Well here I am in Brazil! I am finally back to this beloved country after almost a year, man I love it here. I love the people, the views, and the defiantly the weather. After spending three months in Quito Ecuador, where it rained everyday the past month, it is nice to be somewhere hot and sunny. This current trip is going to take me to three different cities within three weeks, Campos, São Paulo, and finally Rio. Thankfully I already have places to stay in each of these places, and friends to meet with most of the time.
Solo travel can be a bit scary, especially when you don’t know the language. I’ve also heard it can be dangerous for women, but so far I have not had many problems. Thankfully I happened to already have friends here in Brazil, who speak English, from my previous travels here with groups. When I first arrived in Rio on Sunday, I was defiantly a little overwhelmed, I had never been in another country completely alone. But I managed to find a taxi, though I am still not quite sure if I was cheated on the price or not, then the right bus station and was on my way to Campos dos Goytacazes, a small city about four hours north of Rio. I spent a week there with my friends I had met two years before, seeing familiar faces was good, especially after the long trip and not being able to really have a conversation with anyone because of the language barrier.
Campos is defiantly not a tourist attraction, but I enjoyed it none the less. The city is about a forty-five minute drive from the beach. The weather is extremely hot during the day this time of year, but the evenings are perfect with a cool breeze, and the city is small enough you can see the stars at night. My first three days I stayed in Jardim do Allah Flat Service a nice hotel-like apartment place with a pool and free breakfast, the coffee was really good, my stay was totally worth the price. The people of campos, like most of the people you will meet in Brazil, are incredibly kind and hospitable. A friend of my friend let me stay in their home for three days without even knowing me. I am so thankful for the time I spent their, and can’t wait to go back. If you should find yourself in Campos for some reason, I recommend going to a park called Jardim São Benedito Praça Nilo Peçanha they have the best acai juice I have tried yet. If you don’t know what acai is then you are missing out, come to Brazil, try it.
While in Campos I had the chance to join my friend, who is an English teacher there, in his classes. Helping kids learn English is one of my dreams, and I believe what I will be doing the next time I come to Brazil.
Here are a few tips, with my limited experience, about solo travel in a country where you don’t speak the language:
If you don’t have uber yet, download it. I didn’t before because I grew up in a very small town and had my own car, uber was never useful for me. It’s nice because you can give directions without having to speak the language at all.
If you have to get a taxi, watch out for unmarked ones. I was in a situation with one of these, the taxi driver met me at the exit of the airport and walked me across the street, this should have been the first sign, then we got into a black car, by this time I was not very trusting of this guy, but I had been traveling for hours so I really didn’t care. Thankfully nothing bad happened, but it was an experience I will avoid in the future now that I know the signs to look for. Make sure the taxi you take is standing next to his cab and that it is yellow, in some cities white (São Paulo) or grey (Campos), and that it actually says taxi on it somewhere.
Book your hotels or hostels ahead of time, this is also mostly for language reasons. Also booking ahead of time when you about to head to a popular place, Copacabana for example, is a good idea as the hotels close to the beach fill up fast.
When traveling through Brazil it can be hard to determine the time needed sometimes buses take forever, and sometimes they are right about on time. This is why whenever I take a bus I will allow around two hours extra for travel, especially if I am on my way to the airport. This may mean you will be waiting in the airport extra time, but it is worth it to not miss your flight.
When traveling in general I recommend taking as little luggage as possible. For this particular trip I am traveling with one backpack and a knapsack. I only use carry-on, which means I always have a backpack with me, but this also means I don’t have to worry about losing my stuff because it is always there with me. While I was living in Ecuador the past three months, I had a lot of clothing, probably too much. I sent my luggage home with a friend of mine so I wouldn’t have to carry around my entire life while I’m here. Turns out I had collected so much clothing and gifts for friends and family that I couldn’t pack everything I had. I ended up leaving about six outfits at my host family’s house. Right now I have about five outfits and one swimsuit, and I think I could have gotten by with less.
I am currently in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, spending time getting to know the city before heading a little further north to spend the week with another friend. I was fortunate enough to land a place to stay with a friend of a friend again, this time they are americans which is cool, no language barrier. I have not had the chance to see much of São Paulo as of yet, but today will be my day to explore one of the biggest cities in latin america.