BORDER CROSSINGS -
CORUMBA - We encountered no problems at this border. We asked for the maximum visa of 3 months and were given that plus a 3 month import paper for Nessie. The customs officer wanted to know the cost of our vehicle, they then calculated how much of a daily fine we would have to pay if we overstayed our papers.
CHUY - Friendly staff but very slow service. No problems leaving although we did see a big sign stating that you must show proof of insurance and driving licence to enter via this border.
VISA EXTENSION -
You can extent your visa and import papers in any regional capital city. It’s not too difficult a process.
Go online and download your visa extension form. Ask where the main Federal Police office is. Go there and you will find a BANCO do BRASIL nearby - pay your 67Rs per person fee there and then take your form and your payment receipt to the Federal Police building along with your passport for your new visa.
For the vehicle extension, it is a little more complex. You cannot get a import extension until you have obtained your visa extension, once you have this then ask where the aduana office is for your vehicle extension. Normally it will be in the harbour or airport area. We extended ours in Natal -full details below.
MONEY MATTERS -
It is illegal to change US$ outside of the regional capitals. It may be possible to find shopkeepers who will change your money but don’t rely on that. We were usually issued 750Rs per transaction at ATM’s.
Sometimes the ATM machine will tell you your card is not accepted, we have found this usually means the ATM has no money in it - try another - your card is ok!
VISA cards do not always work in Brazil - the card readers they use have trouble reading a UK visa card but they can read your Maestro card. Strange but true!
And changing money at the bank can be a terrifying experience - some charge more than 40% commission!!!
SAVING MONEY IN BRAZIL -
Before you enter Brazil (from the South or West) be sure to stock up with - Medicines, Toiletries, Canned foods and Wine as all of these items are MUCH more expensive in Brazil. Also look out for Atacadao supermarkets where you can buy in bulk if you want, Hiper Bonpreco and Walmart are also good.
ROAD TOLLS -
We encountered very few tolls outside of the southern region of Brasil. From Belo Horizonte south to Uruguay and the whole of the Sao Paulo state are where you will find regular road tolls.
Belo Horizonte to Sao Paulo the tolls averaged 1.20 - 2.40 Rs (we avoided the centre of Sao Paulo so we do not know what the city centre toll charges are).
Sao Paulo to Porto Alegre the tolls averaged 2.40Rs.
Porto Alegre to Chuy the tolls ranged from 7Rs to 14Rs!
Toll charges are based on the size of your vehicle, how many axles you have and whether you are commercial or not. Strictly speaking - we are not commercial and have only one rear axle, so we should have paid the car rate of 1.20Rs instead of 2.40Rs but the further south you go the harder it is to convince the toll operators of this!
It cost us £37 to drive from Belo Horizonte to Chuy on the Uruguay border.
DRIVING LAWS -
Seatbelts are required but headlights during the day are not.
DRIVING STANDARDS -
Truck drivers may be very friendly at the service stations but behind the wheel they can be fast, aggressive and a little crazy at times. Cities can be full of really crazy drivers - beware and avoid week days if possible.
More expensive inland on the west side of the country, the closer you get to the east coast the cheaper it gets.
Interior average cost - 2.25 Brasilia - 1.90 Inland of Salvador - 1.75 East coast average - 1.90
They have a bad reputation for corruption. We encountered regular police check points on the east coast - most waved us on when they realised we did not speak Portuguese but some wanted to see our documents.
It is much easier to make sure that you have insurance to cover your full stay before you enter Brazil. Once we were here no-one wanted to sell us insurance, they insisted we should get it from our previous company!
Do not expect to find many people who can speak English, at times we even struggled to find anyone who could understand Spanish. You will find things much easier on the east coast.
Most service stations provide showers, some are free, some work on a 2Rs token system. If you buy fuel then you are given the token for free. Usually they are warm water but sometimes cold only.
HEALTH CARE -
We used the Santa Lucia Hospital in Brasilia - to see a specialist costs 220Rs (£83) and the Hospital Monte Klinikum in Fortaleza - to see a specialist costs 150Rs (£56) this hospital provides a translator during your visit. Both hospitals were excellent and the food in the Monte Klinikum was superb!!
