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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Approx. Time Difference
Mid-Feb to Mar: + 5 hrs
Apr to Oct: + 4 hrs
Nov to mid-Feb: + 6 hrs

- Fall
- Spring
- Year

Welcome to your program!
This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.

Remember to also visit the Participants section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
“One of my lasting memories of Brazil is the close relationships with professors. Coming from the United States we are somewhat distanced from our professors; being a student calls for a specific relationship. But in Brazil, it is common for students and professors to meet and go out in groups. One of the best times was spending the day in the park talking to my professors and getting to know them.”
~ Aimee Tabor, UC San Diego
Click a heading below to see section content.
Your UCEAP Network
Local UCEAP support, UCEAP online & Study Center abroad

Contact Information


UCEAP Online

Bookmark your Participants program page; it contains vital resources and requirements you need to know before you go abroad, including the Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets and Payment Vouchers, and policies.
Connect with us! Join our Facebook network via the UCEAP Brazil page.

Study Center Abroad

The UCEAP program in Rio is administered by a Resident Program Director, Carolina Romero. The Resident Program Director will advise you on academic matters, assist with housing, and provide information on cultural events and adjustment. While in Brazil, you should consider the Study Center your first point of contact for information and assistance. 
Brazil Study Center
Carolina Romero, Resident Program Director
Office Phone (calling from Rio): 3527-1369
Cell Phone (calling from Rio): 9301-8118
Rua Marquês de São Vicente, 225
Ed. Padre Leonel Franca, 8º andar, CCCI
Rio de Janeiro, RJ 22453-900, Brazil

Phone Number Codes

U.S. international code: 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
Brazil country code: 55
Rio city code: 21

Approximate Time Difference

Mid-February to March: add 5 hours
April to October: add 4 hours
November to mid-February: add 6 hours
Academic Information
University-specific academic information, internships & volunteer opportunities

University Information

Select the Host Institutions tab on the following program page to learn more about PUC-Rio.


PUC-Rio requires that all international students submit specific application forms and documents prior to enrollment at PUC.
  • You are responsible for completing and returning these required host institution documents with your UCEAP application or when you complete the UCEAP Predeparture Checklist.
  • Failure to submit the necessary documents will jeopardize your admission to the host institution and participation in this program.
PUC has an online registration system similar to that of UC. You will have to pre-register for your PUC-Rio courses prior to leaving the U.S. as part of the application process; however, you will have the opportunity to finalize your course selection and final registration after your arrival in Rio.

Academic Culture

Overall, the academic system in Brazil is comparable to that found in the U.S. However, there are fundamental differences to be aware of in order to adjust comfortably to the academic culture of PUC.
A significant difference between the U.S. and Brazilian systems of higher education is that most Brazilian students devote themselves immediately and almost exclusively to their chosen field of study, whether it is agronomy, medicine, law, business, literature, etc. General education requirements are not typically part of the university program; Brazilian students take courses in only one center or department. This restriction does not apply to you; as a UC student, you may take courses from any department provided you meet the course requirements. However, you might encounter difficulty in getting to know your classmates. Since they focus their studies exclusively on their area of specialization, groups of Brazilian students will track through their university program together, often forming tight bonds. In addition, Brazilian students typically live with their families rather than on campus. They are friendly and casual, but their social life tends to be off campus.

Course Format

Do not be surprised if your professors do not attend the first day of class. Instructors may send a TA to take roll on the first day since many students in attendance will still be shopping for classes.
Most classes have 20 to 40 students and are primarily lecture-style with some class participation. Participate whenever possible in the informal group studies that are initiated by students in the class. The expectations that Brazilian students have of the professor and the coursework may be based on information that is not obvious to you. Before deciding to add or drop a course, get opinions about it from other students in the class.
Attendance is mandatory by Brazilian regulation. Brazilian federal law dictates that a student who misses 25 percent of the classes in any given course automatically fails the course. This law applies to you also.
At PUC-Rio, you can expect to receive a syllabus at the beginning of a course, which will include a bibliography. Ask the professor if you are expected to read everything on the bibliography or if there are particular items on which you should focus. Ask about your reading assignments early in the term. If you do not ask up front, you may find yourself catching up on a lot of reading later in the semester. You can meet with your professors before or after class or make an appointment to meet during office hours. It is important to seek assistance during the term; do not wait until it is too late.
You will purchase course textbooks and class materials in the PUC campus bookstore. Check early for necessary materials as books can take weeks to order and are often expensive. The PUC-Rio library system offers good facilities, although they are smaller than the facilities typically found at UC. The PUC system is consists of a reserved section and a circulation system in which books may be located by a computer search. PUC also has photocopy services on campus and students make regular use of this service for course materials that are difficult to obtain or are back-ordered.

Intensive Language Program (ILP)

The ILP takes place at PUC during the first four weeks of the program and is mandatory for all students. PUC uses the language placement test you take during the pre-registration process to place you at the appropriate language level. If you do not have prior language knowledge, you will be placed in a beginning-level class.
Courses at all levels focus on the acquisition or enhancement of Portuguese language skills through grammar, conversation, and composition. Instructors will also help you and other international students master the expected formats for writing papers in the Brazilian academic setting and other skills necessary for successfully completing regular courses at PUC-Rio.
  • If you do not have prior Portuguese language training, concentrate intensively on language acquisition during this part of the program.
  • If you feel you should be in a group that is more or less advanced, ask for a retest or speak to the Resident Program Director as soon as possible.


  • Students may use the variable unit option and take the class for no fewer than 3 UC quarter units and up to 6 UC quarter units.
  • The ILP must be taken for a letter grade.
  • The ILP level is not repeatable during the regular term. Failure to maintain good academic standing may result in probation or dismissal from the Program.

