Travelling is always something that I love to experience. So when I got the chance to travel to South America, I snatched it with both hands. Plans were made quickly as I booked flights and got ready to set off on this amazing journey.
It all started on New Year’s Eve when I headed for London, and after a night of celebration on a boat floating down the River Thames The next morning with a fresh hungover I boarded a plane and headed for Rio De Janeiro.
The flight from London to Brazil direct took 12 hours with Norwegian Airlines. It was very comfortable and had plenty of entertainment with screens on every seat to watch a selection of movies or TV series to pass the time.
Night fell as we touched down in Rio, and the first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was the immense heat. It is summer time here so that is to be expected. As it is a nice change I won’t complain about that.
Before I left Ireland my biggest concern was if I would be able to travel and train while still eating healthily?
So here is what I have learned on this trip so far.
The currency here in Brazil is known as Reais. €1 is about R$4.6. I would suggest opening a Revolut account before travelling. Revolut is a online bank account that is free to set up. There is no charge for card transactions in any country so you don’t have worry about additional charges for using your card. They also give you a better exchange rate than banks or a currency exchange agency. With Revolut I found the euro averages R$4.75 which is a huge difference in the long run.
Important note: Some stores or restaurants only accept cards from Brazilian banks, so its important always to have some cash on you as you’ll only find out if your card doesn’t work after you have used there services.
ATM’s are mostly located at Bank’s, but the downside, they only accept the cards from that particular bank. You can find some ATM’s dotted around the city that will accept international cards, but beware there will be high charge and there not everywhere.
This is something to check out before you go. Most outlets work with a European adapter. A few years ago Brazil changed it’s electrical sockets for more international ones. Most places you go have the new sockets so European adapters are compatible. For the ones aren’t you can find European to Brazilian adapters anywhere. However you won’t find any with a three pin. For example to plug in my laptop I had to use a three pin to European adapter and then a European to Brazilian adapter. It’s kind of a mess but it does work. What I would suggest is to buy an international adapter before you get here, you can pick these up in the airports.
Charging your phone is much easier. Just use your normal cable with a European USB plug and it works perfectly.
This is probably one of the most important thing’s to have with you all the time. You can get bottled water in almost all pharmacy’s and shops. However the supermarket’s are the cheapest. Prices range from between €0.40c-1.50c depending on where you go. You can usually bring water or another soft beverages into a restaurant with you to drink while you eat. It’s no problem and keeps eating out that bit cheaper. Another great way to re-hydrate is coconut water. It is easy to find, cheap and tastes incredible. Again the price varies but is generally about €1.50 for one. You get find them cheaper in any fruit and vegetable shop, but they won’t be refrigerated.
This can be one of the biggest problems when travelling anywhere. The first city I stayed in was Niterói a beautiful city that neighbours Rio De Janeiro. There was a gym close to where I was staying called Smartfit. They have several gyms all over Brazil and lucky enough they were located in most of the cities I would be visiting including Manaus which is an incredible city in the Amazonia state. I will talk about this later in another blog.
If you are planning on staying and travelling in Brazil for a while it will work out cheaper to sign up with the likes 0f Smartfit. You can sign up for direct debit and it works out about €25 per month and this will give you access to any of the Smartfit gyms all over Brazil. They do a slightly lower price of €22 per month but you can only use the one gym you sign up to first, so naturally if you are planning on visiting other cities, it makes more sense to get the full membership.
If committing to a direct debit is not something you are interested in, there are also pay as you go gyms in
other cities that don’t have a Smartfit. The price ranges from €2-6 depending on the gym and what city you’re in.
If you are unable or simply don’t want to workout in a gym you can use workout stations. There are many workout stations you can use for free all over the city mainly found close to the beach, dotted along the prom. These are fun to use while getting in a great workout and with the added benefit of being surrounded by beautiful scenery. You don’t always need a gym to get a great workout in. Body-weight exercises are a great way and fun way to workout.
One of the things Brazil does amazingly is food. There are many fantastic restaurants on every turn.
A common theme in Rio is self-service restaurants. You pay per kilo and there is a large variety of food to choose from and it all tastes incredible. A lot of the food is what you can find in Ireland but also don’t be afraid to try some Brazilian dishes as they are amazing too.
One thing I found, it is good to have some basic Portuguese as not many places speak English. But not to worry if you don’t as you can always use Google translate. This has saved me on more than one occasion. Some restaurants will have menus in English but don’t expect it everywhere.
