Nomadic in Brazil- Discover why Brazil is a good place for Nomads
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Why is Brazil a good place for nomads?
Brazil doesn't usually make the list for the top 10 places for nomads but in the last two months, I have acquired a ton of information and seen first hand what it's like to stay here while working remotely. Because Brazil is a huge country it offers extreme diversity in every state. This makes it a great location to live, work and play. The bustling city of São Paulo is the financial hub of the country, a vibrant city, with a ton of culture, and a great location as base if you are nomading in Brazil.
I was born in Brazil, but have lived abroad in Europe and the US for most of my life. My relatives remained here, and so I visit somewhat often. But after being abroad for 23 years, I came with the plan of staying/living for almost 3 months. I am for the first time discovering other states in Brazil and looking at the living situation with different eyes; that of a digital nomad.
São Paulo is Brazil's largest city and the world's seventh largest. This makes it a significant destination for business and pleasure travelers around the world.
About the Wi-Fi- As a digital nomad, Internet is a priority! While if you travel to some areas in Brazil, you won’t find ice, let alone Internet, in São Paulo you won’t have that issue.
Even regular phone calls are now made with the WhatsApp application, and that is how it is advertised on businesses' location. The issue of having an international phone and not being able to call local numbers, no longer exists!
The main networks are Claro, Vivo and Tim. Plans start as low as 7R$ per week (that is about 2USD per week at the current rate) for 2GB. For 20GB per month pre-paid, it will cost you about 25USD! If you need more, you can purchase up to 120GB with Claro. Some plans will even include a very limited amount of calling, if you have an unblocked phone where you can pop the SIM card in, you will have a local number!
Cost of Living- São Paulo is currently ranking at 229th place in the cost of living index (with rent), relative to New York City (NYC) with an index number of 30.30. This means that it is 70% cheaper than the cost of living in New York. To clarify, let's look at some other preferred locations for nomads: Bangkok, Thailand ranks at 182nd place with an index of 42.26, while Medellin, Colombia ranks at 348th place with an index of 18.69.
When thinking about the cost of living, numbers are obviously key but not everything. Consider the quality of life, food, doctors,, infrastructure, and yes inspiration! São Paulo does not have the lowest cost of living, but definitely a great option if you want the big city perks with a ton of options for travel and an affordable and comfortable lifestyle.
About traveling in Brazil- Since most nomads, if not all, choose this lifestyle to obtain the ability to travel, here are some interesting things to know:
Brazil has truly some gorgeous places to visit and there's so much more than popular places like Rio de Janeiro. To be completely honest, while it's a place worth the visit, it is a bit overrated, with too many tourists and is a lot more dangerous than other destinations.
Consider exploring places up North like Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte, and one of the Chapadas (translates to plateaus or canyons). I had the pleasure of visiting Natal for a week (flight and a 4-star hotel with breakfast buffet for 1 week- 400USD) and Chapada Diamantina (8 days with flights, car rental, simple stays 300USD).
One of the advantages of traveling with these Brazilian companies is that you can finance the trip up to 12 months with no interest! Yes, that includes the flights too. Imagine going to a paradise like destination for some $30 a month? But there is a catch, you will need to apply for the Brazilian social security number- CPF number. (more on that below)
There are some expensive cities to visit in Brazil, especially the most popular touristy spots. But once you move out of the top 3, you will find good food, beautiful scenery, lots to do, for cheap.
If you are staying a while get a CPF number- The CPF is everything in Brazil. You can make payments on anything, including supermarkets, stores, and all else if you have the CPF number. This is the Brazilian Social Security number and in Brazil it is very common to make payments on daily items like the grocery store.
The CPF number will also allow you to finance that cheap trip, buy things online and more.
You can apply for a CPF number through this link- https://servicos.receita.fazenda.gov.br/Servicos/CPF/cpfEstrangeiro/Fcpf.asp
With the CPF you can also open a bank account, get a rental lease etc., but a series of documentation is necessary.
Safety/ Getting around- It’s no secret that Brazil is generally considered a dangerous place. Truth is some places remain dangerous and some have even significantly changed due to the high crime. The very alluring beaches of Rio de Janeiro like Ipanema and Copacabana, where once had bars and restaurants with open areas along the beach; now have very few. That is a sad reality, but reality, nonetheless. However, there are places in Brazil, and in my opinion even more beautiful places, that are perfectly safe. While I have only traveled to a total of 4 states in Brazil (out of 14) I’ve always felt safe in all four. That includes Rio de Janeiro when I visited in 2012.
