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Moving to Brazil

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Jul 17, 2022

Summary: Moving to Brazil? Expats talk about what you need to know before moving to Brazil.

What do I need to know before moving to Brazil?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Brazil, they said:

"The south of Brazil is completely different. I lived in Balneário camboriu for one year and I loved it so much that I decided not to live in Europe and I will live down the south of Brazil. We might live in Balneário camboriu or Floripa or another city. We work online so we can move around until we decide. I can go for walks on my own at night at 9pm, 10pm, 11pm and there's lots of people around. Santa Cararina in general is an amazing place. A lot cheaper than Europe and the US and the conversion rate is better for us right now," remarked another expat in Brazil.

"Do lots of research as it is available on line. Include in your research a local attorney who speaks English and is a member of either Briton's legal Bar Association or the ABA in the States. It is always nice when the local attorney is licensed in one of those countries because unethical practices could get them barred. With their membership in one of the Bar Associations there should be available info on whether any complaints have been filed against them in the past. These local attorneys act very much like the Title companies in the States. They do all the research to ensure free and clear property and titles. Make sure that you visit the area and the home to ensure it is what you hoped it to be. I would also recommend staying at least 2 weeks and spend time knowing the area. THE MOVE: Moving from the UK or USA is probably not a big deal. However, to get your household goods into Brazil.....well that's another matter. For instance, the USA moving company needs a 3rd party in Brazil to facilitate receiving your container and moving it to your new home. They will need paperwork that to us seems highly unusual and bureaucratic. Brazil is after all a highly bureaucratic place to live and if you haven't lived here then your in for a surprise. One of the documents that I needed was my original boarding pass from the airline that I flew from Miami to Recife. The 3rd party Brazilian company stated that without the boarding pass to prove how I arrived in Brazil then the container could not be received in Brazil (my federally stamped passport and my federally stamped Entry Card does not count). The boarding pass along with a number of other paperwork had to be notarized at one of the local Cartarios and returned to the 3rd party company. It will require several hours of standing in line to get 5 minutes of work completed. If your moving to Brazil this is how they do things and all the complaining from me or you will not change it. With all this said, I will say now that after all the standing in line waiting, jumping through hoops and getting mad, after returning home to our villa and seeing the sunset from our roof top........PRICELESS," said another expat in Praia de Pipa.

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How do I find a place to live in Brazil?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"We started in 2006 researching the internet for property to the north of Natal in Rio Grande do Norte State. After finding some villa's just completed and for sale located to the north of Natal we then made contact with the real estate agent in Natal and made dates to visit. While there we heard of Praia de Pipa, Brazil and did more internet research at the hotel and made contact with the company building Pipa Beleza Resort. After driving down and visiting the resort we bought the last villa available for sale in 2007," said another expat in Praia de Pipa.

"I choose Jardins because it is one of the few places where you can walk to the pharmacy, supermarket ect. The downside is that I spend 3 yes three hours a day to and from the office (7 km each way).. My office is in a commercial area and living there would be depressing," remarked another expat who made the move to Sao Paulo.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Brazil?

"There are 41 units within the resort, mostly owned by foreigners. There are a few owned by Brazilians but the others are mostly from Europe or UK. Each of the units vary in size but 150m2 is about average for the villas with 2 stories. Ours has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and a roof veranda that includes a Jacuzzi. Pipa Beleza Resort is one of the leading and most modern resort in the area and several more have or are being built as we speak," remarked another expat who made the move to Praia de Pipa.

"I live in an apartment. I cannot recommend a house due to security concerns. None of my Brazilian coworkers live in single family homes and my employeer recommends against it. Almost all apartments are built for families not for singles," explained one expat living in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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What is the average cost of housing in Brazil?

If you are thinking about moving to Brazil, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"In the USA buying property of any type on or very near the ocean is way out of our price range. We bought this one to include a complete furnishing package and its built against a State park where future construction is limited due to the park. So the villa was much cheaper than in the States for a house of the same size. Because we bought our in 2007 I keep looking on the net for houses in the area and for pricing. $150k to 200k (USD) for a similar villa is the average cost as of this week. Electricity costs are high as they are everywhere in Brazil due to the lack of infrastructure," said another expat in Praia de Pipa.

