Brazil

Travel Log- Brazil and Uruguay

Travel Log- Brazil and Uruguay 2560 1920 Greg Ellifritz

*My Travel Log series describes various past travel adventures and provides perspective about living and traveling in different countries.  This particular segment covers a trip to Brazil and Uruguay in December of 2015.

 

We wanted to get away from the cold weather, so we took a short trip down to South America.  Brazil is one of my favorite countries and I absolutely love Rio de Janeiro.  My girlfriend had never been there, so we flew into Rio so I could show her the sights.

 

After spending a few days in Copacabana, we flew to Montevideo, Uruguay.  Uruguay was the last country that I wanted to see in South America.  I have already traveled through all of the other countries down there except the extreme northeast  (Venezuela and the three little formerly French countries).  Having no desire to travel in that region, getting Uruguay completed South America for me.

 

After spending three days in Uruguay, we flew back to Rio and finished out our stay with three more days in Ipanema.  It was a good trip.

 

While this makes my sixth trip to Brazil, I hadn’t been to Rio since Carnival in 2010.  While there, I grew to love Copacabana over the more posh Ipanema neighborhood.  The beaches were less crowded, hotels were cheaper, and the water was cleaner.  It was still a safe place to stay, and was much more enjoyable than hanging out with the “pretty people” in Ipanema.  This trip changed my opinion a bit.  In the five years since I had been there, Copacabana has taken a downturn.  It’s now significantly “grittier” than it had been in the past.  It was still pretty safe and we had no problems, but there were fewer tourists, more thieves roaming the beaches, and significantly more prostitutes walking the street.

 

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

 

I didn’t know what to expect from Uruguay, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  The airport was new and efficient.  We quickly passed through immigration and customs without filling out a single form, obtaining a visa, or getting our bags searched.  Our bags came quickly and cabs waited at the curb in an orderly queue.  All the cabs are metered and the cabbies take payment in US dollars, Brazilian Real, or Uruguayan Pesos.  Most astonishingly to me was the fact that everyone drove the speed limit and no one honked their horns!  If you’ve ever traveled in Latin America, you’ll understand what a rarity this is!

 

As we were driving to the hotel I booked, we passed numerous joggers and cyclists.  The majority of them were wearing reflective vests or belts (like the military PT belts).  All the cyclists wore helmets.  People drove in a sane fashion.  It seemed to be a very safety-conscious country.  I found it amusing that the health and safety concerns continued as we checked into the hotel.  There was a huge sign on the wall of the hotel bar stating (in Spanish) “Less salt, longer life.”  The same saying was printed on all the menus in all the restaurants we patronized.  The whole country had declared war on dietary salt!  How strange for a Latin country.  I had a hard time with the concept of reducing salt for a population who still couldn’t drink the tap water.

IMG_1161

Leme Beach in Rio from the roof of our Copacabana hotel.

 

We spent a couple days touring Montevideo and then spent our last day at one of the city’s more popular beaches.  Both of us really liked the country.  As per our custom, we only ate in local restaurants and had some excellent steak with the country’s favorite alcoholic drink, Media y Medio, (half and half).  It was half sweet white wine and half champagne or cider.  It came pre-mixed and was sold in wine bottles.  We found it quite refreshing in the hot summer sun.

 

We also ate the favorite national fast food, the “chivito.”  Chivitos are essentially steak sandwiches, with lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese, fried egg, bacon, and ham on top.  You could choose to have your chivito served on a bun or eat it served on a bed of French Fries (no salt).  We chose the fries and had a very filling meal.  Many Uruguayans would eat this meal in lieu of going to fast food restaurants.  All the corner chivito restaurants had significantly more customers than the McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King restaurants we saw.

 

The Chivito

The Chivito

 

Montevideo seemed like a very safe place to live.  We had no problems at all.  There was a pretty heavy police presence, with all officers patrolling in twos and threes.  There were quite a few female cops (which is unusual for Latin America).  The police didn’t seem to be hassling anyone. We weren’t solicited for any bribes or given any undue scrutiny as tourists.  The police were polite and professional.

 

The cops seemed to be allowed some variety in their choice of gear.  All wore nylon gunbelts with Glock, H&K, or Sig pistols carried in either Serpa holsters or cheap looking plastic thumbreak holsters.  Some had spare magazines, some didn’t.  All carried handcuffs.  Some had a straight wooden baton.  No other less lethal weapons were visible.