Brazil has a very bad reputation for crime. The majority of overlanders we have met are not ‘doing’ Brasil because of it’s high crime reputation. This was our experience -
The Pantanal area and Brasilia - We encountered no problems. In the towns we were more observant than usual but that was because of the bad reputation the country has rather than because we FELT unsafe.
Brasilia to Palmas area - Once again we experienced no problems with safety.
Palmas to Salvador - No problems until Barreiras where locals warned us NOT to stay overnight in the town or the surrounding area - armed carjacking is a BIG problem there.
Up the East coast - You should use the usual precautions when in big cities - we tried to stay in campsites or near buildings with security. On the beaches and in the villages we bush camped everywhere and never felt at risk.
PLACES TO STAY....
We have to confess that we always thought that people who slept in fuel services stations were rather unimaginative but, now that we are here we can see why, they have everything you could ever need:
Great parking, showers, mechanics, vehicle parts and they are perfectly situated to break up those long drives you sometimes have to endure. They are usually the only quiet place you can find at a weekend!
A Pantanal special
Everyone comes here to see animals, so we are going to include GPS points for animal spotting along the way and details of routes available within that region. Remember that fields and bush camping places can disappear in the wet season. Animals can also change territories so you are not guaranteed to see them where we did.
GOOD LUCK! (We entered these areas at the end of June 2010.)
CORUMBA - We found two places to stay. Both were quiet and safe with guards nearby. No problems.
Plaza - S18.99852 W057.65673 Port - S18.99691 W057.65541 Buy all your food and fuel in town.
East of Corumba is the Estrada Parque - a route that takes you into the South Pantanal. There are numerous wooden bridges on this dirt route, all are rated for 15T but some look a little weak. You will have to take a ferry across the Rio Paraguai at Porto da Manga which costs 30Rs. This is a lovely drive FULL of capybara, caiman and birds. If you are lucky and wait until later in the dry season you may see giant otters also.
Manga Water is before the ferry and a nice place to camp by a tree and some water S19.25307 W057.37125
Ponte 52 has a small shop who’s owner is very helpful with route and animal information. You can find places to stay near here. S19.25232 W057.06157
Caiman camp is another nice place to stay. S19.31577 W057.05442
Ponte 25 -1 has few opportunities for free bushcamping and animal spotting.
DRIVING EAST ON THE BR262 then NORTH on the BR419
Miranda - a quiet if unexciting night behind the artisan market. S20.23537 W056.37743
Aquidauana - a large town with everything you need. Buy all your fuel and food here. From this town we drove straight up the BR419, a dirt route that links the fazenda’s - all bridges are rated for 15T loads.
Savanna stop - We only stayed here because we found anteater prints. Quiet. S20.36553 W055.75005
150 km’s north of Aquidauana we turned west onto the MS228 route that can take you all the way back to Corumba. However we reached a fenced off bridge after 59 km’s. To go further you must gain the permission of the fazenda owner and then be prepared to do some SERIOUS 4x4 through thick sand and over savanna land. A adventure for some-one just not us!
Collared anteater seen here S19.91176 W055.50878 BR419
Giant anteaters seen here S19.21992 W055.23212 and here S19.12092 W055.36172 MS228 we also saw a coati and all the usual animals - caiman, capybara and hundreds of birds.
Capybara creek - A wonderful spot. Capybara wander past your vehicle as you sit watching kingfishers dive for their dinner. If you’re very lucky the cowboys will bring the cattle past. S19.12851 W055.34324
Rio Verde - a BR fuel fuel station. S18.90749 W054.84011 Do not buy fuel here - very expensive. Cheaper fuel 12 kilometres north.
MS214 Transpantaneira - is a mystery route! We asked everyone about this track and could never get good information. It goes from Coxim to the south side of the river at Porto Jofre you can also join it approx. 45km’s further north of Coxim. We can imagine that it is the usual dirt route that links fazendas. One person told us that there was a very deep (1.5 metres) water crossing somewhere on the route and that they were not sure if there was a ferry. We decided against it - maybe next time.
Rondonopolis - S16.50259 W054.64920 Typical BR truck stop. Good services and showers. Quiet.
Mirante - Chapada dos Guimaraes area S15.47945 W055.68708 The centre of South America. Lovely views but very noisy at weekends.
