Going to the
--Make sure your U.S. passport isn't going to expire for at least six months before you travel to Brazil or you'll be denied a visa. If it expires before Jan. 14, 2015, you should apply for a new one before you go.
--You must have a visa to travel in Brazil. World Cup ticketholders get free visas; others pay $160 for one that's good for a decade.
--Check your medical insurance benefits and make sure you're covered for international travel. If not, buy a policy (you can find many companies and comparisons of coverage online).
--Pack extra medications you may need in your carry-on bag, not in checked luggage. And bring along a first-aid kit too. The CDC provides phonetic Portuguese phrases that could help if you're feeling ill.
--Program Brazil's emergency numbers into your telephone: 190 for police, 192 for an ambulance and 193 for the fire department. Make sure your mobile plan covers international calling to avoid pricey roaming charges.
--Stay safe. Street thefts and robberies are a problem in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, particularly around tourist spots like beaches, hotels, discos, bars and other places, the U.S. State Department says. "While the risk is greater during the evening and at night, street crime also occurs during the day, and safer areas of cities are not immune." The State Department recommends carrying a copy of your passport (leave the original in a hotel safe) and proof of health insurance.
--More safety tips. Avoid using unmarked taxis, particularly after dark, and use ATMs in secure locations like a bank or hotel lobby. Criminals kidnap ATM users for a while so the victims can make additional cash withdrawals.
--Beware of the favelas. Jeep tours of Rio's favelas, or slums, have become popular in recent years. Some favelas have been "pacified," meaning they've opened police stations inside the neighborhood. Still, the State Department warns Americans to "be aware that neither the tour company nor the city police can guarantee your safety when entering favelas."