Academic Program

Course Information

This program offers full immersion into the regular courses offered by the university. Placement in regular courses taught in Portuguese is contingent on placement in (and successful completion of) the ILP as well as approval by PUC-Rio. Students without prior language preparation should be prepared to focus primarily on language acquisition and select from the limited selection of courses taught in English each semester.
Strong coursework is available in Brazilian literature, Portuguese language and literature, communications/media studies, design and graphic arts, economics, environmental/ecological studies, history, Latin American studies, legal studies, political science and international relations, sociology, and religious studies.

Preparation and Resources

  • Prepare for course registration in advance by viewing information on PUC courses on the UCEAP and PUC websites.
  • Descriptions for PUC courses previously taken by UCEAP students can be located in the MyEAP Course Catalog. The course descriptions in the MyEAP Course Catalog include the PUC departments and course numbers so that you may cross-reference your choices.
  • The International Partner Institutions and International Students page of the PUC-Rio website provides links to course descriptions in English, recommendations of courses for international students, and a variety of other helpful information. Much of the pre-registration process takes place through this section of the PUC website.
  • Students on the English track can find the list of available courses on the Study in English at PUC-Rio page of the university website.
  • Past participants suggest that you talk to returnees about recommended classes and instructors and that you pre-register in more PUC-Rio classes than you actually plan to take to allow the maximum latitude for final adds and drops.
  • When looking for appropriate course workon the PUC website, remember to search in more than one place for courses of particular interest. For example, courses of interest to political science majors may be offered by the sociology or economics departments. By noting the host departments listed in the MyEAP Course Catalog descriptions, you can get a feel for which departments might offer courses appropriate to your academic interests.
Explore the UCEAP website for additional course information (including important details and restrictions), links to host institution websites, and program and course search tools.


You will be undertaking a dual registration—once for UCEAP, and once for PUC-Rio. Note the following important points as you complete the process:
  • You make your online course choices from PUC’s online schedule of classes, the Micro-Horário, during the pre-registration process before you arrive in Rio.
  • The Micro-Horário, with information about exact times and places of classes, only becomes viewable online during the registration period.
  • Consult with the Resident Program Director about the courses you selected before your arrival during the ILP if you have questions or wish to add or change courses.
  • You can shop for courses by attending each class several times before determining your final class schedule.
  • There will be a short period to add and drop classes during the first weeks of the regular semester at PUC.
  • In addition to PUC registration, you must fill out your MyEAP Registration Study List each term.
  • Pay close attention to the way your courses are listed on your MyEAP registration. This information is what will appear on your UC transcript.


You must take a full-time course of study while abroad. You should plan to:
  • Enroll in a minimum of 18 UC quarter units each semester.
  • Take one Portuguese language instruction course per semester.
  • Berkeley and Merced students (semester campuses): consider keeping your study list between 19.5 and 22.5 UC quarter units (equivalent to 13 to 15 UC semester units).
Classes at PUC range from 3 to 6 UC quarter units. Unit values will be noted in MyEAP if the course is currently listed in the catalog. As noted in the Academic Culture section above, attendance is mandatory; under Brazilian federal law, students who miss 25 percent of the classes in any given course will automatically fail the course. 

Graduate Students

Graduate study includes enrollment in the UCEAP intensive language program in January and February. Assuming language proficiency, you may select graduate seminars (if available), undergraduate course work, and/or individual research under the supervision of a Brazilian scholar. PUC-Rio requires that graduate students register for at least 12 units per semester. In practice, this might amount to one language instruction class and one additional class, leaving you free to pursue your own research with your remaining time. If you intend to pursue research that will be independent or supervised by a UC faculty member, you must plan to carry out this work in addition to the required 12 units of PUC course work. Research supervised by a member of the PUC faculty may be included within the 12 units. All independent study and research must be approved in advance of departure by your major advisor.

Volunteer Projects

UCEAP in Rio offers a number of interesting and unique opportunities for independent studies and volunteer community service projects at the undergraduate level:
  • Several departments at PUC-Rio sponsor ongoing social service projects. The nature of these projects and the contact information will be discussed during the PUC orientation and printed in the PUC Orientation Manual, which you receive when you arrive.
  • There may be opportunities through PUC-Rio community service offices for doing volunteer work in Rio’s favelas, including Rocinha, Vidigal, and others. You may only undertake community service work in a favela under the auspices of the university. You may not do so on your own.
  • Some projects are organized by other community service organizations that have offices on the PUC campus, and some are organized by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Rio. Get involved with local NGOs in projects as diverse as teaching English or math, working with pregnant teenagers, or doing research about the link between violence and health in Rio. The Resident Program Director can assist you with finding a suitable organization and clarify what needs to be done in order to register with UC for independent study.
  • All projects taken for academic credit must be approved by the Resident Program Director.


The grade evaluation varies according to the field of study and the professor, but typically consists of quizzes, a mid-term, and a final exam. Some courses require a paper. The grade system used in Brazil is 0 to 10, with a 5 being the lowest passing grade.
Grades are assigned according to how well you master the course material and requisites, not how hard you work or how you perform relative to the other students. For example, a student entering a course with insufficient background may personally work hard and learn a good deal during the semester without reaching the goals that Brazilian students are normally expected to achieve in the course. The professor will grade on the end result (mastery of material), not on progress made.
Past students report that PUC grades are a little unpredictable and may vary by department
A passing grade normally indicates you have learned the objectives of the class. A higher grade indicates you have met the objectives of the class, done the recommended work, and completed additional work beyond this level
The final letter grade is assigned by the UCEAP Resident Program Director based on the evaluation of the PUC professor.
For more information about grades, see the Academic Information chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Extension information, forms & deadlines

​Plan Ahead to Extend

It may be possible to extend your time abroad at PUC depending on your Portuguese language proficiency, major, academic plans, and performance in the program.

Extended Program Options

The Brazilian academic year runs from March to November. You may extend from:
  • Rio spring program to the full academic year.
  • The fall semester to the following spring semester.
During the second semester, you will continue language study as appropriate and take regular PUC-Rio courses. If you are planning to take courses in English during the first semester, your English options during the second semester will be very limited. UCEAP recommends improving your Portuguese language skills during the first semester in order to take classes in Portuguese during the second semester.

