the biggest factor contributing to culture shock in Brazil is social inequality. Brazil may be a world economic powerhouse, but the disparity between rich and poor is blatantly obvious. Huge slums, or favelas, are visible in most large cities.

Expats in Brazil can generally afford to live comfortably. Domestic help is easily obtained, and overseas and regional trips are the norm. Private healthcare is easily accessible for expats, as are private schools. However, this is not the case for a large percentage of Brazil’s population.


Language barrier in Brazil

Learning basic Portuguese before leaving for Brazil will ease a new arrival's transition. Limited English is spoken in the larger cities, but those living in rural areas are unlikely to encounter locals who speak English. However, as Brazil has so many enclaves filled with expats from a multitude of cultures, Portuguese also often becomes the easiest way to communicate in a social setting.


Time in Brazil

As with many other South American destinations, locals in Brazil take a particularly relaxed attitude towards time. It's not unusual for Brazilians to show up anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes late to social events. At the same time, while being late for social occasions is fairly common, punctuality is expected in formal situations.

Taking time out to enjoy a siesta or spending hours at a social dinner are also important aspects of life in Brazil. 


Religion in Brazil

Brazil is home to one of the largest Roman Catholic communities in the world. Many locals combine their Catholic faith with the spiritual practices of local Amerindian origin. As such, expats may find themselves unfamiliar with specific aspects of local religion and have trouble adapting. 

Despite its sizeable Catholic community, the country is also home to a range of other faiths. Expats in Brazil will find that they are able to practice their religions freely. 


Women in Brazil

Many male expats have reported that Brazil is a very easy country to adjust to, while female expats often find it considerably more difficult. Like many Latin American countries, Brazil is dominated by a 'machismo' culture and Catholicism also plays an important social and cultural role. These factors tend to dictate that women take on quite traditional roles within society and even in business situations. That said, things are changing. More Brazilians are starting to believe in gender equality at home and the workplace.


Bureaucracy in Brazil

Another aspect of life in Brazil that may initially take some getting used to is the many levels of bureaucracy in government institutions. Most expats will find that this is particularly evident when applying for a residency visa.

Brazilians try to maintain a balance in their social relations and general day-to-day activities. Business meetings are important, but so is football and family time. Many expats will be impressed by the Brazilian people’s resilience, resourcefulness and ability to stay positive and greet life with a smile – which comes in handy when dealing with bureaucratic red tape.

Accommodation in Brazil

Expats shouldn't struggle to find accommodation in Brazil. There is generally a wide variety of options, including apartments, condominiums and houses. Prices vary throughout the country. Larger cities tend to be much more expensive than smaller coastal ones.


Types of accommodation in Brazil

Expats in larger cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, tend to live in apartments, condominiums or houses in gated communities. Gated communities are especially popular as they offer security and many shared amenities such as swimming pools.

Furnished accommodation for long-term rent in Brazil is very rare. Most apartments and houses are rented unfurnished. They may even exclude light fittings and kitchen appliances. Typically, electricity and other services will also have been disconnected.


Finding accommodation in Brazil

Some good ways to search for properties in Brazil include local newspapers, online property portals, and even word of mouth. There are many websites that are useful, though to get better prices, it's best to use Portuguese sites rather than English ones aimed at foreigners.

Some expats find that hiring an experienced agent instead of going it alone can be immensely helpful. However, expats should be warned that the fees for their services can be high. Many rental agencies and landlords are unlikely to speak English, so when searching for an apartment it’s worth taking a friend or colleague who can speak Portuguese to assist with translation.

Expats should never commit to a rental or pay any money without visiting the property in person first.


Renting accommodation in Brazil

Documentation

To sign a lease, foreigners require a Brazilian Identity Card (Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas or CPF), which can take several months to finalise. Many expats on a corporate assignment, therefore, live in a hotel or temporary accommodation until their residency papers are finalised.

