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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 flair of cities like Rio makes life in Brazil so attractive.

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, this 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. Indeed, the system has come to such a critical point that a new program, Mais Médicos (More Doctors) was created by the government in 2013. The aim of this program is to attract doctors from abroad to work in Brazil’s countryside on three-year contracts. Within the year, 13,000 doctors had signed contracts, primarily from Cuba. 

Common Health Risks

For certain places, including Brasilia and all rural or jungle regions, a yellow fever vaccination is strongly recommended, even though it is not required to enter the state. 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 parts of the country, including urban spaces like Porto Velho, Boa Vista and Manaus, are malaria-risk zones. 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 both a lot cheaper and a lot easier than importing one from home. In addition to the shipping costs, you are charged a considerable import tax. Used vehicles can only be imported on certain conditions – antiques (30 years or older) for collection purposes, imports resulting from donations, or inherited vehicles or automobiles imported by diplomats or their staff members.

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. In the past two years, failures in public transport have been the instigating factor in a series of protests. Heavily crowded, plans to raise the cost of bus fares led to spontaneous protest across the country. Moreover, plans to revolutionize airports, subways, roads and bus links by spending 400 billion USD running up to the 2014 World Cup failed to materialize and railroads under construction in cities such as Salvador are taking much longer than anticipated. Only a few cities in Brazil have a working railway, with Sao Paulo and Rio arguably having the best, although most locals probably wouldn’t use the word ‘best’ when describing either system.

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. Although Brazil lacks a comprehensive railway system, it has an excellent coach network. Its long-distance buses are an economical way to travel.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Francois Bertrand

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

Elin Gustavson

"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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