Extension Process

  • Before departure, indicate your intent to extend your studies in Brazil on a completed Departmental and College Pre-Approval to Extend (DPA) form. You must submit the DPA form with your UCEAP application.
  • Before departure, make sure to apply for a year visa (365 days). If you do not secure a year visa ahead of time, you will need to come back to the U.S. in between semesters.
  • Once abroad, meet with the Resident Program Director and submit a Request for Final Approval to Extend (RFA) form. The deadline to submit an RFA is November 1 to extend from the fall to spring semester and May 1 to extend from the spring to year program.
  • PUC-Rio may have additional paperwork to be completed by different deadlines—make sure to check with the Resident Program Director.
  • If you did not happen to complete a DPA before departure, you may submit a Petition to Extend to the Resident Program Director. This process is much more complicated, and can take several weeks.
  • Requests for extensions are considered when there is space at the host university and the request is supported by the Resident Program Director, UCEAP, your UC campus department head, and your UC dean or provost.
  • Once your extension has been approved, UCEAP will notify your UC campus registrar and Financial Aid Office. For information about the steps you need to take in regards to finances, see the Extension of Participation chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
If you are admitted for the full year program, you are expected to complete the academic year in Brazil. A request to shorten the stay will be treated as a withdrawal from UCEAP and an administrative fee will be charged.
Cultural Awareness
Educational resources

​Educate Yourself

Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave California. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and the Rough Guide are excellent resources.
Study Brazilian culture and keep up with current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals. Among Brazil’s major newspapers are the Folha de São Paulo, the Jornal do Brasil, and O Globo.

Encountering Intolerance and Harassment

UCEAP students have reported encountering behaviors in Brazil that would be labeled as sexist, racist, or discriminatory in the U.S.
Sexual harassment (verbal comments, whistles, and physical advances) has surprised many UCEAP students in Brazil. During the on-site orientation, you will learn tips about how to reduce risks. This is not meant to discourage you, but to increase awareness of the need to take precautions.
Some UC students may find themselves the objects of stares and comments, ranging from relatively innocent to occasionally hostile. Some have commented that there is no “political correctness” in Brazil. Past students have characterized these behaviors as annoying, frustrating, and initially shocking, but generally no more than that.

Important Coping Strategies

  • Do not allow such behavior to prevent you from going to, and staying in, Brazil. Try physically moving away from the source of offensive behavior, as responding may simply escalate the situation. If you experience such behavior, discuss frustrations with the UCEAP Resident Program Director and staff or fellow students.
  • Women returnees indicate that harassment can occur no matter what the circumstances; however, they recommend adapting your dress, comments, and actions to conform more closely to local norms. Women should never walk alone after dark or make lingering eye contact with strangers on the street.
  • In most cases, these incidents represent a cultural difference that may cause annoyance and frustration rather than a source of physical danger. However, if you feel physically threatened at any time, report this to the UCEAP Resident Program Director.
  • Be sure to read about social and political issues abroad, think about and discuss these issues before departure, practice personal tolerance, and be mature and realistic in your expectations.
  • Cultural differences should not be an excuse to endure verbal or physical abuse; report serious or repeated instances of verbal or physical aggression to the UCEAP Resident Program Director immediately. It is important to trust your intuition and obey instincts that send warning signals. Decline offers that trigger some anxiety and avoid situations that make you nervous.
Arrival & Orientation
Travel documents, packing tips, travel to and from your host country

​Travel Documents

Student Visa

Detailed information and instructions for applying for the visa are included in the UCEAP Predeparture Checklist. The UCEAP Systemwide Office provides these general guidelines as a courtesy; however, it is your responsibility to:
  • First, read through the instructions provided in the UCEAP Predeparture Checklist.
  • Familiarize yourself with your consulate’s website.
  • Start the process early—do not wait until the last moment to apply. It takes time to gather the required documents. If you do not obtain the proper visa in time you may be withdrawn from the program. Visa rules are so strict that you will not even be allowed on the airplane without having the correct kind of visa.
  • The consulate may change instructions, fees, and requirements at any time, without notice. Contact the consulate directly if you have specific questions or need to confirm the exact amount of money you need for the visa/legalization fees.
As you go through the visa application process, be aware of the following:
  • It is not possible to apply for a visa after arrival in Brazil. You cannot enter Brazil as a tourist and then switch to a student visa.
  • Consulates, which represent the government of Brazil, reserve the right to deny a visa. To receive a visa is a privilege, not a right. The Brazilian consulates set strict rules for obtaining student visas. Since these rules are not set by UCEAP, staff at the UCEAP Systemwide Office cannot extend a visa application deadline or assist you if your application is denied or delayed.
  • The consulate will keep your passport while they are processing your visa (approximately 10 to 14 business days). This means that you cannot travel internationally at the time of visa application.

Brazil Federal Police Registration

Upon arrival in Rio, you must register with the Brazilian Federal Police and have your passport stamped again. This new stamp will allow you to leave the country without a penalty. Fines for failure to register within the designated time frame are currently R$8 per day up to about R$900, and are subject to change without notice. If ​care of this process on your own to avoid jeopardizing your legal status.
If you arrive on or just a few days before the start date, PUC-Rio International Programs staff will help you with this registration process as it can be bureaucratic and lengthy. The police registration is a serious process that requires attention to detail and a level of formality with which you might not be familiar. All students are expected to participate in the assisted trips to police headquarters organized by PUC-Rio.

