From Ipanema Beach to the Amazon River to South American Swells—and Beyond

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brazil travel
Fresh produce along the Amazon River (Brand X Pictures)

Getting to Brazil by air takes about eight hours from New York, and closer to 12 from Los Angeles. We checked flights to Rio from JFK and found fares for as low as $535 round-trip on United in October. From LAX, expect to pay about $643. Traveling around the country once you are there can be a bit more complicated thanks to Brazil’s massive size, about 3.3 million square miles with 186 million people, making it by far the largest on the continent. It pays to plan well in advance and purchase a Brazil Air Pass, which will allow you to zip around the country on flights on VARIG or TAM, two local Brazilian carriers. Coupon books valid for five flights during a three-week stay cost about $500. Numerous restrictions and rules apply, such as you can only fly routes serviced by one airline and its affiliates, or you must come to Brazil on a Star Alliance member (like United or Lufthansa). What's more, you'll need to book your flights before leaving the United States to get in on the deal. Whatever forfeitures to whim and spontaneity you make will be more than compensated by a cool ride in a jet instead of losing entire days jouncing along in a hot bus. Visit the Brazil Air Pass links at for more information.

You'll need to get a tourist visa valid for multiple entries over five years and for stays up to a total of 90 days. Visas cost $100, the same amount Brazilians must pay to visit the United States, plus a $10 charge if you apply by mail. The consulate accepts only money orders and takes from ten days to two weeks to process your request. Visiting a consulate in person reduces the wait time by two business days, but there are only a handful of consulates around the country: Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, D.C., and you must reside in one of the surrounding states that that particular consulate administers. If applying by mail, you must send your passport, valid for at least another six months after your planned arrival date and with at least one blank page, one passport photo, and a photocopy of your round-trip ticket to the consulate that has jurisdiction over your area. Bring these same items for requests made in person.

Visit the Brazilian embassy online at, or call 202.238.2828 to find out more about applying for a visa.

Published: 26 Aug 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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