Living in Belo Horizonte – The Complete Guide 2019

Living in Belo Horizonte – Moving to Brazil

Living in Belo Horizonte

There’s fairly good chance that you’ve never heard of Belo Horizonte or even know which country it is in. BH is widely considered as Brazil’s third biggest city after Rio and São Paulo and is located in Minas Gerais, located further inland from Rio and above the state of São Paulo. Belo Horizonte is one of Brazil’s best kept secrets, precisely due to the fact that it’s off the radar for most people thinking about living in Brazil.

Thoughts of Living in Belo Horizonte

Whilst I was having a great time travelling around Latin America for months and living in Rio de Janeiro, I couldn’t help but feeling that something was missing. Living and staying in hostels and going to popular backpacking destinations was good fun, but i found myself having the same experiences over and over again and spending much less time with locals than i’d initially hoped for. In many ways it felt that i was observing and watching the culture and life in brazil as it were a part of some TV show, rather than actually being a part of it.

After coming to realise this, I decided that it was time for a new challenge – moving to a relatively unheard-of city and throwing myself in the deep-end. Belo Horizonte sounded like a good choice, but the prospect of moving there was daunting and felt deeply outside of my comfort zone. Looking back, living in Belo Horizonte was a true adventure. I was thrown into a place where i had no choice but to reach a level of fluency in the portuguese language and start my social and professional life from scratch.

The Medellin of Brazil

If there’s one place that i would compare Belo Horizonte to, it would be Medellin. With friendly people, great night life, a pleasant climate and more of a small town vibe, Belo Horizonte is in many ways Brazil’s Medellin, but with one key difference – far less foreigners.

Whilst Medellin has become one of the key destinations in Latin America for backpackers i can’t help but feeling that the city has lost much of its original charm and authenticity, whilst Belo Horizonte, on the other hand, is still right off the beaten track, allowing for a stimulating and original experience for those choosing Belo Horizonte as their city when moving to Brazil.

Where to Live

Savassi, Funcionarios/Lourdes

The best places to live are located within the confines of the Avenida de Contorno, a ring road that circles around the central area of the city. Within this area or very close by you’ll have access to the best nightlife spots and commercial areas.

Inside of Av de Contorno, Savassi and Lourdes were my favourite spots, due to their location and atmosphere. The caveat is that these areas can be more on the pricey side..

Santo Antônio/São Pedro/Cruzeiro

Located on the outside southern edge of the Avenida de Contorno, these three neighbourhoods are perfect if you’re looking for a more residential and tranquil area whilst still being right next to the central areas of Savassi and Lourdes. The tree lined and hilly streets make it a very pleasant area to live in (if you don’t mind walking uphill) and rental prices can be significantly cheaper than in Savassi.

Pampulha

Due to its distance from the rest of the city (around 30 minutes driving) i only ended up going to Pampulha only once during my stay in the city, but regret doing so. The area’s natural beauty makes up for its distance and is home to the “Lagoa da Pampulha” a giant lake surrounded by colonial houses and forest, which makes it a nice change from the dense areas of high rises in the central area. Pampulha also has its own nightlife scene on Avenida Fleming and is right next to the UFMG, one of the main universities in the city.

Life in Brazil - Pampulha, Belo Horizonte
Life in Brazil – Pampulha, Belo Horizonte

Safety & Security

Compared to Rio de janeiro, Belo Horizonte is relatively safe and is comparable to São Paulo in the sense that violence tends to be focused in the favelas and the periphery of the city. Whilst it’s wise to be streetwise and to exercise caution (as in any Latin American city), the safety and security should definitely not put you off from coming here. As in most Brazilian cities, “Centro” can also be sketchy, and is worth avoiding after commercial hours.

Weather

Compared to Northern Europe, the weather is fantastic in Belo Horizonte, with around 2500 sunshine hours per year. Cloudy days are a fairly regular occurrence, but you’ll never have to wait too long to see the sun. As in the rest of south-eastern Brazil, rainfall is also abundant, particularly between October and March. The temperature never really gets above 33 degrees or below 10, making Belo Horizonte very pleasant in terms of climate when living in Brazil.

Cost of Living

Living in Belo Horizonte is a fair amount cheaper than living in São Paulo or Rio, and therefore makes a good spot to have a decent life in brazil at a low price. To get an idea of everyday costs, check out this article.  