Packing Tips


  • Passport and original visa documentation (plus copies), and entry form (see previous section titled Brazil Federal Police Registration)
  • Light, comfortable clothing that is easy to dry (most laundry is hung up to dry)
  • Sturdy and comfortable walking shoes
  • Warm clothes, including a sweater and jacket, for the winter months (Brazilians generally wear neat but casual long shorts and jeans in the winter)
  • Rain gear (lightweight and breathable)
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Electrical adaptors and converters (voltage in Rio can vary between 110 and 220)
  • Camera
  • ATM cards, credit cards (always have two ways to obtain cash)
  • Portuguese and Portuguese-English dictionary
  • Portuguese grammar book
  • Toiletries
  • Vitamins
  • Flashlight
  • Extra contact lenses and contact lens solution
  • First-aid supplies
  • Small luggage locks to give you added privacy in your homestay
  • Preferred pain relief medication
  • Enough prescription medication to last the length of your stay (see the Health section of this guide for more information on taking prescription medications abroad)


  • Laptop (highly recommended), Ethernet cable, and pen drive (or other storage device)
  • Dressier outfits (for parties, nightclubs, dinner events)
  • Bathrobe and slippers
  • Beach towel
  • Equipment, shoes, and clothing for sports or recreational activities
  • Small gifts for your host family (e.g., CDs; T-shirt; decals or mugs with city, state, or campus logo; major league baseball cap; California pistachios, almonds, or chocolate; California postcards; or scenic calendars)
  • Pictures of family and friends
  • Musical instruments
  • English-language reference materials for the subjects you expect to study (e.g., Brazilian history, U.S.-Brazilian relations, or specific aspects of economics)
  • Travel-size sleeping bag
  • Battery-operated alarm clock
  • Combination lock
  • Safety pins
  • Yoga mat (they are expensive and hard to find in Brazil)

Do Not Pack

  • Illegal narcotics or medications that are illegal in Brazil
  • Items that do not belong to you (laptop, camera, extra bags, etc.)

Luggage Recommendations

  • Do not overpack! You are expected to carry your own luggage. Most UCEAP returnees admit that it is better to pack lightly and purchase items once abroad, if necessary. Luggage restrictions and baggage fees vary by airline. Check with your airline about such restrictions before flying.
  • Identify your luggage on both the inside and outside with your name, home address, and the Study Center address in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Never leave bags unattended or put valuables in your checked luggage. When traveling internationally, always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money.
  • Customs officials often try to charge an import tax for electrical items brought into Brazil. If you indicate that they are personal items, the charge may be waived. Customs officials may list the items in your passport. If they do, you must take these same items out of the country to avoid paying a duty fee for them upon departure.


Rio’s climate is humid and tropical; temperatures average about 80ºF most of the year and rainfall can occur year-round. The winter in southern Brazil lasts from June to August (temperatures range from the mid 60s to low 80s) and the hot and humid summer season runs from December to March (temperatures range from the 70s to upper 90s).

Clothing Styles

The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing abroad.
Dress is informal, although PUC students tend to dress more neatly and formally than UC students. In smaller towns near Rio people may dress more conservatively. In some public buildings, long pants may be required. To avoid unwelcome attention, women should not wear scanty attire, halter tops, or other revealing clothing off the beach. People have been refused entry to buses or public buildings for dressing too scantily or inappropriately.

Travel to and from Brazil

You are responsible for the following actions as you prepare to travel to Brazil:
  • Reserve and purchase your plane ticket to Rio. Changeable airline tickets are recommended. Standby tickets are not appropriate.
  • Schedule your arrival to correspond with the Official UCEAP Start Date. You are subject to dismissal from the program if you fail to arrive on this date (UCEAP Student Agreement, Section 10).
  • Make sure to submit your flight information directly to PUC-Rio before departure. As long as you submit this information by the given deadline, you will be picked up at the airport and brought to your host’s residence.
  • Generally, late arrivals are not acceptable; however, certain rare cases can warrant exceptions. Obtain advance approval from the Systemwide Office if, for some exceptional circumstance, you need to arrive after the Official UCEAP Start Date.
  • Refer frequently to the UCEAP program calendar as the program dates can change due to unforeseen circumstances and you will be responsible for making any related modifications to your travel itinerary and all associated costs.
  • The UCEAP program calendar’s dates are your official dates.
  • Update your contact information in MyEAP to ensure that you are informed of any program changes (predeparture updates will always be sent via e-mail).
  • Confirm your flight schedule before your departure date (flights can be changed or canceled).
  • If you arrive early, you must find your own lodging until the program starts.

Return Travel

Most airline tickets are good for one year only (from the date of purchase). Purchase a round-trip ticket that allows changes to the return date for a relatively low fee, such as those available from student travel agencies. Year Participants: Due to certain airline restrictions, you may have to purchase a ticket with a return date that falls before the end of the program. You will need to plan to change your return flight for a small fee (usually $150–250; check with your airline) once you are within 12 months of the ideal return date. Leaving the program early due to your airfare is not permitted, so plan ahead. This is a common challenge all year students face. Before purchasing your changeable airline ticket, carefully investigate fares and check with your airline to determine rules and fees associated with changing your return flight.

Financial Aid Students

You are responsible for reserving and purchasing your plane ticket. the Financial Aid Office will not do this for you.
Your financial aid package is based partly on the UCEAP Student Budget for the program. The estimated round-trip airfare amount in the budget is based on the cost of a changeable student fare to Brazil. UCEAP will not purchase an airfare for you—this is your responsibility. If your travel expenses are greater than the airfare estimate in the program budget, notify your financial aid counselor. Neither UCEAP nor the campus Financial Aid Office can guarantee the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.