 

We only saw one cop with a long gun.  He was patrolling downtown with his partner.  THE LONG GUN WAS CASED!  Judging from the shape of the case, it appeared to be a shotgun of some sort.  The case wasn’t big enough to allow for a semi auto rifle with a magazine inserted.  I’d never seen that before.

 

Uruguayan cop patrolling with cased long gun.

Uruguayan cop patrolling with cased long gun.

 

Uruguay is a fairly libertarian country.  Drug use is not criminalized.  The country was one of the first to abolish slavery and give women the right to vote.   Citizens can own guns (no semi-auto rifles, or military caliber pistols) with a permit process.  Carry permits are harder to obtain, but theoretically possible.  We saw one gun store, but it was closed on the day of our visit, so we couldn’t go inside.  People were friendly, but a little aloof.  They clearly weren’t used to interacting with Americans.  Everywhere we went, people assumed we were British.  Apparently, not many Americans make it to Uruguay.

 

Gun store window in Montevideo

Gun store window in Montevideo.

 

We only spent three days there, but I would like to go back.  It was a very pleasant country to visit.

 

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach

 

After flying back to Rio, we spent the remainder of our trip in the posh neighborhood of Ipanema.  We ate out every night at the various all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQs (churascarias) and lounged on the beach most of the day.  I took Lauren on a Favela (Brazilian slums) tour as well.

 

Walking on a sidewalk between favela houses. Most favelas have no roads and residents walk in narrow passageways like this to get to their "house."

Walking on a sidewalk between favela houses. Most favelas have no roads and residents walk in narrow passageways like this to get to their “house.”

 

The favelas are Rio de Janeiro’s low rent slums.  You would be astounded at how few amenities were present in such a rich city.  The favelas don’t have running water.  Most electricity is “stolen” by running a wire out to a traffic signal on the “street” in front of the residents’ shacks.  Most Brazilian favelas are completely controlled by drug gangs.  Some have been “pacified” by police intervention.  Over the years I have spent time in both types.  While “pacification” is a controversial topic among Brazilians, it was clear to me that the pacified favelas were very different than those run by the drug gangs.

 

Looking up at all the home electrical connections in the favela.

Looking up at all the home electrical connections in the favela.

 

On this trip we visited two pacified favelas, Vila Canoas and Rochina.  They were quite safe and doing brisk (drug free) business.  Unlike when I visited favelas controlled by drug gangs, there was no need to watch out for warring drug dealers or snipers on the roof.  It was actually safe to take photographs in the pacified favelas.  It was quite different from when I toured the same favelas when they were run by drug gangs in 2007.

 

Rochina, Rio's largest favela with about 150K residents.

Rochina, Rio’s largest favela with about 150K residents.

 

The Brazilian cops were pretty much non-existent as compared to the police presence in Uruguay.  Outside of the cops in the favelas (patrolling in threes with plate body armor and tactical rigs for their Beretta or Glock pistols), we never saw a cop in either Ipanema or Copacabana.

 

We didn’t have any problems with crime on the trip.  Our closest encounter with the criminal underworld was the location of our Copacabana hotel.  It was near one of Rio’s red light districts.  A restaurant near our hotel was the location where most of the prostitutes hung out…looking for business.  It was a useful exercise to sit around and watch them work one evening.  We spent some time watching from a distance, trying to identify the “normal” people, the prostitutes, the male customers, the pimps, and the criminals who preyed on the customers.  It was easy to identify all of these groups by just paying a little attention to what was going on.  Other tourists walked right past the whole affair without even noticing what was happening.

 

Watching your surroundings for a baseline idea of what normal people do is important when traveling to third world countries.  When you start seeing people behave differently than the baseline you’ve established, something is going on.  It’s up to you to figure out what that “something” is.  With a little attention, it’s fairly easy to figure out.

 

I suggest that everyone traveling in third world countries take a walk around their hotel neighborhood both in the daylight and at night.  Establish a baseline of behavior.  The look for anomalies in that baseline.  It’s a useful exercise and will have you identifying criminals very quickly once you do it a few times.

