Brazil, once a remote Portuguese colony, is a vast and beautiful country, the largest in South America, with many tourist options. Modern cities, sunny beaches, cruises along the Amazon river, colonial towns, and breathtaking waterfalls are among the many prime tourist destinations Brazil is an urban country, with two out of every three residents living in a city.

The Northeast, the least developed area, reflects what remains of its Spanish and Dutch past. Its main towns such as Recife are modernized, but most of the inhabitants in outlying areas live in primitive conditions. The weather ranges from very dry to extremely wet. The Southeast, the most developed and populated area, has a more pleasant climate from tropical to temperate and allows for cultivation of wonderful produce for export. This area is home to such exciting cities as Rio de Janeiro.

With a temperate climate, the South has over the years attracted Europeans who live on small farms, much as they once had in their homelands. The area includes the magnificent Iguassu Falls on the border between Argentina and Brazil, plunging 269 feet into Iguacu River.

The West, almost entirely uninhabited, is home to the savanna and marshland with prime wild animal viewing, known as the Pantanal. Finally, the immense Amazon Basin is a wonderland of endless jungles and a gigantic system of rivers hosting incredible wonders of the plant and animal world, many found nowhere else in the world.

Major events and holidays:

New Year's Day, Jan. 1
Epiphany, Jan. 6
Carnaval, week preceding Ash Wednesday in February or March
Good Friday (date varies)
Easter (date varies)
Tiradentes Day, Apr. 21
Labor Day, May 1
Corpus Christi (May or June)
Independence Day, Sept. 7
Our Lady of Aparecida Day, Oct. 12
All Souls Day, Nov. 1
Declaration of the Republic Day, Nov. 15
Christmas, Dec. 25

Passport Requirements:

All U.S. citizens, including infants, must have passport and tourist visa from the Brazilian embassy or a consulate. Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders also need a visa.

You must also have a photocopy of your roundtrip ticket with confirmed bookings.

Once in Brazil, carry a copy of your passport at all times (required) and leave the original in a safe place.

Language: The language is Portuguese. Many Spanish words are similar, but Brazilians will appreciate it if you strive to separate these languages.

Currency: Brazil's uses the real, with reais as the plural. One real has 100 centavos or cents.

Things to Avoid:

Drink only bottled water and avoid ice and uncooked food. Wash fresh fruit and vegetables thoroughly.

Make sure you have current tetanus booster shots. Also, a hepatitis A inoculation is advised.

Yellow fever shots are recommended if you"re going to tropical areas.

Theft of Valuables and Personal Safety:

Lock cash and other valuables in hotel safes.
Avoid wearing jewelry of value, as it could be yanked off.
Keep cameras fastened with chain or wire.
Ask locals about places to avoid for safety reasons.

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