Brazil

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 05 December 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Health (water quality in São Paulo state). The overall level of advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Brazil because of the high levels of serious and violent crime, particularly in major cities.

Brazil overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Brazil because of the high levels of serious and violent crime, particularly in major cities. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media about possible new safety or security risks.
  • A severe drought in São Paulo state has affected water quality. Use bottled water only. See Health.
  • Demonstrations can occur at any time and may turn violent with little or no warning. We recommend Australians avoid all demonstrations and protests and monitor local media for information about expected demonstrations.
  • The incidence of violent crime, including muggings, armed robbery, kidnappings and sexual assault, is significant. See Safety and security.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers and young travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:

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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest http://camberra.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/visas.xml for the most up to date information.

The Brazilian Government strongly enforces immigration and entry laws. You should ensure you have a proper and valid visa prior to your arrival and remain aware of your visa status while in the country. Australians will be detained on arrival if they have not obtained the correct visa and will be prohibited from entering Brazil. A visa will not be granted on arrival. If you have any concerns about the status of your Brazilian visa, you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Brazil.

Brazil is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Brazil (see Health section).

As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for Brazil and all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

If you intend to leave Brazil and return during your trip, you should ensure that an exit stamp is placed in your passport by Brazilian immigration authorities when you depart. On arrival you must complete an arrival card, which has a carbon copy. The carbon copy must be retained and presented to immigration authorities on departure. Failure to do so may result in delays and possibly a fine when departing Brazil.

If you are travelling to Brazil through the United States of America, or if you are transiting in Honolulu or other US points of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Brazilian law requires that for all travel, Brazilian children (including dual nationals) travelling alone or with one parent must carry a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent(s) authorising travel. The letter must be in Portuguese and certified by the Brazilian embassy or consulate in Australia or by the Juvenile Court in Brazil. There is an office of the Juvenile Court at all airports in Brazil.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a passport photo taken within six months in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

Demonstrations could occur at any time and may become violent with little or no warning. Brazilian authorities may use tear gas, riot control and mounted units to disperse protesters. We recommend Australians avoid all demonstrations and protests and monitor local media for information about expected demonstrations.

All airports have the potential to experience industrial action during major events or key holidays, including in the lead up to Christmas, and passengers can experience considerable travel delays. We recommend Australians monitor local media for information and prepare for extended waits during these times.

Crime

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Brazil because of the high levels of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Violence and crime, often involving firearms or other weapons, can occur anywhere and at any time.

The incidence of violent crime, including muggings, armed robbery, home invasions, and sexual assault, is significant, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Recife, Salvador and other large cities.

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching is also common, including by thieves on motorcycles. Thieves operate in outdoor markets, in hotels and on and around public transport. Crime levels in shanty towns or ‘favelas’ and many satellite cities are very high. Tourists should avoid these areas, even with a well-organised tour group, and especially at night.

Tourists are often targeted by criminals, especially directly prior to and during public festivals such as Carnaval. You are advised to avoid wearing jewellery and expensive watches, or carrying valuable items. Dress down and carry minimal cash and credit cards, as victims are often targeted for perceived wealth or value of personal possessions.

If you are attacked or robbed, do not resist. Thieves are often armed and you could be seriously injured or killed.

Tourists have been robbed and assaulted when using unregistered taxis. Use of a prepaid taxi ticket on arrival at the airport or taxis from registered taxi ranks may reduce the risk of robbery. Official taxis are generally required to have their photographic licence displayed.

Robbery and assault can also occur on Brazilian beaches. You should take a minimal number of personal belongings to the beach and leave passports, wallets and other valuables in a secure place. Isolated areas on the beach should be avoided, particularly in the early evening, when a high number of robberies occur. Sexual assaults have been reported in coastal tourist areas.

Due to the risk of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

Carjackings are a significant threat. Remain vigilant and attentive to your personal security environment at all times. We recommend approaching your car with the keys ready, driving with doors locked and windows up, and not remaining in parked vehicles. Take particular care if approached while sitting in a car or at traffic lights, especially at night.

'Express kidnappings', where individuals are abducted for short periods for a quick payoff from the victim’s family, business or ATM cards, are common in major cities including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Salvador and Recife. Victims are frequently released in remote areas, and should seek to alert authorities by approaching somebody at the nearest safe area, which could be a home or commercial establishment.

If you are a victim of a carjacking or an express kidnapping, you should cooperate and not resist as these situations can quickly turn violent. Victims have been seriously injured or killed when resisting perpetrators.

Travellers should avoid leaving food and drinks unattended in bars and places of entertainment as there have been incidents of drink spiking.

Armed groups in Sao Paulo have robbed patrons in restaurants, both in rich and poor neighbourhoods.

Gang-related violence is common, particularly in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Criminal activities related to drug trafficking and trafficking of illicit goods are common along Brazil’s western and northern border areas, including the states of Amazonas, Acre, Rondônia, Mato Grosso, Roraima, Pará and Amapa, as well as the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil (Foz do Iguaçu city) and Paraguay.

Mobile phone cloning occurs in Brazil. You should take care of your handset at all times.

It is unlikely that Brazilian police will be able to recover stolen property, however, we strongly recommend you obtain a “boletim de ocorrencia” (police report) at a “delegacia” (police station) if any of your possessions are lost or stolen. In most cases, you will require a police report to lodge a travel insurance claim related to lost or stolen possessions.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Brazil, particularly in the north-east of Brazil. See our travel bulletin on piracy. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issues a piracy report that displays all Piracy and Armed Robbery incidents reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.

Money and valuables

Banking facilities such as ATMs, EFTPOS and credit card machines may be unreliable. Difficulties are often encountered in withdrawing money despite ATMs displaying the Cirrus/Maestro logo. For this reason, it is often necessary to try a number of different ATMs. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in Brazil. You should check with your Australian bank whether they have an affiliate bank in Brazil. Credit cards are widely accepted for payment of any goods and services.