Leases

The duration of a lease is normally two to three years, though short-term rentals are often available in coastal towns. Many properties there are owned by foreigners or wealthy Brazilians who only use them for a few months of the year.

The rental contract (Contrato de Locação de Imóvel) is signed by the landlord and the lessee. Rental agreements are usually written in Portuguese so it is recommended that expats who do not understand Portuguese have the contract translated or explained to them by a friend, co-worker or independent translation company before signing anything.

Deposits

Renting property in Brazil can be expensive, although rental prices are often negotiable. A deposit equivalent to one to three months’ rent is normally expected. By law, landlords should put the deposit into a separate savings account. Any interest earned on the deposit is the renter’s to keep once the contract has been terminated. 

Utilities

Electricity, water and any other utilities are usually excluded from the rental price. These need to be paid on top of the monthly rental.

Healthcare in Brazil

Healthcare in Brazil is available at both public and private institutions. Legal citizens and permanent residents are able to get access to free public healthcare at any of the government hospitals. However, the quality of service in the public healthcare sector tends to be below the standards expected by most expats. Those who can afford it often choose to make use of private medical facilities instead.


Public healthcare in Brazil

Public hospitals in Brazil are usually the responsibility of individual state governments, while the federal government oversees general policy. Public medical care, including hospitalisation, doctors’ visits and prescription medicines, is free under the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS).

However, public hospitals in Brazil are generally overcrowded and underfunded. English-speaking doctors are not always available, especially in hospitals outside of the main metropolitan areas. 


Private healthcare in Brazil

Although most expats find private healthcare to be of a higher standard than public healthcare, it comes at a cost. Private healthcare in Brazil has earned the reputation of being among the most expensive in Latin America.

The range of specialists available in Brazil depends on the city. Larger cities have a variety of private practitioners to choose from but fees are also higher. On the other hand, smaller towns are cheaper but there are fewer options.


Pharmacies in Brazil 

There are many pharmacies in Brazil, particularly in the larger cities and towns. Most general and prescription medicines are available at pharmacies. The government continues to invest large amounts in the production of generic drugs to reduce the impact on consumers' wallets.

Brazilian pharmacists tend to be knowledgeable and helpful. Pharmacies are generally open from early morning to well into the evening. Some pharmacies in the larger cities are open 24 hours a day. 


Health insurance in Brazil

Due to the massive costs associated with private healthcare, health insurance is vital for expats in Brazil. There are a number of international health insurance companies for expats to choose from when looking for a healthcare plan in Brazil. 


Health hazards in Brazil

Mosquito-borne diseases remain a risk in Brazil, particularly in the tropical regions during the rainy season. There are no vaccines available for malaria or dengue fever. Expats should ensure that they take adequate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Outside of major urban centres, food safety can also be an issue. Expats should be cautious and make sure that all food has been cooked through. Additionally, it is recommended that expats stick to bottled or filtered water in most areas of the country. 


Pre-travel vaccinations for Brazil

The following vaccinations are recommended prior to travel to Brazil:

  • Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis B

  • Typhoid

  • Rabies

  • Yellow fever

  • Routine MMR and tetanus vaccines

The above list is only a guide. Expats should consult with a medical professional prior to departure for further information on vaccinations for Brazil. 


Emergency services in Brazil

A general public ambulance service is available throughout the country. This is available to all residents and can be contacted on 192.

Most major private hospitals also have their own ambulance services, which can be called directly in the case of an emergency.

Education and Schools in Brazil

Despite the country's largely positive economic development in recent years, the Brazilian public education system remains underfunded and mired in social and structural problems. This, accompanied by the fact that classes at public schools are taught in Portuguese, means that most expats choose to send their children to private or international schools in Brazil, of which there are many to choose from. 


Public schools in Brazil

The standard of education at Brazilian public schools remains low. There are often reports of overcrowding and a lack of materials. 

Schooling is mandatory for children between the ages of six and 15. This stage of education is known as ensino básico. After this, students may optionally attend ensino médio (secondary school) from age 15 to 18.