For the most part, eating healthy is mostly easy here. Food is mainly cooked fresh everyday with lots of options to choose from. One downside is that they tend to use a lot of salt in most dishes so it is good to avoid adding more if you can help it. However there are also many low or salt-free dishes to choose from so finding something to suit you won’t be a problem. Most meals will set you back about €5-10 depending on where you are. Another thing that’s worth trying is the all you can eat restaurants.
Not on the healthy side, is the all you can eat pizza places which are quite common in Rio and they are a very hard place to stay away from, as the pizza’s are awesome. These restaurants are a must if you visit Rio. If pizza isn’t your thing and you want to find the healthy options you can easily find other restaurants that serve everything. These typically set you back between €7-15 in the larger cities. You can find some that are cheaper along the way in smaller towns or cities. I ate in one last week that was less than €5. And the food was unbelievably good.
The fruit here is very tasty and the variety of different fruit’s is something I have never seen before. There are many fresh fruit and vegetable shops all over every city so it is very easy to get a healthy snack on the go when you need it. You can buy coconuts with the water inside, almost anywhere here. It is very important for hydration and they taste amazing. Further more once you have drank the water, you can eat the coconut as a tasty and filling snack. As I have said above drinking water or fluids is extremely important in this heat as you can become very dehydrated very easily leading to heat exhaustion and many other problems, all which happen very fast.
As of now I’ve been to five different states in Brazil mostly traveled by car. As Brazil is a huge country there are many places that you simply cannot drive to so flying is the only option. I have traveled with Gol, the low-cost airline for Brazil. It’s a nice airline that you can get free drinks and snacks on which is something I haven’t experienced on any low cost airline before.
One of my journey’s by car was to the capital Brasilia. From Rio this takes about 19 hours one way, which seems very long but it is a great opportunity to see and experience the real Brazil. It also means you can stop off in places along the way that you might never get to see if travelling by any other means. Brazil is such a beautiful country to visit and travelling by car has allowed me to experience many of these gorgeous towns an cities along the way.
Getting around the cities:
Moving around each city for the most part is easy. There is public transport which ranges from about €1-2 to get to most places, and buses are scheduled to come every 30 minutes or so. But I wouldn’t set my clock by them. Always allow more time to get the bus then you may need. You can get a metro card that you can add money to, then you can use it on buses as well as the metro itself. The metro in Rio is more reliable than the bus and is one of the best ways to get around the city. You can also use Uber, which is easier than trying to navigate your way around by yourself as they drop you exactly where you want to go. An Uber is typically between €2-7 depending on traffic and the length of the journey.
Cycling in most cities is a great way to see places cheaply but in Rio and most of the big cities in Brazil it isn’t a good option if you are unfamiliar with the area as cars can drive fast and there are no cycle lanes. You can rent bikes on some beaches which is a nice way to chill on a nice sunny evening.
Walking around is another great and healthy way to see a city. Walking through the cities is generally safe during the day. If you carry a backpack in a very crowded area it is better to carry it to your front and to watch your pockets. At night it is safer to get an Uber if you’re going somewhere. And if walking late at night, I would suggest you know where you are going and not to stroll or waste too much time. If you are ever unsure it is always best to ask locals about the do’s and don’ts.
There are also lots of beautiful beaches in Rio and amazing places to hike. There is a famous mountain
called the sugar loaf or pão de acucar in Portuguese. It consists of two mountains. The smallest of which is an easy hike and the views at the top are breathtaking. You will also get to see wildlife on the way. Monkeys in particular are very common here. This is a must see place if you visit Rio.
Another great place to hike is the famous Pedra do Télegrafo. You have to travel to a small suburb town of Rio before you start the hike. It is hard to travel out to though. It takes about an hour or more by car so you need to plan this in advance. There is a beautiful beach there. And jumping into the water is a great way to cool off after hiking through the afternoon heat. The hike is easy enough and the view is magnificent at the top, you can see for miles around. Also there you’ll find the famous rock that looks like a cliff edge. Many tourist’s get there photo taken here, so naturally enough I had to do the same.
All in all my impression of Brazil so far has been amazing. The place is beautiful. If you get the chance you should add Brazil to your bucket list. It won’t disappoint. The people are great and very friendly. If you’re thinking about travelling to South America, it is definitely a place worth considering to visit.