See macaws nesting on a rock face by the roadside S15.38265 W055.84097
NORTH PANTANAL TRANSPANTANEIRA
Buy all your food and fuel in Cuiaba or Pocone. Cuiaba supermarket Hyper Modelo S15.58810 W56.11693
Ipes Field - A nice place to stay. S16.47182 W056.68782
Rio Claro Pousada - We went here to do a boat trip to see giant otters.
Boat trip 70Rs per person for a 2 hour trip where you feed caiman, water birds and you will see giant otters.
To camp costs 30Rs per person includes use of the pool and poolside shower, toilets and low volt electric plus fast wifi. S16.60721 W056.75971 Co-ordinates for the gate entrance.
Jabiru nest - S16.64458 W056.77065 Huge (1.4m) white bird. You will find more of these as you drive south.
Jaguar camp- S16.88535 W056.84011 We saw this track only one km north of where we saw our jaguar, so this is may be a good place to stay and hope for a glimpse.
Pantanal Field - S17.06955 W056.95048 Another field we saw that may be okay to stay.
Hyacinth Macaws can be seen around Puma Lodge. S17.08414 W056.94696 Puma Lodge can also arrange boat trips from Porto Jofre for 100Rs per hour (they recommend 4 hours).
Beautiful big owls nest at S17.26258 W056.90290.
Hyacinth macaws nest in the campsite at Porto Jofre behind shelter PACU in a hollowed tree trunk. S17.36039 W056.76673 You can also see them and toucans flying opposite the hotel entrance - watch the tall tree near the papaya tree for the toucans.
Porto Jofre - S17.36516 W056.77302 There are 3 or 4 places you can park around here. The mosquitoes are ferocious day and night. We saw our puma 80 metres from this point walking toward the campsite, she had obviously been down to the river for a drink.
Porto Jofre Ferry - there used to be one 8 years ago but the owner died and no-one took over the service. Just as well we didn’t take the MS214 - it would have been a long drive back!
Our Malaysian friends arranged a private cattle barge from Corumba to Potro Jofre - it cost US$5,000 per barge (a maximum of 4 cars)!!!
Cuiaba - This excellent BR service station was a gem. You can get seat covers made as you wait for 75Rs.
We got our weight sticker made here, our mosquito nets repaired, our windows tinted and we bought wood bead seat covers. All services given with a huge smile!
Free hot showers and a quiet night. S15.70012 W056.04359 On route US163.
GENERAL BRAZIL PLACES TO STAY
Our favourite places ....
Barra do Garcas - Has a lovely river beach area. We didn’t stop due to time pressures but it is worth checking out. We also saw camping signs for this pretty area.
Cidade de Goias - The old town centre is lovely, cobbled streets and a small river. Lots of places to park on the streets but this looked like the best area to use. S15.93320 W050.14125 Near the hospital by the river.
Pirenopolis - The centre has a 2.3m width restriction so we parked at the cemetery. S15.85595 W048.95774
Lots of places in the centre for smaller vehicles, near Igreja Matriz looked like a good place.
Brasilia - Albergue Youth Hostel S15.76895 W047.91088. 15Rs per person to camp with use of hot showers, toilets, electric and laundry facilities also includes breakfast.
To be honest, if you are in a vehicle like ours, you can park anywhere around quadrant 716 (near the hospital and mall area) and feel safe. We only stayed at the hostel because we were meeting friends there.
Cachoeira - We stayed on a side track. Be aware the bridges are weak. S14.09062 W047.51277
Natividade - A quiet place by the football field and near the river in this pleasant old slave village.
Palmas - We parked in this area to pick up free wifi from a nearby hotel and to be near the Mall. Quiet and friendly. S10.18948 W048.33477
Caseara River - A big mistake. We drove a round trip of 500km’s to go there after being told of fabulous river beaches, lots of jaguars and wild animals. There are very, very few animals and the river beach is full of shanty bars. Not horrible but not great. S09.28681 W049.96775
Ponta Alta do Tocantins - You could park by the river in town but we chose a quieter roadside area out of town.
JALAPAO NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION
There is no entrance fee and you do not require a guide for the park. You should buy all your food and fuel in Palmas or Ponta Tocantins before entering the park, (the next place that sells food and fuel is Materios.)