Children attending public schools usually attend the school closest to their place of residence. Parents wishing to enrol their children in a public school need to visit the school in person to start the registration process.

Due to the demand for space, and in order to accommodate the high number of students, some Brazilian schools run two or three separate school sessions per day, with children attending one session per day. 


Private and international schools in Brazil

There are several private and international schools in Brazil. They are largely concentrated in the main cities of Brasília, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

Most international schools in Brazil follow the British or American curricula, though there are some that cater to other nationalities, including French, German, Italian and Spanish. Other international schools offer the International Baccalaureate programme. 

Due to the higher standard of education offered at international schools in Brazil, wealthy Brazilians often choose to educate their children at these institutions. Many international schools have a multicultural student body with children from all over the world.

Brazilian private schools, on the other hand, generally follow the Brazilian local curriculum. Some private schools have a religious foundation or offer bilingual instruction. Some expats prefer to send their children to private schools due to the lower fees compared to international schools.


Special-needs education in Brazil

There are limited state-supplied resources for children with special needs in Brazil, and those that do exist are offered in Portuguese. Private and international schools may have more support available, though this does vary from school to school. Parents are advised to research options thoroughly to ensure their children will be well catered for.


Tutors in Brazil

There are countless tutors and tutor companies to choose from in Brazil. Expats and locals alike can benefit in many ways from hiring a tutor. For example, even those who have some knowledge of European Portuguese may not find it as easy to pick up Brazilian Portuguese as they expected. In these cases, a tutor is an ideal way to bridge the gap.

For students, tutors can help prepare for big exams, adjust to their new curriculum, tackle a problem subject, learn Portuguese, or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.

Transport and Driving in Brazil

Getting around in a country as vast as Brazil is not always easy. Location makes a big difference in the available transportation options. Major cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have taxis, buses and metro systems in addition to international and domestic airports. However, in smaller cities, options are more limited. Travel between cities may require planes, buses or boats.


Public transport in Brazil

Buses

Buses are by far the most common and flexible form of public transport in Brazil. All major cities have a public bus system, as well as a bus station that provides options for travelling to other cities. Cost and safety will vary based on location. but city bus fares are usually inexpensive. Travelling between cities can be more expensive, but buses are reliable and cost less than flying – although, due to the size of Brazil, it's not always practical to cross the country by bus.

Metro

Brazil has metro systems in a handful of cities, but their usefulness varies. In Rio de Janeiro, the metro is clean and safe. In São Paulo, the metro can be a good option, but tends to be extremely crowded. Smaller cities are making improvements over time which should make the metro a more useful option for residents and visitors in future.

Trains

Passenger trains are few and far between in Brazil with most railways used for cargo transportation only, although there are a few notable tourist-oriented routes.

Boats

Boats provide services to get to islands along Brazil’s extensive coastline and various locations along the country’s many rivers. In some places, especially in the Amazon region, boats may offer the only available transportation. 


Taxis in Brazil

Brazil’s major cities have large taxi fleets that run on meters. Taxis typically congregate in designated pontos throughout the city. Taxi fares are not terribly expensive, but expats need to beware of being 'taken for a ride' in unfamiliar places. When in a new city, hiring a radio taxi (with a pre-paid fare) can be a good option. For expats who don’t have a car and rely on taxis, taxi drivers can usually offer cards with their number for future calls. They appreciate a regular customer and may be willing to give discounts for standing appointments or longer trips.


Driving in Brazil

Brazil’s road system is woefully inadequate. While there are paved highways between major cities, they're frequently in disrepair and can be dangerous. This leads to a high number of road fatalities in Brazil every year. Traffic within and between major cities can be extremely congested. 

That said, many expats in Brazil choose to own a car for the flexibility it provides. Some expat employment packages provide drivers and others will support the process of getting a car and licence. Car ownership is expensive, with car and petrol prices quite high. Expats will need a Brazilian licence if they intend to live in the country for a while.


