What language is spoken in Brazil?
While Brazil is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries, the official language is Portuguese, and is pretty much spoken by 100% of the population.
What if I don't speak Portuguese?
We encourage you to try to learn a little bit of basic Portuguese before your trip. It'll go a long way! By making the effort and showing that you're trying, Brazilians will be more receptive and more open to your new-found friends. At most major tourist attractions there will be English guides, most restaurants will have English menus, and most people who deal directly with tourists will probably understand and speak a little bit of English. Due to the similarities of Portuguese to Spanish and Italian, most Brazilians will understand these languages, but you must speak very slowly!
What is a Carioca?
Carioca is the term used to refer to the native inhabitants of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Cariocas love beach, sun, sea and parties. Carioca women are known for their tanned skin and body shapes. You don't have to be born in Rio to be a Carioca. All you have to do is relax into the city lifestyle, and soon you will become one. Cariocas are known for their warmth and friendliness, and are a happy people and a lot of fun to interact with. Whether you meet them on the beach or at a local bar, the Carioca's love of life can be quite infectious. It doesn't matter if you have lived in the city for a few days or a few years: by simply having the right attitude you will be considered a true Carioca.
Will I have trouble communicating with the locals?
You shouldn't. According to a survey carried out by a U.S. magazine in 2003, Rio is the friendliest city in the world. Cariocas were the most helpful people in everyday situations, like when a stranger asked for information, dropped a pen, or had problems crossing a street.
Will I be able to read Portuguese?
Most likely. Both Portuguese and English use Latin alphabets, but the pronunciation of certain words will be difficult. The only letter in the Portuguese alphabet you may not be familiar with is the "ç", a consonant that always sounds like an s.
The sound of the "r" is also a little tricky. It usually sounds like the h in loch, or the German word Nacht (night). If it is surrounded by vowels, the "r" sounds like the Italian prego, or Corleone. So Rio would sound like HEEoo, and Carioca would be pronounced ca-ree-O-ca.
The h is silent, unless combined with a "c", "l" or "n", as in chato (SHA-too), alho (A-lyoo), and punho (POO-nyo). The s may sound like an s in sábado (SA-ba-doo), a z in asa (A-za), or a sh before certain consonants, or at the end of words so it's gatos (GA-toosh), and afasta (a-FASH-ta).
What if I STILL find that I have trouble communicating?
A newspaper in Rio once conducted a study in which they had a reporter impersonate a tourist, and asked random police officers in the street for information in English. The study found that while most police officers in Rio are not bilingual, they went out of their way trying to understand what was being asked, and always ended up finding someone willing to interpret. This only is an example of the friendliness of the Brazilian people, and truly highlights how the Brazilian people play a major role in making Rio the "Wonderful City".
How do the Cariocas treat time?
Brazilians are notoriously tardy. It is socially considered perfectly acceptable to be late for most meetings, so don't be surprised if your new Brazilian best friend is a half hour or so late.
How can I communicate with my taxi driver?
Most cab drivers do not speak too much English, if any at all. If you do not speak Portuguese, communication can be a problem. A tip to easily remedy this issue is to simply write the address of your destination on a piece of paper and hand it to the driver.
What if I have a medical emergency?
There are many internationally respected hospitals, clinics and doctors, but medical treatment can be very expensive. Most major medical insurance is not covered in Brazil. We highly recommend that you check with your insurance company before traveling. Depending upon your specific situation, we also recommend taking out comprehensive international travelers insurance that covers overseas medical costs. As a visitor, you are entitled to treatment for unforeseen medical emergencies at Public Hospitals in Brazil, but Public Hospitals in major cities like Rio can be quite crowded. You will not be admitted into a private hospital without presenting evidence of sufficient funds or insurance.
Medical Clinics and Hospitals in Rio de Janeiro:
Hospital Ipanema (3111 2300; Rua Antônio Parreiras 67, Ipanema)
Hospital Samaritano (Rua Bambina, 98, Botofago, Rio de Janeiro, RJ. Emergency: (21) 2535-4000. Tel: (21) 2537-9722)
Cardio Plus (Rua Visconde de Pirajá 330, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, 22410-000. 21/2247-0727.)
Hospital Copa D'Or (Rua Figueiredo Magalhães 875, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, 22031-010. 21/2545-3600.)
Galdino Campos Cardio Copa Medical Clinic (Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 492, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, 22020-001. 21/2548-9966.)
Medtur (Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 647, Grupo 815/816, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, 22050-002. 21/2235-3339.)
What are some useful telephone numbers?
Ambulance - Public Service 192
Fire Department 193
Civil Defense 199
Civil Police 197
Federal Police 194
Military Police 190
Jacarepaguá Airport 2620-8589
Internacional Airport 2432-7070
Santos Dumont Airport 3398-5050
Health Agency 3398-4527
Water and Sewer 3814-7070
Post Offices 4004-3113
Complaint Hotline 2253-1177
Also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)