Tag Archives: São Paulo

Blowing the budget in Brazil

Português: Verso da moeda de 10 centavos da se...

Brazil is undeniably beautiful and fun. I partied, I indulged in good food and I visited quirky places and and beaches and natural wonders. But despite staying part of the time with a friend, I still spent a lot of money. Because, as all backpackers I’ve met agree, Brazil is expensive. Having overtaken the UK in 2012 to become the sixth strongest economic force in the world, it’s easy to see how exchange rates aren’t going to be particularly favourable for many of us.

Overall, my daily budget in Brazil came to R$90.74 (£43.02) per day but it’s worth being aware that I spent quite a lot of my time in in the main cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and on Ilha Grande, none of which were the cheapest of places.  My expenses were pretty standard with no major splurges other than nights out. I did visit Iguazu Falls, which cost R$172(£62.55) for both the Argentinian and the Brazilian sides but was totally worth every penny. And the only actual purchase I made was a pair of Havaianas for R$18 (£6.55). I love living in flip flops and as I was visiting the birthplace of the worlds ‘best’ flip flops (or thongs, if you must), it had to be done.

Here’s a rough idea of costs:

R$ £
Hostel bed R$45 £16.36
1.5l bottle water R$3 £1.09
Cheapish meal out R$30 £10.91
Bus travel (per hour) R$10 £3.64
Taxi ride (2km-5km) R$10-R$20 £3.64-£7.27
Club entry R$30 £10.91
Beer R$6 £2.18
Capairinha R$14 £5.09

With very little effort, I way overspent in Brazil. But on my travels I’m not obsessing about sticking to a daily budget and I’ve accepted that you just have to go with the reality of the costs and deal with it. Even if it means cutting your stay short.

Next up: Bolivia, South America’s weakest economy, where I knew my money would go a little further. I hoped that less time in Brazil and more time in Bolivia would balance things out a bit.


Filed under brazil, costs/money, south america, travel

Willy Wonka Land: Campos do Jordão


Campos do Jordão

Taking on many of the characteristics of a Swiss ski mountain village, Campos do Jordão in South East Brazil sounded misplaced and a little bizarre. I had to see it for myself.

This little town with its wooden chalets and quirky independent gift shops and cafés is a popular holiday spot for the wealthy, particularly in the wintertime. Colour is splashed around the place, chocolate shops abound and prices are high. A river runs through the town, brown and chocolatey and I start to imagine Willy Wonka and his oompaloompas working behind the scenes.

Everything feels cute and a little too constructed for my personal preference. It’s probably a lot to do with the fact that I love European winters and log buildings and open fires and, well, this place just confuses the hell out of me.

But I love the chocolate. Stacked high in shop after shop after shop, fat, round lumps of melt-in-your-mouth goodness tempt window shoppers. My friend Glyn insists that we buy some. I take a bite from a dark chocolate crocante truffle and it’s so dense and rich that I’m not sure I can finish it (of course I do).

Post-food and chocolate indulgence we walk around the town. The chair lift (miniférico), the first in Brazil, is closed. It’s been raining and the multi-coloured chairs swing in the breeze, drip drying. A group of guys sit chatting on board a brightly painted, open-sided tourist tram, no takers for the town tour.

The sun breaks through and we sit a while in the park, chatting and eating chocolate truffles and ice-creams, and I realise that Campos do Jordão is a place of indulgence: fancy restaurants, rich chocolate and the high life.

I’ve enjoyed tasting it, but I don’t want to get used to it. For now, I’ll go back to bread and water.

1 Comment

Filed under brazil, culture, food & drink, mountains, south america

There’s nowhere quite like Taubate. Well, maybe that’s pushing the truth.


What views (well, at least they're views)

I can’t imagine many travellers make it to Taubaté. Why would they? It’s a pretty ordinary place, no real tourist infrastructure in place. It is, however, the city of Children’s Literature, thanks to the writer Monteiro Lobato, and home to the Universidade de Taubaté, and a major industrial centre thanks to its location between São Paulo (123km) and Rio de Janeiro (280km).

The only real reason I was in Taubaté was to spend a week with a friend from my university days. Another travelling companion joined me. He probably questioned why the hell he was in in this random little Brazilian city but humoured me nonetheless.

I wandered into the park and around the outside of the Catedral de Taubaté. I attempted to work out on the outdoor gym equipment before heading into the small city centre where I checked out the market, which had the colour and chaos and coconut drinks that I’ve come to expect of South American cities.


Catedral de Taubate


Outdoor gym. Too hot at midday. Nearly fainted.


Taubate shopping

I sat and ate ice-cream in the main plaza, watched teenagers queue for candy floss, and saw a tramp place an empty cardboard box on his head whilst small groups of older men gathered and chatted and watched the world go by.

I went bowling, I sampled a self-service restaurant where cost is based on weight, I went out and drank capirinhas and tried chicken hearts on skewers, and I watched locals salsa and spin into the early hours.

