Brazil has an incredible amount to offer as a country goes with beautiful beaches, incredible biodiversity, delicious food, great weather, a relaxed lifestyle, and awesome parties when you want them. Sounds pretty ideal, doesn’t it?
It’s not all Brazilian either with quite a diverse multicultural population, access to the Amazon rainforest, and easy links to everywhere in South America. You can live by the sea, in the mountains, jungles, or find a city inland that suits you best, the options are endless.
You might be a tad worried about the safety of the country but in actual fact, it’s very easy to stay safe in Brazil. There are of course like in any country, areas of certain cities that should be avoided, and parts of cities where being sensible will keep you out of trouble. Things like leaving your phone in your pocket, not wearing a flashy watch, and avoiding general no-go areas are all you need to do to be safe in Brazil.
One thing that will help you tremendously while living in Brazil is being able to speak Portuguese. You’ll be able to cut through any cultural barriers with the locals, get advice, and getting around will generally be a lot easier.
Being such a large and diverse country, find the best places to live in Brazil can be a little overwhelming which is why we have done the hard work for you, and here they are, in no particular order.
Everyone has heard of Sao Paulo but what you might not have known is that it’s a financial center of Brazil and has slowly become a very multi-cultural and global city, the London of South America perhaps with a twist of Miami.
Sao Paulo sits on the southwestern coast of Brazil and is the 4th biggest city in the world. The skyline is filled with skyscrapers that run the business center and whilst there you’ll never be far away from anything you need. There are loads of green spaces like parks, a white sand beach down the road, and there is plenty of cultures to fill your boots with as well.
The city is home to people from around the globe which not only makes it easy to find a culturally diverse group of friends but it also opens up the cuisine on offer.
Anything from true Arabic foods like hummus to world-class Italian restaurants, sushi bars, and of course great Brazilian food is easy to find – if you’re a foody Sao Paolo is a great place to live in Brazil. Plus the nightlife is second it none, well maybe Rio, if you love to go out dancing.
There are plenty of job opportunities in Sao Paulo for English speakers, and every more if you can speak Portuguese too. The average cost of living is very manageable at around $800 US per month with an average rental cost of $400 US per month for an apartment.
There is quite a range of different neighborhoods to live in when it comes to Sao Paulo. Areas like Itaim Bibi are quite well to do with beautiful homes and great restaurants which come at a cost. Vila Madalena is great if you’re looking for a more affordable up-and-coming scene.
The weather is fantastic most of the year but it can get very hot which might not suit everyone. Also, Sao Paolo is home to around 12 million people so it’s super busy and the traffic can become a little much to deal with. If you love city life, then this is something you’d used to but if you’re looking for a more peaceful life, Sao Paulo might not be the place for you.
You might not have heard of Belem if you haven’t done much research into Brazil or traveled around it much. Belem sits in northern Brazil along the shores of the Amazon river basin. In fact, the city of Belem runs along the banks of the Tocantins River, close to the estuary, and just north of it is the Amazon estuary.
This makes the city one of the best places to live in Brazil if you want to be within easy reach of the Amazon rainforest for weekends away, whilst having the Atlantic just around the corner, and a city full of convenience.
Belem is the capital of Brazil’s Para state and is home to just over 2 million people, a sixth of the population of Sao Paulo. This gives the city a slower pace of life but the traffic can still be quite awful. Belem is rather beautiful and is made up of washed-out pastel buildings that line the streets, fantastic markets, great museums, Portuguese forts, and an abundance of nature mixed in.
Belem is known as the city of mangroves and they are everywhere. You’ll also stumble upon giant lily pads and other beautiful bits of flora and fauna in the city park of Mangal das Garcas, and since you’re so close to the Amazon rainforest you can see parts of it trying to take over again.
Belem’s streets are alive with food markets, street artists, great music, and lots of cultures plus being so far north, the weather is always warm, but it can rain quite often.
Living in Belem is very affordable with an average monthly cost of $700 US with average rent costs for an apartment being around $185 US per month. There are not tonnes of job opportunities though but if you’re a digital nomad, settling there would be quite easy.
There are a few downsides to Belem, but not many. Petty crime is common, so be sensible and the public transport system isn’t the best, so you might need a car or want to use taxis often. Otherwise, if you’re looking to explore the Amazon and the coast, while living in a city, Belem is one of the best places to live in Brazil.
If nature is your thing, particularly stunning white-sand beaches, and the sea, then Natal is a great place to live in Brazil. Natal is Rio Grande do Norte’s capital and sits on the northeastern tip of the country, right on the Atlantic ocean. The city has some of the best weather you’re likely to find in Brazil with pretty much all-year-round sunshine and there are loads of things to explore right on your doorstep.