"If moving to Sao Paulo know that prices are out of control and that there are lots of hidden costs to renting. I am from Chicago, where I lived in Lincoln Park. 1. Rent, a 2 bedroom apt in Jardins(200 sq meters) will run about BRL 8000/mo. 2. The Next biggest cost is the Condo fee which everyone must pay, about BRL 2000/mo. 3. Next there is the IPTU or the property tax in Jardins expect to pay BRL 600/mo. 4. Then of course you need insurance, expect to pay BRL 250/mo," added another expat who made the move to Sao Paulo.

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William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Brazil

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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Should I buy or rent a home in Brazil?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Brazil, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"We bought a home. We saw our property on the internet and the agent met us at the hotel the day after we landed. We looked at 5 or 6 as I recall. We found one we liked, obtained our tax card (CPF) and spoke to a lawyer who handled both the house purchase and our immigration. With the vendors, and agents we went to a cartorio and signed an official contract," commented one expat who made the move to Taiba.

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What should I pack when moving to Brazil?

We asked people living in Brazil to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"We were pretty careful after living overseas to ensure the critical things needed were being shipped and non-critical things were not placed into the shipment. We were more careful this time as we were paying for the move ourselves. A couple things: electricity in the USA is 120v. So knowing that some things will not convert to 240 (North 1/3 of Brazil is 240, the middle 1/3 is 127v and the bottom 1/3 of Brazil is 240), we purchased 2 large power converters to step down 240 to 120v. We also ensured that the converters were able to manage several electrical components at the same time. The one thing we did not bring........Phillips tooth brush heads for our Sonic tooth brushes. And no, we can't find them here," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Praia de Pipa.

"1. Bring Everything you can from undies to electronics. Everything is crazy expensive. 2. Bring some winter clothing, ski holidays to Chile are a great escape. 3. Bring Electric Mattress pads, blankets and heaters. There is no heating in Brazilian homes and it gets very cold in the winter. All buildings are cement and the winter is cold and humid. 1. Leave Nothing," commented one expat who made the move to Sao Paulo.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Brazil?

We asked people in Brazil if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"When my sister in law cooked a particularly wonderful meal in celebration of our moving to Brasil, I said "I love you". Shock!!!!!!!!! I'm from New York City and this is a way of saying a great deal of emotional things in a compact way. Fortunately, I was able to explain myself and we all had a good laugh," commented one expat who made the move to Goiania.

"Yes, walking around the Zona Sul supermarket saying to my friend "Eu quero um pão de francês" but of course a word with 'ão' is hard to pronounce, and I pronounced it as 'pau'. I had no idea why people near me started sniggering and my friend told me later what I had done wrong," remarked another expat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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How are healthcare services Brazil?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Brazil, they replied:

"Brazil does have a National Health Care program and my wife and I have taken advantage of this service for relatively minor health issues. But it is a national health care program that must be funded by the government with many cities such as Rio de Janerio unable to fund many of these clinics and public hospitals to the degree that they should be. We are retired and our health issues are relatively minor but we feel strongly about having a paid for medical insurance plan. This plan pays for annual physicals that include treadmill stress test, visit with cardiologist, Urologist, blood tests and a personal consultation with your doctor about the results. Mine lasted nearly a full hour. We looked for a doctor who spoke English and was very good in his/her field. We chose a private practice doctor in Natal, Brazil who performed his studies under the direction of Dr. Christian Bernard in South Africa. So my advice.......live in or near a big city such as Natal, Brazil, spend some time talking with insurance agents about doctors and qualifications in your area and do not depend only on the national social medicine programs. Purchase private medical insurance. Mine is from AMIL who's parent company is United Health Care," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Natal.

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"Compared to the US, is cheap and for "normal" health problems as good as if not better than the US, however, I have been away from the US for such a long time, my opinion may be very relevant," added one expat living in Goiania.

"Brazil has a public health care policy and as a permanent resident I have access to and use their public health care clinics for relatively minor issues. For all other I have a Private health care plan and excellent private doctors in Natal, Brazil just 1 hour away," commented one expat who moved to Praia da Pipa.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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