But mostly I just hung out with my friends. Familiarity in a foreign place felt good.

Would I go back? No real need, no real desire. Nothing wrong with the place, just, well, it’s a place for everyday people going about their everyday lives. And that’s about it.


Filed under brazil

Escape to beach time in Ubatuba

Sandy beaches against a thick, deep green backdrop. I had been told that Brazilian beaches were undeniably beautiful. Time to find out.

I was staying with a friend in Taubaté, 96k inland from Ubatuba. The Masters in Management has served him well, landing him a relocation to Brazil where he is still trying to get a feel for the language and surroundings. One place he had explored and insisted on taking me to was Ubatuba and its complex of 92 unspoilt beaches, each with a flavour of its own.

The 1 ½ hour drive took us past smooth, rolling hills covered in thick quilts of lush vegetation and swaying seas of skinny, bubble-topped paper trees. Chunks of hillside revealed rich, red earth and purple plant explosions sat snug in amongst the vast greenery.

The road started to wind down as we approached the town, tight turns, hard on the brakes. At regular intervals, people stood by their vehicles, bonnet open, car cooling.

The last two times I visited, its rained’, said my friend Glyn as we drove the somewhat rough and confusing streets of Ubatuba. Diversions sent us in circles through a colourful maze of cute buildings, and the occasional painted mannequin stared down at us from a balcony.


Statue/mannequin/model/whatever... on balcony in Ubatuba

We dodged the numerous cyclists out and about, were careful to give space to the man loaded down with at least eight bin bags of rubbish hanging off of his bike. The fact you could actually see the guy was unusual, apparently, as garbage collection on bike is to be expected.

Despite being a pretty place bursting with fully saturated colour, the beach in the town itself was a narrow, steep strip of sand leading down to a dumping wave whose ferocity didn’t invite a swimming crowd. So we moved on.


Beach in Ubatuba

A few kilometres down the road, Praia Grande not only had a shallower pitch but a far bigger stretch of actual beach along which people power walked, couples strolled hand in hand and kids learnt to surf. A lifeguard perched up in a stilted hut, keeping an eye on us as we played silly wave kicking and sand throwing games to keep ourselves entertained.

Swimming, splashing about and mermaiding on the rocks, this was a relaxed, lazy and playful day on a spacious, empty beach. Can’t complain. It felt like being on holiday. It’s understandable why Ubatuba is such a popular weekend escape for the people of Sao Paulo.


Praia Grande, Ubatuba


Praia Grande, Ubatuba

Drawn in by rhythmic music, we finished the day trip with a drink and generously portioned pastel in Quicsque Recardo Sole Mar, one of a few cafés sitting on the actual beach.

And then back up the windy road, this time into a load of mistiness that got thicker and thicker as we climbed into the clouds until we pushed right through and arrived back to a clearer sky and a striking setting sun.


Leaving Ubatuba

1 Comment

Filed under activity & sport, beaches, brazil, food & drink, surf

Fly. Sleep. Party. Sao. Paulo.

I have to sit down. It’s warm, nearly hitting the 30°C mark and I’ve just arrived into Sao Paulo airport. Four flights and three days of travel. I’m shot. But I’m back in South America. Hello Brazil!

A woman with a bit of a beard takes a pew near to me. In a rubbish attempt at Portuguese, I ask her to take a photo of me. She replies in English. And she is in fact a he. Oops. Blame the tiredness.

I don’t want to insult people so I try again in Portuguese and finally manage to sort out a taxi to take me into the city. I’m really hoping my non-traveller friend will reimburse me as promised. I would have taken a bus but he insisted on a taxi. At R$130 (£45.17) it is way out of my traveller budget.

If I really wanted to travel Sao Paulo in style it would be via helicopter. The roads are so congested that the rich and famous tend to prefer the sky. Nice.


So my Sao Paulo stay starts in a clean airport and takes me along five lane roads past a landscape dotted with trees, industrial buildings, concrete, grafittied walls and skinny high rises dotted into the far distance. Traffic is polite, lacking the chaos of other South American cities that I’ve visited. Pretty standard in terms of what I expect of a city and not really somewhere I’d quickly fall in love with.

But I’m excited to be back in Latin America, back out of my comfort zone. It feels good.

I crash out at the hotel for a few hours. This is luxury. No backpackers hostel for me this time. What a treat.

And then on to O Bar BarO in the lively Vila Olímpia part of the city. I’ve forgotten my ID (no, I don’t look underage, it’s just in case you disappear off without paying). Luckily we blag it and I’m in with my drinks card, partying with Paulistanos and expats and drinking away my fatigue and jetlag. And dancing, but not enough dancing, and then suddenly I’m back at the hotel and the comfort of the bed claims me.

As does the hangover the next morning. And now I’m really out of my comfort zone.


Filed under brazil, culture, dancing