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Feb 12, 2014

Highlights from Brazil

Feb 12, 2014

São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

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Worth the trip?

Yes; São Paulo is not only one of the largest cities of the world, its a gateway to the rest of the country and you’ll most likely have to spend a day or two in the city. Apart from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo is the only chance you’ll get to experience big city life in Brazil. 

Place to Sleep:

A hotel or pousada in Jardins. You’ll be within walking distance to the subway, plenty of restaurants, and the nightlife of Rua Augusta. Second choice would be the neighborhood of Vila Madalena. 

Must-try Food!

Pizza in the Italian neighborhood of Bela Vista is some of the best pizza you will ever taste. Also, the sushi here is very good and you should eat at an all you can eat restaurant (rodizio). Splurge at Sushi Guekko, try a place in Liberdade (Japantown), or Kazan Sushi/Nakasa Sushi in Jardins. 

Don’t Leave Without…

Going to Mercado Muncipal- an indoor produce market with cafes and restaurants. Try some amazonian fruit, eat a mortadela sandwich (from the lower desk stands) and have some pastries or candy (come hungry).

2-day Guide for São Paulo

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Feb 10, 2014

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Worth the trip?

Yes; you will need at least two days and plenty of sunblock.

Place to Sleep:

Hostels and Hotels in Ipanema and Leblon are nicer. The best option would be to get a private condo near the beach.

Must-try Food!

Fruit juices, with or without milk, maracuja is the best, but you also have to have açai. Açai is usually served over shaved ice. Some people will tell you sushi is good in Rio; I went to a high-end and mid-range restaurant and both places were subpar.

Don’t Leave Without…

Seeing the Cristo Rendentor and spending at least half a day at the beach.

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Feb 6, 2014

Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil

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Worth the Trip?

No; Guarujá has crowded beaches that are not as beautiful as other Brazilian beaches. The appeal of Guarujá is that it’s close to São Paulo if you need a quick, cheap getaway.

Place to sleep:

A lot of Paulistas have condos in Guarujá, try to rent one near the beach. 

Most of your time here will be on the beach where you should pick a spot near the stands selling food and drinks to soak up the sun. There are plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas, you do not rent these like you would in the U.S., instead they are complimentary as long as you order drinks or food. The nightlife in this town is not very great, go to the local grocery store to pick up some items and head towards the well-lit beach in the evening. If you are lucky, you might be asked to join a soccer game. 

Feb 6, 2014

Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay

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Worth the Trip?

No; unless you are dying to buy a cheap knock-off electronic or have nothing else to do and are comfortable walking through crowded, dirty streets while keep an eye on your wallet and valuables (which should not be visible). 

Must-try Food!

Maté. It’s a traditional South-American caffeine infused drink made from dried leaves of yerba mate steeped in hot water.

A simple bridge connects Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad Del Este. The best way to get there is to take a local city bus across the bridge. The buses that go directly to Ciudad del Este do not stop at an immigration post, but are subject to searches at any time. U.S. citizens do need visas to enter Paraguay. With that said, you can technically cross the border for a few hours without one and not get asked any questions, but that is a risk everyone must understand they are taking. Most people go to Ciudad Del Este to shop tax-free, gamble or pickup some knock-offs. I did not hear anyone speak English while I was there, but most of the sellers speak a combination of Portuguese, Spanish and indigenous Guaraní.

Feb 6, 2014

Foz Do Iguaçu, Paraná

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Worth the Trip?

Yes, Iguaçu Falls are some of the most amazing waterfalls you will ever see.

Place to Sleep:

There are plenty of hostels and pousadas around town. I stayed at Hostel Bamboo where the staff was great, rooms were clean, and an outdoor grill was available for guests. Avoid places in the center of town or bus stations as the areas did not look very nice. 

Don’t Leave Without…

Visiting both sides of the national park.

Worth the Trip?

Yes, Iguaçu Falls are some of the most amazing waterfalls you will ever see.

Place to Sleep:

There are plenty of hostels and pousadas around town. I stayed at Bambu Hostel where the staff was great, rooms were clean, an outdoor grill was available for guests and the starting point of a tour for the Argentinean side of the park. Avoid places in the center of town or bus stations as the areas did not look very nice. 

Don’t Leave Without…

Visiting both sides of the falls which are shared by Brazil and Argentina. 

Plan on spending two days at Iguaçu Falls, one on the Brazilian side and one the Argentinean side. The Brazilian side of the park has a panoramic view of the falls as well as an elevator right to the biggest fall: Garganta do Diablo.

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Feb 2, 2014

Florianópolis, Ilha de Santa Catarina, Brazil

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Worth the Trip?

Yes, there are lots of sites and activities. Floripa is a place I can visit again and again. One weekend is not enough to enjoy all the available activities, stay longer if you can.

Place to Sleep:

I spent a couple nights at hostel Backpacke, it was very clean, not too far from the beach and nightlife; although I wouldn’t say its within walking distance from most activities. I would recommend staying in a hostel or pousada unless you are planning a romantic trip, prefer privacy or want to rub elbows with the rich and famous.

Must-try Food!

You won’t find many places offering gourmet meals, but the local cafes with home-cooked meals are great. Whether its late at night or are looking for quick bite, you must try a hot dog. There is a restaurant near the strip of pubs that makes them with every topping imaginable.

Don’t leave without…

Sand surfing! The view is surreal and its just plan fun. 

If traveling through the south of Brazil, Florinópolis is one of top places to visit, in fact, you will regret not going. The island is divided between north and south, with most of the hotels and tourist activities in the north.

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Feb 2, 2014

Blumenau, Santa Catarina, Brazil

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Worth the Trip?

Yes, but only during festivals. Octoberfest usually takes place in late-September to early October. Fest Itália in mid-July.

Place to Sleep:

If going during Oktoberfest, book accommodations in advance. Places in the historic center are nice, have pubs and restaurants right next door. 

Must-try Food!

Rodizio churrascaria. You can pick from a fancy steakhouse or one of the more humble rodizios around Villa Germânica. 

Oktoberfest last for about two weeks and is one of the biggest festivals in Brazil. There is free admission for anyone in traditional German clothing and plenty of beer and food. Go with a group of friends and buy any souvenirs outside of the convention hall. Durning the day check out the parade in the historic center or venture outside of town to a biergarten. A couple of friends enjoyed Park Blumenau and Frohsinn. Italian food in this city is also very good.

Jan 2, 2014

Morretes, Paraná, Brazil

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Worth the Trip?

Yes, if you like hiking and small towns. However, don’t go out of your way to fit this trip into your plans if you are short on time.

Must-try Food!

Barreado, type of meat stew. Most of the restaurants are located on the riverfront and are sit-down dinning with set dinner hours.

Don’t Leave Without…

Walking the trails.

One of the most memorable attractions was the train ride to Morretes via Serra Verde Express.

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Jan 2, 2014

Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil

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Worth the trip?
 Only if you have to stop near the area en route to somewhere else.
 
Place to Sleep:
I spent a night in a small hotel within walking distance of Passeio Público. It’s not too far away from cafes and pubs that are open late.

Must-try Food!
Street food booths and anyplace with live music in the evenings.

Don’t Leave Without…
Walking along Largo da Ordem to see old colonial buildings and stop by a pub. 

Curitiba made a great stopping point for the long bus ride between Sao Paulo and Florinopolis.

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