Some short facts you should know, before coming to Brazil:
Full Name: República Federativa do Brasil
Currency: Real (R$)
Capital: Brasília, since 1960 (before that Rio de Janeiro and Salvador had also been capitals).
Type of Government: Federal Republic with democratically elected President and Congress every 4 years. Governors and state assembly’s elections are held in the same year as presidential elections. Mayors and municipal assemblies are also elected every 4 years. Voting is compulsory.
Dimensions: Brazil is huge with its 8,514,215 sq km (5,278,813 sq miles), the 5th largest country in the world. To fly from Porto Alegre in the South to Boa Vista in the Northern Amazon, you will take 9 hours (New York to Paris is about 8 hours). Brazil is divided in one Federal District (where is Brasília) and 26 states.
Population: more than 180 million estimated. It is a lot in number of people (5th largest), but not a lot in terms of population density (estimated 21 people per square km or 13 people for square miles).
Language: Brazilian Portuguese. Except for the languages spoken by Indian tribes living in remote reservations, Portuguese is the only language of daily life. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America.
Religion: most of Brazil's population is Catholic, but Protestant, Jewish, Evangelic and African religions are widely present.
Conservation: Federal Conservation Units protects around 6% of the country. There are 53 National Parks and 350 Private Reserves (RPPN), at the time of writing.
Ecosystems: Rainforest (Amazon and Atlantic), Bush Savannah (Cerrado), Wetlands (Pantanal), Scrub Desert (Caatinga), Pampas.
Ecotourism: there are 100 official Ecotourism destinations.
World Heritage Sites: Brazil has the following natural and cultural sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List:
- Historic Town of Ouro Preto (1980)
- Historic Centre of the Town of Olinda (1982)
- Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor (Argentina), Ruins of São Miguel das Missões (1983, 1984)
- Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia (1985)
- Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Congonhas (1985)
- Iguassu National Park (1986)
- Brasília (1987)
- Serra da Capivara National Park (1991)
- Historic Centre of São Luis (1997)
- Historic Centre of the Town of Diamantina (1999)
- Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves (1999)
- Atlantic Forest Southeast Reserves (1999)
- Pantanal Conservation Area (2000)
- Central Amazon Conservation Complex (2000, 2003)
- Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks (2001)
- Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves (2001)
- Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás (2001)
Festivals: a very important part of Brazilian life, spread throughout the year and either celebrated in specific areas, or by the whole of Brazil. The most important are:
- New Year's Eve
- Procissão do Senhor Bom Jesus dos Navegantes (Salvador, Bahia)
- Folia de Reis (Parati, Rio de Janeiro)
- Lavagem do Bonfín (Salvador, Bahia)
- Festa de Iemanjá (Salvador, Bahia)
- Festa Juninas and Bumba Meu Boi
- Festival Folclórico do Amazonas (Manaus, Amazonas)
- Festa de Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Aparecida, São Paulo)
- Círio de Nazaré (Belém, Pará).