Zika Virus in Brazil
On 1 February 2016 WHO (World Health Organisation) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern after a substantial spike in cases of microcephaly in the Americas. These cases are strongly suspected to be linked to Zika virus. We imagine how disastrous it might sound and might prevent people from travelling to Brazil and therefore we want to give our personal “opinion of the insider”. The virus itself is NOT the severe illness, the symptoms are milder that those of grip virus. It can be headache, fever and rush. In most of the cases they finish after 2-7 days. However it is really dangerous for pregnant women, while it can cause microcephaly for kids – the disease which can not be cured. This threat was the reason for International Emergency. We don´t want to diminish the WHO concerns, it is obviously huge disaster but the virus is ABSOLUTELY NOT DANGEROUS for our target group – young people, coming to Brazil to learn Portuguese and volunteer. To learn more about the virus visit the WHO page: Zica virus: Quations and Answers

How to get to Maceió from Recife?
There are several buses per day going to Maceió. You can buy the ticket on the bus station at the shelter of the local bus company “Real Alagoas”, which operates this route.

Which documents do I have to take with me?
Citizens of the EU and Switzerland need only their passports for a stay of max. 90 days. The passport need to be valid for at least another 6 months on submission date.
Entry/Exit Cards will be provided at your flight or at the airport itself. The Federal Police permits the entry and exit with a stamp. The Entry/Exit card should be kept safe apart from the passport to be able to prove a legal entry in case of losing your passport.
US-Citizens, Australians and Canadians need to apply for a tourist visa at their local Brazilian consulate before entering the country.
Some airlines (e.g. Condor) will not let you fly unless you have a return flight booked within 90 days period. If you plan to stay more book the flight with the Flex tariff (for Condor) which is a bit more expensive, but you can exchange you ticket free of charge.

Which currency or means of payment do I need?
The official currency is the Brazilian Real (pl. Reais). In Maceió and elsewhere in Brazil it is very common to use credit cards, but not all places will accept them. Also, withdrawals with German credit cards or EC-Maestro cards are only possible at special marked cash machines. EC-Maestro cards from European banks need to be unlocked to use them overseas. If you are planning a long term stay, we recommend you to check the options on credit cards with no withdrawal fees. We advise you against the use of travelers checks as it is very complicated to change them in Maceió.

How much money do I need?
Depending on how far and extensive you are maybe planning to travel around or go out at night, you need between 200 and 300 € (2013) a month. The supermarket prices of some products are below European standard e.g. national fruits or staple food, such as rice or beans, but most products are at the “German” price level. Some foods that are not in demand, are also more expensive. A bus trip costs about 0.70 €, but must be paid for each tour, i.e. even if you’re changing. Otherwise, the food in the “better” (usually also clean) restaurants is at average German price level – for example, a pizza 7-15 euros, depending on the restaurant and topping.
If you plan to regularly go to the beach, rather buy a bottle of sunscreen more.

Which vaccinations are recommended or required?
There no vaccinations required to enter Brazil. Applicants who have visited certain countries and territories within 90 days prior to entering Brazil are recommended to present a Yellow Fever International Certificate of Vaccination (ICV), known as the Yellow Card, upon entering Brazil – which must be taken at least 10 days prior to departure date.

The Yellow Card is RECOMMENDED for individuals who have visited any of the following countries and territories within 90 days prior to entering Brazil:
Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, French Guyana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, Sao Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Venezuela.

Generally speaking doctors recommend to boost the standard vaccinations. We recommend you to consult your family doctor or your local institute for tropical diseases before entering Brazil.

You should do check up of the required standard vaccinations three months before departing as above mentioned because in case of potential necessary boosters you will normally have to respect intervals between each booster. So, bear in mind that this issue will influence your potential vaccination regimen.

The required standard vaccinations are:

  • Tetanus vaccination
  • Polio
  • Diphtheria

Check your vaccination certificate if you posses the required vaccine protection or consult your family doctor. Furthermore, a hepatitis A vaccination is generally recommended.

Which additional vaccinations are recommended?
Hepatitis A: As above mentioned a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended. Hepatitis A is wide spread in South America and is transmitted through contaminated water or food on oral route as well as on fecal-oral route.
Typhus: Consult your family doctor to talk about the procedure/ and the necessity of a vaccination.
Hepatitis B: For long term stays a hepatitis B vaccination is often recommended..