Praça do Papa - Living in Brazil

The 4 Key Ways to Thriving in Belo Horizonte

Economically

As in the rest of Brazil, finding a job in Brazil is no easy task, primarily due to Visa Restrictions,  whilst longer hours and lower wages than Europe can be disheartening. That being said, finding work is possible (if you speak Portuguese), and outside of São Paulo, Belo Horizonte is one of your best bets for getting a job. The city also has a thriving Start-Up scene called São Pedro valley, and as foreigner who speaks both Portuguese and English, you should have a competitive advantage due to the fact that there are few expats living in Belo Horizonte. As in the rest of Latin America, Networking is vital, meaning that your best bet is inserting yourself into the community and building contacts.

As a Brit, Australian or american living in Belo Horizonte, working in a hostel and teaching english are always options, but in my opinion aren’t really long term solutions to thriving when living in Belo Horizonte. In you’re interesting in hearing about other ways to thrive economically in Brazil, feel free to drop me an email.

Bureaucratically

To cut to the point, dealing with Visas or opening a bank account in Brazil is a nightmare, and Belo Horizonte is no exception.

Socially

If you’ve wondered where the city in the world is with the friendliest people is, then look no further, as Belo Horizonte is a serious contender. People will break their backs here to help you out and make you feel at home, and a lot of the time all it takes is striking up a basic small-talk conversation to become friends with someone. As a bonus, you’ll likely spark curiosity amongst the locals due to the lack of foreigners in the city. Despite its size of 5 million people, living in Belo Horizonte has more of small-town feel, meaning that most people tend to have well-established and close knitted social circles. Despite this, you’ll find that a lot of people will happily let you join in.

As a European or American living in Belo Horizonte, It goes without saying that one of the keys of establishing a strong social circle is through the Portuguese Language, which brings us up to our next point.

Moving to Brazil - Belo Horizonte at Night

Linguistically

If you are think about living in Belo Horizonte and don’t have any plans to learn Portuguese, then exit this page right now and don’t even bother thinking about living in Brazil. Whilst you’ll find some people who speak english well (although you’ll have to look hard) I would compare coming to Belo Horizonte and learning Portuguese to seeing someone else having a trip of their lifetime via their instagram story as oppose to experiencing this for yourself.

However, learning Portuguese is easier said than done, and it’s no secret that some people struggle with language learning more than others. Whilst most people will be afraid to admit it to others, learning a language is often an extremely daunting process and getting over mental blockages is a large part of the process (something they don’t teach you at most language schools.) However, with the right mindset, you’ll not only be able to speak Portuguese fluently in a relatively short amount of time but will massively stand out from most expats living in Belo Horizonte or elsewhere in Latin America. For more guides on Tips for Learning Portuguese, check out these posts.

Nightlife

The nightlife in Belo Horizonte is one of the best in Brazil, and there are several different Spots

Savassi/Lourdes

A great spot to go for a bottle of Original and to have an espetinho after work, Savassi is home to hundreds of botecos where people will sit outside until the wee hours of the morning. Lourdes takes it a step further, with its more upscale vibe. Top picks – Cipriano and Laicos.

Cruzeiro

Centered around the Street Rua Pium-í, Cruzeiro is a great spot on a Friday or Saturday if you’re living in Belo Horizonte, with Bars lining the hilly street right until the bottom. Top pick – Muu Bar

Buritis

Located around 15 mins drive to the south of Avenida Contorno, Buritis is a middle class neighbourhood located on nearer to the outskirts of the city. It’s also home to some of the best bars and clubs. Top picks – Like bar, Bebs Raja and Chalezinho.

The Verdict

Living in Belo Horizonte is a true adventure and could be a great spot for you if you’re looking for something different from the status quo or wanting to completely immerse yourself in Brazilian Culture. However, making a big move to such a far-flung destination isn’t exactly easy, so feel free to get in touch with me with any tips or further questions if you’re thinking of moving to Brazil.


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Living in Brazil – The Complete Guide to São Paulo – 2019

Living in Brazil – São Paulo

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Living in Brazil – Is São Paulo a good option? Upon first glance, São Paulo is an eyesore, and from what you’ve heard back home, it seems like it’s got nothing going for it. Images of violent crime, pollution, high-rise buildings as far as the eye can see as well as lack of nature and beaches don’t make it a top candidate on many expats list of best places to live in brazil. So is it just a concrete jungle where people go to experience the “rat race” lifestyle or is it worth considering when moving to Brazil? 

Life in Brazil –  São Paulo – My Experience after 1 Year

After getting set on moving to Brazil, there was one place where I vowed that i would never move to – São Paulo. It just seemed so unattractive, dull and unexotic. However, after living in Brazil for nearly 2 years, there’s honestly no other place i would rather live.

