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Brazil travel guide with a 15-month toddler

I wholeheartedly recommend anyone to take their kids to Brazil!! Why? Well, because Brazilians love kids and my kid loved Brazil.




Our first South American country had to be special, and that too with a little one (then 15 months).

When we were choosing places to visit in Brazil we realized, Brazil is BIG, and not just big, it’s HUGE! The travel time from one location to another surprised us. We ended up choosing Rio and Salvador, Bahia.

Rio for their world-famous beaches and of course Christ Redeemer.

Salvador- famous for its roots of Afro-Brazilian culture through Bahian cuisine

 

We really wanted to extend our stay for Iguazu falls and Amazon rainforest. May be for some other time 😊 

Itinerary Overview

Day 1

Fly Toronto to Rio

Day 2

Rio Christ redeemer, sugarloaf, stairs

Day 3

Day trip Petropolis

Day 4

Rio - walking tour

Day 5

Fly to Salvador, Bahia from Rio

Day 6

Salvador, Bahia

Day 7

Salvador, Bahia

Day 8

Fly from Salvador to Rio (Ipanema)

Day 9

Ipanema – Day trip Arraial Cabo

Day 10

Ipanema Parque lage

Day 11

fly back

 

Information

Currency - REAL

Language- Portuguese


Local Guides/Tours

You don’t need a guide as much in Brazil as there are plenty of Tours you can get from your hotel and Uber works great to move around.

 

Guide:

Salvador- we hired Ivan (found him through Instagram) for a full-day tour to Pelurinho churches, Bonfim church, Farol da Barra, lighthouse. He was too kind to bring a child seat for our daughter given it was a long day. He ensured she was fed as well during road trip by stopping around for street fruits. Highly recommended.

 

Please DM for his contact details.

 

Tours:

We took a walking tour of Centro with Rio active tours. It was a slower pace walking tour with our little one, that included trying local food/desserts. It was a great experience.

I booked the tours directly from Free walker tours


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Accommodation

Ø  Rio:

Experience - Location was perfect with sea view overlooking Copacobana Beach and Christ Redeemer from the pool area, staff was very pleasant and helpful. The hotel had reserved a section for the beach loungers.

 

Experience- The place was good overall. It’s few blocks inside the main beach area, In hindsight, The staff was very polite and loved picking my daughter and playing with her. They have a small pool on the terrace that has some amazing views. They provided a crib for our little one.

Travel tip: I would have preferred a hotel that’s right on the beachfront.

 

Other recommended accommodation:

Hotel Astoria Copacabana

 

 

Ø  Salvador

Experience- The location is just so perfect, you right at the main squares. They offered us two caipirinhas as welcome drinks. The room had a beautiful view of the All saints Bay. Our room had a California king bed!!

You can have food at the swimming pool as well. And my oh my their food!! Let me start with breakfast. They don't do the usual buffet-style breakfast. They make fresh food for you (freshly cut fruits, fresh fruit juice, eggs however you want, coffee, fresh bread, carrot cake, banana cake....etc.). Then comes their regular meals - delicious. Honestly, the best meals we have on our 10-day trip in Brazil. I can’t say this enough. but just book this place if you are coming to Salvador. They are amazing!

 

Other recommended accommodations

 

Things I carried for my kid:

Of course, you will be carrying a lot more items for your little ones., but here is the list that are must-haves for the Brazil trip. Read the full list of my top 10 essentials to pack for kids.

 

1.       Mosquito repellent with DEET

2.       sunscreen (strong 60 SPF)

3.       Swim diaper

4.       Sun body suit for kids UV-protected

5.       Umbrella stroller

6.       lightweight rain jacket

7.       changing mat

8.       baby carrier

9.       hat (gets too sunny)

10.   water bottle

11.   Hydrocortisone cream ( for itches/rashes etc.)

12.   Electrolyte for diarrhea

13.   Bath robe for beach

14.   Kid floaties for the beach


Mobility with Kids

Although I found most places to be stroller-friendly for my 15-month-old toddler, I’ll go ahead and provide a point of view for mobility across the areas we visited.

