Overland Notes: Brazil

These notes are intended to help other people overlanding in Brazil.

We have found that Banco do Brasil and some Itau don't charge fees on Hendrik's European card.  They all seem to want to charge a fee to Ali's Australian card.

I've added a state by state guide below, but... Many areas of Brazil don't have campsites. Gas stations and truck stops will usually let you camp for free.  They are noisy,  but relatively safe.  We free camp beside lakes,  on beaches,  or in back streets of towns. Brazil has a network of campgrounds associated with their motoring club.  Rates are higher for non-members but if you have a membership card for a foreign motoring association and show that you should get the members price.
Some bloggers list the places that they free camp, Hendrik and I think that it's better not to. This is because we think that if motorhomes (and in Brazil you're mostly alone) frequent the same places regularly then thieves will see an opportunity. Sometimes we'll list a place if we think it's particularly good/ safe / has friendly locals around.

When driving on major roads look, from about 11am until 2pm, for restaurants (often at gas stations) where a lot of trucks are stopping.  There is usually a very good buffet lunch: all you can eat for Rs11-19, or sometimes it's pay per kilo. Don't go where buses stop - the price doubles! The food is better if you stop earlier.
PF indicates the menu of the day, usually Rs8-12, and also a very good deal.

We found this out so late in our time in Brazil! There is a chain/franchise of Coin Laundromats, called Laundromats Lavanderias. In Praia do Forte doing a big machine of laundry there costs Rs13 (wash), another Rs13 to Dry. This compares to a general price 20 items for Rs39. Admittedly, the woman said we were only supposed to be putting 20 items in for the Rs13, but we may have done more items (but, how do you compare smalls to sheets or fluffy towels?). There is a website, but it doesn't seem to list all the locations, better to search the city you want and Laundromat Lavanderias. (website:

Mobile Phone
We bought a Vivo sim card early in our stay in Brazil. It worked very well in most places for accessing internet on our smart phone (not so good in the far North of Brazil). As for phone calls, once you leave the state you purchased the card in Brazil mobile phone companies charge roaming fees so we preferred to use Skype (the 3G sim connection worked well enough, and they have 4G for those with a better phone). We just used the Rs6.90 per week deal which gave us enough internet access to check emails and upload some blog posts.

Passport stamps- checking the numbers!
We entered and left Brazil a few times. When we went to the Policia Federal in Oiapoque to exit Brazil we were informed that our last entry (São Paulo airport, almost 3 months earlier), was actually stamped in our passport and entered in the computer system as exits. How could we have known this? When they entry/ exit stamp your passport there is a series of numbers on the stamp. Entry stamps should always end in an odd number, and exit stamps should end in an even number. Apparently, as a traveller to Brazil you should check this. 

For our problem we explained everything that had happened to us in São Paulo: at entry immigration I'd asked how many days could we stay in Brazil (as we'd been in before, but left for 3 months), the young man said he didn't know and he left (with our passports) to find out. He was gone an incredibly long time, but returned with our passports stamped and our immigration card stamped too with 90 days entered. 
The Federal Police officer in Oiapoque told us to sit and wait while he figured out how to fix our problem and a exit us correctly (which he did, and we were able to exit without problems).

We also learnt (the young woman at the front desk told us) that the maximum stay in Brazil is 90 days in 90 days, even if a immigration officer stamps your passport and entry card with 90 days upon re-entry. Some nationalities can apply for an extension at a Federal police post (note that the Federal Police who deal with traffic are different too to the immigration Federal Police. The Federal Olice computer system will automatically calculate your overstay and you will be required to pay a fine that the officers cannot override. Well, that's what the officer told me. 

PLACES: NOTES and RECOMMENDATIONS, South to North (kind of)

Rio Grande do Sul
Lots of Free camping on beaches.
São Miguel das Missões
We were allowed to stay right beside the ticket office.

Vila Velha State Park (Parque Estadual de Vila Velha), nr Curitiba
Ask the Environmental police if you can camp with them (behind their buildings). Ask if you can see the birds leaving the Furnas. If they allow you to it's a real treat, and we weren't the first overlanders to stop there: they have a visitors book!

Mato Grosso do Sul
Camping Gordo is lovely, great river for snorkelling; monkeys and birdlife.
Camping Rio Formosa (municipal) is friendly and a good base for overlanders.

Mato Grosso
Porto Jofre, Transpantaneira,  Pantanal, Mato Grosso.
Ask about Jaguar tours and overlander camping at Hotel Pantanal Norte. We found it to be s better deal than the campsite.
Vila Bom Jardim
Lagoa das Araras
We explained to the landowner that we were self sufficient with toilet and shower and were allowed to stay overnight.  He didn't charge us any extra,  and it was a nice stop. Plenty of birdlife on the lagoon.

Camping is possible at the hostelling international hostel. It has wifi, power,  kitchen, and access to a semi-automatic washing machine (no charge).

