Travelling with children is relatively easy in Brazil. They are made to feel welcome in hotels and restaurants in a way that’s not always so in Europe or North America. In fact, it is also more secure: even thieves and assaltantes seem to respect families with children and leave them alone.
Travelling around Brazil takes time, so try not to be too ambitious in terms of how much you aim to cover. Because of frequent scheduled stops and unscheduled delays it can take all day to fly from one part of the country to another. Long bus journeys are scheduled overnight and can be exhausting. Children pay full fare on buses if they take up a seat, ten percent on planes if under 2 years old, half-fare between 2 and 12, and full fare thereafter. Newer airports have a nursery (berçário) where you can change or nurse your baby and where an attendant will run your baby a bath, great on a hot day or if your plane’s delayed. If you plan on renting a car, bring your own child or baby seat as rental companies never supply them and they are very expensive in Brazil. Cars are fitted with three-point shoulder seatbelts in the front, but many only have lap seatbelts in the back.
In hotels, kids are generally free up to the age of 5, and rooms often include both a double and a single bed; a baby’s cot may be available, but don’t count on it. It’s rare that a room will sleep more than three, but larger hotels sometimes have rooms with an interlinking door. Hotels will sometimes offer discounts, especially if children share rooms and even beds with siblings or parents; the lower- to mid-range hotels are probably the most flexible in this regard. If you’re planning on staying more than a few days in a city, you may find it cheaper and more convenient to stay in an apartment-hotel, which will sleep several people and comes with basic cooking facilities. Baths are rare in Brazil, so get your kids used to showers before leaving home. Occasionally, a hotel will provide a plastic baby bath, but bring along a travel plug, as shower pans are often just about deep enough to create a bath.
Many of the mid- and upper-range hotels have TV lounges, TVs in rooms, swimming pools, gardens and even games rooms, which are often useful in entertaining kids. Most large towns also have cinemas, the best often being the new multiplexes found in shopping centres.
Food shouldn’t be a problem as, even if your kids aren’t adventurous eaters, familiar dishes are always available and there’s also the ubiquitous comida por kilo option. Portions tend to be huge, often sufficient for two large appetites, and it’s perfectly acceptable to request additional plates and cutlery. Most hotels and restaurants provide high chairs (cadeira alta) as well. Commercial baby food is sold in Brazilian supermarkets. Remember to avoid tap water and use only mineral water when preparing formula and washing out bottles. Mid-range hotels and upwards have a minibar (frigobar) in the rooms where you can store bottles and baby food, but where there isn’t one you will be able to store things in the hotel’s refrigerator. A small cooler box or insulated bag is a good idea and, while ice compartments of frigobars are useless, you can always place your freezer blocks in the hotel’s freezer (congelador).
In general, Brazilian infants don’t use disposable nappies/diapers (fraldas), due to the cost, around R$12 for twenty – very expensive for most Brazilians. As brands such as Pampers are sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, it’s worth only bringing a minimum with you until you can make it to a shop.
Health shouldn’t be a problem, but before planning your itinerary check which areas entail taking anti-malarial tablets (the state of Rondônia other than Porto Velho, rural Acre and Amapá and southern Pará is rife with malaria and should be avoided), and make enquiries as to whether the vaccines recommended or required in some parts of Brazil (in particular the Amazon) are likely to have any unpleasant side effects for babies or young children. For most of Brazil, the only likely problem will be the strength of the tropical sun and the viciousness of the mosquitoes: bring plenty of sunscreen (at least factor 20 for babies and factor 15 for young children) and an easy-to-apply non-toxic insect repellent.