I have to admit I was a little nervous about traveling to Brazil. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to understand anything and wouldn’t be able to communicate with locals. I also felt a bit unsure of how safe we would be traveling around the country since Brazil tends to be portrayed as fairly dangerous. After being there for more than three weeks, I can say I had nothing to be nervous about.
Obviously Spanish and Portuguese are both Romance languages and its fairly easy to see the similarities between them when written. Listening to and speaking Portuguese for me was a lot harder. I had looked over a phrase book a little bit before we entered Brazil, but other than learning how to say “thank you” (or “obrigado”), I didn’t retain much of the information. Thankfully most people could figure out what we were trying to say when we spoke Spanish and over time we learned how to say a few key words in Portuguese to make sure we were understood. We could throw in “cartão” when we wanted to pay with a credit card, “chuveiro” if we needed a shower, or “frango” if we wanted to get some chicken. We were far from fluent, but we were able to get by. And after listening to Portuguese for a few weeks we were better able to understand what people were saying. It was definitely cool to feel like we were getting the hang of a new language in such a short period of time!
As far as security goes, Brazil felt just as safe as every other country we’ve visited so far. We entered in the south from Uruguay and traveled up until Rio de Janeiro. During that time we visited several large cities with no problems whatsoever. We even stopped in São Paulo and Rio during Carnaval, which we were warned could be unsafe because of all the people and alcohol around, but it turned out to be a great time. We definitely acknowledge that crimes happen, but we didn’t see anything ourselves and never felt like we were in danger in any urban areas.
The real gem in Brazil for us was the countryside. There were so many amazing drives through the tree-covered mountains and pristine beaches, that it was impossible to take photos of all of them. We were surprised to come across a couple German towns in the south, where it almost feels like you are in the Alps. We also got to visit the Iguazu Falls at the border with Argentina, which is the largest waterfall in the world. The food was also a huge step up from what we had been eating in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. You can really only eat so many milanesas before you reach your limit. We could finally eat delicious tropical fruit again and have rice and beans with our meal (crazy, I know). It was also a lot less expensive, which was an added benefit.
Even though we spent almost a month in Brazil, it feels like we only saw a fraction of what this amazing country has to offer. It’s the fifth largest country in the world and we probably could have spent our entire road trip there without running out of things to see. Next time we visit we’ll be sure to have a larger Portuguese vocabulary and more time! Traveling through Brazil was a real treat and we definitely encourage others to hop on a plane and check it out for themselves.