What to expect when moving to Brazil

Hello everyone,

Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to Brazil? For example, transportation, internet speeds, types of housing, aspects of the culture or social life.

In your opinion, what's the most important thing to know about Brazil?

When would you recommend someone should begin planning their move to Brazil?

What were the most helpful ways you found to get organised? For example, did you use a checklist, were there any particularly useful websites or apps?

What advice would you give to future expats preparing to move to Brazil?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


Learn the language. Most people here won't speak English with foreigners. Learn the accents, as well. Many people will pretend they don't understand foreigners with poor accents. I used LiveMocha and Rosetta Stone.

Get a form of plastic payment with no foreign exchange fees.  Capitol One works. Unless your plastic is "chipped" insist on corded card readers to cut down on the chances of the card being cloned.

Make sure that any legal documents you will need here are less than 90 days old and apostilled.  If you can, get them "legally/officially" translated before arriving here.

If you know exactly where you're going and are going to buy housing, look into it before you get here. If you're going to marry a Brazilian, I highly recommend doing it before coming to Brazil because it's a pain in the butt to do it here. You can have your permanency established by the time you get here.  If you've got professional qualifications, get them updated and translated if possible. You'll need them for your professional work book - carteira de trabalho.

For Americans, I think the most important thing to remember is to lose your freaking arrogance.  Even though you're an American, your feces still stinks. The USA is not "god's blessing upon the world." Realize that especially now, most of the world looks down upon and laughs at Americans.

Probably one of the most important pieces of information: Unless you sound like a Brazilian, DO NOT do any negotiating for things like cars or houses; let a Brazilian that you trust handle it or the person you're negotiating with will fleece you because you're " a rich American." Example: I went to the lumberyard to buy some wood to make a screen door. I was quoted almost R$60 for three pieces of wood. I sent my son-in-law two days later and he bought the 3 pieces of wood I needed for R$20, with the screws for the assembly.

Buy or bring your electronics from elsewhere, as all appliances, devices, radios, computers, are way overpriced.

If you want to start a business be prepared to face The failure because The system of Brazil like Labour laws, timings, benefits to workers, behaviors of workers and economic ups and downs are pessimistic.

Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to Brazil? For example, transportation, internet speeds, types of housing, aspects of the culture or social life.

I expected that the internet speed to not be as good as in the USA Some things with culture and social life were a surprise. I make the best of it. some things I like some things I don`t. Carnaval in Vitoria ES where I live is just a parade. they are too over populated in their groups to really do The Samba right.

I enjoy most of the food. My wife is of Italian descent. Italian food is my favorite.

In your opinion, what's the most important thing to know about Brazil?

You will encounter much beaurocracy with paperwork and even making purchases. It took 3 people to sell me a coffee pot. and 4 to sell me a TV.

When would you recommend someone should begin planning their move to Brazil?

Clothing here is different. I don`t like the Mens underwear so I stock up on that when I visit the United states. Clothing that lasts a long time is expensive.

What were the most helpful ways you found to get organized? For example, did you use a checklist, were there any particularly useful websites or apps?

What advice would you give to future expats preparing to move to Brazil?

Visit first and explore.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Also, a recent big deal for us in Salvador is that for the last year, Uber has made made local transportation a dream. Taxi's are too expensive, buses to crowed and slow, but Uber is quite reasonable and fast. Also a great way to meet and greet locals with the inside story.

We have a lotação provider here to get between the close outlying areas and the "city" center. Same price as the bus, just quicker.

I suspect different regions and cities have their own differing situations. While I was writing the above quip, I realized that any expat with a car and phone could run their own Uber business without government intrusion!

I am from Brazil.  Born in Sergipe and went to college in Salvador-Bahia.  Moved to England in 1983 and to USA (Virginia) in 1985.  After 35 years out of Brazil I decided to move back to Salvador, Bahia  (planning to move in 2018) where my family lives.  I am so used to the USA way of living that I think that I will have a very hard time getting use and living in Brazil.  I am looking for health care in Bahia.  Any suggestions?

The cost of medicine is so cheap in comparision to the US, we simply locate our physicians with decent reputations and who will take payments. Go to the Centro de Medico near the Universidad de Bahia in SALVADOR. They have lots of good Drs and dentists. I just had 7 dental implants for under 500.00US per tooth and Dr. Bruno is taking payments.

Mike in Sao Paulo............I think that they were looking for good advise on moving to Brazil, not to  be insulted.  You attitude is exactly reflective of what you said Americans do not need to bring with them.   So apparently you didn't learn much while here, but then again some of your previous posts are also somewhat negative!

Thanks so much for your comment in health insurance.  I am just worried about hospital for emergency.  All my family has private insurance, but since I am 62 years old is very hard to get health insurance in Salvador. I think that is a good idea to pay cash for doctor's visit and even tests. However,  if I have an emergency and need hospitalization, the private hospital will not take you if you do not have insurance and the public health care places are so busy that they let you die outside the hospital if they do not have a bed available.