UCEAP Start Date and Orientation

Plan to arrive on the Official Start date of the program. If you submit your flight itinerary to PUC-Rio by the deadline, transportation from the airport to your host’s residence will be provided.
A PUC-Rio orientation will take place the day following the official arrival. A second UCEAP orientation will take place later on that week. Attendance at both orientations is mandatory.
During orientation, the Resident Program Director will review all practical components of the Rio program, including the program calendar, academics, housing, student services and computer access, health, safety and emergencies, money and banking, phones and mail, and public transportation.
Local Transportation
Travel options & travel sign-out
Travel by Bus
Buses are a part of daily life in Rio. Students often take the bus, or a combination of metro and bus, to PUC-Rio and back. Rio de Janeiro has an extensive bus system with many options, covering most of the city. After you arrive in Rio and participate in orientation, you will learn more about which bus lines go to PUC-Rio, and where the bus stops are located. The average bus fair is R$3.05 each way. You are discouraged from taking unofficial buses or minivans, called kombis. While on the bus, make sure to be aware of your surroundings, and avoid using headphones. Carry small change so that when you pay for your bus fare, you do not reveal how much money you have with you. City buses are a common way to commute to and from school, but they are discouraged during the evening hours. At night, it is much safer to take a radio-hailed taxi to your destination.
According to the U.S. Department of State, Brazil’s intercity roads are widely recognized as among the most dangerous in the world. Poor driving skills, bad roads, and a high density of trucks combine to make travel considerably more hazardous than in the United States. There are no laws requiring truckers to take mandatory rest stops and they often drive for excessive periods of time. All major intercity routes are saturated with heavy truck traffic and for the most part have only two lanes. Road maintenance is inadequate and some long distance roads through the Amazon forest are impassable much of the year. There are few railroads and passenger train travel is almost non-existent. Private cars and public buses are the main modes of intercity road travel.
Intercity buses can range (depending on the route and the price) from luxurious and well maintained to basic and mechanically unsound. If you decide to travel by bus, be careful selecting which bus to take. Certain buses are generally comfortable and well scheduled. Others can be uncomfortable and dangerous. Be sure to research all your options. For overnight trips, students sometimes prefer to travel by leito, a bus with wide seats that recline completely for sleeping during the trip. They will occasionally provide blankets, but you are encouraged to take your own. Leito seats may cost twice the normal fare, but are inexpensive when compared to the cost of a room.

Travel by Plane

Travel by plane tends to be more expensive, but deals are sometimes available. Check with your travel agent about purchasing a Brazil Air Pass, which allows for discounted and package air travel within Brazil. This pass must be purchased in the U.S. prior to departure. You are required by law to carry your passport when traveling by air in Brazil.

You are encouraged to make the most of your experience abroad, but remember that UCEAP is an academic program. Unexcused absences from class can result in a lowered or failing grade.
For your safety , it is imperative that you complete the online Travel Sign-out Form in MyEAP every time you travel outside Rio for more than 24 hours.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Financial Information
MyEAP student account, UCEAP student budget & handling money abroad

Handling Money Abroad

The official currency unit in Brazil is the real or, plural, reais (abbreviated R$ or BRL).

Before Departure

  • Obtain local currency (Brazilian reais)—UCEAP recommends at least $50-100 worth. This can be obtained from a U.S. bank. Some banks require a week or two to order the foreign currency. It is possible to exchange money at the Rio airport seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; however, exchange rates are not always favorable and it is more secure to exchange money elsewhere.
  • Leave your Power of Attorney with someone you trust.
  • Plan to take at least two international credit cards in your name (not a parent’s) and two ATM cards from your home U.S. bank account since these can be lost, stolen, or damaged.
  • Take an ATM card linked to your checking account rather than your savings account. Students have had trouble accessing their savings accounts from abroad.
  • Sign up for online banking if possible. This is an alternative that allows you to easily transfer money between accounts, monitor bank fees, pay bills easily while abroad, etc.
  • Make sure you have signed the back of all ATM and credit cards.
  • Write down contact numbers you can call to report lost or stolen credit or ATM cards and to obtain replacements.
  • Purchase travelers checks for emergency backup funds (see Travelers Checks in this chapter).
  • Obtain international PINs (four-digit, numerical only, that do not start with 0) for your credit and ATM cards if you do not have them already.
  • Do not travel without access to funds. Remember that you will need to pay your rent within the first three days of the program.
Communicate with Your Bank and Credit Card Providers about:
  • Your study abroad and travel plans. This will prevent them from questioning unusual activity.
  • How to contact them from abroad if necessary.
  • Whether or not your ATM card has international access and participates in one of the larger ATM networks. An ATM card that works with multiple networks is preferable.
  • Daily withdrawal limits and information on any fees your bank may charge for using an international ATM. The ATMs in Brazil may also charge a small usage fee.
  • Online banking fees and transfer limits.
  • Fees that apply for cash advances. If you plan to use your credit card for cash advances, confirm that the card will be accepted by Brazilian banks and ATMs.
  • Any other necessary arrangements that need to be made before you leave (e.g., some banks will ask you to authorize your cards for use abroad).

While in Brazil

  • Use a combination of methods to handle money in case one does not work (e.g., a local ATM is temporarily out of service). Do not rely solely on one form of funds.
  • Be disciplined with your monthly budgets; Rio is one of the most expensive cities in Brazil. Many past students found that their living costs were much greater than expected.
  • You will have to cover the costs of daily transportation, books and school supplies, and personal items, among others. Entertainment and transportation in Rio will be costly. Although these costs will vary depending on your situation, the “incidentals” estimate provided in the UCEAP Student Budget can give you a good idea of what expenses to expect.
  • In order to register with the Federal Police in Brazil, you will have to pay a fee of around 200 reais.
  • Do not have checks (financial aid, money from family, etc.) sent to Brazil. It is not possible to cash U.S. checks at Brazilian banks since you cannot open an account. UCEAP returnees recommend that financial aid or support funds be sent to a trusted friend or relative who will deposit the funds into your U.S. bank account. You can then withdraw these funds (in reais) from an ATM. Direct deposit (electronic funds transfer, or EFT) of financial aid monies is the best option.
  • Always leave one credit card and spare ATM card at your residence; if one is lost or stolen, you will have an immediate backup.

 ATM Cards

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and avoid withdrawing money from an ATM at night.
Using an ATM card is by far the easiest way to access your money abroad, and the exchange rate is the most favorable. ATMs are found throughout Rio and you will receive cash in local currency.
Not all ATMs accept international ATM cards. The ones that will are marked to show that they accept Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Star, etc. Some ATMs will work with one network, but not with another.
The only ATM card function that will work is cash withdrawal and many ATMs have low limits on the amount of cash that can be withdrawn. Banco do Brasil, Citibank, and HSBC will accept most international ATM cards with the least difficulty and allow transactions for the largest amounts.

