Brazilian police officers are known to take their immigration process very seriously. So much so, that entering Brazil for the first time can often be compared to the likes of entering America: Lots of paperwork, lots of rules, and lots and lots of proof and documentation.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that each and every foreign visitor to the country will have a problem entering Rio for the first time. As a matter of fact, as long as you take the proper steps and precautions beforehand (and make sure you cross your "Ts" and dot your "Is") most visitors shouldn't have any problems at all landing in Rio's airport...if they know what they're doing.

If you plan on visiting Rio in the near future, or even if you're arriving in another Brazilian city and heading to Rio later on (as you should), here are some tips to keep in mind:

Who needs a visa to enter Rio?

Whether you're arriving in Rio by air, bus, boat or train, or even if you're heading to Rio from another city in Brazil, some foreign visitors may need a visa in order to enter the country.

Because Brazilian's visa policies for foreign visitors have been modified over the past several years, the best way to find out if you need a visa in order to enter Brazil would be to contact the nearest Brazilian embassy to you, and ask them directly.

If you do need a visa, you will need to get it beforehand from a Brazilian diplomatic office, as you will not be allowed to apply for it at the port of entry. In order to do so, you need to either visit the consulate in person by setting up an appointment beforehand, or see if they provide some kind of visa expedition service if you live far away.

The down-low on visas for Brazil

Brazilian visas are valid for 90 days (starting from your date of arrival in Brazil), and can be renewed once you're in Brazil for another additional 90 days.

Visa processing times range anywhere from three to 14 days for most Brazilian embassies and consulates (so budget your time accordingly), and it's highly recommended that you contact the embassy at least three to four months in advance before your trip. Visa fees differ depending on what country you're from, and can cost anywhere from $35 USD to $160 USD.

In order to get your Brazilian visa you will need:

  • One recent passport-sized photograph (2" x 2")
  • A photocopy of your round-trip plane ticket and/or ticket out of Brazil
  • Your passport (which should be valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in Brazil), with at least two blank pages
  • Your money order for consular fees

Depending on where you're from, you may also need to provide some type of identification or utility bill in order to prove your residency in your home country, as well as proof of a yellow fever vaccination, (depending on which countries you visited within 90 days before applying).

Tips on entering Rio

As soon as you arrive in Rio (or any other city in Brazil), you will receive a 90-day entry stamp on your passport (which you will need to provide proof of upon exiting the country as well).

All visitors must fill out an immigration form (Cartão De Entrada) and - depending on where you're from - a customs form as well. Once you hand it to the officer, they will keep one copy of the form, and you will keep the other. (Remember: It is absolutely essential to hang on to this form for dear life, as you will need to provide proof of it when you leave the country!)

You will also need to provide proof of your return or onward ticket, as well as proof that you have enough funds to support your travels in Rio/Brazil; (normally a recent bank or credit card statement will do, or even a pay slip if you have one).

Any foreign traveller entering into Rio and/or any other Brazilian city can bring no more than:

  • Two litres of alcohol
  • 400 cigarettes
  • One personal computer, video or still camera
  • Recently purchased duty-free goods worth up to $500 USD

Be aware that Brazilian officers take bringing more than one computer, tablet or mobile into the country very seriously, so if you have more than one with you, see if you can have another person in your travel group carry your second electronic. You may also need to register a newly-purchased electronic item, as officials want to make sure that you take it with you once you leave the country. (It may also not be a bad idea to remove any price tags from newly-purchased clothes as well).

Tips on exiting Rio

Leaving Rio can be a very sad event indeed, but luckily exiting the country won't be that much of a headache...if you held on to the proper forms and paperwork, that is.

Once you exit the country (whether it by by air, boat, bus, train or car), you will need to provide copies of your stamped Cartão De Entrada (or customs form if applicable), and show proof of your entry stamp in your passport. You will then need to fill out an exit card form (or a cartão de saida).

But one word of warning: Sometimes officers accidentally give the wrong visa stamp to visitors, which could be a huge hassle as soon as you exit the country. So make sure your visa stamp ends in an odd number (which indicates you arrived into the country by air, car, bus or boat), instead of an even number (which indicates that you exited the country). If you do try and exit with an even number on your visa stamp, you will be told to return to the city where you entered, which could be a huge headache for you and your travel party!

Interested in exploring more of Rio during your travels? Join us on any of our three free walking tours around the Brazilian capital; (more info here).