GSS Country Snapshot
A brief overview of Harvard activities, safety & security, health, cultural, and outbound immigration considerations
Registered Trips in 2023
Brazil ranks in the top 10 registered locations for Harvard affiliates to study, research, and travel. It’s home to both a David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies’ (DRCLAS) office and a Harvard Business School (HBS) Latin America Research Center in São Paulo. The Consortium for Advanced Study Abroad (CASA), which Harvard is a member of, also operates a study abroad program in Rio de Janeiro.
At Harvard, the DRCLAS Brazil Studies Program expands research, teaching, and educational opportunities for Harvard faculty and students across the University.
The information below is intended as a high-level summary and is not all encompassing. Situations on the ground can change rapidly. We encourage you to review the additional resources and utilize your Harvard network to learn more. You can also schedule a consultation with us if you’d like to discuss the safety and security or operational matters unique to you and your travel or project. We’ll work with you to minimize risks and help you make informed decisions about your travel and activities.
Safety & Security
The Harvard GSS risk rating for Brazil is moderate risk. Some of the factors that influence this rating for Harvard affiliates include crime, corruption, and protest activity. For example, petty theft has been reported in tourist areas and on public transit. There have been numerous reports of crime along beaches and in densely populated areas. Violent crime and domestic terrorism are reported throughout low-income favelas. Government corruption is reported at the local and federal level, and anti-government protests occur with some frequency. Although homosexuality and same sex marriage are legal in Brazil, violence against the LGBTQ+ community has been reported across the country. As with any country, you need to research and consider all factors in the context of your identity, your activities in country, and your familiarity with the country and its culture. If a security incident occurs, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000.
Weather-related incidents can create a safety risk in Brazil. Flash floods and landslides may occur during rainy seasons, which vary in duration and time of year across the country. Download the International SOS Assistance App to receive push alerts about incidents in your area.
There are numerous international and domestic airports in Brazil. Intercity air travel is a convenient yet expensive way to travel within the country since roads are often congested and road conditions and adherence to rules of the road vary widely. Travelers are advised not to self-drive because conditions may vary from what you’re used to. Train and bus services are available, but travelers are encouraged to use prearranged, secure transportation or official taxis (cooperativas, or radio taxis) obtained from hotels or taxi stands. Review the road safety report for Brazil (access code: Harvard1636) for more information on public transit, walking, biking, and driving.
The phone network in Brazil is extensive in the central-south region, and internet access is extensive in major cities. Cybercrime via malware, spam, and phishing attacks are reported to affect casual, business, and financial networks in Brazil. Know how to keep your data safe abroad, and only use ATMs inside secure locations such as banks, shopping malls, hotels, and trusted public buildings.
Make sure you’re up-to-date on any required and recommended vaccines for Brazil. Health risks such as chikungunya, Covid-19, dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, and Zika may be present. A yellow fever vaccine may be required of your onward/return location. If you're traveling with medication, check to see if your medications are legal and available in Brazil. Many common U.S. medications and supplements are illegal abroad or require special authorization. Visit your doctor or a travel clinic (such as Harvard University Health Services) at least a month before your departure to discuss all health risks and your individual health with a professional, to receive any vaccines or medications you’ll need, and to learn how to reduce your risk of infection or transmission.
All travelers have a small risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea in any country, and it’s common in Brazil. You’re advised to drink only bottled or boiled water, to avoid ice, and to eat only properly prepared food. Learn how to make safe food and drink choices.
If you need any medical or mental health assistance while on a Harvard-related trip, contact International SOS through the Assistance App or by dialing +1-617-998-0000. International SOS can direct you to appropriate inpatient or outpatient care and provide translation assistance. Major cities in Brazil have emergency and trauma capabilities, and localized care may necessitate evacuation to a larger city with better care.
Brazil is a federal presidential republic with 26 states and a federal district. Its economy is driven by agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and a growing service industry as cities along the coast are heavily invested in the finance, tourism, and oil and gas industries. Nearly two-thirds of the country identifies as Catholic.
Portuguese is the national language of Brazil, and the specific dialect is Brazilian Portuguese. You may want to prearrange any interpretation needs if you’re not familiar with the language and dialect, although English may be spoken in some business or government agencies. It’s normal for conversations to take place at a much closer physical proximity than some travelers may be accustomed to. Be mindful that the hand gesture known as the “okay” symbol in some countries (using your thumb and forefinger to form a circle with your other fingers pointing up) has a vulgar meaning in Brazil.
Cash is still the dominant payment method, but credit and debit card usage is growing in hotels and restaurants.
When booking travel or scheduling meetings, be mindful of Brazil’s holidays and festivals since businesses may be closed or have reduced hours.
Visas & Travel Documents
Before traveling to Brazil, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your date of entry and that you have a blank page for an entry stamp. All visitors must have an onward or return ticket, and depending on your citizenship, activities, and length of stay, you may need a visa to enter.
Upon arrival, complete an immigration card and save the copy to give to immigration authorities upon departure (failure to do so may result in a fine or travel delay).
Requirements are subject to change, so always check your visa and travel document requirements well in advance.