Cycling in Brazil

Cycling is popular in many of Brazil's main cities. Extensive bicycle-rental schemes are often available. Dedicated bicycle lanes and paths are also available in some parts of Brazil. Cyclists should, however, avoid cycling late at night for safety reasons. Cyclists may find themselves having to cycle in the road or on sidewalks, and in this case, they should be aware of pedestrians and unruly drivers. 


Walking in Brazil

In most of Brazil, walking is not an ideal form of transport. Expats who find themselves with no alternative should be wary of possible pickpocketing and mugging. Drivers are prone to ignore pedestrians. Expats will need to be careful when crossing busy roads and should try to use footbridges where possible.


Air travel in Brazil

For domestic travel, unless one has days and weeks of time to spend on buses, a flight will be the best option. Flying can be expensive, but advance purchase can help offset the cost. Every major city has an airport.

Keeping in Touch in Brazil

Expats living in Brazil will find that while they can immerse themselves in their adopted home, keeping in touch with everyone back home is also made easy thanks to the country's well-developed telecommunication and internet resources. 


Internet in Brazil

High-speed internet is readily available and fairly reliable in most Brazilian cities. There are several broadband access options available for home use. Service can be fairly expensive depending on the download speed a person wants. Bundling internet service with television and/or a phone will lower the monthly cost. In rural areas of Brazil, however, the infrastructure is less developed and it may be difficult to find service.

WiFi availability is constantly increasing in major cities and tourist destinations. A range of locations from coffee shops to public parks offer free WiFi hotspots.


Mobile phones in Brazil

As with the rest of Brazil’s infrastructure, the mobile phone industry is struggling to keep up with explosive growth. Service providers and the government continue to invest in improved service, but throughout the country, cellular coverage ranges from excellent to non-existent.

Mobile phone use in Brazil is high. All types of mobile phones, from the most basic to the highest-quality smartphone, are available. But with the government imposing high import taxes on electronic devices manufactured outside of Brazil, they tend to be very expensive. It may be best for expats to rather bring an unlocked phone with them from their home country.

Expats in Brazil can choose from a variety of calling plans, including pay-as-you-go models, with any of the major providers. Plans tend to include some combination of calling, texting and data.


Postal services in Brazil

Brazil has a well-developed postal service. Post offices are plentiful, and the mailing of letters and packages is relatively simple. The service can be slow but is generally reliable.

Receiving packages can present some challenges for expats. The country has very high import taxes. Packages sent to Brazil from abroad may be subject to fees of multiple times the value of the contents. Any package stopped by customs will also take longer to arrive than expected. 


Media and news in Brazil

International and local news sources are widely accessible in Brazil. Online sources can be reached from almost anywhere. In cities, newsstands will sell a range of Brazilian newspapers and magazines. Larger stands and bookstores will have foreign titles available as well.

Frequently Asked Questions about Brazil

Expats considering a move to Brazil often have questions about the bureaucratic processes involved and the quality of life they can expect. Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about moving to Brazil.

Is Brazil a good destination for expats with kids?

Expats with children will find that Brazil is a wonderful place for kids to learn about different cultures as well as the vast amounts of fauna and flora the planet has to offer. Brazil is a fun place for children and certainly an exciting move. As expat parents tend to opt for private rather than public education, costs remain high in Brazil. Expats travelling with children will have to factor incredibly high school fees into their monthly budget. Some expats are able to organise a subsidy from their companies, especially those with more than one child of schoolgoing age.

Which city is the best one to live and work in?

São Paulo is the premier destination for business expats moving to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is also highly popular and has many oil industry jobs. Brasília has a significant diplomatic community. Many of the coastal cities such as Fortaleza, Recife and Porto Alegre also have expat communities.

Is it expensive to live in Brazil?