The beaches are some of the most beautiful in Brazil, great for swimming, tanning, and surfing. There are also extensive sand dunes you can roam around on buggies, the estuary of the Potengi River which is home to diverse birdlife, and even a freshwater water lagoon just north of it.
The city of Natal is clean and has a slower pace of life, akin to life on the beach. It’s the destination in Brazil for safe and easy tourism which might make it seem a little too plain for some, but it’s a nice place to base yourself to then explore the rest of the country.
Life in the city is focused around the beach, which makes sense in our eyes. There are lovely restaurants, fun bars, and some culture but it doesn’t compare to the vibrant cities like Sao Paolo or Rio when it comes to nightlife and other cultural things going on. But there is a load of historical Portuguese buildings to explore, it’s easy and safe to get around, and offers a great quality of life by the sea.
Living costs a very low with an average monthly cost of $400 US per month with the average rent per month for an apartment being just $143 per month. The city might not have the excitement that you’re looking for from Brazil but if daily swims, surfs and a chilled life are your priority, it’s perfect, and you can always visit the other areas to experience a deeper taste of Brazil.
The city of Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia. It sits on the central-eastern coast of Brazil and is about as draped in history as a city can be, so much so that Salvador is UNESCO recognized.
Salvador was the first-ever capital of Brazil and was founded by the Portuguese in 1549, and is thus one of America’s oldest cities. As you wander around the cobbled streets of Salvador you’ll see colonial architecture, street artists, musicians, pastel-colored buildings, and a generally relaxed atmosphere.
The culture of the city is very much Afro-Brazilian as it was the base for the Portuguese slave trade. This gives rise to art, music, and cuisines that are more Afro-Brazilian than most other cities in the country.
On top of all the history and culture, Salvador is right on the ocean. There are white-sand beaches to explore, daily sunsets that rival most, excellent ocean swimming, tanning, and surfing. It’s also home to a lot of international students giving it a fun active vibe, great nightlife, plus the food is incredible.
The costs of living in Salvador are very manageable with the average being around $700 a month, half or so of which is your rent at $300 a month. Ex-pat job opportunities are not that easy to come by but digital nomads will have no issues setting there.
Living in Salvador would be a lot easier if you speak Portuguese as English isn’t spoken much by the locals. Street crime is an issue, so being sensible when walking around the city is a must and it’s worth finding out areas and times to avoid.
Fortaleza sits in the northeastern state of Ceara in Brazil on the Atlantic, quite far south of Belem and a bit north of Natal. The city of Fortaleza is big, around the fifth biggest in Brazil, and is the country’s industrial hub. This makes it quite hectic, but with a population of around 2.5 million, it’s a few steps down compared to the likes of Rio or Sao Paolo.
As well as being an industrial hub, Fortaleza is also known for its history and beachside location which draws in a lot of ex-pats and both local and international tourism. The beaches are bright white sand with crystal blue Atlantic waters washing up onto them.
There are palm trees, lagoons, sand dunes, that are all fantastic to explore, plus the beaches are lined with red cliffs making for beautiful colors in the morning and evening light.
The city is also home to a lot of culture and the locals take their traditions seriously, expressed mainly through dance at the local theatres, the most popular of which is the José de Alencar. There is also some lovely old architecture you’ll see as you wander around the town and once it gets too hot, a cooling swim in the ocean is never far away.
You’ll find tonnes of bars, great restaurants, museums, and art galleries around the city and they hold a lot of events, so you’ll never be searching for something to do in the evenings.
Another fantastic thing about Fortaleza is that it’s the perfect base for exploring other areas. Local fishing villages, seaside towns, and the nature that surrounds it. A trip to the Parque Ecologico do Coco will find you surrounded by mangroves, being taught about the local ecology and how to preserve it, plus it’s awash with excellent birdlife at different times of the year.
Living costs in Fortaleza are about as affordable as they come in Brazilian cities. You can get by on $500 US a month with ease, including rent which is around $200 US per month on average. Getting a job in Fortaleza or just around the city without knowing Portuguese is very difficult, so if this is your place to live in Brazil, make sure you learn Portuguese for going there.
There are a few things to be wary of when in Fortaleza. Firstly, the city is busy, and if you want to leave a peaceful quiet life, it’s probably not for you. Also, there is a lot of poverty and crime which can be an issue, but if you’re sensible and stick to the right parts of the city, you should be fine.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.