 

Places in Rio

Stroller

Carrier

Beaches

Y

Y

Christ Redeemer

Y

Y (recommended)

Sugarloaf Mountain

N

Y

Favela

N

Y

Telegraph Rock

N

Y

Centro

Y

Y

Most places in Rio

Y

Y


Salvador Places

Stroller

Carrier

Pelourinho street

Y

Y (recommended)

Nosso senhor do bonfim church

Y

Y

Farol da Barra

Y

Y

Igreja e Convento de São Francisco

Y

Y

Mercado Modelo

Y

Y (recommended)

Foods to try

Traditional Brazilian food is delicious, colorful, diverse, and exciting. Because Brazil is such a melting pot of colors and customs, its cuisine varies from one region to another, reflecting the country’s diverse backgrounds and vast territory.


 

Tips from first-hand experience- Brazil Overall

1.       Strollers (umbrella, travel or regular) work perfectly. Just make sure they are sturdy and have good wheels to take you around the unpaved streets.

 

2.       Use a baby carrier for Salvador, especially Pelourinho area. I used my favorite Lillebaby carrier and carried her almost everywhere.

 

3.       You can find finger food almost everywhere for your baby/kid. Especially on beaches, where vendors will keep coming with different kinds of snacks or coconut water.

 

4.       Everyone in Brazil (staff, tourists or general public) loveeee kids! Don’t be surprised if they offer you to babysit them while you sit in peace and eat your food.

 

5.       Most of the hotels provide baby cribs as well. Even if they don't mention it, just ask. Remember they love kids?

 

6.       Our return flight was at night, and when we asked how much can we extend our 11 am checkout, our hotel extended the time until 5 pm (without an extra fee). Thanks to our little monster for that :)

 

7.       You don't need to carry your car seat for the baby. Just hold your baby when in Uber or taxis. The drive isn't rash for you to worry about the safety.

 

8.       Most washrooms don’t come with changing tables. They are usually pretty small to just squeeze yourself in and wash your hands. I mostly changed her on the stroller itself was so much easier. Just have baby wipes with you and a portable changing mat.

 

9.       Vaccination is a must! We got yellow fever shots and hep A shots for my daughter. She didn't get sick (no fever, no upset stomach) the entire trip with any food or water. I did, however, bring all the medicines with me just in case.

 

10.   It is cheaper to Uber in Brazil than hail a taxi


Tips from first-hand experience– Rio

1.       Visit Centro during the weekday instead of weekends (of course you’ll find lot of foot traffic and hagglers on weekend


2.       Most museums are free on Tuesdays, so plan your museum trips that day.


3.       You can do day trips to Paraty, Illha Grande. Petropolis, Arraial do Cabo from Rio. These trips can either be booked directly from the hotel or from Tripadvisor. See different tours you can take from Rio.

a.       You can take Costa Verde bus to go to Paraty which leaves Rio every 2 hours.

b.       Buses from Rio to Petropolis leave daily from a long-distance bus terminal, Rodoviário Novo Rio, which is located five minutes away from the downtown district (Centro) in a somewhat seedy part of town, so it’s best to take a taxi there.

 

4.       For a good Samba experience try a Samba school such as Vila Isabel or Mangueira


Some normal tips

1.       Language is a barrier, yes, but we didn’t feel much. Download Google Translate and off you go. We used it in Uber, restaurants, haggling with vendors, airports.. pretty much everywhere. You can have a conversation, hear what anyone around is saying (which comes in handy at airports), and type, and translate menus. I loved it! The best part you can even download this and use it offline.

 

2.       Download the Uber app and use it everywhere. it was so easy, especially with the little one.

 

3.       buy water bottles (no tap drinking). They are so cheap and readily available.

 

4.       Buy a local SIM card from the airport. if you buy in the city, there are higher chances they will ask for a local Brazilian ID. It is bit expensive at the airport (we got it for 40$ for 7 days) but we had it from the start of our trip and funnily it worked until our last day as well.

 

5.       If you want to shop, I would suggest shop when you are in Centro. So a much cheaper price and great variety. Unlike in Copacabana and Ipanema areas where it's so expensive coz of the tourist spot.

 

6.       Def visit the Christ early morning and try for weekdays instead.

 

7.       Try the BBQ meats on skewer in Arpoadar area.

 

8.       If you are tired from eating all the Brazilian food, def try other cuisines. They are really good in Rio.

 

Demystifying some common myths

1.       It’s unsafe- Nope! not even once i felt unsafe (that's coming from a mom). People come up to you and you say no, and then they don't bother. Of course, just coz I didn't experience it, doesn't mean things don't happen. Be cautious of your surroundings. Take the precautions that you would take anywhere in the world while traveling.

