Rio or Sau Paulo? Rainforest or beach? Find the right travel insurance for your trip to Brazil.
Brazil has long been a popular travel spot in South America attracting thousands of visitors each year to take in it's stunning beaches and national parks, bustling cities and vibrant culture. That said, Brazil is certainly with not it's risks and travellers are advised to exercise a high degree of caution while in Brazil on account of the serious levels of violent crime, particularly in the major cities.
This guide will outline what to look for when finding travel insurance for Brazil, some of the main risks to be aware of and what to do in the event of an emergency.
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- Top 5 travel concerns for Brazil
- How much does travel insurance cost for my age?
- What does my travel insurance cover me for in Brazil?
- 5 activities to get extra cover for when visiting Brazil
- What if I have a medical emergency in Brazil?
- Who do I contact in an emergency?
- Flying to Brazil
- Brazil tourist visa requirements
- What’s the best time to visit Brazil?
- Money in Brazil
- Additional tips for travelling to Brazil
- Travel insurance exclusions to watch out for
- Crime: High levels of serious and violent crime are the central risk to watch out for, particularly in the major cities. Avoid the city slums, known as favelas, due to their extreme risk of robbery or violent crime. You are much safer outside these areas, but still need to pay attention and be careful. Avoid wearing visibly expensive jewellery, watches or clothing items where possible, and if you are attacked or robbed, do not resist. Prioritise your personal safety, and remember that possessions can be replaced. Also be aware that there are both registered and unregistered taxis, and that the latter should be avoided in all circumstances
- Instability: In 2016 Brazil was rocked by political demonstrations, which can be expected to continue sporadically into the future. Demonstrations are often impromptu, and can quickly turn violent with little warning. Avoid getting involved, and follow the instructions of local authorities if you find yourself in the vicinity of a protest.
- Sexual assault: Travellers, particularly women who are travelling alone or in small groups, should be aware of an elevated risk of sexual assault around festival periods. Even at other times, it is still a hazard to watch out for. Never leave your drink unattended, know where your travel companions are at all times, and take appropriate care.
- Insect-borne illnesses: Brazil is a hotspot for malaria, yellow fever, the zika virus and other mosquito-borne health issues. You should always make sure you are fully vaccinated against these before travelling to Brazil. Travellers should take appropriate precautions against mosquitoes all year round, but particularly in the May-August and November-January wet seasons.
- Infectious disease: Travellers should also be aware of the risk of infectious diseases in Brazil, in particular HIV/AIDs. Due to this risk, victims of sexual assault are recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is also advised that you boil all drinking water or stick to bottled and avoid ice cubes, raw and undercooked food. Avoid swimming in fresh water to minimise your risk of diseases such as schistosomiasis and other parasites, and seek medical attention if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
This table shows you the travel insurance price range for a single visitor staying for one month in Brazil, depending on how old they are. The lowest prices are for the more basic policies while the higher ones are for the most useful and comprehensive options.
|Age||50 years old||60 years old||70 years old||75 years old||80 years old|
|Basic policies from||$65||$65||$111||$114||$458|
|Comprehensive policies from||$115||$124||$173||$218||$610|
- Carnaval in Rio: Your main risk in Rio around Carnaval is crime, in particular robbery and sexual assault. Protect yourself with cover for medical emergencies and medical repatriation. Medical cover will allow you to seek immediate medical attention in the event of an emergency such as sexual assault, when you would need to be tested for infectious diseases. Medical repatriation can get you back home if you need to be evacuated from the country following a medical event.
- Copacabana Beach: Tourists often stand out on Brazilian beaches, which sometimes makes them a target for opportunistic thieves. Have the right luggage cover that also covers stolen documentation and cash. Remember, don’t leave your belongings sitting unattended while you go in the water. Anything stolen because it wasn’t being properly looked after won’t be covered, but anything stolen despite you taking sensible precautions will be covered.
- Boating down the Amazon: Taking a boat is one of the better ways of seeing the incredible Amazon jungle, but not all travel insurance policies will cover you there. Make sure you check the specific activities you are covered for include boating and other activities. You should also ensure you’re up to date with all your immunisations. Many travel insurance policies do not pay medical costs if you fall sick with an illness that can be avoided with vaccinations, and is known to inhabit the Brazil or Amazon region.
