Brazil - Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

Business Customs> Business visitors should be aware of several customs specific to Brazil. Compared to the United States, the pace of negotiations is slower and is heavily based on personal contact. It is rare for important business deals to be concluded by telephone, email or letter. Many Brazilian executives do not react favorably to quick and infrequent visits by foreign sales representatives, or to changes in the negotiating team. They prefer a more continuous working relationship, ideally involving multiple visits/meetings with the same person or group of people. The Brazilian buyer is also concerned with after-sale service provided by the exporter.

Persistent traffic issues in most major Brazilian business centers mean that sufficient time should be scheduled for transportation, as well as other possible delays. It is advisable to be punctual but to avoid showing signs of frustration or impatience with delays, some of which may be attributed to a less formal approach to time.

During a first visit to a company it is customary to give a gift, usually promotional items without great material value. Expensive gifts can be misunderstood as bribes and are not welcome. Be aware that business dress is often formal and conservative, in spite of the apparent informality while conducting business.
Travel Advisory> Find more Brazil travel information at the U.S. Department of State. Visa Requirements> As of June 17, 2019, U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil for tourism or business purposes will be exempt from visas by the government of Brazil. For current entry and customs requirements for Brazil, travelers may contact the Brazilian Embassy. Travelers can also find out more about Brazilian consulates in the United States.

If you are entering the country with a U.S. diplomatic or official passport you must apply for a Brazilian visa before entering Brazil. Your parent agency should have a designated person to help facilitate this process. Travelers must also apply for a Brazilian visa if they are traveling on a regular (tourist) passport for reasons other than tourism. Questions should be directed to the nearest Brazilian Consulate or Embassy outside of Brazil, or in Brazil, the consular division of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.

U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that visa adjudications are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should visit the U.S. Department of State Visa website or the U.S. Embassy in Brazil.
Currency> Since 1994, the Brazilian currency is the Real, with six banknotes (R$2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100, and six coins including a $1 coin). Though most shops only accept the local currency, at some touristic venues, hotels and some shops, other currencies, mostly U.S. dollars or Euros can be accepted. In any case, most of the foreign currencies can be exchanged or obtained at banks or approved foreign exchange shops.

Most local credit and debit cards such as Mastercard, Visa, Cirrus and Maestro are widely accepted in most large cities, and at smaller touristic spots. American Express may not be so widely accepted. However, international visitors may have issues making purchases, so it is best to advise your bank of any upcoming travel to Brazil and to carry some local currency in case of an emergency. 

ATMs are extremely common in Brazil, even in small cities. It might be hard, though, to find an ATM that take specific cards. Cirrus and PLUS networks tend to be easier to find. Most bank agencies in Brazil have ATMs, some inside and some outside. It’s more recommendable to use the indoor ATMs and to avoid using it in the evening. It is also advisable to monitor bank and credit card statements since PINs may be stolen at ATMs.

To check about the nearest ATMs, the main brands have locators, found at: Visa, Mastercard (includes Cirrus and Maestro) and American Express. Traveler’s checks are less commonly accepted (pretty much not accepted) as a form of direct payment in Brazil. It can be cashed in exchange offices, some bank agencies, some travel agencies and hotels, but there may be heavy fees. It is not the most recommendable way to exchange currencies in Brazil. 

An alternative to credit cards and traveler’s checks is to use prepaid travel cards, which are accepted as debit cards and can be used at ATMs for withdrawals. Note: Some small stores, markets in some smaller cities may not accept card payments, so it is important to carry some cash.
Telecommunications/Electronics> Within metropolitan areas, the telecommunications system is robust and reliable.  The major cell phone service providers in Brazil are Vivo (Telefónica from Spain), TIM (Telecom Italia from Italy), Claro (América Móvil from Mexico), and Oi (Brazil). Cell phone penetration in Brazil is about 140 percent.  Wifi can be easily accessed in most hotels and restaurants in the major metropolitan areas. Internet penetration is just over 61 percent.

In Brazil, the type N socket and plug are the official standard, along with the tpe C plug but not socket. Most of the Brazilian states use 110 volt electricity, but some other – mainly in the Northeast – states use 220 volt. However, there is no standard voltage and within some states it may differ. Consult the electrical current information for Brazil.
Transportation> Brazil has numerous international and domestic airports, and American Airlines, Azul, Delta, Gol, Tam and United Airlines offer direct flights between Brazil and the United States. The country’s taxi services run very well, though U.S. citizens are recommended, for safety reasons, to meet one at a taxi stand, to call a radio-dispatched taxi, or to request on an app instead of hailing a taxi on the street. Public transportation, such as buses and subways, are also available in metro areas but can often be unsafe.

The country is the largest market for Uber outside of the United States, but there are also several other mobile apps available to hire taxis and personal drivers for transportation inside metropolitan areas, using credit cards (including international), cash or PayPal as methods of payment.

