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An Expat's Guide to Living in Brasilia

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I would have never guessed when I visited Brasilia in 2016, it would end up being the place I would be spending the rest of my life in!  But here we are …  7 years later, happily married to a Brazilian, running my own business, and embracing so much of what this vibrant city has to offer. 

While living in Brasilia isn't usually the top choice for expats moving to Brazil, especially compared to other cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, there's a lot to love in this capital city that should make it an enticing option for expats and digital nomads alike.

Not usually listed as one of the best places to visit in South America, my personal opinion is that Brasilia is seriously underrated.

Let's dive into why I love living in Brasilia and why I think you should consider moving here, too.

Unique in Many Ways

The highly modern architecture by Daniel Costa

Brasilia is unique to most cities in the world, in that it has been extremely well planned and mapped out, to the point where they even included an artificial lake called Lake Paranoá when they were building the new capital city in the late 1950s. 

From a bird’s eye view, the map of the city looks like a plane and is referred to as the "plano pilotto” which translates to “pilot project”. There is a south wing “Asa Sul” and a north wing “Asa Norte” which are the main areas and are parallel in layout. The wings have been divided into specific areas for office buildings, housing and commercial areas.

It’s truly one of the most impressive examples of modernist architecture. 

Another interesting fact about Brasilia is the streets are labeled by numbers rather than conventional street names. The concept is so unique that it can take a bit of time to wrap your head around getting to and from places.

The young city is just over 60 years old and is known for its modern architecture and peaceful environment. 

Tourist Attractions in Brasilia

Pirenópolis by Carmel Arquelau

Although it seems you're planning to move to the Brazilian capital city, a great way to settle in and get excited about life here is to spend some time getting to know the many tourist attractions.

If you do this by walking, you'll inevitably find some corners of the city that you wouldn't have otherwise found. These places you stumble upon will most likely become your favorite daily life hangouts once you move here.

To really get to know the unique architecture here, you must visit these famous attractions:

  • Cathedral of Brasilia
  • Memorial JK
  • Santuario Dom Bosco Church
  • Brasilia TV Tower
  • Sarah Kubitschek City Park (one of the biggest urban parks in the world)
  • And of course, you have to check out Pontao do Lago Sul, which has great restaurants and water sports along the lake.  

Places to Visit around Brasilia 

If you love nature and visiting heritage towns you need to make a trip to Pirenópolis, a small town close by, known for its Portuguese colonial buildings and waterfalls. 

Chapada dos Veadeiros is another place you need to visit for its breathtaking nature, waterfalls, and national park. 

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Getting to Know the Locals 

Brazilians in general are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and they are super hospitable. Generally, they will try their best to help you, even if they don’t speak much English or you Portuguese. The lively culture is a lot of fun and will soon seep into your bones!

For the best chance at really integrating into your community and making friends with locals, learning Brazilian Portuguese will take you far. I recommend you start learning a few months before your move online with Mondly. This online language platform teaches basic vocabulary, grammar, and even helps you speaking with practice conversations. Start speaking Portuguese with Mondly today.

Just be careful of pickpockets and thieves (as foreigners immediately stick out) and they are often known to steal phones and expensive items you might be carrying. This just means you should practice a few extra steps to staying safe.

Best Areas to Live in Brasilia

Photo by Ramon Buçard

If you’re looking to live in an apartment, the best places to live in are Asa Sul and Asa Norte, and if you’re looking to live in a house, Lago Sul and Lago Norte are the best options.

The great thing about living in Asa Sul and Asa Norte is that the buildings have 24/7 security and some of them even offer amenities such as gyms, pools, and barbecue areas. This makes them a super safe place to rent from.

Some other great areas you can live in are Sudoeste, Noroeste, and Park Way.

It all depends on your rent budget and what you’re looking for. If you want to have a look at some rental options to find a good place for yourself, check out sites such as Wimoveis and ZAP Imoveis.

If you're not yet sold on Brasilia but do know you want to move to South America, check out living in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru. These countries are all naturally stunning like Brazil is and have large expat communities so it'll be easy to meet people and settle in.

Things to Know about Living in Brasilia

The Supermarkets 

One of the few frustrating parts about living in Brasilia is grocery shopping.

Sometimes you don’t find everything you need in the same supermarket and at times you will have to visit multiple supermarkets or delis to find exactly what you need. In saying this, once you find these stores that fit your cooking style, you do less searching and it becomes easier.

Alternatively, you can find a lot of imported products on Mercado Livre (Brazilian version of Amazon). Also, it's important to note that most supermarkets tend to close earlier than I'm used to (around 10pm).  

Where to Go for Brazilian Food

Photo by Emerson Vieira

Brazilian food is nothing short of delicious, but you need to know where to go and what to try to get a really decent meal. Here are some restaurant recommendations for authentic Brazilian dishes. 

If you want to stick to more international food, there is an abundance of great restaurants you can try!

Pro Tip: Although most restaurants have a la carte menus, others are “all you can eat” style and some are pay per kilo.

Shopping 

There are some really trendy Brazilian stores you can visit such as: 

You can find other trendy stores in popular shopping centers like Park Shopping and Iguatemi Shopping. A great thing about the shopping centers is they're open for long hours (from 10am to 10pm), with the exception of Sundays (they open from 2pm to 8pm). 

Getting a Job in Brasilia 

Photo by Rafael Leão

Are you planning on moving here? There are a few common ways to get a job here and maybe surprisingly many opportunities to make an income. While it's possible to work online from Brasilia, many expats make their friends and find their community through work.

Most people living in Brasilia do one of the following jobs:

  • If you have a degree in International Relations, Politics, or something similar, you could apply to work for your country’s embassy. 
  • You could teach English or another foreign language. 
  • *Teaching English is in high demand which is actually what I do. I help English learners become more fluent with a focus on Business English for work purposes. I have private classes and online courses.
  • Lastly, if you work online or you’re a digital nomad, Brasilia is a great city to work from, as the quality of life and cost of living is one of the best in Brazil.  

What about Long-Term Visas? 

Depending on where you are from, you may or may not need a visa if you’re planning to stay here for 90 days or less, otherwise if you are planning to live and work here for longer, you can apply for a temporary visa. To learn more about this, visit this site.

Digital Nomad Visa

Brasilia is actually one of the only countries in South America that currently offers a digital nomad visa, aka a long-term visa for those working online.

Currently this visa allows you to stay in Brazil for 1 year, with the chance to renew it for 1 more.

Requirements for Brazil's Digital Nomad Visa:

  • Completed application form
  • Clean criminal record
  • Passport
  • Health insurance
  • Proof of employment or self-employment
  • Proof of monthly income of $1,500USD for the last 3 months (or a total of $18,000 in your bank account)
  • Recent passport-sized photographs

Ready to Move to Brasilia?

Photo by J. Balla Photography

All in all, if you’re planning to make a trip to Brazil and want to get the best of everything, you have to check out Brasilia as it has a lot to offer without the chaos of the other busier cities in the country! It's seriously been an amazing place to live.

With sunny weather all year round, the highest HDI (Human Development Index) in all of Brazil and beautiful landscapes, it has to be the easy choice! 

Hero photo by Daniel Costa

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