Credit Cards

The Discover card is not widely accepted and is not worth taking to Brazil.
Credit cards are useful for emergencies, travel expenses, and everyday purchases. Most stores and restaurants in Brazil honor major credit cards.
You may obtain a cash advance with your credit card from a bank offering this service, though this can be an expensive way to access cash. Your PIN is not usually required if the transaction is conducted inside the bank, but you must show your passport.
Visa/MasterCard Visa and MasterCard are equally accepted in Brazil. All Banco do Brasil branches accept Visa. Most small towns have a branch of the Banco do Brasil; larger towns have a branch nearly every mile or so. Citibank is also reliable for cash advances on U.S. credit cards. Visa can be used for purchases and cash advances in nearly every country in Latin America. MasterCard can also be used for cash advances, but it is difficult to find a bank that will accept it.
American Express American Express (AmEx) offers a number of services to its cardholders abroad, but many of these services are only available through an AmEx office. AmEx cards can be set up to work as ATM cards. Check with AmEx before departure for details on how to do this.
Travelers Checks Travelers checks are almost obsolete and cannot be used to make purchases. You are better off relying on cash, an ATM card, and credit cards. However, travelers checks can be useful in an emergency or as an alternate source of funds if you lose your wallet or if your ATM card does not work. Purchase the checks in U.S. dollars before you depart. Be sure to make two copies of the check numbers, and give one copy to a family member or friend before you leave home. Keep the other copy for yourself, separate from the actual checks. If your checks are lost or stolen, you will need to provide these numbers and corresponding receipts in order to obtain replacements. Travelers checks must be exchanged for local currency at a Brazilian bank or travel agency. Some banks insist on changing a minimum of $300 to $500 and the process can be difficult. Banks and money exchange houses offer a lower exchange rate when cashing U.S. travelers checks for Brazilian reais.
Communications Abroad
Mail, local and international calls & computer access

Phone Use

Approximate time difference between Rio and California:
  • Mid-February through March: add 5 hours
  • April through October: add 4 hours
  • November through mid-February (during Southern Hemisphere summer when Brazil is on daylight saving time): add 6 hours

Cell Phones

You are encouraged to buy a cell phone in Brazil and enroll in a prepaid (prepago) plan. You can purchase a simple phone for as little as U.S. $90. A phone plan can usually be initiated for less than $50 with a passport for ID.
You can purchase prepaid cell phone cards, which you can replenish with minutes using a code. With a prepaid plan, you will not be charged for incoming calls. You will pay only for outgoing calls or calls received a cobrar, much like collect calls in the U.S. Also, minutes are not deducted for 0800 (toll-free) calls, even if they are used to call an international calling card.


Many students use Internet-based Skype for long-distance calls. Family and friends in the U.S. can call you on a cell phone, at low rates, using Skype from their computers. In addition, you can Skype family and friends from Internet cafés in Rio or from your laptop using the wireless Internet at PUC. Computer-to-computer Skype calls are free. You will need a headset or a microphone.

Public Phones

Public phones in Brazil are accessible and readily found on streets, in airports, and in malls. To make calls from a pay phone, you will need a Brazilian phone card (called a cartão telefonico), which may be purchased at most kiosks, at newsstands, or at the post office (correio).

Phone Tips:

  • Use public phones mainly for local calls; they are not an economical or reliable way of making international calls.
  • Long-distance calls can be made from telephone stations (telefonicas) throughout the city. Calls from these stations may cost less than making calls from a private home.
  • Since it is often more expensive to call the U.S. rather than the other way around, it is best to have parents or friends call Brazil at an arranged time.
  • The number “six” in Portuguese is seis, but in most conversations and over the phone, the word meia is more commonly used. Meia means half, as in “half a dozen.”
  • Many long-distance phone companies provide services that allow you to phone home from abroad. Some companies offer a toll-free access number that connects with an operator in the U.S. and the means to charge long-distance calls either to a credit card or to a third party. Investigate the possibilities before departure and shop around for the best services and rates.

Calling Cards

If you purchase a calling card, confirm the card you purchase will work for calls originating outside of the U.S. Some prepaid phone cards purchased in the U.S. do not work abroad. It is possible to purchase calling cards in Brazil that work for international calls (ask for a cartão embratel at a post office, the airport, or a newsstand). The rates are slightly higher than U.S. calling cards.

Homestay Phone Use

Do not expect to use your host’s phone (even if you have a calling card or credit card). Be sure to discuss the use of the phone with your host upon arrival. If you are allowed to use the phone, you will be billed for all phone usage. Many hosts have phone plans that block long-distance calls (except toll-free, i.e., 0800 calls) and outgoing calls once a relatively low limit of local calls has been reached within the monthly cycle. You will most likely need to use an outside pay phone to make any local calls.


Mail to and from the U.S. takes a week to ten days (and can take longer), and letters from the U.S. are sometimes lost. When mailing something important, it is best to take it to the central post office. Do not use U.S. airmail stamps; there is one Brazilian stamp for international airmail. Shipping heavy packages back to the U.S. is quite expensive.

Receiving Packages

Until you have established your own address, have mail sent to you in care of the PUC-Rio International Programs Office at the following address:
[Your Name]
UCEAP Brazil Study Center
Coordenação Central de Cooperação Internacional
Rua Marquês de São Vicente, 225
Ed. Padre Leonel Franca, 8º andar
Rio de Janeiro, RJ
22453-900, Brazil
Packages sent to you should be sent via express mail (e.g., Global Express from USPS). There can be high customs fees and delays if packages contain certain kinds of items, particularly electronic goods. Packages sent by FedEx (or similar express service) seem to be prone to customs scrutiny. Do not plan to have your laptop or any electronic devices shipped to you while you are in Brazil. Customs duties on such items are extremely high.

