Most people don’t fly all the way to Brazil just for a couple of days. Instead, many try to cover a large chunk of the country. For that reason, there’s a lot of preparation that must to go into packing.
After traveling the country for about 6 weeks by mostly “winging it”, I learned a lot about what to pack and what to wear. I also thought of a slew of things that I wish I had brought or known. These things would have made my life so much easier. I also ended up being far less comfortable while buying items in the country, ultimately for a higher price.
Of course, exactly what you pack will depend on your own personal style, preferences and where you are going. None of this should be taken for black and white rules, but as guidelines to make your trip as stress-free as possible.
Things to note about packing for Brazil:
The geography is diverse, so will be your packing list
One of the most important things to take into account when packing for Brazil is exactly where you will be going. This was tough for me as I didn’t have an exact plan. I was originally going to stick to the coast, but about two weeks into my trip I changed my mind completely. For this reason, I had a too much beach wear and too little mountain and city attire.
If you know the route you plan to take in advance, this will help you immensely. If you don’t, you’ll have to try and bring a little of everything– beach clothes, Amazon appropriate attire, hiking gear and city clothes.
Luckily, Brazilian domestic flights usually include one checked bag for no extra charge. This helps immensely when you’ve got a bag on the larger side for all the climates you’ll be experiencing.
Brazil is pricey
Many people, like myself, assume Brazil will be a pretty economical place to visit. Unfortunately, it’s not, and in high season you can see prices similar to that of the U.S. or Europe. Unlike more inexpensive countries, you can’t just go out and buy everything you need on a whim without breaking your budget. For this reason, packing the right gear is especially important.
Due to taxes, the things I found with the highest markups were: contact solution, deodorant, sunscreen, makeup, electronics and clothes. I would also probably include feminine hygiene products to the list, and any specialty hair or skin products you like.
A note on the Brazilian bikini
I didn’t buy a Brazilian-style bikini while in the country. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t need to. For one, I already had about 3 different bathing suits with me and two, I knew I’d never, probably ever, where it at the beach at home.
These bathing suits are tiny. And while it would be fun to have one, the ones I liked the best were pretty darn expensive, especially for the fact I wasn’t sure if I’d ever wear it again. Now maybe I’ll regret this the next time I’m on vacation, or on the Thai Islands, but I’m not trying to turn the heads of every human being the next time I head to the beach in San Diego.
If you plan on buying one, I’d still bring a ‘normal’ bathing suit with you as well. Hey, you might get sun-burnt back there...or from what I noticed on many other women, you might have a few unflattering bug bites. (Ew. No one wants to see that if they don’t have to.)
Don’t worry about not fitting in by skipping the Brazilian cut though. Your best bet would be to bring the smallest or tightest fitting bathing suit you have at home which you are also comfortable in.
On female style and body image
Overall, Brazilians dress pretty casually, and I’d pack appropriately. During the summer, the heat and sun can be intense and you’ll want to be comfortable. For the most part, I brought shorts, tanks, dresses, some comfortable pants and one or two dressier shirts. While you’ll have to assess where you are traveling to, and for how long, I’d stick to bringing 75% casual and comfortable clothes and 25% clothes for classier outings. This would mean a few dressier things that could be appropriate for nightlife in cities like Rio and São Paulo.
You don’t really want to still be in your jean shorts and a tank top once the night rolls around in Brazil. While it would be acceptable, Brazil has great nightlife and you’ll probably wish you had something slightly more appropriate.
Many Brazilian women show a lot of skin in their daily dress. This is completely acceptable and doesn’t correlate to their physical appearance. Almost everyone in Brazil seems comfortable in their skin no matter what size they are.
Just because someone might be overweight to U.S. or European standards, it doesn’t mean they cover up in Brazil.
I was initially intimidated by all the gorgeous people I thought I’d constantly be surrounded by. In reality, many people were on the larger side and still completely confident. This made me feel miles more comfortable with my own body image. (Hey, maybe we could all learn something from this, eh?)
While in Brazil, I say take advantage of the less strict body image ideals and dress how you want to dress. Feel comfortable no matter how much you weigh or how many layers you put on.
