Brasilia, Brazil Report of what it's like to live there - 01/11/24
Personal Experiences from Brasilia, Brazil
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Yes, first tour - limited non-governmental expat experience.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
USA - it's a long trip up the globe, generally with a connection in Sao Paulo as well as a U.S. port like TX or FL before continuing on. GOL Airlines does fly direct to FL from BSB, which is nice to cut out Sao Paulo's extra 4 hours of flying time alone.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is good overall, some homes are older, but GSO is on top of everything and it's great having a pool and large yards. Commutes are around 10 minutes. Apartments seem to be spacious as well.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Brasilia actually has a small 5% COLA - don't expect a Latin America discount on many things. You'll find that with local fruit and such obviously, but eating at a good restaurant basically feels like American prices. There aren't necessarily deals or coupons to be had either - a couple of pizzas is $40 rather than a $10 special at pick your place in America.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
There's actually Sam's Club here and of course DPO/Pouch, so really just liquids that are more difficult to ship. We brought a bunch of peanut butter for instance.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
iFood is great and we live off it frequently. The extra cost is negligible - frankly I don't know how the restaurants and delivery guys make the economics work. It's very nice because service at restaurants can be slow. That said, many agree the food is just average. We rotate around our best Italian, Indian, etc. choices and after two years I'm ready for a change. I won't miss or think about any particular restaurant here when I leave - I will dearly miss cheap acai though.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
It seems every house has something - some battle ants, others roaches. We've even had a scorpion and giant centipede. I'm ready to leave the bugs - it's rather tropical here and the house is really poorly sealed with cracks and gaps, single pane glass, etc.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Only ever used DPO/Pouch really. I suppose we've ordered a few things from local websites that were delivered fine.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap, everyone has a pool guy, gardener, and weekly maid. Plenty have full-time nannies as well. Never really heard any bad stories about theft or anything.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The Embassy has a gym, but our big new construction project over the space of several years will take that out soon. I hear plenty use private gyms around the city though.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes, yes, yes - we use cards and a Venmo type payment system everywhere. Haven't touched cash in a long time. Never used an ATM - Embassy cashier exchange is great.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is an English international church that many folks go to from various denominations and there's a sizeable LDS church as well.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Near 100%. The Embassy has classes available, but yes, there's very little English to be heard here. Once in a while you get a surprise like your grocery checkout person, but I know some families and spouses without language training feel a bit isolated, but somehow they manage.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Brasilia is a newer city so it has pretty good infrastructure in general, i.e. good roads, some drainage, sidewalks where the expats live, etc. It could be much, much worse based on many other post reports for other countries that I've read.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Pretty much everyone just uses cheap Uber - about $5 or less to work.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
Most cars here are small, so whatever you bring will be fine. You don't need high clearance or an SUV. Parking a minivan or SUV is tighter, but honestly still fine. There are a variety of familiar dealerships and car brands. Traffic is light generally speaking, motos line splitting is a little crazy, but you get used to it.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet has been great overall - I can stream anything, anytime without problem. The Embassy is great about having it setup before you arrive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Claro is cheap and many get a local line - Google Fi works well too.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
People seem to use kennels and vet services just fine here.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
EFM jobs seem to be advertised regularly being a large embassy. I doubt the local economy would be very worthwhile due to the 5 to 1 exchange rate difference. The time difference isn't bad for remote work.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Good volunteer opportunities organized by the Embassy and families - there is some need with poorer families and Venezuelan refugees.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The embassy is business casual overall, depending on your office/section.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I've only ever heard of one break-in, we feel extremely safe, can go out at night, etc. Seriously safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
MED is great, no malarial concerns locally. A few people have gotten bad dengue cases unfortunately. Good healthcare though and you could have a surgery here without much worry.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Excellent air quality. Some may have seasonal allergies, but it's a clean, tidy place.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I've heard gluten-free can be hard to follow here.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's been described as southern california with more rain - pretty darn nice. It's about 80s' year-round, half the year more humid and the other half more dry. It's nice to mix it up. The pools aren't heated generally, so they can be a bit cold to use for some months, but then other months the water will seriously reach 100 degrees by itself and be like a hot tub even at night.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Several great choices - EAB, EDN, and BIS. Plenty of happy families at all three.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Good attempts have been made - I don't know first-hand how successful they've been though.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Plenty, families don't seem to hesitate using full-Portuguese options either.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
After school programming is available at school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large, I know some diplomats from various countries have meetups. Morale seems great - it's a pleasant place to be and a well-run mission.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
CLO organizes fun activities, plenty of clubs, house parties, and getaway trips on your own.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I know of several officer who married here. Families seem happy and social.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
There seems to be a good deal of integration possible.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It seems good from the people I know from this community.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
None observed - Brazil seems to be trending with the U.S. in recognizing equality and diversity issues and bringing them to the forefront.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Iguazu Falls, the Amazon, and there are other notable places we just didn't get to. Inter-country airfare can be cheap, but some destinations are $200+ r/t.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of great driving trips to waterfalls, national parks, etc. Brazil is a land of waterfalls.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are some fun souvenirs - not really my thing, but absolutely people have partaken in the offerings.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's clean, safe, low traffic - great quality of living. Folks probably won't fly here to visit you like they might in Rio, but it's a good place to live your life.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Nothing really - it's been totally pleasant.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely - it's been a delight.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
cold weather gear.
4. But don't forget your:
hat and sunscreen in the pool.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Nothing in particular, but material is out there.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Don't hesitate to bid Brasilia.