Vale do Capoa (Parque Nacional Chapada dos Diamantinas)
There are a few campsites there,  smaller motorhomes okay at Ganesha. Take moto taxis to the Fumaça hike,  you can do it without a guide.
Lençios (Parque Nacional Chapada dos Diamantinas)
You can free park along the river in town,  near where the women launder clothes in the river.  Then walk to the historic centre.
Salvador and Itaparica Island
The GPS listes Berlingue campsite looks unused, but if you keep going to the Southern end of the island and follow the 'Praia' signs you'll find a quiet plaza beside pretty docked boats.
At the Northern end of the island it's easy to camp between the beach bars.  They were quiet on the nights we were there (a Friday and Saturday).
At the vehicle ferry (to Salvador) there is paid parking on either side.  We  parked on Itaparica side, Rs12 for a full day, and made a day trip to Salvador so we could camp again in the quiet beach on Itaparica. The next morning we took the vehicleferry, with motorhome, to Salvador but kept going to Praia do Forte.
In Salvador, near the top of the elevator, you'll find electronic stores for LED lights, invertors, battery charges, etc for 220v and 110v.
Praia do Forte
Motorhomes are staying at the paid parking beside the bus station. 24hours was Rs10. Power, and toilets available. As mentioned above, there's a coin laundry here.

Rio Grande do Norte
Praia do Pipa
Tsuname Camping at Praia do Amor sits on top of the cliff overlooking at the ocean. Suits even large overlanding vehicles (big vehicles should drive around town on the back streets). We met other overlanders there... the first since the Pantanal! Rs20-25 per person, depending on length of stay  . Has wifi around cafe area. Laundry available at good price  . Genipabu, Praia do Genipabu (sometimes spelt Jenipabu)
Overnight stay available at Estacionamente Liaz. Nothing great, but has showers and toilets. Rs15.

Canoa Quebrada
Pousada Via Lactea allows overnight stays for motorhomes. Has wi-fi (works at camp area!), pool, toilet, shower, nice grass to park on, and overlooks sea. Rs25 per person.

MaranhãoVillage unknown - off the beaten trackSee our the following post for the wonderful oasis we accidentally found and its GPS co-ordinates.

Barreirinhas (tour to Lençois Marranhenses National Park)As you drive into town you will get mobbed by tourist touts. I decided to just tell them I wanted an agent who spoke English and I was taken directly to one. The tour prices are fixed regardless of the tout, he just makes a little bit of the agents cut. Tell the agent that you have a motorhome and need a place to park that where you can stay overnight and that the tour can pick you up from. The agent will get the tourist tout to take you back to the gas station and show you where to park. It's all wonderfully simple.

There's a new waterfront recreation area (wasn't even on our GPS map) called Portal da Amazonia (if it's not on on your maps just follow the coast in the direction of the ports). It's a place where people come to jog, cycle, skate, play sports. But, apparently the scene isn't so safe at night. We were warned so we asked the police where they recommended we go. They told us we could stay at Portal da Amazonia, but to park across the road from their "Municipal Guard" kiosk, which was manned all night.

Amazon Ferry
Belem Macapa Ferry Boat connection. 
Belem Manaus Ferry Boat connection

We'd read about overlanders going from port to port asking the various boat operators for schedules, availability and pricing. The port area is messy and confusing, so we decided to see if an agent could make things a little more easier. That same morning we met a young couple overlanding in a VW Combi from Mexico, and they went with Hendrik to talk to an agent. 
They were directed (by an agent that doesn't do vehicles) to the agent listed below. H says the process was simple, they only spoke Portuguese (H doesn't speak much Portuguese) but they'd made things very clear. H recommends taking a photo of your vehicle to show them. They knew which boats were possible and called to find availability. For Belem to Macapa the next departing boat was full, then there was the one we booked (2 days later) and another a week later (the first boat again). For Belem- Macapa our price was Rs1050 for Blac plus Rs120 per person. A VW Combi would have been Rs950. 

Our Mexican VW Combi friends (going Belem to Manaus) were really bargaining hard and looking for the least expensive option they could find. They got prices from the agent but, hoping for a cheaper price, went to the ports and asked door to door. In the end the agents price was as good as they could get and they went back to book with the agent. 

Here's the agent's details:
Av. Boulevard Castilho França, 716
Centro, Belem. 

Their card says they service: Manaus, Macapa, Santarem, M.Dourado, Jari, Breves. 

They have people in other locations but the same email will get the service. We'd recommend emailing ahead to get a schedule. 

Leaving to French Guiana
Oiapoque to French Guiana
You may have heard about the bridge from Brazil to French Guiana, it seems to have been built but for some reason (red tape?) it has never been opened. It looks lovely, but you still have to get a boat across. 

The vehicle ferry service from Oiapoque (Brazil) to St Georges de l'Oyapock (French Guiana) is privately operated by "Lunay". They were difficult to find in that most people we asked didn't know how to  get a vehicle across the river. So, note the GPS coordinates (below). 
The price was €200 or Rs600 for 1 vehicle, €120 each for 2 vehicles, €80 each for 3, €70 each for 4. They told us only 3-5 vehicles usually cross in a week, so we recommend emailing ahead to see if they have other bookings and trying to get there in time for them if price is an issue. At least if you reserve then somebody else might wait for you and you can cross together.

GPS: N 03•50.644, W051•50.351
Email: (might be worth emailing them in advance to try to coincide your journey with others). 
Open hours: 8.00-12.00 and 14.00-18.00. 

Note that although the fuel is expensive in Oiapoque, when we passed through it was still a lot cheaper than the expensive fuel prices of French Guiana. Fill up!, But, better to fill up totally in Belem, as it just keeps getting more expensive as you go North in Brazil and into French Guiana.

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