- Flying over Rio de Janeiro: The lush and mountainous surroundings of Brazil’s capital city, coupled with the breathtaking harbour views and incredible landmarks like Cristo Redentor, means many travellers agree the best way to see the city is from the sky, and many tour operators oblige. You can hang-glide across the skyline, get a guided helicopter or small aircraft tour, or ride some of the many cable cars around the city. If you’re planning any of these activities, remember it needs to be covered by your travel insurance. Your policy may not cover you for parasailing or paragliding so it's crucial you check the terms and conditions.
- Hiking to Iguaçu Falls: Hiking is highly popular in Brazil, and there are many established walking tracks and hiking paths. One of the most consistently popular is the Iguaçu Falls trek, which rewards your trekking with a spectacular view. Check how your travel insurance policy covers hiking, and be aware of any restrictions that may apply. Consider special trekking travel insurance policies if you’re a keen hiker or climber who’s visiting Brazil to take on its heights.
- Aerial activities: Ensure your policy covers aerial activities like skydiving, hang-gliding and cable-car riding.
- Water sports, diving and snorkelling: Most water sports such as surfing, kayaking and snorkelling will automatically covered. You will need to check the conditions of your policy if you plan on Scuba Diving as conditions can vary.
- Football match attendance: If you intend to take in a game or a specific match when you visit this football-mad nation, cancellation cover can help protect the value of pre-paid tickets. If you have to change your plans, through no fault of your own, cancellation insurance will cover the cost of your ticket and other related expenses. The unpredictability and general ill-maintenance of Brazilian roads, particularly in isolated areas, means getting around can be difficult and cancellation cover is highly recommended.
- Touring: The diverse landscapes, tight streets and densely packed features of Brazil mean one of the best and most popular ways to see the sights is with a guided tour, whether by car, bus, boat, helicopter or on foot. Take out cancellation cover to make sure you are refunded for any up-front tour costs if you have to cancel or are unable to attend through no fault of your own. You should also consider the type of travel you’ll be doing, and should ensure your policy covers it.
- Wildlife adventures: Be aware of the risk of animal bites and resulting disease, and ensure you’re up to date on your rabies vaccination before you travel. It’s also not unheard of for monkeys to steal from tourists, and having the right possessions cover is recommended for protection in this eventuality. Remember that you must properly secure items in order for them to be covered.
It’s important to ensure you’re up to date on all your vaccinations and have discussed any health risks to be aware of with a medical professional before you travel.
Consider travel insurance that will cover:
- Medical expenses. Check the details on what kind of medical treatments you can access.
- Medical evacuation and repatriation. If you have to return home, does your policy cover the expenses?
- Hospital incidentals. Be aware of what your insurance will cover if you are unfit to fly and have accommodation costs, or need to purchase items whilst in hospital.
- Accidental death. If you pass away overseas, many travel insurance policies cover funeral and repatriation benefits.
- Loss of income and disability. If you suffer a disability resulting from injury or illness, travel insurance can offer protection if you are unable to work when you return home.
Using Brazil’s healthcare system
- All Brazilian residents and citizens are covered for free public healthcare. Tourists are not.
- Travel insurance is strongly recommended for visitors who want to access the private system in the event of an emergency.
- In the event of accident, injury or illness, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you have the freedom to choose between multiple private hospitals, consider an international one for a better chance of being seen by English-speaking medical professionals.
There are three main points of contact for an overseas emergency:
- The Australian embassy in Brazil: Embassy staff can help Australians with missing passports, legal difficulties and other tricky issues. You are strongly encouraged to register with the embassy if you are planning to visit Brazil. Call the Australian Embassy in Brazil on +55 (61) 3226 3111.
- Your insurer: If you have to make a claim, whether it’s for medical expenses, stolen property or anything else, you should contact your insurer as soon as you are able. Remember to provide detailed information and evidence of costs such as hospital bills, a police report, and any other relevant information.
- Friends and family at home: Share your travel plans with friends and family and make sure you stay in touch. If you go missing or fail to check in they will be able to alert authorities quickly.
