Brazil's seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere: summer is December to March, autumn is April and May, winter is June to September, and spring is October and November.
Within the country the climate varies considerably from region to region.
The south east (Rio, Costa Verde, Búzios, Ouro Preto, São Paulo) is warm all year round, but is generally a little cooler (mid 20Cs) and drier from May to September, and hotter (high 30Cs) with heavier rain and higher humidity from November to March. In Ouro Preto and Tiradentes it gets much colder in autumn/winter, with temperatures sometimes dropping to 5C.
Further south (Santa Catarina, Curitiba), it gets colder with temperatures similar to those in Northern Europe.
The north east (Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza) is warm all year (26-34C), but wettest from March to August.
The Pantanal has its dry season from July to October, when it's relatively cool. December to March is the rainy season (wettest in February), when the area floods, much of the wildlife leaves and temperatures can reach the low 40Cs.
The Amazon sees the least rainfall in October, though it stays hot (35C) and humid throughout the year. December to May are the wettest months.
From the first week in December until the end of Carnaval it's the summer school holidays and high season - so best to avoid if you don't want crowds and higher prices. As well as the national public holidays listed below, individual states and cities also have their own separate holidays - 20 January, for example, is a holiday in the city of Rio de Janeiro, but not the state, and 25 January is a holiday in the city of São Paulo.
1 January: New Year's Day
6 February: Cinzas
February/March: Carnaval (exact dates vary)
March/April: Easter (exact dates vary)
21 April: Tiradentes Day
1 May: Labour Day
22 May: Corpus Christi
7 September: Independence Day
12 October: Nossa Senhora de Aparecida
2 November: Remembrance Day
15 November: Republic Proclamation Day
25 December: Christmas Day
31 December: New Year's Eve
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
The main international airports in Brazil are Rio's Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International (GIG) and São Paulo’s Guarulhos International (GRU). There are also some international services to smaller airports, normally via Portugal.
Anyone wishing to visit Brazil over Christmas, New Year or Carnaval should book flights well in advance - services at these times get very busy.
From the UK:
British Airways flies from London Heathrow direct to Rio (departing early afternoon and returning overnight) and to São Paulo (overnight). Both flights take around 12 hours. TAM also flies from London Heathrow to São Paulo (generally overnight) and to Rio (either direct or with a touch down in São Paulo). Alternatively, fly via Madrid with Iberia or via Lisbon with TAP Portugal.
From elsewhere in Europe:
Air France, Alitalia, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss, TAM and TAP Portugal all offer scheduled services between Europe and Rio and São Paulo. TAP Portugal also has flights from Lisbon to Recife, Natal, Salvador, Brasilia, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte.
From the USA and Canada:
From the US, you can fly to Rio and São Paulo with American Airlines (from Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami and New York JFK), Continental (from Houston and Newark), United Airlines (from Washington Dulles and Chicago O'Hare) and TAM (from Miami, Orlando and New York JFK).
Air Canada flies between Toronto Pearson and São Paulo; for other destinations in Brazil you'll need to change planes in the US.
The fastest and most effective way of getting around Brazil is by air. The main national carriers, both of which have an extensive route network, are TAM and the low-cost airline GOL; there are also many flights with smaller airlines such as TRIP Lineas Aereas. If you plan on taking several internal flights consider buying a domestic air pass - these can often be purchased in conjunction with your international flights.
São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the main hubs; bear in mind that most internal flights in and out of these cities use the domestic airports, São Paulo Congonhas (CGH) and Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont (SDU), rather than the international airports. Other hubs in Brazil include Porto Alegre (POA) and Curitiba (CWB) in the south; Brasília (BSB) in the central west; and Salvador (SSA), Recife (REC) and Fortaleza (FOR) in the north east.
Brazil's bus system is generally excellent and the vehicles are equipped for long-distance travel. All major cities are linked by frequent buses. Always travel first class because the difference in ticket price between first and second class is nominal, while the difference in comfort level is significant. First class provides luxury coaches with ample reclining seats, foot rests, air conditioning and bathroom facilities on board. For departure and fare information for major routes check out TransPortal.
This is the most convenient way to get around. We hired our own car and enjoyed it, however finding your way around the large cities can be a bit daunting at first, and you do need to watch out for potholes, even on the main motorways. For car hire see our car rental recommendations.
If you prefer not to self-drive, most of the hotels featured on i-escape can also arrange private transfers.
Brazil's passenger train services are now almost non-existent. A couple of steam trains still run, including the picturesque 13km ride from São João del Rei to Tiradentes in Minas Gerais. The Curitiba-Paranagua journey is a spectacular 11km train ride through the mountains.
A valid passport with an expiry date at least 6 months after the date of return from Brazil is required.
Nationals of the following countries do not need a visa to travel to Brazil for tourism: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, The Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Malta, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, Uruguay, The Vatican and Venezuela.
A tourist visa is needed for citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan. All American passengers arriving at a Brazilian airport will be subject to photographing and fingerprinting in a tit-for-tat move meant to respond to a similar US programme.
Vaccinations for Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A are advisable, and Yellow Fever vaccinations are recommended for those visiting the states of Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Distrito Federal, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins. Please note that yellow fever vaccinations take approximately 10 days to become effective.
An international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is compulsory for travellers who, within the 3 months prior to their arrival in Brazil, have visited or been in transit through any of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, French Guyana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Venezuela and Zaire.
An international certificate of vaccination against Polio is compulsory for children aged between 3 months and 6 years.
If there's any doubt about the need for vaccinations, please contact the Brazilian Consulate General.
If you're visiting the Pantanal or Amazonia you'll need to take a course of malaria tablets and use repellent to reduce the number of mosquito bites. Anti-malarials may also be required for the area around the Iguaçu Falls - consult your doctor.
Make sure you drink plenty of liquids and especially water. Use bottled water and make sure that the seal on the bottle hasn't been broken. Use sunblock to protect your skin against the strong tropical sun.
See Travel Health Advice for general advice for travellers going abroad from the UK.