When we think of Brazil we think about sunshine, sea, amazing beaches and Rio de Janeiro. Although that is part of Brazil too, a packing list for Brazil should include more than bikinis and havaianas 😉
The dress-code is usually as friendly as the locals, so don’t worry about fancy outfits. Think about being comfortable so you can stand the high temperatures that characterize most of the country. But wait a second:
Brazil: summer all year round?
Many people will get the misconception that Brazil is a tropical country in its entirety. They couldn’t be more wrong! From North to South, the weather in Brazil can vary depending on the season. Brazil is the largest country in South America, having five distinct climatic zones, so you gotta check the weather before you start packing for Brazil!
Like I said above, climate in Brazil varies a lot, mostly from tropical north (near the Equator) to temperate zones south (Tropic of Capricorn). Temperatures around the equator are of course high, averaging above 25 °C, reaching more than 40 °C (104 °F) during summer extremes. At the other side of the country, sometimes there are frosts in the south of the Tropic of Capricorn during winter (June–September).
Believe it or not, there’s snow in Brazil on the high mountains in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paraná and it’s possible, but very rare, in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Mato Grosso do Sul. In capitals like Belo Horizonte, Brasília and Curitiba you’ll get cold winds that ask for a jacket most of the year.
Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and Salvador on the coast are so warm you’ll want to be on the beach all day. Hope you can actually do that! The average temperatures range from 23 to 27 °C (73 to 81 °F). In cities like São Paulo, Curitiba, Florianópolis and Porto Alegre you’ll find subtropical climate and temperatures below freezing in winter.
Also, keep in mind that the seasons in South America are in reverse if you compare to Europe and the U.S. Therefore, winter in the Northern hemisphere is summer in Brazil and vice-versa.
Both in winter and summer you’ll notice a big difference between what people wear in big cities and smaller cities/rural areas. Just dress comfortable and be respectful no matter what people are wearing. Just because someone is wearing a tiny bikini in a beach in Rio, it doesn’t mean you can stare or make a comment about it!
Packing list for Brazil: summer
Summer in Brazil happens from December to February, since it’s in the Southern hemisphere. The hottest regions are North and Northeast. Northeast Brazil is a great summer destination for locals and gringos. Winter is not really a thing in this region, since the lowest temperatures stand around 14°C in February, the coldest month of the year in this part of the country (average).
Consider taking extra clothing if you’re doing a lot of outdoor activities 😉 If you’re going to the rainforest (states like Amazonas, Para, Tocantins) or atlantic forest (state of Sao Paulo, Parana, actually the whole coastline!) remember that it can get extremely humid, so your clothes will get dirty quickly. Thin layers are perfect, since you don’t want to have too much extra weight to carry around the jungle! 😀
Suppose you’re gonna stay for a week. Get a lightweight backpack or a crossbody bag and follow my packing list for Brazil:
- 1 or 2 pairs of comfortable jeans – travel with those. If you go to Rio de Janeiro, Salvador or even Sao Paulo, it’s gonna be so hot in summer that you’ll wanna be in shorts all day. Just to be safe, you can travel wearing a pair of jeans, so they won’t take too much space in your backpack. If you go to the South of Brazil (cities like Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Londrina, Gramado) you might need another pair of pants, because those cities can get a bit of a chilly wind at night, even during summer.
- tank tops and t-shirts (one per each day of your stay, varying between the two types)
- non-brand name sunglasses (less likely to be stolen)
- 2 or 3 shorts and/or skirts
- flip flops and/or summer sandals – if you’re bringing shoes or sneakers, also travel with them (I mean wear them in the flight from your home country to Brazil) so they won’t take too much space in your backpack.
- light dresses if you’re a girl (or a guy that likes dresses, who cares) – cotton breathes well, so that’s a good idea for humid places like I mentioned before.
- sunscreen and aftersun
- bug spray (specially if you go North, to cities like Manaus)
- underwear and socks
Packing list for Brazil: winter
Say you’re gonna stay for a week in the South of Brazil:
- 5 t-shirts
- 1 or 2 jackets – like the ones you would wear during fall in Europe or the U.S.
- 2 long sleeved shirts or lightweight vest
- 2 pairs of jeans or cotton trousers
- 1 light scarf
- 1 pair of sneakers or flats
- flip flops (even in winter it can get hot, it’s still Brazil)
- underwear and socks
- sunscreen (the sun will be strong even in winter, it’s Brazil!)
- bug spray
- rain jacket – winter weather in many regions of Brazil consists of rain every day, so a raincoat or a good rain jacket is essential
Other essential items in a packlist for Brazil
- Breathable hat: the sun is stronger near the Equator, so as an european or american you might to include a hat in your packing list for Brazil.
- Travel towel: it’s always useful and it doesn’t take too much space in your backpack. Many hostels and hotels offer towels for a reasonable price, but if you’re going camping or swimming it’s always nice to have a towel that dries fast.
- Swiss adapter: for reasons that not even Brazilians understand, Brazil has changed the country’s official type of socket in 2010, it’s now type N (3 holes). Just carry a universal adapter so you have no surprises – or buy one when you get there.
- Money belt: Brazil is not the safest place in the world (also not the most dangerous but still), you’ll want to keep your passport, cards and cash with you at all times!
- Water bottle: Be nice to the environment and bring your own bottle, so you can refil instead of buying a new bottle each time you feel thirsty.
- An extra layer for indoors and bus rides: yes, you read it right – indoors. Shopping centers, restaurants, cafes (specially in the northeast and north) have the air conditioning turned up so high you will wish to have a jumper with you. If you travel by bus (specially interstates) you’ll feel like winter in Europe because they get so so cold! A small cardigan or sweater is also a good idea in your packing list for Brazil.
What NOT to pack for Brazil
- Havaianas: they’re way cheaper in Brazil than anywhere in the world.
- Polyester clothes: it’s not the ideal material for hot climate.
- Heavy boots: even if you go hiking, remember it’s probable gonna be hot!
- Expensive watches, jewelry or anything that can be stolen: I’ve already mentioned that, but please be aware and don’t show off!
Safety depends on which parts of the country you visit. Many of the larger cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Recife have right crime rates, specially towards tourists. Just ask your hostel staff or local friends about the safest places to go in the city you’re visiting.
Even with some flaws, Brazil is still a dream destination! You’ll find a huge variety of things to see and places to go around the country’s 8 million square meters. Let me know if I forgot any important item in the packlist for Brazil and have a nice trip!
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