It is important to note that foreign visitors may face difficulties when using their international credit cards to pay for taxi and transportation services (Uber, 99Taxi, Easy Taxi, Cabify) in mobile apps. It is recommended to have cash as an alternative in case any issue is encountered.
Language> While the proficiency of English varies among people across the country, business meetings are often held in Portuguese, the national language. CS Brazil recommends an interpreter for a business visit, and we are happy to facilitate contracting one. Please find a list of professional service providers can be found at our Business Service Providers (BSP) directory, if you need to identify other professional service providers.

Personal space standards in Brazil are different than those in the United States. You may find the environment more intimate space for speaking, touching and greetings and salutations.

In spite of the difference in personal space, it is better to act more formal rather than less during an initial meeting. Conversations may occur simultaneously with frequent interruptions,  a sign of interest in the subject rather than of disrespect.
Brazilians are very proud of their country and their unique culture. To that end, it is better to refrain from making cultural references to other countries and cultures in Latin America.

The USG does not pay medical bills, and U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas. Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. Supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation is strongly recommended. If traveling with prescription medication, check with the GOB to ensure the medication is legal in Brazil. Carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription. 

The following diseases are prevalent:

  • The most common mosquito and other animal-and insect-borne diseases, include: Chagas, Chikungunya, Dengue, Zika, visceral leishmaniasis and Rabies.
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Tuberculosis
  • Schistosomiasis

In recent years, outbreaks of these diseases have also been detected in certain areas of Brazil:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its information on yellow fever and measles in Brazil. Although Brazil has many elective/cosmetic surgery facilities that are on par with those found in the United States, the quality of care varies widely. If you plan to undergo surgery in Brazil, make sure that emergency medical facilities are available. Some “boutique” plastic surgery operations offer luxurious facilities but are not hospitals and are unable to handle emergencies. Several U.S. citizens have died while seeking medical care from non-traditional “healers” and practitioners. Ensure you have access to proper medical care if seeking such services. Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the CDC and the World Health Organization.

Though not required to enter Brazil, travelers wishing to be vaccinated should consider receiving yellow fever vaccine prior to travel to Brazil, as local supplies are limited. Please note: The yellow fever vaccine should be administered 10 days prior to travel in order for it to be effective. Also note: While the yellow fever vaccine is not required to enter Brazil, some neighboring countries do require travelers with recent entries in Brazil to show proof of yellow fever vaccination. All travelers to the country are advised to carry documentation, such as a vaccination card, that they have been appropriately vaccinated for Yellow Fever.
Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays> Time in the country is noted using the 24-hour clock convention, i.e. 21:00 instead of 9:00 p.m. Brazil has four standard time zones: Brasilia (BRT), Amazon (AMT), Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (FNT), and Acre (ACT). Most visited cities by foreign tourists in the country are located in the Brasilia time zone, which is three hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-3). The country used to observe daylight savings time, but in April 25, 2019, President Bolsonaro signed a decree extinguishing the regime.

While office hours in Brazil are generally 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., decision-makers begin work later in the morning and stay later in the evening. The best times for calls with a Brazilian executive are between 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. as well as 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., except for the city of Sao Paulo where appointments are common throughout most of the day. Business lunches often lasts from one to two hours.

January, February and July are difficult months to schedule business meetings with high-level decision-makers. Schoolchildren are on vacation; hence many families choose this time to take their long vacations. Brazilians tend to go back to work after the Carnaval holiday, which usually takes place in late February or early March.

See a list of all national holidays in Brazil for the calendar year of 2019 (regional and local holidays not included) below:

Date Weekday Holiday Name Holiday Type
1-Jan Tuesday New Year's Day National Holiday
1-Mar Friday Carnival Friday Observance
2-Mar Saturday Carnival Saturday Observance
3-Mar Sunday Carnival Sunday Observance
4-Mar Monday Carnival Monday Optional Holiday
5-Mar Tuesday Carnival Tuesday Optional Holiday
6-Mar Wednesday Carnival Ends (2pm) Optional Holiday
19-Apr Friday Good Friday National Holiday
21-Apr Sunday Tiradentes Day National Holiday
21-Apr Sunday Easter Sunday Observance
1-May Wednesday Labor/May Day National Holiday
12-May Sunday Mother's Day Observance
12-Jun Wednesday Valentine's Day Observance
20-Jun Thursday Corpus Christi Optional Holiday
11-Aug Sunday Father's Day Observance
7-Sep Saturday Independence Day National Holiday
12-Oct Saturday Our Lady of Aparecida/ Children's Day National Holiday
15-Oct Tuesday Teacher's Day Observance
28-Oct Monday Public Service Holiday Optional Holiday
2-Nov Saturday All Souls' Day National Holiday
15-Nov Friday Republic Proclamation Day National Holiday
20-Nov Wednesday Black Consciousness Day Observance
24-Dec Tuesday Christmas Eve (from 2pm) Optional Holiday
25-Dec Wednesday Christmas Day National Holiday
31-Dec Tuesday New Year's Eve (from 2pm) Optional Holiday

For more information on the temporary admission of goods into Brazil, please access the Brazilian Department of Federal Revenue website. Travel Related Web Resources>