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Brazil Fast Facts

Iguazu Falls in Argentina

Population: 210,147,125
Capital City: Brasilia
Climate: Mostly tropical, but temperate in south

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Language: Portuguese
International Dialing Code: +55
President: Jair Bolsonaro

Reviewed by Lief Simon

Lief Simon is the managing editor of Global Property Advisor, Simon Letter, and Offshore Living Letter. He has purchased more than 45 properties, investing in 23 different countries around the world.

Brazil: Diverse Investment Opportunities And Bargain Beach Properties

Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Alamy/David Davis Photoproductions

The largest and most populous nation in South America, Brazil makes up almost half of its continent. This diverse land is renowned for its natural beauty, friendly people, vibrant carnivals, and exquisite coastline.

Many expats have already made the leap and call Brazil their home, living a rich, beach-oriented life in this tropical paradise.

Brazil’s colossal size means it borders every country in South America, except for Chile and Argentina, leading to a melting pot of cultures across the country.

Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean along its east coast, Brazil has over 4,500 miles of coastline and is famous for its excellent surfing conditions.

“Discovered” by the Portuguese in 1500, Brazil remained a colony of Portugal for 300 years until claiming independence in 1822. Since then, Brazil has had a bumpy road to democracy, enduring civil wars, military dictatorships, and severe economic recessions.

Today, the government has a reputation for corruption. Politicians have often boldly pilfered public funds of such vast sums that they could buy off police and judges and avoid prosecution. As an expat, you are largely, if not entirely, insulated from the effects of corruption.

Living In Brazil

For those seeking a healthy, relaxed lifestyle, with lots of sun, fresh sea air, exercise, and healthy food—all at desirable prices—Brazil is hard to beat.

Sitting on the equator, Brazil has a varied climate. The north of the country experiences a hot, tropical climate, while south of the equator, temperatures are milder. This creates plenty of opportunity to find a retirement spot with the exact weather to suit your lifestyle.

The locals, while friendly—a characteristic encountered across Brazil—rarely speak much English. Knowing even a little Portuguese will make you feel more confident and help to enrich your life in Brazil. Rest assured that Brazilians are incredibly patient people: Try to speak, and they will help you. Just making the effort will win you fans.

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Should you feel the need from time to time to rub elbows with other expats, Rio has a large and exceedingly diverse expat community, while in smaller coastal cities such as Fortaleza, Recife, and Salvador you will find tightly-knit expat groups.

Brazil does have a high crime rate, but what statistics don’t reveal is that most of the violent crime takes place in the rough, low-income areas that foreigners are unlikely to frequent. By avoiding the high-crime areas—which any local can quickly point out—you will greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

Cost Of Living In Brazil

While lower than in the United States, the cost of living in Brazil varies greatly depending on where you locate yourself. Like most countries, the bigger cities such as Rio or São Paulo will be at the expensive end of the scale, while lesser-known towns and cities like Maceio or Canoa Quebrada are much cheaper.

Manufactured goods in Brazil can be surprisingly expensive; when buying clothes, you’ll pay prices similar to back home. Other items—notably electronics—are even more costly in Brazil than in the States. Heavy duties are levied on virtually all imported items, so bring your electronic gadgets with you.

On the flip side, due to cheap labor costs, services can be incredibly cheap. In the States, few people have housekeepers these days. It’s simply too expensive. In Brazil, such services are still affordable. Local farmer’s markets are also cheaper in Brazil than in the States. These feiras are great places to buy fresh, organic foods at extremely low prices. If you become a regular, expect to be given discounts. Restaurants, too, are much cheaper than back home.

A variety of Brazilian fresh fruits on sale at the historic public under covered Municipal Market
Alamy/richard sowersby

Brazil is undoubtedly a destination where you can live comfortably on your Social Security check. You just need to avoid the bigger cities and costly manufactured goods. Real estate can be a bargain if you know where to look, check out our report on real estate in Brazil here.

Health Care In Brazil

The availability of quality health care is often a concern when we travel abroad, particularly to less developed countries. Brazil has both public and private health care systems. Legal residents here, such as those with retiree visas, can use the public system. The quality of public care varies depending on location and the nature of your ailment. In general, you can expect emergencies to be treated promptly and professionally, while nonpriority cases often are subject to long waits, just like in the ER back home.

Doctors and nurses in the public system are well trained, and equipment is modern. One obstacle expats often encounter is finding doctors who speak good English. Most doctors will understand a great deal of English—many medical textbooks here are in English. However, doctors’ verbal skills are often considerably weaker, so you may want to arrange for someone to accompany you to translate until your Portuguese skills are up to the task.

Most foreigners who plan to spend significant time in Brazil will want to arrange private health insurance, either from back home or with a company in Brazil. Keep in mind that having a private insurance policy does not disqualify you from accessing the public health system.

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Getting To Brazil

Most international flights to Brazil arrive in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. From either of these cities, there are several flights daily to every corner of the country. Once you have landed at your final destination, taxis are an excellent option to get to your front door. They are inexpensive by North American standards and easy to find.

 Line of taxi cabs parked by the curb side, downtown, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Alamy/Global Vibes

Unless you’re moving to a foreign country for a fresh start, you will likely want to bring personal belongings with you, maybe even furniture and other things that will require special shipping. The good news is that international shipping today is a straightforward proposition, far more easily accomplished than it was even a decade ago. You will find a multitude of companies on the internet ready to transport your belongings from your home in the States all the way to your new abode in Brazil.

Best Places To Live In Brazil

Vila Velha

A wave crashes at Praia da Costa, Vila Velha, Espirito Santo, Brazil
Alamy/Andre Seale / VWPics

With a population of half a million, Vila Velha is today the largest city in the diminutive state of Espíritu Santo. Foreign tourists often overlook it, but Espíritu Santo is well known by Brazilians who flock to its beaches in droves in summer.

Vila Velha, in many ways, captures the best of Rio de Janeiro while largely sidestepping Rio’s big-city problems. Vila Velha has the same beautiful beaches, offshore islets, and morros—those picturesque granite cones dotting the landscape. Social life in both cities centers around the beach, where residents like both to relax and to exercise. But Vila Velha has a far smaller population and accordingly less congestion, crime, and noise. For those who love the sun and sand, Vila Velha deserves a serious look.

Canoa Quebrada

Red beach of Canoa Quebrada in Ceara atate, Brazil
Alamy/BRAZIL Landmarks and People by Vision

Known as the pearl of the coast of Ceará, Canoa Quebrada is a popular tourist destination 164km from the city of Fortaleza, along Brazil’s Atlantic coast. What was once a sleepy fishing town was discovered by hippies in the 70s and has steadily grown to a thriving beach resort.

Canoa Quebrada boasts endless white sand beaches and crystal blue waters with dramatic dunes rising from the shore.

Canoa Quebrada is a dream location for adventure seekers, with tons of activities on offer; dune buggy trips, sandboarding, sailing, and kitesurfing, to name but a few.

Combined with Canoa Quebrada’s semi-arid climate of sunshine and only a handful of rainy days a year… this is heaven on earth.

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