A girl’s guide to backpacking in Brazil

Last Updated on September 30, 2021

A girl’s guide to backpacking in Brazil

By Chantell Collins from Adoration 4 Adventure  


To be honest, I was more than a little nervous before going to Brazil.

I mean, I had been backpacking before and I loved travelling solo – so those weren’t the issues.

This was a country I knew barely anything about, on a continent that was totally new to me.  All I had heard about Brazil were tales of the party scene in Rio de Janeiro and crazy escapades during Carnival. Or the sobering stories of poverty and crime that is enough to give any traveller pause.

Before embarking on my trip, the only real research I did was pouring over a map and reading up about beautiful beaches and towns to visit.  I took no time to learn about Brazil’s culture and its people.

Here are some of the things that I learned while backpacking in Brazil as a solo female traveller.


The Language

Besides in the tourist areas of major cities, English isn’t that widely-spoken. Unless you are travelling on a tour or with someone who speaks Portuguese, it is a good idea to learn some key words at least.

Key words to learn in Portuguese

  • Ola (Hello)
  • Bom dia (Good morning)
  • Boa tarde (Good afternoon)
  • Boa noite (Good night)
  • Por favor (Please)
  • Sim (Yes)
  • Nao (No)
  • Obrigado / Obrigada (Thank you – masculine / feminine)
  • Tchau (Goodbye)

Speaking Spanish can be a bonus as there are a lot of similar words, however there are also a lot of words which are completely different (for example: “fork” in Portuguese is “garfo” and in Spanish is “tenedor”). The pronunciation of many of the consonants in Portuguese and Spanish can differ as well.

I love using the app “Duo Lingo”, as it works with a combination of reading, writing, speaking and listening. If you are more of a textual learner, then invest in a Portuguese language book or a simple language guide that you can use while on the go.

Language lessons are a must if you are planning on getting serious about Portuguese. There are numerous schools in Brazil that can help you learn with either classroom style or one-on-one lessons for a fraction of the cost compared to back home. Be sure to ask for a teacher who is a native Portuguese speaker, as pronunciation is a crucial part of the language.

Also, a good point to remember is that the accent can change depending on which region you are in. The accent of a Paulista (from the state of Sao Paulo) will be different to the accent of a Carioca (from Rio de Janeiro).



Making friends

Brazilians are typically warm, friendly and touchy.  It is customary to greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss on the cheek (or sometimes multiple depending on which state you are in). There is no rushing out of a party in a hurry – as you will need to go around and individually kiss everyone before departing.  I found this to be both adorable and amusing.

Brazilians will generally go out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome.  Even after leaving Brazil, I have encountered various Brazilians during my travels who have taken me in as if I was an old friend.  While backpacking solo in Thailand, I met a group of Brazilians travelling by boat to Rayleigh Beach.  Once they found out that I speak Portuguese, they invited me to spend the day with them, sharing their beers and food.

It is very easy to strike up a conversation with a Brazilian.  Even if you don’t speak Portuguese that well, they will still be kind and try to communicate with you.


Find the best and most affordable accommodation around Brazil


A girl’s guide to backpacking in Brazil


Known for their passion and fire, Brazilians are a romantic bunch.  If you are single and looking to mingle, then Brazil is definitely the place for you.

As a female traveling solo, I certainly got more than a few suggestive looks, wolf whistles and appreciative comments whenever I would step outside.  I knew of other girls who were approached by guys on the street straight out asking for a kiss.

During my time traveling in Brazil, I was in a relationship, so I tried to deflect any romantic intentions that came my way.  As one friend explained to me, the culture is very different than in Western countries.  A friendly smile and eye contact could be perceived as flirtation or a sign of interest.

On one particular night I went to a samba club with some girlfriends.  In order to avoid any possible misunderstandings, I declined to dance whenever I was asked.  I watched my friends dance with guys who then spent the rest of the night trying to sweet talk them and refusing to take “no” as an answer. Often the response “Eu tenho um namorado” (I have a boyfriend) can be completely disregarded.

I also ran into a little trouble when I organized a few meet ups through online social forums with the intention of making new friends.  Unfortunately at each event I was hit on (even by another female). Although flattering, it could be a little frustrating at times.


The food

The food in Brazil is delicious!  There are so many dishes I miss such as “pao de queijo” (cheese bread) and “provolone a milanesa” (fried cheese balls).  Fresh fruit juice is very popular in Brazil – in addition to the standard “suco de laranja” (orange juice), however there are also some other more exotic juices such as “maracuja” (passionfruit). “Arroz e feijao” (rice and beans) are a staple, often for lunch and dinner along with vegetables and meat.

Great and cheap places to grab a hot meal are “Padarias” (bakeries) and Lanchonetes (snack bars) which can serve sandwiches, fried snacks and even pizza.  Brazilians usually eat pizza with a knife and fork, so make sure you don’t pick up a slice with your hand.

As I mentioned before, Brazilians are very welcoming and will try to share their food with you even if it is a small portion like a snack.  It is considered rude not to offer what you are eating to the person you are with, especially if they don’t have any food themselves.