After Ponta Tocantins the road becomes dirt track until Coaceral. It is a mix of the usual dirt, bull dust, sand, rough stone and bedrock. Expect to average between 5 - 40 km’s an hour on this route (we only had to go into 4x4 for two very short sections (200 metres).)
To reach the dunes you have a 5km drive of reasonably deep sand - for this section we reduced our tyre pressure as much as possible and kept Nessie in 4x4 for the whole drive. Be aware that coming out from the dunes involves a slightly more uphill effort.
Our paper maps did not show a route to link Mateiros to Coaceral but our GPS map did - it is the same mix of previous track conditions with one short section of boulders to bump over, (you should be careful of your ground clearance on this section.) Be aware that it is a poorly marked route after Mateiros so keep your eyes open for the Formosa do Rio Preto sign. After a double white building on your right you go straight ahead down a track that looks narrow but it opens out nicely and goes over an old bridge and past 3 indigenous houses before eventually leading you up a hill and onto a lovely smooth sand track that required no 4x4.
Follow your GPS map closely and use common sense - if a track looks unused and has NO tyre marks on it then there is usually a good reason. To go down a unused track in such a remote area is never a clever thing to do - if you have a problem then it could result in a very long walk out!
Cachoeria da Velha - This lovely double waterfall is a dead-end detour of 29km’s from the main track. There is a great place to camp by the river, above the falls and hidden in the trees. Be aware that the track down may involve a little 4x4 and that overnight camping is officially not allowed. S10.26897 W046.88227
Dunas Jalapao - Overnight camping is forbidden and there is a locked gate with a entrance fee of 5Rs per person for the dunes. We stayed down a quiet side track nearby. S10.60200 W046.66458
After Coaceral there are numerous good fuel stations to spend the night at. Be aware that Barreiras has a very bad reputation for armed carjacking - we were strongly advised by locals NOT to spend the night anywhere near the town.
DIAMANTINA NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION
Well worth the detour, this lovely park holds Brazils tallest waterfall. We turned off for Palmeiras and drove a circuit around the park. (Buy your fuel in Seabra as it is expensive in Mucuge.)
You can easily find somewhere to sleep in Palmeiras or Capao before doing the lovely 12km (4hr) round trip trek to the waterfall.
There is a track to Igatu that looked lovely and will give you great views of the sand bank river at Andarai, and there is a 4x4 track that links from just north of Andarai to Lencois. We did not drive either of these tracks as we had very heavy rain and thick fog - such a shame.
Guine view - S12.65291 W041.56253 A very quiet place with good views.
We also saw a nice riverside place at S12.95137 W041.27738 - just after Mucuge.
Camping Ecologico A reasonable site 30km’s north of the city. S12.94711 W038.34201 They try to charge 20Rs per person per night but we negotiated it down to 15Rs per person. Electric, hot showers and a lovely beach.
To get into the city - Wait for the bus in the hotel entrance opposite the Esso station near the campsite. You want the bus marked Campo Grande - the trip will take at least one hour and will cost 2.30Rs per person. Let the bus driver know you want the end of the line, from there it is a pleasant walk past some old buildings up to the Cidade Alta. Return to the same bus stop to catch the bus marked P. Do Flamengo - it will drop you off just after the Esso station.
For garages, tyres and parts then you should drive down the BR324 toward the centre of town - you will come across several garages and tyre stores before you reach the Makro store S12.89577 W038.44972.
For a superb DIY store - Ferreira Costa - S12.94037 W038.41475
Supermarkets line the Estr Do Coco S12.87728 W038.30942 (BR099) but a closer one for the campsite can be found at S12.93579 W038.33125 - Hiperideal.
For large Mall shopping you should visit Iguatemi Mall S12.97823 W038.45275 but be aware that parking can be extremely difficult and traffic chaotic! There is a large Mall being completed on the BR526 route to the campsite - that would be a much easier option S12.90856 W038.35003.
There is a police checkpoint on the Estr Do Coco route as you drive north out of the city - they were real bullies to us. Do not let them intimidate you into the compound. Have your drivers licence, passport and aduana paperwork to hand and keep calm, as long as you speak no Portuguese then they will soon let you go!