Here is a comprehensive guide to Iguaçu, Manaus(Amazon Forests) and Rio carnival.

General Tips:

1- Brazil currency is Reais and now 100 $=170 R

2- Few Brazilians people can speak English, even basic words! They only understand Portuguese and Spanis

3- Best time to visit Brazil is specially Rio is Feb as there is a unique huge Carnival there. The exact date differs year to year. But the hotels and restaurants would be at least 4 times more crowded in this period. The major part is 5 days. It is marvelous with thousands of people dancing in the streets.

4- If you want to see more than 1 city in Brazil, you can take an air pass. It is only for travelers and only can be bought before entering Brazil. You can take it from your travel agency or online from www.Brol.com. You need your international flight number. By air pass 5 domestic flights would have the price of 1-2 flights taken directly from airline sites! 4 flights costs about 600$. The best airlines for domestic flights are GOL,TAM,AZUL and web jet.GOL may be better than the others. Air pass flights should be from one airline.

5- Although it is said that Brazil is not very safe, you should not have any problems, especially during the carnival.

6-  When you are returning by plane, in the airport free shop all the price are in US$ and they exchange your Reais!! It's rare to see the base price is not on their own currency!! So, do not save your reals for the free shop

7- If you want see amazon jungle you should go to Manaus city

Cities guide:

Foz de Iguaçu 

 

Iguaccu Falls is in this city. It is the second biggest falls and really marvelous .Some parts of falls are in Argentina and maybe you need visa to see that part (based on your home country).For US citizens no visa is needed. The fall is in a national park about 30 min drives from the city center. Entrance fee is 40 R and includes bus transferring you to the falls (10 min) because it is at the end of the park. There are also some optional activities in the park like
  • A-Boat safari(70 R and lasts 90 min) near the falls: very exciting. You get completely wet so you should have extra cloths with you in a nylon bag. There is also a locker (not free) there.
  • B- Rafting on the waves (50 R). Very exciting and great for younger folks.
  • C- Rappel: falling down by a rope from a very high stage. It is really thrilling. If you want, canopying is something similar but less dangerous.
  • D: Hellicopter: (190 R/10 min) over falls .Interesting  but expensive. Its entrance is outside the park. If you want to do all these activities you should be there atleast 9 am. There are also some packages for these activities in tourist desk before entrance.

For Hotels you have 3 options:

  • A- Cataratas hotel inside national park: it is expensive but in the afternoon which park doors are closed you can go and see some part of park and fall. 
  • B-Hotel near the national park like the San Martin hotel. It is 10 min walk to the park entrance. If you want to go to the city in the afternoon you should use bus or taxi (Pros: near national park, breakfast good with fresh fruit juice, helpful tourist desk in the lobby, near airport, free transfer from airport (not for return), clean and comfortable. Cons: no plates, fork, tissue in the rooms, no air-condition in the WC, only a breakfast package to go for early morning flights, it'sfar from city).
  • C-Hotels in city center: you can walk around the city (although it has nothing special) but you should take taxi and bus to go to the park.

If you have time there is a place called 3D Frontier that is on the common border between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. This is a far from city center and taxi would be at least 100R but you can go by public bus. At first get on a bus to Terminal (almost all busses go there) and from there, take bus with sign of ”FARDIMAS FLOUS”. Get off at the last stop. As it is a little far do not go late at night.T

There is a restaurant called RAFAIN near national park and cost 90 R buffet dinner and dance show. The seats are very compact and it is necessary to take a seat near the stage.

Rio De Janeiro Carnival:

Take your hotels are Ipanem and Copacabana beach. Ipanem is more expensive with fewer hotels. The Benidorm in Copacabana: (Pros: 1- good location but at least 5-7 min walk to Copacabana. There are some hotels just opposite the beach if you mind walking. 2-large rooms and bathrooms 3-clean, modern and comfortable 4-friendly helpful staff at front desk 5-Good restaurants and shops near the hotel  Cons: 1-internet can be a problem during Carival. You cannot go to Yahoo, Hotmail and Facebook. It was on purpose during busy days of Carnival. You namely had free internet but completely useless. On the coffee net near the hotel it was correct!  2-Braekfast may not be good. Fruit juice is not fresh, limited options and nothing special   3-It is not just on the beach (as some of the other hotels)    

Carnival is 5 days in Feb .Its exact days differ year to year. During this period from 8 pm till 1 am all people are in the streets, dancing, drinking, kissing, and wearing funny clothes. In some part of city LAPA , there is a big stage and live street music. It is better to go to different parts at different nights. Every region has its own fascinating program. Last night is called Gay party and you see many Gays in the streets. There are also some organized parties all around the city with 20-30 R entrance fee. Actually they are like a big disco with live music. Most of Brazilians goes to these discos after 1 am till 5-6 am. It might be a little boring for tourist and and you may prefer to go back to the hotel at 1 am.

