I am in Rio De Janeiro now, and have been for the past 3 days. But before Rio I started in Brasil’s largest city, Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo is massive in its actual size of the city, skyscrapers, subway system, etc.
I will be honest and say that I was really nervous coming to Brasil. When I first began traveling solo in South America, the most nerveracking part of it all is arriving in an unfamiliar city not knowing what to exepect. But I had not experience that at all in Colombia or Peru this time and traveling to spanish speaking cities had become routine.
I thought Brasil would be a challenge. Its expensive so I could not afford to take an $80 taxi to my hostel, I do not speak one word of portuguese (Spanish is not the language in Brasil), the media makes Brazil appear as if its a warzone, i was arriving at 4am, and i had never set foot in the country.
Once again my experience could not be far differente than my expectations or fears. My flight (4th in 1 week) arrived on time at 4 am. Customs was straightforward until the end when they pulled me aside to check my unusual luggage, a big backpack that i have to assume they are not used to seeing.
I have had some unusual experiences with customs on this trip. In Colombia I recieved two entry stamps because the first one forgot to include how many days I had. On the way out of Peru i had a 10 minute conversation with the exit stamp lady as she found it pretty unusual that I was traveling solo at 20 years old.
Back to Brasil, I got through customs alright…i better after the $200 visa i had to buy. I struggled for about 15 minutes in Portuguese trying to withdraw money from 5 different atm’s. Most would not take my card. The next step was to find an office to buy a ticket on the bus to one of the nearby hotel’s that is close to mine. That was easy, but figuring out where to wait was not when i don’t speak the language. I walked in circles dead tired for the next 20 minutes. An hour later when the bus finally left i almost missed my stop from feeling so exhausted. Even when I did reach by stop, I could not find my hostel and resorted to what i thought was going to be a quick and cheap taxi ride. 8 minutes and $8 later i had finnally reached my destination. I never found the hostel when i was walking because it had actually moved to a new destination.
So here I am in Brasil and the first thing I do is sleep, rightfully so. As the only person in a hostel that sleeps over 40 it was pleasant having my own room for the first time in almost 2 months.
When I did wake up I began my tour of the city…beginning with a 10 minute walk full of left and right turns to reach the subway, one just as nice and seemingly as big as New York City’s.
I walked along Avenida Paulista…comparable to Times Square because of the huge skyscrapers.
Sao Paulo is the major industrial and economic powerhouse of the Brazilian economy and holds over 11 million people in the city itself.
One easy observation to note is that Brasil is expensive. Eating is more expensive then back at home. Hostels are twice as expensive than in other South American countries. A bottle of water often costs $1.50.
After my wandering for the day I was greeted by the friendliest staff yet. Hostel Sue in Bogota remains a special place but the people working here were wonderful. They explained the city in detail with such enthusiasm that I was convinced to stay another night in Sao Paulo.
In the morning I took the subway to the city center and explored from there.
I even ate a sushi dinner in Chinatown!
The next morning I woke up later than anticipated and took the subway with all of my belongings to Sao Paulo’s bus station to board a $50, 6 hour bus ride to Rio. I mention the price because that 6 hours would cost no more than $10 in Ecuador.
My first impressions of Brasil are that its a very modern country, much much safer than anticipated, and expensive as hell. The backpacking scene here is a bit different as some cities like Sao Paulo are definitely not on the trail and the ones that are usually attract travelers on the start or end of their trip. I am enjoying my time here in Brasil but its no Colombia. I say that because at this point it personally is not a country that I will fall in love with. Its nice, but not great.
Nevertheless, I am on vacation, am glad I am here, and would not have done it any differently in hindsight.