Mike in Saa Paulo,

I see nothing wrong with your post or attitude. I look forward to reading your posts.


I don't see any insults in what I wrote. I spoke the truth and did not denigrate anyone.

One thing I do need to add to my original comment: Don't count on most people here worrying about schedules or the clock. My wife and I just paid a corretor an extra R$1000 to process our property purchase quickly and he promised to deliver the documentation this past Friday.

His excuse Friday was that he didn't have time to go pick the paperwork up. Wait. Didn't have time to do something he was paid an EXTRA R$1000 to do? He promised it would be here today. My wife and I just got back from São Paulo and.....surprise....no documents as promised. Now I have to fight him to get my money back.

Some people never learn, complaining is negativity. I hope you find something positive and can share wonderful experiences that the rest of us have here in beautiful Brazil! It seems like you suffer a lot.

I've got a wonderful and beautiful wife. I've got a wonderful step-son-in-law and an amazingly beautiful loving step-daughter. I've also got five great grandkids thanks to Brazil.

But thanks to this unfeeling idiot that I paid an extra R$1000 to, her visa was denied today.

I1m thinking there is a problem with the paperwork. If your wife doesn't have any police problems there shouldn't be a problem.


I can't see any problems with it, though. Everything is correct on her DS-160 form. I triple-checked it before submitting it. For the names and birth dates of her parents I used our marriage paperwork. We're (well, now I'm) visiting my parents. The purpose of the visit was for her to meet her in-laws, for them to meet their daughter-in-law, for us to attend my mom's birthday 13 days after we arrive. She knew the city/town (well, they call themselves a village) my parents live in. There was also a letter of invitation from my mother mentioning her birthday, a quilt show my wife wants to go to, a 2-day quilting class my wife wants to take, and our desired visit to Yosemite and Vegas (although she didn't mention that part of our Vegas visit will be work reporting on the SEMA Show.).

My mom's letter said that her and my dad will be paying for anything that we can't buy on our own since I'm a freelance writer and will continue working during our visit, albeit curtailed hours. She even took my passport, RNE, and CPF card in with her to show them I have permanent residence here. "Where's your husband right now?" "Out front waiting for me." How much money do you make per month? "R$2000 after benefits." Confirmed by her boss if they called before the interview.) "What kind of work is it?" "I am listed as a domestic employee." "I'm sorry, but we can't give you a tourist visa. Goodbye." She's never been in trouble whatsoever. She's never had her CNH and never learned to drive, so she hasn't even received a moving violation in her life. 

Oh, and then there's the fact that we are now homeowners, although we're still renting because I have repairs to do before we can move in.  The guy we paid to file the paperwork at the proper cartorio in Santos promised he'd have the paperwork to us by Friday, then by Saturday, then yesterday, then today before we left again for her interview (we came all the way back here from SP yesterday because he hadn't fulfilled his half of the contract of delivering the matriculação (or something like that) papers to us. He and my wife's son, who introduced us, assure us the papers were filed Friday the 8th and other papers he filed for other buyers were finished within 5 days and we've seen those.

I'm not even sure if I can get her a green card or spousal visa like the consular officer recommended to her (petição de cidadão por que vc é casada com cidadão dos Estados Unidos e vc tem direitos agora) because those come with the expectation that the holder will be living in the US and we won't be. Probably ever. Brazil isn't a Visa Waiver Program country, so that's out of the question. Most of those countries are Asian, Arab oil producing, or European countries. There are no Latin American countries on the list. I think that one part of why that is is because there's a hidden prejudice in the US that Latin Americans want to move to the US.

When I applied for my Brazilian tourist visa, I was asked to show that I'd bought round trip tickets, the letter from my then girlfriend that I would be staying at her house during my visit, two photos, a postal money order, and to give them 3 days to process the visa. Oh, and my bank records because I'm a freelance writer. Not a thing more. Almost no questions whatsoever other than my then girlfriend's name.

There's only one other thing I can think of and it's really way out there: I am a vocal critic of trump, both on Facebook and Twitter. My full name had to be given on the DS-160 (Non-Immigrant Visa) application.  And I have posted and commented on his profiles quite a bit over the past 10 months or so. To be honest, I wouldn't put it past him to have a list of people like me circulating with a "take negative action whatever caused these names to come up" order as petty and childish as he is. Oh, I'm also a vocal proponent of marijuana legalization.

So, no. I can't see why her visa would be denied. Oh, the three previous attempts her daughter and grandson were living in Recife. And she was asked about that. They now live in the house/apartment on the other side of the wall from where I sit right now as I type. Her son lives there too. HIS 4 kids live in the next neighborhood over.  The 3 other attempts we lived an hour farther away. We moved here to be closer to them. And Carol, Junior, and Apollo moved here to be closer to us. She also didn't have her carteira do trablaho signed those other times, either (because of our desire to visit my parents. Her boss didn't want to sign until she could be assured Enilda would have at least 6 months uninterrupted working before we tried again.


