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Consider Making a Reservation
Brazil has a large supply of hotels and hostels throughout most of the country. While generally the availability is good, during the peak months of December and January, which is summer there, you may be hard pressed to find a place without a reservation. During the popular Carnival festival, which falls between February and March every year, you will also find accommodation is hard to come by. You have to book well in advance, particularly in the larger cities, and you are usually required to stay for at least three days at prices that are heavily marked up. If you're traveling during the low season, you will save a lot of money and can be more flexible in your bookings as accommodation will not be in as high demand.
Find Creative Discounts
Brazil is one of the more expensive countries to visit in South America. Don't be surprised if hotel prices are comparable to European prices, particularly in the larger cities. The best way to avoid the heavy expense is to travel during the low season. Research the holiday schedule in Brazil as the holidays directly correlate to peak season in the country. In addition to holidays, the summer months of December and January are highly popular as well.
Another trick to saving money in this expensive country is to travel to the rural areas. Cities in Brazil, particularly along the coast, are notoriously expensive. Do some research before you leave and choose some places that are off the beaten path. It will give you more insight into the true culture of this country, and you'll do it without the extravagant expenses of some of the most popular cities.
A Range of Options
Because Brazil is such a popular tourist destination, it has many different types of accommodation. The Brazilian tourism regulation board rates each hotel, but the star rating is rarely enforced or kept up to date. For this reason it is best to confirm in advance that the hotel has the amenities that you are looking for. Pousadas are guesthouses and are actually more common than hotels. They are simpler, with fewer services and amenities, and for this reason are often cheaper. If you're on an even tighter budget, youth hostels are growing in popularity and are more common now than they once were. In wilderness areas such as Pantanal, you can stay in fazendas. These are ranches that have guest facilities. In rural areas and small towns you can stay in farm hotels known as hoteis-fazendas. These facilities have many different activities ranging from swimming to camping and are often quite scenic. A fun addition to any trip is to stay on a boat hotel which will give you access to some areas you would not reach without being on the water. They're fun for fishing trips or for wildlife watching.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most vibrant and lively cities in the world. Undeniably, people visit this city to party. Whether they're in town for the famous Carnival, are ringing in a New Year, or are in town on a typical Tuesday, you can be assured there will be something fun going on. It's all part of the Brazilian culture.
The budget accommodation is concentrated in several different neighborhoods throughout the city. In particular, you'll find a large concentration of hostels near the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. This is a relatively safe and wealthy area. There are high end hotels mixed in with the budget options so you'll find a variety of different styles of tourists here. It's also close to a subway station so it is relatively easy to travel into the downtown part of the city and experience some of the city's great culture. If you're interested in spending time at the beach then these are the best areas to stay.
If going to the beach is a little less your style then there's also a large concentration of hotels in the Santa Theresa neighborhood. This is the bohemian center of Rio and is a great place to experience the city's eclectic vibe in a historical setting. There are many old, beautiful houses, some of which house different hostels or hotels, and there are cobblestone streets that really add to the quaint atmosphere of the area. It's also very close to the Lapa neighborhood, which has some of the most famed nightlife in all of Rio.
There are some unique accommodation options in Rio as well. If you're interested in staying at an eco-friendly facility, there are a handful of options that might appeal to you. If you're a surfing buff then several different hotels offer a surf camp in addition to room and board. You can arrange surf lessons through your hotel as well. Other hotels offer excursions and tours in the area. Ask around to make sure you're getting a good deal, but these tours are often a great way to arrange travel through a reputable and trusted source. Ask as soon as you arrive at the reception desk and the staff can often tell you all of the options available to you.
While Brazil, and Rio in particular, are very expensive destinations in South America, it is possible to save some money. If you're traveling during the holidays there are often some restriction placed on reservations and bookings you make. During Carnival and New Year's eve in particular, most places set a minimum stay of at least four to seven days. They also dramatically raise their prices and set limitations on their cancellation policies. Do some research and make sure you fully understand the limitations before confirming your reservation particularly if you're traveling during these peak holiday seasons.
Transportation in Sao Paulo is key. If you don't want to pay for a taxi every time you head out into the city, then make sure you hotel is within a short walk of a metro station. This will ensure that you time in the city is convenient and comfortable. Many people choose to stay downtown as it is easily accessible to almost anywhere in the city. The wealthiest and most affluent neighborhoods are in the south central parts of the city. There you will find no shortage of shopping opportunities. If you're flying in and out of the city rather quickly then it might be worth it to stay out by the airport. There are some cheap and comfortable hotels right near the airport as well.