Credit card fraud and ATM tampering is widespread in Brazil. We recommend travellers using ATM or credit cards in Brazil check billing statements for unauthorised charges. ‘Good Samaritan’ scams are also common.

In efforts to combat fraud and thefts, many ATMS and banks do not permit withdrawals on foreign cards of more than R$400 per day and/or reduce the amount that can be withdrawn after-hours.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Delays of domestic and international flights are common in Brazil. You should check with your travel agent to ensure that itineraries take this into account and be prepared for the possibility of extended waits at airports. Airport strikes can also occur.

Australians planning to make airline bookings or change airline bookings while in Brazil should note that TAM (the major airline) only allows use of foreign credit cards online with their international website. Other airlines such as GOL, Azul, Avianca may not accept foreign credit cards on their websites; the same applies for travel/tour agents. If you need to make a booking while in Brazil, you may need to shop around regarding forms of payments accepted, arrange to pay cash at the airline office or consult with your Australian travel provider.

There is a significant risk of becoming lost or injured while trekking in remote parts of Brazil, including the Amazon border regions and the Pantanal wetlands. We recommend use of an experienced guide to reduce these risks.

Driving in Brazil is hazardous due to aggressive driving habits, poorly maintained roads and large numbers of trucks and other slow vehicles on main routes. Stop lights are often not obeyed at night in Brazil’s larger cities. Pedestrians should not assume that cars will stop. If you find yourself in a vehicular accident, call 193 (fire department) if there are injuries or 190 (police) if no injuries. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Brazil.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Brazil, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession or trafficking of illegal drugs in Brazil are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails. See our Drugs page.

While it is a legal requirement to carry your passport or a form of identification issued by the Brazilian Government at all times, we recommend that when you are out you carry a photocopy of your passport, which should suffice.

There are severe penalties for driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero.

Homosexual activity is not illegal in Brazil, however gay and lesbian travellers should be aware of local sensitivities, particularly in rural communities. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Brazilian dual nationals must enter and exit the country using their Brazilian passport.

Australian/Brazilian dual national males aged 18 years or older who reside long-term in Brazil are required to register for military service. Dual nationals are advised to contact the nearest Brazilian Embassy or Consulate for further advice regarding military service obligations.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of private medical facilities in large cities such as Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Campinas, Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba is comparable to Australia. Other larger cities in Brazil also have small private hospitals providing adequate services. Outside of major cities, however, facilities can be very limited. Treatment at private clinics and hospitals is very expensive. Doctors and hospitals may expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to one of Brazil's large cities would be necessary. Costs would be considerable (in the tens of thousands of dollars).

Australians travelling to São Paulo state, including to the city of São Paulo, should note that the water supply in São Paulo has been significantly affected by a severe drought impacting the south east of Brazil. Some areas of São Paulo are experiencing water shortages. The water quality has diminished. Travellers are reminded to use only bottled water for drinking and cooking.

Brazil is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Brazil. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria is a high risk in Brazil throughout the year. You should consult your doctor or travel clinic about prophylaxis against malaria. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, filariasis and leishmaniasis) are also a risk to travellers, with a higher incidence during the wet seasons (May to August and November to January).

You should take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, staying indoors whenever possible and using a mosquito net at night, if mosquitos are likely to be present.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, leptospirosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We recommend you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

HIV/AIDS is also a significant risk in Brazil. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. You can find out more information at the World Health Organization website.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

The São Paulo Tourist Police can be contacted at (11) 3120 4447 and (11) 3151 4167. In Rio de Janeiro, tourist police can be contacted at (21) 2332 2924, (21) 2332 2511 and (21) 2332 5112.

In Rio de Janeiro, there is a dedicated police unit for tourists:

Special Police Unit for Tourism Support
Av. Afrânio de Melo Franco, 159 - Leblon
Rio de Janeiro - RJ
Delegado Mr. Fernando Vila Pouca
Phone: (21) 2332-2924/2885/2889
Phone/Fax:(21) 2334 6802
Email: deat@pcerj.rj.gov.br

In an emergency or accident with injuries, dial 193 (fire department) throughout Brazil. Other important nation-wide numbers include the police (190) and public ambulance (192). Be aware the operators may not speak English.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Brasilia

SES QD 801
Conjunto K, Lote 07
BSB, DF 70200-010,
Brasilia, Brazil
Telephone: 55 61 3226 3111
Facsimile: 55 61 3226 1112
Email: embaustr@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.brazil.embassy.gov.au

or

Australian Consulate-General, São Paulo

Edificio Trianon Corporate – Cerqueira Cesar
Alamenda Santos 700
9th Floor, Unit 92
São Paulo, 01418 100, Brazil
Telephone: 55 11 3171 2851
Facsimile: 55 11 3171 2889

Australia also has a consulate in Rio de Janeiro headed by an Honorary Consul, which provides limited consular assistance:

Australian Consulate, Rio de Janeiro

Veirano e Advogados Associados
Av. Presidente Wilson, 231, 23rd Floor
Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20030-021, Brazil
Telephone: 55 21 3824 4624
Facsimile: 55 21 2262 4247

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Brazil, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia. If the event affects a number of Australians, the Embassy may recommend courses of action via its Facebook page and the Ambassador’s twitter account.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Storms, flash flooding, and landslides are common in southern Brazil in the wet season between December and March. They can result in loss of life and property damage.

Wildfire, especially in central Brazil, occurs during the dry season.

If a natural disaster occurs, monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Many beaches in Brazil have very strong and dangerous riptides, including those in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza. There is the possibility of shark attacks, especially at many north-eastern beaches. Obey the warning signs.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.