Since you are in the United States right now why not try to talk to someone there.


I highly doubt that being a critic of our President Mr. Trump has anything to do with this. I am sure he has better things to do than be petty with your situation. The State Department has written / unwritten rules and procedures when it comes to issuing Visas. 

In your case I would consider the low wages and type of job your wife has as the reason why the Visa has been denied twice. Not in your case it seems, but in the past many Brazilians have not returned. You need to show that she has "huge" ties to Brazil. That she is not going to just jump the border. A reason she will return, having a house that you "own" a few days is not proof. Anyone can go through the hassle of putting a house in your name to help you out. 

Last week, I looked into a case for a friend of mine that has been denied 2 times also. No reason given and the Embassy doesn't have to give one. The wages they stated on the first application was wrong, a simple zero was left out.  Second time I couldn't find anything, but if you are previously denied you have to check yes and state reason if known. It has been two years since then and I told them to try again.

I have friends that work at the embassy and even their family members have been denied before. Its up to the interviewers intuition of will this person return and can they afford such a trip. Do they have the means to support themselves. I know your parents have said they will be financially responsible, but you need to be able to show that you can at least be partially. I have also heard that if you had a family member overstay a visa it will negatively affect you. Hopefully that is not the case for you. 

I would go visit your parents alone and spend as much time as possible with them. Wait the six months and try again for your wife. By then, you will be a home owner for many months. Maybe consider helping her get a different job or start a business.

Good luck! Thank you for doing it legally, Mr. Trump would be proud of you!

I'm in Bertioga, São Paulo, Jim. I haven't seen US soil since June of 2012.

Pardon the French, but fuck that useless, ignorant piece of shit.  The sooner he's indicted, the better it will be for everyone in the world.

Considering that he has black listed reporters for speaking the truth about him (or, in other words, doing their job), I'm not at all convinced he wouldn't do as I mentioned.

Oh, and now, the visa has been denied four times. I was quite clear about that.

As mentioned, we HAD a small business operating during our second two applications and were denied. With income on paper of R$3000 - R$4000 a month. The home ownership is completely legit. The documentation is all filed and processed as in any other home purchase case.

The paperwork they give people they deny says that having immediate family living close by is good. Her kids and most of our grandkids live at the same house; we really can't get any closer than that. It said that being registered for training is good. We had her in two business administration and computerized accounting classes for our restaurant during the second and third attempts. We've done everything the "denial papers" say can be done to show vinculo.

So yes, skin color is the only thing I can see, as I clearly stated that friends of ours with the same job title and of course income have been approved. Just that they're descended from Portuguese and my wife is descended from slaves the Portuguese brought in. Or now, my politics.

Oh, and the first time we applied, the application said she would be traveling alone and that she had met my mom online in a quilt group.

Good luck I think you will need it...the power of positive thinking.

Blaming others takes time and energy away from improving yourself.


I have an acquiantance in Penha, Santa Catarina who was denied of a B-2 visa (tourist)
last year. He is white (German-Portuguese), a real estate broker and should be earning
enough as not to jump ship. He was complaining to me that the US doesn´t want him
and his other 2 friends of the same standing were approved.

I looked at the DS 160 on-line and the questions were all straight forward - no tricky
questions there.

You know what I think? It´s all subjective. It depends on the gut-feeling of the  interviewer ; the smartness of the way a person answers questions; the way they´re
dressed and react and interact with the interviewer. In other words, you have like 30
seconds to impress. You have to behave like you have money to spend. You dress
smart and you tell them that you´re visiting the US to go to Disneyland in Anaheim!
In other words, your wife should prepare like going to a job interview in the US and
confidently smiling along the way!

I know it´s a little bit stressfull for Brazilians to behave to that type environment. We´re just used to coping with that type of scenario. My passport expired one time and I had to apply for a new one in SP. The line for people applying for tourist visa was like a mile long. Did you notice that many women were all dressed up and the men were in coat and ties? So that tells you that that is more or less the the status quo that the interviewers are used to.

So improve the income report, maybe a new position (job), and smarter on interviews.
And of course say yes that she was denied a visa before. And be relentless until they say


:) Have you checked Cigna?


Yeah. We've done all that. Disneyland and the Grand Canyon. Maybe a quick pass into Vegas. Nice clothes. relaxed. Answers rehearsed so they come natural.  invitation and financial responsibility letters from my mother each time.

We've been there four times now and I've paid attention to the type of attire of as many people as I could without appearing to each of those four times. My wife wears attire that is similar that portrays apparent wealth.