Comprehensive Packing List for Brazil:
- Casual clothes- shorts and 3-4 shirts and tanks
- A pair of pants
- 1-2 nicer shirts for going out
- A good pair of shoes for a hiking
- Sturdy or leather sandals (you can easily buy Havaianas very inexpensively everywhere in Brazil for the beach/everyday wear)
- A couple of bathing suits, depending on if you plan to buy any
- A sweatshirt for cold bus rides (they get VERY cold!)
- Long pant pajamas for cold bus rides and to protect you from mosquito bites at night
- Locks for hostel lockers / your bags
- Outlet adapters
- For females: 1-2 dresses, all your cosmetics, a sarong (for the beach or as a cover up)
- The eight items below
What to bring to Brazil (which you probably didn’t think of):
If I could go back to before my trip, I would have ordered all of the items below. I was cursing myself that I didn’t have them! Seriously, you’ll thank me later and your trip will be that much easier!
1. A power strip
Every hostel I stayed at just never seemed to have enough outlets. I constantly felt like a scavenger, roaming the hostel for a safe place I could charge my phone and my camera battery. Many times this led to me not having fully charged gear at all because I didn’t want anything to be stolen while I wasn’t watching.
In some hostels I noticed people had brought outlet taps to allow more people to plug into the sole electricity source in the room. This was genius. What was even more genius were the people who had power strips with an extension cord so their phone or computer cables could reach their beds.
You don’t know how jealous of these I was.
Although it might sound a little crazy to be lugging around a power strip with you while backpacking, in Brazil it would have been extremely handy! Also, it would probably be a great way to make friends…
I’d recommend this one: Ceptics 110V-250V Universal 3-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel (PS-3U) $17.23. (Also, don’t forget the adapter to make sure it fits into a Brazilian outlet.)
2. Scrubba Bag
In most places I’ve traveled to, getting laundry done has never been an issue. In Asia, there’s always a cheap and quick laundry service nearby. In other places, usually guesthouses will have a laundry service to use. For some reason, it wasn’t always as easy in Brazil.
Hostels rarely, if ever, had a laundry service. A few had laundry machines but in high season they were often occupied. Most times I would either wash a few things in the sink and hang them out (so time consuming!) or have to walk pretty far to find a place which did laundry. There became a point when so much of what I had was dirty that I basically washed my entire bag. Sadly, this ended up costing me about $25! Doing laundry in Brazil is not cheap!
I bought this bag for my Dad for Christmas since he is currently embarking on a long motorcycle trip through South America. He loves it and I now really wish I bought myself one as well. Though pricey for what it seems to be, it would have paid for itself quickly in Brazil after the laundry services and detergent I used for my sink washes. It would have also saved me tons of time. Instead of scrubbing away in the sink or walking down blocks to find a laundromat, my dad says this bag makes washing a few things at a time quick and easy. It has little ridges and bumps in the inside to help you scrub. It also works as a dry bag, which is always useful to protect valuables in the rain!
Here it is:The ScrubbaTM Wash Bag $53.
3. A waterproof phone case
Brazil truly is paradise, and I found myself on the beach or exploring waterfalls more times than I can count on my trip. Also, in both Paraty and Chapada Diamantina I was often flying down natural water slides into refreshing pools of water. If only I brought a waterproof camera or a waterproof case, I could of documented it.
While many people would just go with a GoPro, I think a case for your phone would be handy enough if you don’t want to shell out $200.
I’d recommend this one: Universal Waterproof iPhone Case by Wildtek. For iPhone 6, 6 plus, 5, 5s, 4, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Note, GPS, mp3 player, passport. Also works as a waterproof wallet, dry bag, pouch. Touch responsive front and back. Lifetime Warranty. $19.
4. A Money belt
I hate money belts. I really do. It’s something about having to reach into your pants every time you need money that really gets to me. I find it just shouts “hey, I’m a scared tourist!” and “hey, I’m reaching into my underwear!” every time.
But alas, in Brazil I finally used one, and I wasn’t alone.
