Rio Olympics 2016 – What You Need To Know About Brazil

Brazilian flag and Olympic circles

People usually have one of two images of Brazil in their heads: beautiful beaches with beautiful people, maybe playing soccer, drenched in sunshine or a somewhat third world country with a lot of crime, corruption and poverty.

Like with most stereotypes, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and there are good parts and bad parts of Brazil. However, in general, Brazil is a great place to vacation.

Like so much of South America, Brazilian culture is widely diverse and the country itself contains many places to visit which are all a little different.

This year, all the talk is centred on the 2016 Olympic Games. Only two years have passed since Brazil hosted the football World Cup when 1.35 million tourists visited and this year, almost half a million visitors are expected to descend on Rio alone.

If you’re heading to the Games, here’s what you need to know about Rio and Brazil.

Visa and Passports

If you need a visa for Brazil, sort this well in advance. Residents of most countries require a visa to travel to Brazil though exemptions have been made for certain countries for summer 2016. Also, make sure your passport is valid and in date. It should be at least six months left before it expires.


Make sure you have your Brazilian reals ready. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted if you prefer to cash-free though it’s recommended to carry some cash. Foreign cards are also accepted by some ATMs in Brazil if you need to withdraw some more cash.


Many, many people believe that Spanish is the national language of Brazil when it is actually Portuguese. Foreign languages are not widely spoken in Brazil though you may find some Brazilians who speak a little German English or Spanish. It’s pretty easy to carry phrasebooks these days – there are plenty of apps available for downloading but try to pick up a few key phrases like ‘Bom dia’, ‘Desculpe!’ and ‘Obrigado’.


It’s warm in Brazil and visitors to Rio for the Olympics should prefer for temperatures in the high twenties Celsius. Weather can be pretty changeable in Rio so expect rainfall too.

Food and Drink

Tap water is generally safe to drink in Rio but if you want to be cautious, you can buy bottled water. Rio just experienced its largest drought in history so it’s possible that water restrictions or cut-offs will occur from time to time. Food is also of a high standard though, just like anywhere, be careful if buying food from street vendors or eating food left out at buffets, especially shellfish.

Consular Services and Advice

Before going to any foreign country, it’s advisable to check if there are any travel alerts or notices. Make sure you regularly check for information and let people know when and where you are travelling.

Should You Be Worried About Zika?

The Zika virus is a big issue across the Americas and the Caribbean right now. It’s a legitimate concern for anyone travelling to Rio who is pregnant or planning to conceive. Some athletes have already dropped out and members of some press organisations are also refusing to travel. Hundreds of doctors and public health experts believe the Games should be postponed or moved to another country – which is unlikely to happen at this stage.

However, the reality is that Zika was present in Brazil during the World Cup in 2014 too and unless you are pregnant, you don’t have much to worry about. 80% of all people who get infected never have any symptoms and the rate of infection in visitors is estimated to be about 1.8 out of every million tourists.

The Olympic Games kick off on August 5th. If you’re heading to Rio, make sure you to plan all your travel arrangements well in advance. Check with Visa First about your visa requirements and have a great time cheering on your country’s athletes!


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