São Paulo – Best Places to Live in Brazil

Most likely to its perceived “ugliness”, São Paulo isn’t a city that receives many foreigners for its size, meaning that it has still managed to maintain a very authentic vibe and hasn’t become “internationalized.” Whilst I feel that some European Cities such as Prague, Berlin and Barcelona have become so international that they have lost much of their authenticity, you’ll find that São Paulo is 100% Brazil, but just ramped up on steroids.

Living in São Paulo is the perfect choice if you have a “work hard, play hard” mentality, and if you’re looking to set up a business and surround yourself with entrepreneurs, then São Paulo is the go to place. But it’s not all about business – the nightlife is arguably the best in Latin America (only that of Buenos Aires can rival it), the food is phenomenal and the people are great fun. Something indescribable about the city is the raw energy and intensity that you feel when you come here, and because of it you’ll find the city surprisingly addictive, as you know that they’ll always be some new experience just waiting around the corner. If you don’t believe me, come and stay here for a month and see for yourself.

Here is your guide to everything you need to know to about São Paulo if you if you’re trying to figure out the best place for you when it comes to living in brazil.

Living in Sao Paulo – Where?

Jardins – A nice, upscale and leafy neighbourhood located right next to the central hub of Avenida Paulista, Jardins is a great choice for anyone moving to São Paulo and is looking to be right next to where things are happening, whilst not feelings overwhelmed by noise, traffic and chaos.

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Bela Vista – Similar to Jardins but with an edgier vibe, Bela Vista offers many nice apartments at a lower price than Jardins, and is just on the other side of Avenida Paulista.

Vila Madalena/Pinheiros – Vila Madalena and Pinheiros are two trendy neighbourhoods around 15 mins away from Avenida Paulista by bus or metro and are right in the centre of two of São Paulo’s best nightlife spots.

Vila Olímpia/Moema/Itaim Bibi – These areas have a similar feel to Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro with a more “americanized” vibe. Here you’re right in the centre of the best night clubs, bars and shopping centres.

Vila Mariana/Aclimação – Nice and chilled out residential neighbourhood located south-east of Avenida Paulista with lots of trees and greenspace.

Higienópolis – Similar to Vila Mariana but located just north of Avenida Paulista

Centro – Expect cheaper prices and a more rough and ready vibe (if that’s your kind of thing)

Life in Brazil – Meeting People in São Paulo

Despite what other Brazilians say (especially Cariocas) about Paulistas being cold and always in a rush, I’ve found that the people here are extremely friendly (even more so than in Rio from my experience), easy to talk to and are curious about foreigners. As São Paulo is an immigrant hub for people from all corners of Brazil as a place to work and study, you’ll find less cliques and that people will tend to be open towards making friends with you.

However, as in the case of anywhere when living in brazil, having a strong command of the Portuguese Language is absolutely essential if you’re wanting to have choice and freedom when it comes to your social life when living in sao paulo and is the key to making the most out of life in brazil on a whole.

Safety and Security

Generally speaking, São Paulo is quite a bit safer than Rio de Janeiro and cities in the North-East of Brazil, and violence tends to be concentrated in the “periferia” (near the favelas located on the edges of the city). That being said, you’ll need to have common sense to avoid being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Areas that are generally safe 24 hours are Jardins & Vila Olimpia, whilst it’s worth paying particular attention at night in places such as Centro, Republica, Luz and Sé, as these areas can attract a few odd characters.

Weather

Don’t expect wall to wall sun when living in São Paulo, it rains a lot and there is cloud cover a significant amount of the time. However, you’ll also see a decent about of Sunshine, and the seasons aren’t very pronounced at all meaning that it never really gets cold (Anything below 15 degrees is considered as freezing). It also doesn’t get too hot, with temperatures typically maxing at around 31 degrees on your typical summer’s day. A typical day in São Paulo will consist of sunshine for a few hours, followed by the sky clouding over and a downpour around 4-5 pm (in summertime).

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Cost of Living in Brazil – São Paulo

Prices in São Paulo are similar to Rio, with the cost of rent being anywhere between R1300 to R$1700 for a room in a shared apartment, and around R $3000 for your own place. Prices tend to be higher in places close to Avenida Paulista, especially in Jardins, and in neighbourhoods such as Vila Olímpia and Moema.

In terms of food, fresh produce in supermarkets is cheap, and expect anything between R20 – 50 when it comes to eating out. Surprisingly, nightlife can be more expensive than in Europe with entrance fees being typically between R$60-100 per entry to a club (but from my experience this is often worth the fee.)

