Traveller's guide to Brazil

Guide to BrazilPic: Getty

With the World Cup coming later this year, and the Olympics in 2016, Brazil is about to become a serious holiday hotspot. If you're planning a visit to the South American destination, here's what you need to know.

The country
Brazil offers something for those who like to party hard, wonder at awesome wildlife, chill out on a sandy beach, or a combination of all three. From the party atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro at carnival time, to the tropical Amazon rainforest, to the deserted beaches of Fernando de Noronha, it's a diverse and colourful country, and a visit to Brazil will undoubtedly prove an unforgettable experience, no matter what your getaway tastes or budget.

City highlights
Rio de Janeiro will almost certainly be top of any traveller's list of must-sees in Brazil, and with fabulous beaches, sights and nightlife on offer it's little wonder.

The famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, among others, grace the Zona Sul, or South Zone of the city, along with famed tourist attractions including Sugar Loaf Mountain, with its breathtaking views of the city, and the incredible statue Christ the Redeemer. The sound of the samba can be heard throughout the year, of course, but to really experience the full Brazilian fiesta feel, the carnival hits town at the end of February or beginning of March. Elsewhere in the city, the Parque Nacional and Floresta da Tijuca, the largest urban reserve in the world, is well worth a visit for the waterfalls, creeks and intense green of the tropical rain forest.

Meanwhile Sao Paulo, South America's largest city, is something of a concrete jungle, but it too boasts a vast array of clubs, where the party goes on all night, the Serra da Cantareira, natural fresh water rock caverns, and, thanks to the growing success of Sao Paulo Fashion Week, some fantastic shops on Rua Oscar Freire.

Countryside and wildlife
If all the hustle and bustle of Brazil's urban jungle gets too much, there is much to be explored further afield. In Amazonia, to the north of the country, jungle tours give tourists a glimpse of the astonishing array of tropical wildlife, though further south at Pantanal, the more open wetland landscape might give you a better chance of seeing caiman, jaguar, anaconda, giant anteater and capybara.

Even further south, the world famous Iguacu Falls, on the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, is an awesome natural wonder, taller than Niagara and twice as wide.

To really chill out in Brazil though, you'll need to travel to the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, a tropical island paradise where dolphin watching, diving and snorkelling are on offer... though dragging yourself away from the stunning beaches might prove tricky!

When to go
Summer, and the high tourist season, in Brazil runs from December to March, and is the height of the carnival season across the country. Temperatures in the high 30s are to be expected, and being tropical, the humidity can be stifling. However, opt for the low season from May to September, and you can take advantage of less crowded resorts, and temperatures around the mid-20s, though it can get much colder in the south at around 15 degrees Celsius.

As with many long-haul destinations, vaccinations are a necessary evil for British travellers. Since it takes at least two weeks to gain immunity following your jabs, be sure to visit the doctor four to eight weeks prior to departure, and check exactly which injections you'll need.

Healthcare in Brazil can be extremely expensive too, so it is well worth paying for travel insurance, or checking that your existing cover is enough to keep you safe in South America.

Finally, don't be put off by bad press about crime in Brazil, particularly in the cities, but do take the same precautions you would in any city, keeping valuables and sizeable amounts of cash out of sight, and avoiding high-risk areas. Familiarise yourself with your destination before you set out, dress casually (and as much like the locals as possible), and be aware.

What tips and recommendations would you give for a first-time holidaymaker in Brazil? Leave your comments below...