 

Although I really doubt that Rio will be truly ready for the Olympics next year, it is a very cool place to visit.  The Brazilian people are exceptionally welcoming and friendly.  If you are looking for a vacation destination that’s a little more “exotic” than Florida, I’d suggest you give Rio a try.

 

Best Beaches Around the World

Best Beaches Around the World 747 1260 Greg Ellifritz

If you like beaches, here’s the article you need to plan your next vacation.

 

I’ve been to five out of the ten.

 

On this list, Copacabana Beach in Rio is my all time favorite.  But I actually like Ipanema beach a little better.  It’s more crowded, but cleaner and safer than Copacabana.

 

Have any of you been to all 10?

 

 

Top 10 beaches in the world

South American Gun Laws

South American Gun Laws 702 501 Greg Ellifritz

Many of my readers are interested in firearms and self defense.  I regularly encounter Americans who believe that citizens of other countries can’t legally own defensive firearms.  That opinion is incorrect.

While gun ownership in countries outside the USA is generally a for more involved process than what is required to buy a gun in the USA, citizens of many other countries can own (and sometimes carry) firearms if they jump through all the right hoops.

I found the article below to be an informative comparison of gun laws in six large Latin American countries.  If you are interested in the gun laws in South America, check it out.

 

Gun Laws in Latin America’s Six Largest Economies

 

You may also enjoy Revolver Guy’s article Guns in Brazil.

 

Travel Log- Brazil

Travel Log- Brazil 480 640 Greg Ellifritz

A week ago I arrived home from an eight-day trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   As I’ve written extensively about Brazil in past articles, I’m not going to cover the normal tourist stuff.  Instead, I’m going to discuss travel during a worldwide pandemic and the different perspectives other populations have regarding Covid-19.

 

I love Brazil.  I first traveled there in 2007 and this was my seventh trip to the county.  I last visited in 2015 and was missing the atmosphere.  I didn’t have any real purpose for my trip other than getting some time on the beach and eating some good food.  I was also growing tired of the cold Ohio winter and the ridiculous curfews and Covid-19 restrictions my state has implemented.

 

A friend of mine had some time off work and had never visited Brazil.  She wanted to go and needed a tour guide.  We booked the trip on short notice hoping to enjoy the largest New Years celebration in the world on Copacabana Beach.  It didn’t hurt that at the time of the booking, Brazil was one of only five countries in the world accepting American tourists without Coronavirus testing or quarantine.  Since our trip, Brazil now requires a negative PCR Covid-19 test in order to enter the country.

 

The normal New Years celebration involves three million people on the beach.  It was cancelled this year because of the pandemic.  That was a disappointment, but we still had a good time.

 

Many of my friends questioned my travel during a global pandemic, especially to a nation like Brazil that is consistently rated among the top three countries in the world for coronavirus infections and deaths.

 

I think a little perspective is in order.  The United Sates leads the world in Covid-19 infections and deaths.  Going ANYWHERE ELSE in the world lessens my chance of infection as compared to staying home.  I’m certain the medical care in Brazil may not be as good as I would achieve at home.  That’s why I bought a travel insurance policy through Safety Wing to cover medical expenses related to Covid-19 and emergency evacuation back to the USA.

 

As of today, I’ve been home eight days and neither myself nor my travel companion have shown any symptoms of having acquired the virus.

 

Here are the stats as of today:

Total Coronavirus Cases

Brazil- 8,105,790

USA- 22,910,140

Total Covid-19 Deaths

Brazil- 203,140

USA- 383,242

 

Brazil has a population of 209 million people (roughly 2/3 of the population of the USA), yet has roughly 1/3 the number of infections as compared to the USA.  Death rates for both country are rated at three percent.  I don’t think it’s any riskier traveling to Brazil as it is staying in the USA.

 

In speaking with lots of local Brazilians, I learned that the Brazilian death rates are being exaggerated by the government.  My local friends told me that if a Brazilian citizen dies with Covid-19, the government would pay all his medical expenses as well as his funeral expenses.

 

In a poor country with minimal health insurance coverage, there is a huge incentive for doctors to categorize the death as having been related to Covid-19.  The family pays nothing for the health care or the funeral.  Hospital costs are all covered by the government.  My local friends state that anyone dying after having tested positive for the virus  is categorized as a Covid-19 fatality.  They say this makes Brazil look bad in comparison to other countries.