But São Paulo, is like any large city. You don’t flash your expensive watch and cell phone while walking the streets, and you roam around with caution. The metro station has been operating since 1974.
Though just recently in 2012, it has gone through major renovations and now allows for safe and effective transportation around São Paulo. I didn’t even know they had a metro system and now I’m in aww!
Buses run constantly and even have their own lane. Often, they are dirty and there’s people hanging almost out of it, but in addition to the renewed metro system, Ubers are also readily available. Also the 99Taxi app can be used.
Caution- ALWAYS double check the tag plate when your Uber or Taxi arrive!
I am a big time walker, and have no problem doing 8 miles a day on foot. But even if you are going close by, in São Paulo, walking long distance is highly discouraged. On a positive note, you can find coffee shops, pharmacies, supermarkets and all else generally close by, and Uber rates are very cheap (30 minute drive for some $7)
Health Insurance- Needless to say that after the US, all other places around the world seem to have cheap health insurance! Yes, nomads, please ensure your safety and make sure you are covered.
With Insuremytrip.com I was able to obtain a 70-day travel AND health insurance for about $70 (USD). This covered me at all major hospitals. They even pay upfront in case of major emergency to ensure admission. They do work in a reimbursement type process but that’s how all travel insurances will work when you are traveling abroad.Remember that you are in a developing country.
Currently (August 2019), there is an outburst of Measles. Everyone is getting vaccinated. It is important to remember that diseases here are different, and you may not be immune to everything that you are exposed to. So please, take the preventative measure and take the health insurance, it’s well worth the money!
Sightseeing- Of course you want to add on to your experience here and really explore the city. I will be posting my recommended places to eat soon!
For now, check out these places where the locals go! Live like a local!
Mercadao- Mercado Municipal de São Paulo
A must see market that started in 1933. Find fresh fruits, exotic ones too, fish and meats, nuts and more. Try the famous Pão com Mortadela (a type of bologna sandwich stacked high), and the Pastel de Bacalhau (Cod empanada).
Liberdade- the oriental neighborhood in São Paulo
A great Sunday out with family and friends to see the most oriental neighborhood in the big city. Walk Rua Galvão Bueno to check the shops and the restaurants, check the market with food, jewelry and all else in between (try the Temki - Hand roll) and check out the Oriental Garden.
Praca Por Do Sol (Sunset Square)
A local's favorite, any day of the week with applause when the sun goes down. This hill style square is the best spot for a great sunset over the big city sky. It was cloudy when I ventured out there but was still worth it! Locals lay out while enjoying the sunset, cheap beer being passed out by vendors, and some funny cigarettes too ;)
The Ibirapuera Park is an urban park, with trails, sculptures, events, birdwatching, gardens, workout equipment and more. In 2017 it was the most visited park in the world with 14 million visitors! A great place to go connect with nature, picnic, get active or learn something!
Templo Zu Lai- The largest Buddhist temple in South America!
The Zu Lai Temple is a Buddhist temple in Cotia, Brazil. It is the largest Buddhist temple in South America with almost 2.5 Acres constructed area, in a total area of about 37 Acres! It takes about one hour by car from São Paulo, though the distance isn't far (36 km / 22 miles). It's gorgeous, and you can clearly feel the harmony between the gardens and the architecture. Regardless of religion, everyone should experience this place for a day.
A bit more about São Paulo: Make sure to check the many street markets around town, this is where you buy the freshest and cheapest vegetables, meats and eat some traditional empanadas too! Ask your neighbors where and when they are, they usually happen on Wednesdays, Saturdays or Sundays.
Impossible to give a full report on São Paulo's nightlife! Every day of the week, bars and restaurants fill, a whole lot of them with outdoor seating and some with music. From traditional Samba to Rock; from bar food, to delicious meats, you can find it all. The main neighborhoods are: Moema , Vila Madalena and Pinheiros. Truth is you can find great places to hang in mostly all neighborhoods. And you won't find a bar that doesn't serve food!