When going to a party, all the beers will be chucked in the fridge and available for anyone to grab whichever they want.  No one counts how many beers each person had or keeps their drinks off to the side.


A girl’s guide to backpacking in Brazil


Is Brazil safe for female travellers?  Unfortunately, there are real issues of poverty and crime throughout Brazil.  It is very important to always be aware of your surroundings and be sensible.  Obviously some areas of Brazil are safer than others, however it is my belief that being safe is better than sorry.

I was fortunate enough that I never ran into any major safety issues in Brazil.  I do believe this is because I was super cautious as I knew many friends (even locals) who had been robbed at gun or knifepoint.

Safety tips for backpacking in Brazil

  • Ask a local (friend, hostel or hotel manager) which areas are safe to walk around and which are better to avoid.
  • Try not to carry anything of value on you and if you do, try not to take it out of your bag too often (e.g. be discreet with your iPhone).
  • Keep your bag in front of you if possible and never leave it unattended (e.g. don’t have it hanging off the back of your chair at a restaurant).
  • Avoid walking alone and never walk alone at night.
  • In the less “safe areas” avoid speaking English too much or too loudly as it can attract unwanted attention.
  • While traveling by car, keep your door locked and don’t keep anything valuable on the seat (such as a handbag).
  • If you are held up, just hand everything over without any disagreement or struggle.


Final Thoughts

Brazil is home to breathtaking waterfalls, mysterious rainforests, exotic animals and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world proving there is more to Brazil than Carnival, soccer, cheap beer and Copacabana.

As the fifth largest country in the world, there is so much to explore.  I would encourage anyone to visit Brazil and take the time to get to know more about Brazilian culture.  You will encounter some of the friendliest and warmest people you could ever meet.  Backpacking Brazil should be at the top of your bucket list!


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A girl’s guide to backpacking in Brazil



Author: Australian born horse rider and hula hooper.  Chantell went on her first plane at 21 and first international trip at 24. Since then she has travelled to over 30 countries as well as lived in the United States of America and Brazil.  Her dreams are to become fluent in Portuguese and travel to every country in the world






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The Comments

  • Bebeto Le Garfs
    July 13, 2016

    Still around Brazil? Should come visit us at limetime hostels in saopaulo and rio 🙂

  • Nika
    November 16, 2016

    Great article. Helped me a lot for preparing for my travel to Brazil. Never planned to do it alone, but since my boyfriend broke up (Brazilian) I need to prepare for traveling without a local guide I know.

    How long have you been there? What about a low budget travel? Possible? What do you think is the minimum you should have with you?
    Any Tipps for hostels and safe areas in sao Paolo?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  • Agness of Fit Travelling
    April 16, 2017

    Brazil is breathtaking, Anita! Love your tips and I enjoy reading your travel experiences!

  • Brazil Ecotour
    May 8, 2018

    Dear Anita, First of all, I would like to congratulate you for the quality of your articles they are just amazing and very detailed. feel free to contact us for your next trip in Brazil we are a local travel agency localised in northeast of Brazil close to the lencois maranhenses national parc we would be glad to give you all the informations concerning about regions to made a successful trip and continue publishing amazing articles

  • Clarissa Tiemi Suzuki Ferraz
    September 13, 2018

    Hello Anita, my name is Clarissa Tiemi Suzuki Ferraz.

    I’m making a documentary about Blogs for a school project and I was wondering if you’d be interested in an interview? These are the questions:
    – How was it like when you first started writing your blog?
    – Do you think writing a blog is difficult?
    – Why do you like writing a blog?
    – What made you want to start a blog? What inspired you?
    – What would you say to all the people who are interested in making their own blog?

    If you want to do this interview, please contact me. This is my email: clarissa.t.s.ferraz@gmail.com.

    Btw, I’m actually from Brazil 🙂

  • Patricia Ferreira
    September 25, 2018

    Hi Anita,

    Your blog gives an overview of Brazil. Learning a few words in Portuguese is a good tip. You are right that the Brazilian is kind and makes people feel at home, and that the food is delicious.
    The negative part in Brazil is security, so it’s always good to be careful.

    I loved the part that you say: ‘Brazil is home to breathtaking waterfalls, mysterious rainforests, exotic animals and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, proving there are more in Brazil than carnival, football and cheap beer.’

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Melanie
    December 15, 2018

    Hi Anita,

    I loved your blog. I am planning on doing a solo trip to Brazil, I speak spanish and a few words in portuguese but nothing too special haha
    Which parts of Brazil do you recomend on visiting for a first time traveler, it would be also the first time I travel alone…And how much do you think would be the average expenses? I thought of going for 2 weeks more or less.

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Melanie 🙂

  • Marlene Ciintia
    June 4, 2019

    Visit the Waterloo Travel website in Foz do Iguaçu. My trip with the family was just perfect. We were only sad for a little unexpected; the week it was at night was a bit low and rainy most days. I plan to return to visit the rest of the places in the city and also visit Puerto Iguazú.

    I want to be the company’s website, because it is very worthwhile for them to visit all the attractions of Foz. Their website is: http://waterlootravel.com/en/. No site itself has the service chat.