Computer & Internet Access

PUC-Rio has a modern computer lab where you may use computers on a timeshare basis. Computers are available Monday through Friday.Use of printers is available for a fee.
Do not expect to have access to the Internet at your homestay or rented apartment. You may use a laptop to read and write, but you will most likely not be allowed to use a phone jack to access the Internet. The tight regulation of phone-line usage makes dial-up connections to the Internet expensive; thus, the majority of students (with or without laptops) utilize Internet cafés to access the Internet and write and print papers.

Laptop Use

Due to the high prices in Brazil, laptops are highly desirable items; theft of laptops is common, and keeping them safe can be cause for concern.
If you already own a laptop, we encourage you to take it to Brazil and consider the following:
  • PUC has a wireless network available for access with a laptop.
  • Be certain your laptop is fully insured in case of loss or theft. Laptops are among the most frequently stolen items from travelers.
  • Do not ship your laptop abroad. Your laptop may be held for inspection by customs officials and customs fees are quite costly, even for older laptops.
  • When traveling, be sure keep your laptop within reach at all times. When carrying your laptop, use an ordinary backpack, not a special laptop case that will make it obvious to thieves what is inside. Avoid carrying your laptop on the streets, especially at night.
  • Ensure that your laptop is equipped with a built-in voltage transformer and take adaptor plugs.
  • Bring a pen drive or other storage device to transfer files, print, and work from other computers, if necessary.
  • Install the latest antivirus software to minimize hassles.


Do not use Hotmail. Previous program participants with Hotmail accounts have been unable to receive files and attachments from PUC-Rio.
You are required to provide a web-based e-mail address (Yahoo!, Gmail, etc.) to the Resident Program Director. If you do not already have such an account, set one up before you leave the U.S. You must also maintain and check your UC e-mail account so that you can receive important updates from the UCEAP Systemwide Office.​
Housing & Meals
Program housing options, supplies needed & meals

​Where Will I Live?

Housing Warning: You are prohibited from living in a favela while on UCEAP. If you choose to live in a favela, you will be dismissed from the program.

Q: What are my housing options? May I arrange my own housing?

A: For the first month of the program, all students are placed in PUC-arranged housing in Rio.
You are required by a housing contract to remain in PUC-arranged housing for the first month; thereafter, you may locate your own housing or remain in the PUC-arranged housing throughout the semester. Past students have found a room to rent on their own, or have rented an apartment with other UC, Brazilian, or international students. There are many options in Rio, but prices have gone up due to the development related to the World Cup and the Olympics.

Q: Where will my housing be located?

A: In general, housing will be located in the southern zone of the city (usually within ten miles of PUC-Rio). Some students walk or ride bikes to class, others take the bus. The average bus fare is about R$ 3.05 one-way. While students usually live within ten miles of PUC-Rio, traffic is a part of daily life in a huge metropolis like Rio. Commutes may take forty minutes or more each way, and in Brazil, this is considered normal. This is a considerable contrast to what you have probably experienced in the U.S., so prepare yourself now for this reality.

Q: Will I live with another UC student?

A: During the first month of the program, other international or UC students may be placed in the same home. After the first month, you are encouraged to arrange housing with Brazilians and to avoid living with other UC students. It is UCEAP’s experience that students who live with other UC students tend to speak English rather than Portuguese and therefore impede their linguistic progress and do not take full advantage of the program in Brazil.

Q: Can I arrive early to my housing or extend my stay?

A: It is not possible to arrive early to PUC-arranged housing. However, it is usually possible to extend your PUC-arranged housing beyond the first month. If you are interested in extending your housing beyond the first month, discuss this early on with your host, PUC staff, and the Resident Program Director.

Q: May I entertain guests?

A: You are not permitted to bring anybody home to spend the night. If you would like to have a friend visit you during the day, please discuss this with your host first and ask permission. Do not, under any circumstances, bring a stranger or someone you met recently into the home. 

Q: Can I use the phone?

A: Probably not. Be sure to discuss this with your host when you arrive. Ask your host if you are allowed to use the phone, and if you are, find out how you will pay for phone charges. Most students obtain a pay-as-you-go cell phone in Brazil. Some students use Skype to receive long-distance calls, but Internet is not always available in the homestay. Many students use the computer lab at PUC or go to a nearby Internet café.

Q: What about laundry?

A: This must be discussed and worked out with your host. Ask who is responsible for doing the laundry and what laundry will be done. If they agree to do laundry, ask your host how and when they would like you to give them your laundry. It is also your responsibility to provide one box of laundry soap per month.

Q: What will my homestay be like?

A: Homes and rooms in Brazil tend to be small with limited storage space, and amenities may not be what you are accustomed to in the U.S. All housing for the first month in Rio offers a furnished single room and a simple breakfast daily. Some housing options offer two meals daily for an additional cost.
UCEAP students are generally placed in rented rooms in Brazilian households. Although you may be placed in a Rio “home,” there should be no illusions that this will be a host family situation. The household most likely will not feel inclined to include you in their daily lifestyle but rather to treat you as a tenant or boarder. In fact, the host family does not usually consist of a traditional family, but more often a single parent with an extra bedroom (or bedrooms) to rent, or an elderly couple whose children no longer reside with them. It is a common practice in Brazil for hosts to accept lodgers into their home as a purely economic venture. It is common for university students and young professionals to live in such arrangements. It is important that hosts are treated with respect at all times.

Q: Can dependents come to Brazil with me?

A: This may be possible with months of advanced planning. Discuss this early on with your Campus EAP Advisor and UCEAP Operations Specialist.

Q: What if I have a problem with my housing?

A: Communicate immediately with the Resident Program Director and PUC-Rio's housing coordinator if you encounter any housing difficulty or misunderstanding. You should air your concerns immediately to avoid having a small instance build up into a major issue. Something that upsets or even enrages you might be the result of a cultural misunderstanding. 

How to Prepare


Q: How is housing arranged?