 

So what was it like to travel during the pandemic?

 

Not really much different than traveling at home.  In Brazil, masks are required in enclosed public spaces and on public transportation just like at home.  That proved a bit more difficult than one might expect.  Masks are also required in airports, airplanes, and cabs to and from the airport.  It’s one thing to wear a mask at the grocery store.  It’s a little different to wear it for 20+ straight hours.

 

We had to be at the airport two hours before the flight left (completely unnecessary as baggage check and security took us a timed 12 minutes from arrival).  We had a two-hour flight to Miami, a four-hour layover, a nine-hour overnight flight, and two more hours in baggage claim and a cab from the airport to our hotel in Ipanema.  Our flight home had an additional connecting flight in Sao Paulo which added another two hours to the process.  Twenty hours in a mask isn’t fun, but it’s the cost of doing business if you want to travel right now.

 

Modern air travel

 

Once we arrived in country, it was pretty much like at home without any lockdowns or curfews.  If anything, the Brazilians were doing more than the Americans to prevent viral transmission.  Use of hand sanitizer was mandatory when entering restaurants and large shops.  Many public locations took temperatures of each guest and denied entry to those who had a fever.

 

Signs like this were everywhere. I found it interesting that in Brazil, the “socially distant” space requirement was only 1.5 meters rather than the USA’s 2 meters. I don’t think anyone really knows the true distance one needs to keep away from others without risk of catching the disease.

 

The issue of wearing a mask has a cultural component that I had never really considered.  My Brazilian friends all mentioned that it was much more difficult for Brazilians to get used to the mask in public.  It’s a very appearance-driven culture.  Brazil is the plastic surgery capital of the world.  There are more than twice the number of plastic surgeries done in Brazil (by population) as compared to the United States.  The Brazilians tended to resent covering up their expensive facelifts, nose jobs, and lip implants with a mask.

 

The culture also prefers very close proxemics.  People stand close to each other when speaking and universally greet one another with hugs and kisses on the cheek.  The locals I spoke with said they had difficulty adjusting to public masks as it was so anathema to their normal everyday customs.  That’s something I hadn’t really considered before visiting.

 

I noticed a trend when I was down there.  The more affluent neighborhoods had much higher rates of mask usage for people just walking down the street.  In Ipanema (very wealthy), I would estimate that more than 80% of the people wore masks even when outside.  If you drop down a notch to Copacabana (still nice, but not as snooty), mask wearing rates were about 50%.  On our visit to a local favela (slum), I would guess that fewer than 25% of the population was wearing masks outside.

 

It’s hard to know why there was such an extreme variation in mask use between neighborhoods in the same city.  It might be that the affluent are more educated and have more resources to buy masks.  It might also just be a pandering status thing as well.  The well off suffer more from social shaming than the poor do.

 

One other interesting fact about masks I learned from one of our tour guides was that there was a cultural expectation that tourists wear masks at all times.  Since the virus did not originate in Brazil, it was brought there by travelers.  The locals think that it’s the travelers’ burden to wear a mask to help protect the locals from the “foreign” virus.  Locals were cut more slack with regard to mask enforcement than tourists.

 

It’s a fascinating perspective.  Why don’t Americans feel the same way?  The virus was brought here by tourists and business travelers.  Why don’t we have the same fear of strangers that the Brazilians have?  I’ll probably never figure it out, but I generally wore my mask as much as possible so as not to make waves with the people who live in the city I was visiting.

 

The concept of  “social distancing” wasn’t really a thing in Brazil, even though it is widely suggested by Brazilian health authorities.  No one seemed fearful of close physical contact like many people are in the USA.  There was no two meter separation in any lines.  Parts of the beach were absolutely packed with people.  On the beach, no one wore masks.  No one feared being in very close proximity with a bunch of strangers.  People were friendly and talkative.

 

As soon as people stepped off the beach and onto the street/sidewalk, the masks came on.  It seemed like a weird form of hypocrisy to me.  It’s not like people are immune to the virus only when standing on the sand.  Odd, but that’s what I saw.  It was almost like the Brazilians reluctantly accepted most public mask wearing, but drew the line when it came to masking up at their beloved beaches.

