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GUIDE TO BRAZIL

ACCOMMODATIONS


Brazilian accommodations range from bat­tered, windowless cells to sumptuous guest­houses overlooking the sea, with a range of options in between. Nearly every pousada (guesthouse), hostel and hotel serves cafe da manha (breakfast) - though it may be noth­ing more than instant coffee and a dry roll. Private rooms with communal bathrooms down the hall are called quartos. Rooms with a private bathroom are apartamentos.

For our listings, all double rooms that cost less than US$25 are placed in the budget category. At the bottom end of the scale, you can find cheap hotel rooms that cost as little as US$5/US$7 for single/double quartos. At that price expect a bare, shabby room with nothing but a bed and maybe a fan. The walls may reach up to the ceiling, you may have a window and it's possible that the sheets have been changed since the previous occupancy. The door will prob­ably be lockable and the room will prob­ably be swept daily. A step up (US$12 to US$20) will give you simple rooms, most commonly with fans, and dormitories in hostels (usually air-conditioned).

Mid-range listings run from US$25 toUS$75 and are usually comfortable – though not terribly stylish - affairs. Decent beds, air-conditioning, hot-water bathrooms and cable TV are the norm. The top end runs from US$76 and up. Here you'll find spa­cious digs, well furnished with swimming pools, verandas and other amenities (work­out and business centers if you're in Rio or Sampa). Both medium-priced and top-end hotels have safes at the front desk that you can use with confidence as long as you get a receipt.

In tourist centers, especially Rio, res­ervations are a good idea during July and from Christmas to Carnaval. This is true for mid-range and top-end hotels, and for the most popular budget ones as well. The same goes for any vacation mecca (eg Buzios) on weekends, and anywhere during major festivals. For prime peak times (eg Carnaval in Rio or Salvador ), try to make contact at least a few weeks ahead. Many places now allow you to book online. Check the website www.cade.com.br (in Portuguese) to access Brazilian hotels that allow you to book on­line. For Rio, visit www.ipanema.com to get good rates on many hotels.

Booking ahead can also save you 30% or more. If your language skills aren't up to it, get a travel agent to do it for you.

Accommodations in Remote Areas

Where there are no hotels - as in parts of Amazonia and the Northeast - a hammock and mosquito net are essential. With these basics (inexpensively bought in almost any town) and friendly locals, you can get a good night's rest anywhere. Most fishing villages along the coast have seen an outsider or two and will put you up for the night. If they've seen a few more outsiders, they'll probably charge you a couple of dollars.

Another type of remote-area accommo­dation is the jungle lodge - a hotel catering to tourists in or on the edge of the forest. These usually have all the amenities of a mid-range or even top-end hotel, with a considerably more exotic setting and archi­tecture (they're usually made of wood and often stand on stilts).

Camping

Camping is popular in Brazil and is a viable alternative in many parts of the country for travelers on limited budgets or for those who want to explore some of the national or state parks - as long as you're prepared to carry a tent and the other necessary gear. The biggest concern is safety. Many camp­sites are near urban areas, and it's unwise to camp in these spots, unless locals have assured you it's safe.

The Camping Clube do Brasil (Tel:21-2210 3171; www.campingdube.com.br, 29th fl, Rua Senador Dantas 75, Centro, Rio de Janeiro ) has 48 sites as far apart as Fortaleza and Porto Ale­gre . Check its website for info.

Minimum-Impact Camping

The following guidelines are recommended for those camping in wilderness or other fragile areas of Brazil :

Select a well-drained campsite and, especially if it's raining, use some type of waterproof groundsheet to prevent having to dig trenches.

Along popular routes, camp in established sites.

Carry as little packaging in as possible, and carry out all your rubbish. Use established toilet facilities if avail able. Otherwise, select a site at least 100m from water sources and bury wastes in a small hole about 15cm deep. If possible, burn used toilet paper or bury it well.

Use only biodegradable soap products (you'll probably have to bring them from home). Disperse wastewater at least 50m from watercourses.

Try to select an established site for fires and keep them as small as possible. Use only fallen dead wood and make sure the fire is fully extinguished before leaving.

Hostels

Youth hostels in Brazil are called albergues da juventude. The Federa~ao Brasileira de Al­bergues da Juventude (FBAJ) has more than 50 hostels in 14 states, including many in state capitals and popular travel destinations. Quality varies but many hostels are excellent, and the cost is very reasonable. They're great places to meet young Brazilians.

A dormitory bed in an FBAJ hostel costs between US$7.50 and US$16 per person. Non-Hostelling International (HI) mem­bers usually pay 50% extra, but you can buy an HI guest card for US$15 at many hostels and at youth hostel association of­fices in Brazil .

The headquarters of the FBAJ (Map pp132-3; !o Oxx21-2286-0303; www.hostel.org.br ; Rua General Dionisio 63, Botafogo, Rio ) is at the Albergue da Juventude Chave do Rio de Janeiro . The FBAJ's English-and-Portuguese website lists all FBAJ hostels, often with links to the hostels' own sites. Booklets listing the hostels and describing how to reach them (in Portuguese) are available free at hostels, hostel offices and travel agents.

There are also a few dozen non-FBAJ hostels around the country, many of which are also fine.

Hotels

Brazil has good, modern, luxury hotels, old, shabby, moldy hotels, and everything in be­tween. At more expensive places, taxes of 10% or more are often added to the basic price. The price you're initially quoted nor­mally includes all taxes, but it does no harm to check. Prices are, in fact, often flexible. Many mid-range and top-end hotels will give you a discount of up to 30%, occasionally even 40%, from their posted prices, just for the asking (Ha algurn desconto?), especially if business is slow. Sometimes the discount is available only if you pay cash, or if you stay a few days, sometimes it's available to anyone who asks for it. Hotels in tourist areas often raise prices during the high seasons. Hotels in business-oriented cities such as Goiania, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Brasilia readily give discounts on weekends.

Pousadas

Many travelers stay at pousadas where a room without a bathroom can go for as little as US$10 per person. They range in quality and price and, at the upper end of the scale, they're more like European B&Bs, costing anywhere from US$40 to US$100. The small scale of pousadas, and the per­sonal touch this often brings, can make them some of the most pleasant places to stay in Brazil . Breakfast is almost always included in the price.

Rental Accommodations

It's possible to rent vacation, short- or long-term apartments through a number of sources. Real-estate agencies in most large cities will be able to provide information on rentals for foreigners. The best bet is to speak to other foreigners in Brazil to get an idea of current prices, which vary from city to city. In the classified real-estate sections of newspapers, apartments are usually listed under temporada or apartamentos para alu­ guel. If you just want a room in someone else's house or apartment, look under vaga or quarto. Generally, an apartment that costs US$200 per week in Belo Horizonte will cost you two to three times that in Rio or Sao Paulo .