Finding Work when Moving to Brazil

Just like in the case of Rio, finding work in Brazil is no easy task, not only due to the current political and economical crisis, but also due to visa restrictions and the language barrier. However, as the business hub of Brazil, your chances of finding something in São Paulo are higher than in other cities. I’ll write a detailed article regarding the different options you have when it comes to finding work here, so drop me an email in the meantime if you have any questions.

Nightlife

In terms of Nightlife, São Paulo is a far better than Rio de Janeiro, and there’s hundreds of bars and clubs scattered around the city meaning that it’s almost impossible to get bored.

The main centres of nightlife are in 3 areas:

Rua Augusta – Similar to the Lapa Area in Rio de Janeiro, I personally find Rua Augusta to be overrated and a little bit sketchy, although it can be a fun night out occasionally. Most of the clubs here play “Funk” and Electronic music, and tend to attract a more alternative/LGBT community. Rua Augusta is also the main Red Light District Area of São Paulo.

Vila Madalena/Pinheiros – Having a trendy and slightly hipster vibe, Vila Madalena and Pinheiros are great areas when it comes to nightlife. The area is full of botecos, bars, small nightclubs and is full of people drinking in the street, meaning that you can still enjoy this area on a budget.  Areas that i particularly like are Rua Aspicuelta and Rua Guaicui (Pitico)

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Vila Olimpia – Vila Olímpia is the are home to higher end bars and clubs, and attracts more of “playboy” crowd, meaning that prices tend to be higher. Most of the clubs play Sertanejo and often require a better dress code, but the nights out here are first rate. Great bars/clubs at the point of writing this blog post are Toco do Tatu, Tatubola, Vila Mix, Galleria and Dukke

The Verdict

São Paulo is undoubtedly my favourite city when it comes to living in Brazil. Although it took me a while for the city to grow on me, I wouldn’t even consider living anywhere else in the country these days. The city’s ”work hard play hard” vibe and a pulsing rhythm make it the perfect place to work on business/personal growth whilst also having a plethora of options when it comes to nightlife and socialising. Whereas the novelty of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro or the small time vibe of living in Belo Horizonte may wear off after a few months, you’ll find that you’ll get more and more hooked on São Paulo with each day that you spend here.

Living in Rio de Janeiro in 2019 – The Ultimate Guide for Westerners

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Living in Rio de Janeiro

Living in Rio de Janeiro – So you’ve decided that living in Brazil could be right for you but have no idea what city to go to? Whether you’re tempted by the beach lifestyle of Rio de Janeiro, the big city and hustler vibe of São Paulo, or the small town and provincial feel of living in Belo Horizonte, it’s worth doing as much research to figure out exactly the best place to live in brazil in your specific case. Let’s start with Rio.

Living in Rio de Janeiro – A 2019 Guide

Living in rio de janeiro is the obvious choice when it comes to moving to Brazil, and it’s no surprise as to why. An incredible setting, access to nature within the city itself, beautiful people and a captivating culture make it a city like no other on earth. However, there are certain things you should keep in mind when moving to Rio.

Where To Live

Copacabana – Whilst Copacabana may seem like the obvious choice for living in Rio de Janeiro, the reality is that the novelty may wear off fairly soon. Although the Location is fantastic when it comes to accessing other areas of the city and visiting different beaches, I personally find the area slightly overrated. It’s status as the main “tourist hub” means that you’ll likely be surrounded by other foreigners, get ripped off in restaurants and will be treated as just another tourist.

Despite this, I still like Copacabana as an area primarily due to its beaches and location, but it might not live up to the picture perfect postcards that you saw when you were a child.

Ipanema/Leblon

Cleaner and trendier than Copacabana, Ipanema is another obvious choice when it comes to living in Rio de Janeiro, and is one that’s clearly understandable. The beaches looking up to “Dois Irmãos”, are full of activities, good surfing spots, and attractive people, meaning that it’s a great location for those looking for a proper “beach lifestyle.” Leblon takes it even further, with chic shopping centres, high end bars and restaurants and an “elegant” feel.

Those looking for a luxury and more elegant lifestyle would be well suited to live in one of these neighborhoods, but for those looking to see the rougher, spontaneous and more down to earth vibe of life in brazil, then they may not be the best bet.

Botafogo/Flamengo

Botafogo and Flamengo are great areas to live for those of you looking to get away from the crowds of gringos in their havaianas and experience a more local vibe whilst still being in a central location. Prices of rent and food are cheaper in these areas, beaches are close by, and there’s more of a down to earth vibe.

Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca is absolutely huge and driving from one end to the other seems to take forever. Due to its sheer size, your options are limitless for high-end malls and beaches, and it’s proximity towards the edge of the city means that you’re not far from pristine beaches and nature. As a middle/upper class neighbourhood, safety isn’t too much of an issue but I can’t help but thinking that the whole place lacks a bit of soul, atmosphere and is too americanized for my liking.

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Locals & Meeting People

Striking up a conversation with strangers in Brazil is far easier and more commonplace than in cancountries such as the UK or Germany, and you’ll find that locals will generally be very receptive. Despite this, the high amount of gringos and “sex tourists” that have been visiting rio over the past few years have somewhat worsened the locals perceptions of westerners (although it’s generally still positive.)

Language barrier is also an issue when living in rio de janeiro, as most Cariocas don’t have a good command of english (although you will certainly find some) meaning that if you decide not to invest in reaching a strong level of Portuguese, you will severely limited in terms of making friends, understanding the culture and and blending in as a local. Learning Portuguese really is the secret to making the most out of life in brazil. Whilst some locals may see you as “just another gringo” if you expect everyone to speak fluent english to you, you will instantly stand out and gain respect from the locals if you at least give a decent attempt at learning the language and make an effort to integrate.

Safety and Security

Rio has a notorious reputation for being a dangerous city in Brazil and elsewhere, and even friends in São Paulo joke about me “getting shot” or “kidnapped” when i travel to Rio. As in most cases, this danger is often massively exaggerated, with most visits being trouble free. The rumours and stories you hear shouldn’t put you off in the slightest.

That being said, crime does exist, and Westerners are often targeted due to their perceived naivety, financial status and lack of knowledge of the culture and life in brazil. Avoid Favelas, many places in Zona Norte and walking around anywhere alone late at night. Having basic common sense, walking with confidence, and having a good command of the Portuguese Language will significantly reduce your odds of getting robbed or ending up at the wrong place and the wrong time.  

Weather

As you can expected, the weather is great in Rio de Janeiro all year round, with anything below 20 degrees celsius being considered as cold to the locals. January and February can sometimes be unbearably hot and humid and there are a number of cloudy and rainy days throughout the year, but on a whole the weather is great.

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Cost of Living

Despite common thinking, living in Brazilisn’t that cheap, especially when compared to other Latin American Countries such as Peru, Colombia or Mexico. However, it’s still significantly cheaper than the UK, Australia or the USA, with the Brazilian Real (as of late 2018) being weak against currencies such as the US Dollar or Euro.

You can be comfortable living in Rio de Janeiro (If you`re by yourself) for anywhere between $1000-$2000 per month, depending on what activities you decide to do,how often you eat out, go out at night, and where you choose to live.

Job Opportunities

Finding a decent job in Brazil without a visa is a tough deal, and will be significantly harder if you don’t speak Portuguese. Due to Brazilian Protectionist Laws, it’s tough for companies to hire foreigners who don’t already have residency and companies aren’t willing to go through the bureaucratic process of sponsoring a foreigner. However, it is still possible, and the larger the company, the better position they generally are to hire you.  

If you’re thinking about moving to brazil and aren’t sure what path you would like to go down regarding jobs, take a look at this post, and drop me an email and i can see how i can specifically help you in your case.

Nightlife

Despite having a reputation as a crazy party destination, the nightlife in Rio de Janeiro is not what you would expect. It isn’t bad by any means, but is eclipsed by that of cities such as São Paulo, Buenos Aires or even little-known Belo Horizonte.

There are good spots, but it just takes some effort to find them. Avoid the Gringo parties and typical tourists spots at all costs, and despite being fun once or twice, areas such as Lapa and Copacabana are massively overrated and aren’t the best options of nightlife in Rio de Janeiro. Gavea, Botafogo and Leblon are good for street parties and small bars whilst Barra da Tijuca is king when it comes to nightclubs.

The Verdict

I absolutely love Rio as a place to visit and spend a few days chilling out on the beach, but i wouldn’t live there as a first choice, mainly due to the fact that its chilled-out, beach lifestyle vibe makes in hard to get into the working rhythm and get stuff done. I also personally got tired of the large amounts of foreigners visiting the city, and found it easier to integrate into local-life in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

If you`re looking for a relaxed beach lifestyle as a long term option, than living in Rio de Janeiro is a great option, but may get seem to wear off on you after a few months if this isn’t the case.