The most formal and important Carnival is held in a place called SAMBODROM. It is like a big stadium with around 50,000 capacity. It is a formal competition between 10 groups of dancers. It is very huge that you cannot imagine. Each groups contains at least 500 members .With colorful special costumes and different layers, each are dancing differently .They have special vehicles. After that 6 referees give them score based on overall performance, costumes, dance, harmony.. You should go to this competition. A ticket is 300-1000 R but would be one of your unique experiences. It is 8 pm till 6 AM but after 4-5 h is becomes a little monotone and you probably leave there earlier but that 3-4 h worth it.

Day life during Carnival is nothing special You can go shopping or sightseeing. The bests are Corcovado, Sugar loaf cabin, Lagoon (lake) and Maracana stadium. All of these attractions are in the city so you can go by bus, taxi or on a tour. Some more information about these sites:

  • A-Corcovado: A big statue of Christ on the top of a mountain. There are 2 kind of transportation to top,  1-with a train through the jungle. It is the more exiting option but with a long queue. It would at least take 2-3 h to be your turn.   2-there are some mini buses taking you to the top. Faster but you will not see the jungle and the train. If you go there on a tour ask them if they use Train or not because most of them use buses. You should go there when it is not cloudy.
  • B-Sugar loaf: it is a mountain with cabin. At the top there is good view of the city. As each cabin capacity is 70 persons, its cue is not as long as Corcovado.
  • C-Lagoon: It is a lake near Ipanem beach. You can hire a bike there and go round the lake.
  • D-Maracana Stadium: It is a famous football stadium but as they do not let you in, there is nothing special there.

You can take a full day tour (170 Reai/p) with a tourist online company. 


Manaus city (Amazon jungles):

One option is the Saint Paul hotel. You may be unimpressed at first (small rooms, old, poor nearby and small lobby), but overall it is good, mostly for the location near to city center (10 min walk) and kind helpful staff. They will keep your luggage after check out, if you go on a jungle tour. Breakfast is just good but nothing special. Manaus city has nothing especial but you may enjoy a walk around its city center. It has an old architecture and is really beautiful.

If you want to go to Amazon jungle you should first go to Manaus city. You can fly by TAM or GOL airlines from Sao Paulo or Rio. As Manaus is far (5-6 hr flight) you cannot start your jungle tour in the same day you arrive in Manaus and you should take a hotel for the first night. 

At first you should know some facts about this jungle. That is not something like TARZAN in a wild dangerous jungle! (you might think that you will see tigers, lions, etc).It is a silent safe part of jungle with a small lodge beside the river. You see only monkeys, sloth, birds, fish, alligators (may be the only wild animal you see), dolphins and tarantula (spider). Overall it is a good experience.

It is really a relaxing trip .You will stay at a lodge (Elso from Amazon Greentour is a good option: comfort but not luxury) and then you will have 3-4h tour before lunch and 3-4 h in the afternoon. You will go everywhere by boat. For example half a day you will go fishing and half a day you have jungle walk and so on. The lodge's food is ok but mostly fish. Everything you experience there is unique but  3 days is just enough.

Cons:1-you lose half a day in going to the lodge and half a day for return. Actually your tour is 2 days in jungle. 2- The program can be more compact. For example when you go fishing, it is at first very interesting but after 2h fishing it becomes monotone. All the programs can be done in 1-1.5 days. 3-There is no plan for the free times you are in the lodge. Especially if you travel alone you have nothing to do in the lodge. There is only a billiard table. You are at least 4h /day free in the lodge and you can only sit beside the river and watch the scenes or you may find somebody there and bend his/her ear! They can plan some group games or something like this.