On top of its tropical weather, unmatched biodiversity and one of the world’s friendliest and most party-loving cultures, if done properly and with a little planning, Brazil can be a fantastic destination for budget travelers.
You can save big on eating out and accommodation but be warned that luxury goods and certain hard-to-reach destinations come with a high price tag. Round-trip flights from São Paulo to the dreamy and very faraway island of Fernando de Noronha could cost between US$350(R$1762) and US$800 (R$4028), for example.
Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable and stunning destinations along the coast and in the interior, where accommodation is cheap, and you’ll find inexpensive alternatives and ways to save those Brazilian reais all across the country. Here’s how to best stretch your budget in Brazil.
- Hostel room: R$130–300
- Basic room for two: R$300–600
- Apartment or Airbnb: R$100–400
- Six-hour tour: R$300–500
- Coffee: R$7
- Rodízio-style steakhouse: R$90–200
- Dinner for two: R$180–350
- Beer: R$15
- Caipirinha: R$15–25
Average daily cost per person: R$415–950
1. Avoid traveling during the winter and summer high seasons
Naturally, hotels in Brazil raise their rates in the summertime (between December and February), and even more so during big events, like Carnaval and New Year’s.
If you’re looking to save money, planning a winter trip (between June and August) is a wise idea, especially if you stick to the northeastern regions, where good beach weather is pretty much constant. Just beware that Brazilian kids typically get the entire month of July off for winter break, which could affect hotel prices.
2. Take advantage of buffets and street food
Grabbing a quick and cheap bite in Brazil is incredibly easy – just about every cafe you come across is sure to be selling salgadinhos, savory (and usually cheesy) treats like pão de queijo, coxinha and pastéis. For something with a little more substance but just as simple, order a misto quente, which is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.
If you’re hungrier, look for a buffet-style restaurant (although you typically pay by weight, so stack your plate carefully). If you want to fill up at an all-you-can-eat steakhouse, look around for a rodízio-style restaurant, where one price typically gets you an endless parade of succulent meats and access to a salad-and-sides bar.
3. Explore less-visited destinations
It’s not impossible to find affordable accommodation in Rio and São Paulo. Still, you can get even better deals if you explore other big cities, like Florianópolis, Fortaleza, Belo Horizonte and Salvador.
If you prefer a remote beach destination but have yet to recover from the shock of finding out just how much it really costs to get to Fernando de Noronha, consider the far more accessible island of Ilhabela, or travel around the beaches near Natal and Recife in the northeast.
4. Embrace your inner cowboy
If you want to see major savings on your trip to Brazil, go off the beaten path and venture into the agricultural interior.
Far from the beaches, the Brazilian countryside will show you a completely different side to the country that’s no less special. You can find ranch-style resorts with equestrian amenities just a few hours from São Paulo and vineyards in emerging wine regions, like the Vale dos Vinhedos.
Or do as the Brazilians do and get a group together to rent a chacara, or ranch house with a pool, barbecue pit and lots of hammocks for post-churrasco naps.
5. Consider long-haul bus services to move around the country
If you’ve got the endurance for a five- or even 10-plus-hour ride, long-haul buses can get you pretty far in Brazil – and they’re surprisingly comfortable, with Wi-Fi and the option to upgrade to lie-flat seats. A six-hour trip from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, for example, will only cost you about R$100.
6. Join a group tour for more adventurous destinations
Infrastructure and language barriers can make it difficult to get to some of the most undiscovered parts of Brazil, of which there are many – and I’m not just talking about the Amazon. Consider the Pantanal, a biodiverse wetland, or Jalapão, a breathtaking savannah in the landlocked state of Tocantins.
Just be sure to look for local agencies and tour operators with extensive reviews. Cerrado Dourado, a tour company I personally traveled with in 2018, offers a five-night tour of Jalapão for R$3299, a price that includes all transportation in a 4×4 vehicle, hotels and three meals a day.
7. Save a few bucks on authentically Brazilian souvenirs
If you want to pick up a pair of name-brand sneakers or buy a new phone when you’re in Brazil, be prepared for some serious sticker shock – prices are way higher than you might be used to in your home country.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in shopping. You’ll find great deals on brands that tend to be more expensive outside the country, like Havaianas, a store famous for its high-quality multicolored flip-flops.
Or stock up on bikinis, which are extremely well-priced and come in tons of variety. Hammocks are another popular item you can get great deals on, especially if you find a street vendor.