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are where some of Brazil’s busiest airports are based, and are the entry point for many travellers to the country. Find cheap flights by booking carefully and taking advantage of special offers.
- There are a lot of airline choices, including Qantas, Etihad, Emirates and many local options.
- It takes about 18 to 22 hours to fly from Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, depending on stopovers.
- Expect to pay about $1,000 to $1,200 for a one-way ticket, and roughly twice that for a return airfare. Check which routes and destinations are the least expensive.
- All Brazilian nationals are required to enter and leave Brazil with their Brazilian passports.
- All Australian passport holders travelling to Brazil require a visa before they leave home.
- Visas are generally valid for up to a maximum of 5 years.
- The maximum duration of stay is generally 90 days, with extensions available.
- Tourist visas can also be used for visiting family and friends, and to participate in or view sports competitions or art contests. No income from such events can be derived directly from a Brazilian source, with the exception of prize money.
- Tourist visas can be used by scientists, professors and researchers to attend conferences, seminars or meetings in Brazil in their area of specialisation, as long as no income is received in Brazil from doing so.
- Tourists are not allowed to engage in any kind of work while in Brazil.
- You must provide a photograph of yourself when applying for a visa.
- Your passport must be valid for six months beyond your exit date, and have two blank facing visa pages.
- Provide proof of travel arrangements, such as a copy of your flight confirmation showing entry and departure dates.
- Provide proof of residency in the form of driver’s licence or other ID.
- You are required to fill out a Brazil visa application form online.
- Students, self-employed and unemployed individuals are required to show proof of sufficient funds for self-maintenance while in Brazil. In this situation you will need to show you can afford a minimum of $2,500 per month if staying in hotels or $1,300 a month if staying in hostels. If you’re travelling on a fully prepaid tour you can provide confirmation of this instead.
The best time to visit Brazil is usually in the summer between December and March, but it depends on where you’re travelling.
|Time of year||What’s it like?||What’s on?|
|Low season: May to September||Mild temperatures, reduced crowds and lower prices make this off-season a good time to visit Brazil, except in July which is a school holiday month.|
|Mid season: April and October||Warm and dry weather along the coast and colder in the south. Prices and crowds are fairly average at this time of year, except for a peak around Easter.|
|High season: December to March||Hot, thriving and festive, Brazil’s high season is party time for tourists and locals alike, drawing big crowds and higher prices.|
- Brazil’s currency is the Brazilian Real (plural, reais).
- ATMs are easy to find, but don’t always accept foreign cards and charge additional fees if they do.
- Look for a “Cambio” sign if you want a currency exchange. You’ll find the best exchange rates away from tourist tracks and airports.
- You’ll generally get a better exchange rate at a currency exchange than you will from a bank or withdrawing Brazilian reais from an ATM.
- Credit-card skimming is a problem in Brazil. When paying with your card, don’t let it out of your sight.
- The language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese, not Spanish.
- The international hand gesture of “Ok”, with the index finger and thumb forming a circle, is very rude in Brazil, about equivalent to the middle finger in Australia.
- Green and yellow are Brazilian national colours. Locals generally don’t wear them together except on special occasions, so if you do it can make you stand out when you don’t necessarily want to.
- Be careful after dark. The beaches and sidewalks are safe enough in the day, but should be avoided at night. Similarly, the buses are generally safe in daylight but not at night. Use registered taxis as oppose to taking a night bus.
All travel insurance policies have exclusions where you will not be covered.
- Under the influence or behaving recklessly: If you act completely irresponsibly, are very drunk or are under the influence of other substances, your insurer may refuse to pay out. Be aware of this when partying in Brazil.
- Improperly secured belongings: Your possessions are only covered if you’ve taken all appropriate steps to secure and protect them.
- Risky activities: Bungee jumping, hang-gliding, skydiving, scuba diving and other adventure pastimes are not necessarily covered by your travel insurance policy. Check that your policy covers your planned activities.
- Failing to follow advice: Many travel insurance brands will reserve the right to not pay claims if a traveller is injured while visiting an area that the Australian government travel advisory has listed as high risk. Travellers in Brazil are advised to exercise a high degree of caution and you should check to see how your insurer accommodates this.