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Living in Brazil?

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Francois Bertrand

Living in Brazil, from Canada

"What a thrilling city São Paulo is. With a great international expat community that keeps in touch on InterNations."

Elin Gustavson

Living in Brazil, from Sweden

"As I already met several expat women on InterNations online, it was great to meet offline and get to know each other in real life."

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Brazil at a Glance

Living in Brazil

As an expat in Brazil, you need to take care of your health, your kids’ education, and your accommodation. After all, there is more to living in Brazil than the Carnival, the Copacabana, the country’s rainforests, and its pleasant climate. Read our guide to find out all you need to know.

The friendly attitude of many Brazilians and the cultural diversity of South America’s largest and only Portuguese-speaking country are legendary. An overwhelming number of foreigners living in Brazil have settled in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, or Macaé. This is mainly due to more employment options and better infrastructure in the big cities compared to life in Brazil’s rural areas.

Healthcare in Brazil

Brazil is one of the few countries which provide free universal access to medical care. Anyone who is living in Brazil legally can enjoy free medical consultations, hospital treatment, and surgery supplied by the public health system (Sistema Único de Saude – SUS). However, the public system has the reputation of being underfunded. Waiting times at public hospitals can be very long for patients.

More affluent people living in Brazil – about 25% of the population – thus prefer the private healthcare system. Nowadays, many companies offer their employees private medical plans as part of their remuneration. Before starting your expat life in Brazil, you should ensure that you have adequate private health insurance as healthcare costs in the private sector can be very high.

The provision of healthcare facilities in the larger cities is considered good. General practitioners, specialist treatment and hospitals are widely available in Brazil’s major cities. The situation is different in Brazil’s rural areas, though. Particularly in the northeast, medical care is not always available.

Common Health Risks

For certain areas, including Brasilia and all rural or jungle regions, a yellow fever vaccination is strongly recommended, even though it is not required to enter the country. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B as well as typhoid and rabies are recommended for long-term stays, regardless of where your life in Brazil is going to take you.

Some areas of the country, including urban areas such as Porto Velho, Boa Vista and Manaus, are malaria-risk areas. Precautionary measures against malaria and Dengue fever are indeed essential. Make sure to contact a doctor and discuss vaccinations and other health risks well in advance of your new life in Brazil.

Cars and Driving in Brazil

Many expats buy a car once they have arrived in Brazil. Due to high taxes, cars are relatively expensive in Brazil. However, buying a new car is still a lot cheaper than importing one from home. In addition to the shipping costs, you are charged a considerable import tax. Used vehicles cannot be imported at all.

The country has the largest road network in South America, and cars are the most popular way of getting around. Driving in Brazil can be anything from an exciting adventure to a downright nightmare, especially in a metropolis such as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Expats living in Brazil can use their national driver’s license for up to six months, as long as it is translated into Portuguese and stamped by the road traffic authorities.

Other Means of Transport

Despite bad traffic conditions, having your own car is your best bet for getting around during your time in Brazil. While both São Paulo and Rio have subways and suburban rail systems with a decent reputation, in most other cities public transportation is limited to buses. Maps of bus lines are rare, and bus stops are not always marked as such.

For those who would like to explore different parts of the country while living in Brazil, cars are the most convenient option, as are planes for longer distances. The country lacks a comprehensive railway system, but it has an excellent coach network. Its long-distance buses are an economical way to travel.

InterNations Expat Magazine