You may have burned a bridge with someone in São Paulo.  Try a different consulate next time.  Rio and Recife are both nice places for a getaway.  My then-fiancé got his visa in Rio because we were going to be there for a wedding anyway, so we stayed a couple of days longer and scheduled his interview there.

How may I have burned a bridge with someone in São Paulo and had that affect my wife's visa application? I don't know any Americans there.

We're already looking at Recife since she was raised there.

Mike in São Paulo :

How may I have burned a bridge with someone in São Paulo and had that affect my wife's visa application? I don't know any Americans there.

As I'm sure you're aware, US immigration law REQUIRES a "rebuttable presumption" that every candidate for a tourist visa plans to overstay and immigrate.  If a consular officer has determined that the presumption hasn't been sufficiently rebutted once, and the same applicant keeps coming up before the same officer without much change in the application, it's possible that a rejection cycle kicks in.

Yeah. I know our arrogant immigration law requires the applicant to somehow prove that they will return to their country of origin. In our case, I just don't know how we can accomplish that.

Four different consular officers. My wife said the 2nd and 3rd of the 4 were approving 4 or 5 for every one they were rejecting.

The application changed from her being a self-employed domestic worker to having a contract, to us legit owning a food/lunch counter, to us owning the food place and having just finished buying a house.  (Home and business ownership were listed as ways to prove strong ties to the home country.)

The third application had her attending classes on computerized business management and MS Office skills. (School enrollment was listed as one thing proving strong ties to the home country.)

The first through third applications she was single, the last time she was married to an American citizen with Brazilian residence and co-owner of the restaurant and house with her. In Brazil.

The invitation/support letters my mother wrote all mentioned that my wife would have to be returning after 2 weeks because we couldn't be gone from the restaurant any longer or her employer only authorized a 2 week vacation, both of which are true.

The first three applications her son and his three kids lived within 10 minutes of our house (her son lived with us at the time). The last one we had brought her daughter, son in law, and grandson down from Recife to live near us; next door to be exact.  (Strong local family and social networks were listed as proving strong ties to the home country.)

Hey Mike when I went on my last trip to Salvador someone else had mentioned the Iotação for transportation outside the city and for my son to school. In Barra, they have everything within walking distance and Uber has sufficed whenever I needed to go anywhere else within 15-20 minutes without driving. Do you mind talking a little bit about the Iotação, where I can find more information and what kind of service it is?

Thanks a lot and thank you for your posts!

No problem. There are three types (and locations to get picked up) of lotação here.
There's the local group and they wait for passengers near the two main grocery stores. They usually let people out wherever they want without straying off a set group of routes depending on the final destination.  Cost is R$3.50 and they leave when they have at least 3 people. They take people from the "city center" to two of the outlying bairros. One route takes them almost along the beach to Indaiá and the other goes out to the rodovia and turns around just at Anga Roa. A few extra reais will sometimes get them to take you out to the gate at Riviera. de São Laurenço.

Another group waits at the end of one of the main streets near a lanchoneta called "Primeira Parada" (because right in front is the first bus stop on the street). This group takes people to the city of Guarujá and will also drop people off at the bairro Caruara which is on the way.   Cost is R$10 and they leave when they have at least 3 people. These guys will either drop you off at the bus stop at the top of the main shopping street or to the ferry dock to go to Santos. Going back they only leave from the praça behind the bus stop up top.

The final one takes people to Moji das Cruzes so they can go into São Paulo or São Bernardo. These are usually vans that load up with up to 15 people at a time. They go between Riviera de São Laurenço which is a small self-contained wealthy community, and the Moji das Cruzes metro/subway/train/bus station. Riders can ask to be dropped off anywhere along the established route. Cost is R$20 These guys average one van leaving here every 15-20 minutes when there's a bunch of travelers. They'll head out with as few as 8-10 riders in order to keep to something of a schedule.  During peak periods they usually roll two vans at a time both directions to keep up with demand.  There's also a subgroup that almost seems to trade off that takes people coming out of the metro/subway/train station and brings them here in private cars instead of vans. They will then either turn around after dropping the last person off and cruise a little shouting "Moji Moji!" out the window at the bus stops trolling for riders. If a van leaves with less than 13 or 14 people, the driver may drive into Indaiá and around back to the rodovia trolling for that last 2 or 3 passengers before hitting the road for Moji.

More information online, I'm not sure. But to establish one you have to have an agreement of some sort with the prefeitura. The local one here is run by a single guy that gets the drivers the passengers, mostly from the bus stops nearby. Our bus service is horrible, by the way. This is why we have the local lotação, I think.

The one taking people the Guarujá is also run or organized by one guy, I think. Buses run more often there, but they take wide detours out to the bairro Indaiá and Riviera before turning around and going back through town and then off to Guarujá. The lotação goes direct.

Thank you very much!!!

You're very welcome.

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