 

No “social distancing” at the Christ the Redeemer statue

 

The photo below the most famous spot (Posto 9) on Ipanema beach.  It’s where all the “pretty people” hang out.  You can see how crowded that section of the beach is, despite there being lots of room to spread out.  Brazilians were willing to sacrifice a lot, but they wanted their important beach recreation to be as “normal” as possible.

 

Kilometer post #9 on Ipanema beach from our hotel balcony.  It was completely packed without a mask in sight.

 

As my traveling partner had never been to Rio, we did a lot of the traditional tourist activities.  We spent a lot of time on the beach.  We walked all around Ipanema and Copacabana.  We took a guided tour of the Christ statue and the “Sugar Loaf” mountain.  We also did a half day favela walking tour.

 

If you need a tour guide in Brazil, I would highly recommend the services of Vicente Thomas.  He gave us an amazing tour of the city.  His website is Sunrise Turismo.  He can also be reached on Facebook and Instagram at Brazil Sunrise Turismo.  Vicente speaks excellent English and is very knowledgeable about both the history and the politics of his home country of Brazil.  Book him for a tour if your don’t want to explore on your own or desire a Brazilian perspective on current events.

 

Our guide Vicente introducing us to a fruit smoothie made from a jungle fruit I had never tasted before.

 

Besides the tourist attractions and beach, I really enjoy the food in Brazil.  If you are a meat lover, you will be in heaven.  There is a great “cafe culture” in Rio with almost all bars and restaurants having ample outdoor seating along the street and sidewalk.  It’s really enjoyable to have a great meal and a few drinks while people watching from a warm patio.  When we weren’t on the beach, we spent a lot of time relaxing on patios.  I think I could do that every day for the rest of my life and remain happy.

 

Smiling as I consume my first patio Caipirinha of the trip. This scene would be repeated daily for our entire trip.

 

This was a “meat platter” for two at a local restaurant. It had chicken, sausage, pulled brisket, and filet mignon. It probably would have fed four normal people. We made a good dent in it and then gave the leftovers to a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk on the way back to our hotel. This massive plate of meat cost $18.

 

One of the many reasons I enjoy Rio is the amazing beaches.  You can rent a chair and an umbrella from a local vendor for about $10 a day.  There is a constant parade of merchants selling every food and drink item imaginable on the beach.  Local beers on the beach were less than $2 each.  Vendors sold fruit, mixed drinks, grilled chicken and shrimp, empanadas, and acai bowls everywhere.

 

My favorite beach snack was the “quejo” stick below.  It is a block of cheese on a stick.  Sellers carry them down the beach in a cooler.  When you order them, they heat the cheese on a charcoal grill until warm and then dip the cheese block in oregano.  Going rate was three cheese sticks for five US dollars.  The walking vendors even took credit card payments via their smart phones.

 

Being cheesy on the beach

 

The cheese man warming the cheese blocks on his portable charcoal grill on the beach.

 

For what it’s worth, the beach culture in Rio is very different than in the USA.  No open container laws.  No cops in sight.  Rampant marijuana use.  Everyone brought loud music, grills, food, and their dogs.  It struck me that all these factors made going to the beach a blast in Rio, but all would be prohibited in a “free” country like the USA.

 

There was a section of Ipanema beach that had free concrete home made weights for use by anyone. It was packed with locals working out. Could you imagine being able to deadlift with a tropical drink in hand at a US beach?

 

There is a very favorable exchange rate between the Brazilian Real and the US Dollar right now.  It’s currently at about 5.2 Reis for each dollar.  To put this in perspective, on my first trip to Brazil, the Real was worth 1.7 US dollars.  Currently your US currency is worth three times more than what it was valued a decade ago.

 

The exchange rate meant that dinner at a really nice restaurant ran about $20-$30.  Fifteen minute Uber rides in the city cost around $3.00 each.  Beers were about $1.50 each and a good lunch at a local place cost somewhere between four and eight dollars.  Going to Brazil is a tremendous value right now.  The local guides say that the tourism industry has collapsed since Covid-19 arrived.

 

Guides told us that only Americans were traveling to Brazil right now.  Usually there are a lot of European and Australian tourists in the country, but the high rate of Covid infection has scared them off.  Americans recognize that infection rates are less in Brazil than their home country.  European nations can’t make the same claim, so they avoid visiting Brazil right now.