The cost of living in Brazil is somewhat high, but expats' salaries will be the deciding factor in what kind of lifestyle they're able to maintain. There is a large disparity between the rich and poor in Brazil, but most expats will probably not need to worry too much about paying their bills each month as expat salaries tend to be high.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Brazil

Brazil’s banking sector is efficient and well-developed with the result that managing banking, money and taxes when moving to Brazil isn't excessively complicated. However, like in many countries, it will require a fair amount of documentation and bureaucracy. 


Currency in Brazil

The Brazilian currency is the real (BRL), which is divided into 100 centavos.

  • Notes: 2 BRL, 5 BRL, 10 BRL, 20 BRL, 50 BRL and 100 BRL 

  • Coins: 5 centavos, 10 centavos, 25 centavos, 50 centavos and 1 BRL 


Banking in Brazil

The Brazilian banking sector is well developed. Expats have a variety of options and services available when it comes to managing their finances. Banking in Brazil can be costly as banks charge users a percentage for every transaction. Expats are advised to shop around to find out which bank will offer them a deal that best suits their needs. 

Online banking is very popular in Brazil. It's possible to pay certain utility bills online. However, expats should note that many online services are only available in Portuguese. Banking hours in Brazil are generally Monday to Friday, from 10am to 4pm.

Opening a bank account in Brazil

Opening a bank account in Brazil is straightforward. However, foreigners will need a residence visa in order to open an account. Other documents required for opening a Brazilian bank account usually include a valid identity document, a taxpayer’s number (Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas, or CPF) and proof of residence. The documents needed may differ depending on the bank and type of account in question.

ATMs and credit cards in Brazil

ATMs are widely available in Brazil. Customers are able to withdraw cash as well as make bill payments at ATMs.

Some parts of Brazil are largely cash-based economies. It’s therefore wise to always carry sufficient cash on hand. However, international debit and credit cards are widely accepted in the larger metropolitan areas.


Taxes in Brazil

Brazil has a pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax system whereby income tax on income received, whether abroad or locally, is generally paid monthly. Residents who pay income tax in Brazil are also required to file an annual income tax return.

The rate at which expats pay tax in Brazil depends on their tax residency status. For tax purposes, a person is deemed a resident of Brazil if they hold a permanent visa, or if they hold a temporary visa and stay in Brazil for more than 183 days within a 12-month period.

Residents are required to pay tax on their income worldwide, although Brazil does have treaties in place with several countries to avoid double taxation.

Given the complexity of expat taxation, new arrivals can benefit from consulting with a tax professional who is familiar with the tax system in Brazil.

Expat Experiences in Brazil

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories from other expats living there. Contact us if you live or have lived in Brazil and would like to share your experience. 


Dona is an Estonian expat who first arrived in Brazil as an exchange student to complete her Master's degree. After meeting her future husband in São Paulo, Dona has learned to call the city home. Read about her expat experience in Brazil.

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Elliot Rosenberg is an American expat living in Brazil. He lives in Rio de Janeiro and is the CEO and founder of Favela Experience, a travel company that helps provide authentic homestays and apartment rentals for travellers in Rio’s favelas. Read more about his expat experience in Rio de Janeiro.

Jennifer Sikes is an American expat living in Brazil’s southeastern city of Belo Horizonte with her husband and dog. Jennifer loves living in a city that is largely unknown on the tourist or expat map and finds Belo Horizonte a very liveable city, with friendly people, good restaurants, and less crime than many other Brazilian cities. Read more about her expat experience in Brazil.

Niamh is an Irish expat who is married to a Brazilian and living in Rio de Janeiro. She loves the outdoor lifestyle and can’t think of a better way to start the day than with a run on Ipanema Beach. Read about her expat life in Brazil.

Originally from Texas, Heather now lives in Brazil. In between homeschooling her three boys she also blogs about her experiences. Read about her experiences of expat life in Brazil.

Jenny Miller fell in love with Brazil during a visit there in 2005. She moved there in March 2008 and settled in Porto Alegre, and, more recently, São Paulo. Read all about her witty take on expat life in Brazil.