What climate to expect?
Maceió has a typical tropical climate without seasons. So, you will have a season of more rainfalls (April – August/September) and a dry season in the rest of the year. The average temperature in the north is about 28°C/ 82°F.

Average Monthly Temperatures:

Do I need a socket adapter?
Brazil has different voltages. The most common one is 110 V/ 60Hz. Malús beach lodge has 220 V. So, you should ask before you plug in any electronic device. The standard socket at Malús beach lodge is a bit thinner than typical European. You can buy the adapter in Brazil (e.g. on the bus station at Recife), it costs ca. 5 Reais.

How dangerous is Brazil and especially Maceió concerning violence and criminality?
In the eyes of the (poorer) Brazilians all tourist are rich. The north east of Brazil is a very poor region. A tourist instead has the financial resources to travel by plane or by (his own) car and in some cases he or she makes more money in a day than one of the locals in a month. So, thefts or robberies happen. Especially the greater cities like Rio, Salvador or São Paulo are affected by daily crimes. However, Maceió is not an exception. But if an attack occurs to you it is strongly recommend not to resist. You can limit the risk of getting robbed by acting cautiously.

I am a vegetarian / vegan, is that a problem?
Even though Brazil is famous for great meat, our diet is based on vegetables and we prefer not to cook the cow meat. Please let us know in advance what you don’t eat, so we can prepare you a special meal. Lunch is prepared by our support team (Vania & Deda) as a fusion of brazilian and european cooking.

Do I need a travel health insurance?
Yes, we only accept guests with travel health insurance. Please send us a copy with your application form.

How do I pay the remaining amount of the course fee?
Right now we only accept cash. We recommend you to withdraw the money in Maceio.

A friend/family member wants to visit me, while I am in Brazil. Does he has to pay extra to stay in my room?
We rent out single rooms, each guests who stays in your room has to pay 15 Euros / night which includes breakfast and lunch. Please inform Malu before you have guests over.

Do you charge for volunteer placements?
No, you don’t have to pay any fee for volunteering or internship placement. We want to help local NGOs. However, you will have to stay with us at least one month in the beginning. This way we protect NGOs from additional administrative load, taking care about the accommodation-, orientation-, communication- and other problems of the volunteer.

I am thinking about volunteering, what should I do now?
Check the list of our projects for internships and volunteering in Brazil. Chose one which corresponds your interests and skills. Send us your CV and motivation letter (with dates and areas you want to work in). We will present your profile to the project leaders and as soon as we have a response we will get back to you.

How can I reserve a room?
Please fill out the application form with all your arrival details and send it to us: info@go-brazil.org

Can I get my flight paid or free accommodation while I volunteer?
The NGOs don’t have any resources to pay you. Therefore, you’ll have to cover your own food & board costs while you volunteer.

I don’t speak Portuguese. Can I still be a volunteer?
Knowledge of Portuguese is required. In order to communicate to your colleagues you need the common language, unfortunately very few people speak English. You will be far more effective as a volunteer with decent Portuguese. Your volunteer program will expect you to be largely self-sufficient, which may include things like travelling to the volunteer site in a remote part of the country, without decent language skills that will be a nightmare.
One option to improve your language skills is to start your trip with a language course, you can book our intensive course of Portuguese for 700€ per month.

I don’t have money to pay. How can I still participate in this program?
You can try to find scholarships at your university or organizations back home. If that doesn’t work out, we advise you to volunteer in a different time of your life. To volunteer independently you need money, time and knowledge of Portuguese.

Why volunteering can & does go wrong.
This point bears repeating because many people have a romantic idea of what volunteering is about and what can be achieved. Please remember that you are working with local NGOs who aren’t perfect and have very limited resources. Often good structure and organization are not their strengths. Therefore, give them a chance, even though your first volunteer day didn’t work out as you imagined. It often takes some time to get a routine until you understand the organization, its rules and your tasks. Here it is important not to freak out about small things but to be patient and try to adjust. You need to be prepared to have boring or annoying days with difficult situation as you in a new environment, new language and different customs which include days with cold showers, no electricity or internet, slow work-colleagues, etc. Volunteers often get frustrated with the slow rhythm and life style of Brazil.