 

For what it’s worth, we only saw one other American tourist in the week we were in Rio.  Americans are the only people traveling there and we didn’t see any of them.  That tells you how bad the tourist industry is in Brazil right now.

 

Rio from the Christ statue

 

As for crime and police issues, we didn’t have any problems.  The beaches were considerably less crowded than when I last visited.  The roving gangs of child thieves from the favelas simply weren’t present on the beach anymore.

 

Almost everyone had smart phones at the beach.  That would have been unthinkable five years ago.  Back then, anything you took to the beach was likely to get stolen and no one brought valuables.  I’m happy to say that conditions have improved with regard to the rampant crime that once kept people away from Rio.

 

On the other hand, drug sales were much more prevalent.  Almost every beach vendor offered us weed or cocaine without fear.  That would have never occurred during my previous visits.

 

Cops were more noticeable and seemed to have more standardized uniforms and equipment.  All had external body armor carriers and packed either Taurus or Beretta pistols in a variety of cheap nylon duty or vest-mounted holsters.  I saw a few cops sporting six inch barreled chrome Taurus .357 magnum revolvers on patrol as well.  I hadn’t seen that before.

 

Cops riding in cruisers were generally paired up.  The passenger officer generally carried a FAL rifle with the muzzle poking out the window.  There’s no playing around down there.

 

Cop with FAL stuck out the window patrolling Ipanema

 

I had another great experience in Rio.  If you have any urge to travel there, now is a perfect time.  Flights and accommodations are incredibly cheap and there aren’t very many tourists visiting the country.  If you want a unique escape, Brazil awaits.

 

 

Sunset on Ipanema beach

The Favelas in Rio

The Favelas in Rio 1200 800 Greg Ellifritz

Rio de Janeiro is one of my favorite cities in the world.  So far, I’ve visited the city five times.  As Brazil is one of the few countries still open to US travelers, I might be making another trip down there later this year.

 

The city’s slums are called favelas.  They contain a stunning mixture of hard working people, cops, and criminal drug gangs.  The article below provides a great description of what’s going on in these vibrant neighborhoods.  If you like Brazilian culture, I think you’ll enjoy it.

 

Four Decades of Terror: Rio de Janeiro’s Never-Ending ‘Drug War’

 

“As informal, self-built communities, favelas exist outside the regulated city. Services like water and electricity are typically pirated from the main grid and not paid for. The persistent failure of Brazil to incorporate favelas into official society keeps them vulnerable and condemned to exploitation by criminals, police, and politicians, in many cases these working together. Although the 20th-century drug boom worsened the situation, by entrenching violence and the interests of crime and corruption, it is far from a modern phenomenon.”

 

I did formal favela tours on two of my trips to Rio.

 

 

Walking on a sidewalk between favela houses. Most favelas have no roads and residents walk in narrow passageways like this to get to their "house."

Walking on a sidewalk between favela houses. Most favelas have no roads and residents walk in narrow passageways like this to get to their “house.”

 

The favelas are Rio de Janeiro’s low rent slums.  You would be astounded at how few amenities were present in such a rich city.  The favelas don’t have running water.  Most electricity is “stolen” by running a wire out to a traffic signal on the “street” in front of the residents’ shacks.  Most Brazilian favelas are completely controlled by drug gangs.

 

Some have been “pacified” by police intervention.  Over the years I have spent time in both types.  While “pacification” is a controversial topic among Brazilians, it was clear to me that the pacified favelas were very different than those run by the drug gangs.

 

Looking up at all the home electrical connections in the favela.

Looking up at all the home electrical connections in the favela.

 

On my most recent trip, I visited two pacified favelas, Vila Canoas and Rochina.  They were quite safe and doing brisk (drug free) business.  Unlike when I visited favelas controlled by drug gangs, there was no need to watch out for warring drug dealers or snipers on the roof.  It was actually safe to take photographs in the pacified favelas.  It was quite different from when I toured the same favelas when they were run by drug gangs in 2007.

 

Rochina, Rio's largest favela with about 150K residents.

Rochina, Rio’s largest favela with about 150K residents.

 

If you make it to Brazil, I’d highly recommend taking a guided tour of some favelas.  Don’t go there on your own.  If you are especially adventurous, you can try going to a night time “Baile Funk” dance party.  It is a unique cultural experience.