 

2. Lots of mosquitoes- I didn't feel any in Rio or Salvador. Having said that it might be coz we traveled during Oct- Nov time and not their peak season. Keep mosquito repellent handy with DEET


Truth in some rumors

1.       Expensive food- Yes, overall food is actually expensive in Brazil. Even if you are in Rio or Salvador, average cost is R100 for a good food. The snack foods on the beach are cheaper ofcourse.

 

2.       Ipanema better than Copa- Def yes. We stayed in Ipanema for the first 4 nights and to Copa for 3 nights. And i could tell a big difference. The waves are better for swimming in Ipa, beach is much cleaner. View is better, more youths.

 

3.       Brazilians know how to beach- 100% yes. What we see on beaches of US, is not even 50% of what actual beaching looks like. You have beach workouts, football, loud music, hammocks, tan lines, beach food, and not to forget their beach fashion!

 

Things I regret

1.       Frankly I didn’t like Petropolis. It wasn’t worth the hype. Yes it’s beautiful but honestly not worth the day trip. Just watching some rooms in palace, or a cathedral that you can see almost anywhere. Our tour took us to a restaurant there-meh! Noone in our tour enjoyed the food.

 

2.       Parque lage- yes beautiful place to see Christ. Not worth the food inside. The prices are high for not so good food. The waiters make you wait and wait for your food. I’ve had better food.

 

3.       Book domestic flights at least 3 weeks in advance. The prices go way up afterwards. We paid 900$ (for two) for a flight that could have been bought for 400$ (for two). And on top of that, you pay extra for your check-in baggage's. Also, If you have check-in luggage make sure you pay the return together, it’s cheaper that way. We paid R380 for both ways for two bags otherwise it would have been R440.

 

4.       7 nights in Rio was way too much. We did a day tour to Illha Grande and Petropolis but i wish i could have used 2 days to visit the Iguazu falls or some other place in Brazil.

 

5.       I did a day trip to Arraial do Cabo which easily took 2.5 hours one way from Rio. Not a preferred time with a small kid. In hindsight, I wish I stayed a night in Cabo Frio and move to Arrail (40 minute between the two)

 

Highlights from trip

1.       Balé Folclórico folk dance in Salvador- My oh my! best one hour of our trip. It started at 8 pm at night and surprisingly my little one didn't make a single noise and saw the whole show. It was a beautiful performance. Must visit!!


Ø  Go to Teatro Miguel Santana in the heart of Pelourinho. Tickets are usually R$60/ US$20 and need to be purchased on the same day you intend to go. I recommend front-row seats and be prepared for a vibrant, full of life and color spectacle with drumming, singing and brilliant costuming.

 

2.       I got Brazilian braids in Salvador for like 10$. Even the locals thought I was Brazilian, lol. I just loved it.

 

3.       Drinking fresh orange juice and coconut water whenever I want wherever i want.

 

4.       Sugarloaf Mountain at sunset. Ah, what a sight for eyes. Take the cable car to go up.

 

5.       Free walking tour for Centro- I would suggest this to everyone. They take you around the center in like 3-4 hours covering so much than you can do yourself. its a walking tour so be prepared.

 

6.       Samba night in Pedra du Sal- With a baby we couldn't go for samba nights in Lapa area but on Mondays in Pedra du Sal they have samba nights starting as early as 7pm. We had a glimpse of the crowd (before little one started screaming bloody murder) and Oh my god! the gathering on a Monday was unbelievable.

 

7.       Salvador’s Afro-Brazilian people - have created a culture that’s unrivaled anywhere else in Brazil, or in the world for that matter. Their influence is reflected in the food, the music, the religious practices.

 

8.       Bonfim church colored ribbons- Called wish ribbons, they are tied everywhere, handrails to fences and



 

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1- Travel day

Fly from Toronto to Rio. From the airport we got a taxi right outside, someone who seemed trustworthy. In hindsight, with a baby i should have been careful. One can easily take over from the airport, they will charge anywhere between 40-60 REAL depending on the distance.

 

Once we checked in, we took a stroll around Ipanema breach front. Saw the beautiful sunset in Arpador and had the amazing street food in the area.