During crowded street parties or celebrations, I barely saw any Brazilian women with purses. Usually everything was tucked away from pick-pockets or bag snatchers. While sometimes I had a small bag which went over my shoulder, it was much safer when I was actually just carrying a small amount of cash and my phone in my money belt. Of course, this became a problem if I ever wanted to wear a dress, but what can you do?
I also use a money belt while on long walking trips (like the Camino) so I can keep my phone and some small change handy. I wear it outside my clothes more like a fanny pack. This way I’m hands free and don’t have to constantly stop when I need something out of my big pack.
I’d recommend this one:Eagle Creek Travel Gear Undercover Money Belt Dlx (Khaki). $20.
5. All your cosmetics & skin products
As mentioned earlier, Brazil can be expensive. Try to pack all the products you’ll need and avoid buying them in Brazil. Sunscreen, bug spray, makeup, deodorant and contact solution are all things that will probably cost the same, if not more, than at home. Especially since in your home country you will be able to find your favorite brand, you might as well just bring all these things with you.
I really don’t like wearing bug spray if I don’t have to, but in Brazil most times it was crucial. Since I used it so much, I wish I would have come with my favorite Deet-free brand. I hate all the chemicals in bug spray. Since I was stuck with the OFF brands I bought in Brazil, I would sometimes rather be bitten than put it on and feel greasy and radioactive.
I usually use this one: Avon Skin So Soft Bug Gaurd Plus SPF 30. (Currently unavailable on Amazon.) $14.
6. Good walking or hiking shoes for different terrain
I imagined that most of my time would be spent by the beach, and I’d rarely need good walking shoes. I also didn’t plan on going to the Amazon, so I didn’t consider a sturdy pair of shoes. Once I got to Brazil I realized how many hiking trails and national parks there were and immediately regretted my decision. I ended up buying some hiking shoes to visit Chapada Diamantina, so everything was fine, but it would of saved me money if I just brough mine along from home.
Brazil is also full of beautiful colonial towns with large uneven cobblestone. If you have weak ankles, you might consider a steardy shoe or sandal that can keep you safe. My ankles are fine but I found myself stumbling quite often. I kept my Havaianas for the flat cities and beaches, but my Birkenstocks for the cobblestones.
7. Camera cleaning kit
I had reservations when bringing my new Nikon D3300 to Brazil, but most had to do with it getting stolen. What I should have been more concerned about was taking care of it in the hot, sandy, dusty and humid conditions.
I took a fair bit of photos on the beach and even when the wind wasn’t blowing, I’d leave with a pretty filthy lens. I was constatnly trying to clean what I could with the tiny glasses cleaning cloth I had. A full cleaning kit would have not only eased my nerves but saved me a possible professional camera cleaning in the near future.
I’d recommend: Professional Cleaning Set for DSLR Cameras and Sensitive Electronics (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony) – Includes: Purosol All Natural Lens Cleaner 1 oz. Bottle + Lens Cleaning Pen + Lens Brush + Air Blower Cleaner + 50 Sheets Lens Tissue Paper + 3 Pack Oversize and Original Premium MagicFiber Microfibers Cleaning Cloths. $13.99.
8. A water purifier
I visited Brazil in the summer, and it was HOT. Some days I felt as if I was just constantly searching for shade as refuge. Of course not everywhere was this extreme, but if you plan to travel Brazil in summer you can expect to have some very, very hot days.
I was constantly thirsty, and along with those caipirinhas, constantly dehydrated. For these reasons, I spent loads of money on bottled water. In the bigger cities, sometimes it would be almost $1 per 500ml bottle, and I bought a few a day. Let’s say I spent $3 on water each day, overall I would have spent at least $120 on water during my almost six weeks there.
I was also ruining the environment at the same time.
Before I set off, I should of brought a reusable bottle and bought a water purifier like the one below. While they are expensive, I still would have spent less money overall. I would have also had this for trips to come.
I’ve heard great things about this one: SteriPEN Freedom Portable, Handheld UV Water Purifier for Travel $80.
Have you backpacked Brazil? What else should people bring?
*This article includes some affiliate links for products I either already have or fully recommend.*