 

Day 2 – Christ Redeemer Tour

Our Tour was scheduled for the afternoon, so we went to Ipanema beach for a morning swim. It was such a pleasant experience with vendors giving all the snacks you would possibly want on a beach and super chill drinks. My little one, bathed in the sun and played with sand for hours.

 

After freshening up, We took the half-day tour from our hotel that took us to the Metropolitan Cathedral. Christ Redeemer at top of Corcovado Mountain, Sugarloaf and the famous Selaron steps.

 

We rode the cable car to sugarloaf mountain which took us 20 mins to reach the top. The views from there are just so breathtaking with Guanabara Bay in the background.

 

Day 3- Day Trip to Petropolis

It was a wasted day, IMO. We took a tour directly from our hotel for Petropolis. Petropolis was once a summer holiday destination for the royalty of Brazil. So, basically it was visiting Crystal palace’s room one by one. (I was bored). We then went to see St. Peter of Acantara catherdral (it was okayish).


Day 4- Walking tour Centro

Because of traffic and people congestion, the best way to discover the historic legacy of Rio is to walk. Took the free walking tour of Centro (5 hrs with lunch included) by Rio Active Tours. We did a light walk through the historic center where we got a chance to see the colonial architecture and learn a bit about the history. We passed through the Museum of Tomorrow, the Museum of Rio Art, the Imperial Palace, the Theatro Municipal and the Olympic pyre,  Itamaraty Palace, the Museum of the Republic, Modern Art Museum, and the city’s new aquarium.

 

After our tour was done, we took a cab to War Memorial. Little one ran around with the pigeons and we got some much-needed rest. We walked around to see the beautiful walls that were no short of work of art.

 

Day 5- Travel day to Salvador, Bahia

Flew from Rio to Salvador via Avianca. Arranged airport pickup directly from our hotel. Our hotel was right in the heart of Pelourinho street. At night, we went to Balé Folclórico folk dance with our little one. It was a surreal experience. See my review. 

 

Day 6 – Salvador Neighborhood

Bonfirm church- Bonfim is very interesting and is a postcard must-see place

Praia do Porto da Barra- the southern beach of the city bounded by two forts.

Candolim


Day 7- Explore day 

Two must-visit churches in the Pelo district are the Church and Convent of São Francisco in Anchieta Plaza and the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People, just down from Largo do Pelourinho. Together, they tell a compelling tale of colonial grandeur, cruelty, and triumph over oppression.

 

We rode the iconic Elevador Lacerda. There was a capoeira (afro-brazilian style of martial arts)  performance right at Praça da Sé

 

Shopped at Mecado Modelo - Both outside and in, vendors were hawking beaded bracelets, cotton clothing, and Salvadorian souvenirs. I explored the market for a bit, picking up a cheese-filled pastry for lunch at a stand along the way.

 

Day 8- Travel day back to Rio

Flew from Salvador to Rio via Avianca. My little one was super tired this day. She slept throughout the flight and in the uber until our hotel. Once we were back, we took a dip into the terrace pool to calm our tired muscles.

Visited Church and convent of Sao Francisco - step inside, and you’re immediately blown away by the gold. We’re talking ALMOST A TON of gold leaf.

 

Day 9- Day trip to Arraial Da Cabo

It was a long day for a day trip. I wouldn’t recommend it with a kid in hand. I wish stayed a night at Cabo. It was beautiful to say the least. It is Brazils very own Caribbean.  we went over the Rio-Niterói bridge all the way to the port at Arraial do Cabo. We visited the beach via boat tour.

 

The boat was incredibly spacious with benches that line the outside and a block of high up mattresses in the centre to allow you a break from the morning’s sun. On the boat tour from Arraial do Cabo we stopped four times: twice to swim into crystal clear waters and catch a glimpse of the extensive marine life with our snorkels, and twice more at two picture-perfect beaches.


Day 10- Copacabana beach

We kept our last day as Beach day! We hopped to the beach. It was our last day so we took it easy.


Day 11- Travel day Rio to Toronto

Flew back to Toronto

 

Special mentions



                                                                                                                                                                HAPPY TRAVELING!!

 

 



                                                                                                                                               

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Apr 20
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Iconic beaches, lovely people and an entertaining culture, makes any trip to Brazil worthwhile with little to no regrets!

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Yes definitely. The beaches were definitely a highlight there, They know the right way to Beach :)

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