A: Placement in housing for the first month is based largely on information included in the housing questionnaire you complete via PUC-Rio’s online application system before departure.

Q: How do I pay for my housing?

A: You will pay your host family directly in cash (reais) within three days of moving in. Host families are arranged through PUC-Rio and charge two flat rates: R$1150 per month for one meal per day and R$1450 per month for two meals per day.
After the first month, the cost of housing varies considerably according to location, space, amount and kind of furnishing, and services provided (e.g., laundry and meals). For all housing arrangements, you will be required to pay the host or landlord directly in cash. In the case of an apartment rental, you may be required to pay in advance for the entire period of occupancy.

Q: What are the housing rules and regulations?

A: All students must sign a housing contract. Your signature indicates that you have read, understand, and agree to the housing contract. Consequences of breaking the contract may lead to expulsion from the program.
There may be some unspoken conditions and responsibilities to renting a room in a Brazilian household involving everything from use of the kitchen to possible curfews. For example, given the cost of energy, you should be energy efficient and turn off lights or other appliances if you are not using them.
You will want to discuss the  following with your host:
  • Does the host expect you to be home at a certain time? Be considerate as to your arrival times at night and in the early morning hours. Be aware of noise level and avoid loud behavior when others might be sleeping.
  • What are your rights and responsibilities concerning the bathroom facilities? If possible, set up a schedule, especially for the morning. Be conservative with your water use and shower length.
  • Ask about kitchen and refrigerator use.
  • Ask about host customs in regards to use of the living room and TV.


The cost of the homestay during the first month in Rio includes a simple breakfast (coffee, milk, bread, butter, jelly, and fruit) each day. Some housing options offer two meals daily for an additional cost. You are responsible for the cost of other meals and can discuss other meals and kitchen privileges with your host.
Meal times in Brazil are generally the same as those in the U.S. Breakfast is served between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and lunch (the main meal of the day, similar to dinner in the U.S.) is usually eaten between noon and 1 p.m. Dinner (a lighter meal, similar to lunch in the U.S.) is served from about 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Brazilian diet incorporates a large variety of foods (meats, fish, poultry, grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, etc.). A typical meal a host would prepare might include beans and rice, salad, vegetables, and chicken or beef. Beans and rice are almost always served at lunch. When eating out, you will find grilled or roasted meats and fish, seafood and fish stews, and even pizza, hamburgers, and french fries.
Groceries cost about the same as in the U.S. and eating out is generally expensive. The cost of lunch at the PUC cafeteria is reasonable (about $7–12).


If you are a vegetarian, clearly note this on your UCEAP housing questionnaire. Be specific. Past vegetarians reported that their hosts were extremely accommodating to their needs as long as they knew the student’s preferences before the student arrived. Restaurants in Brazil are often not as accommodating to vegetarians.

Health Precaution

No doubt you will be eager to sample the local delicacies, but use common sense in choosing what to eat, especially if you buy food from street vendors. Do not drink tap water. Many people filter their own water. In some restaurants, it may be unwise to eat salads or uncooked vegetables, especially during the first few weeks of the program when your digestive system is adjusting to the new conditions and foods.
Extracurricular Activities
Social activities, excursions & working in your host country

​Get Involved

Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while abroad is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and better integrate into the Brazilian community.
The following are some ways you can get the most out your time abroad:
  • Join musical, theater, or arts groups.
  • Volunteer at local organizations. You can find out more about opportunities once you are at PUC-Rio. You may also explore volunteer opportunities locally, but you may only volunteer in favelas through PUC-Rio’s established social programs.
  • Attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles.
  • Get involved in sports. PUC has a variety of sports facilities and physical education classes. You will also have access to a pool at the well-known Flamengo Football Club, located nearby. The nation’s most popular sport, soccer (futebol), also offers a wonderful source of entertainment.
  • Visit art galleries, Brazilian cinema, and theater performances.
  • Explore the vibrant nightlife in Rio, with various kinds of music and dance available.
  • Take Brazilian dance classes or capoeira lessons, which are very popular with students.
Opportunities are not limited to those mentioned in this guide. Check PUC-Rio’s student newspaper for announcements of campus-related activities. The CCCI also has an International Programs Calendar with social events—don’t miss out!
Note on working in Rio: Brazilian law prohibits UCEAP students from working while studying in Brazil. Do not plan on working in Rio.

Recreational Travel

Do not plan recreational travel on class days or days that group events have been scheduled. There will be numerous opportunities on weekends and national holidays to travel without missing classes. Make sure you always complete the Travel Sign-out form in MyEAP and notify the Study Center before leaving Rio.
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Physical health, medications, counseling & student insurance

​Physical Health

See the Housing & Meals chapter of this guide for health precautions regarding food.

Local Medical Services

Medical facilities in Rio can handle most medical problems. The Study Center or PUC staff can provide you with a list of recommended bilingual doctors and hospitals. PUC has a health clinic on campus that you may visit free of charge for any minor health issues.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, immediately seek medical attention and contact the Resident Program Director and the local PUC staff. They can recommend a clinic to visit, help with the UCEAP medical insurance claim process, and assist if arrangements need to be made with your professors due to an extended absence from class.
If you need to visit a hospital, the one nearest PUC, Miguel Couto, is a good option. Miguel Couto is a public hospital that will treat you without charge. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Rio maintains a list of doctors and medical practitioners. You can access the list on the U.S. embassy website.

UCEAP Insurance

The required UCEAP Insurance Plan is paid by the University of California.
As private medical service is on a cash or credit basis, payable when services are rendered, you will need to pay up front and file a claim for reimbursement. Medical care in Brazil, even at private medical centers, tends to be much less expensive than in the U.S. If you have a medical condition and/or you need attention, explore your options and contact the Resident Program Director for assistance. You can also contact the Emergency Travel Assistance provider for the University of California, Europ Assistance USA, if you are in need of emergency, medical or travel assistance. They are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week:
call the international collect operator from Brazil by dialing 001-(240)-330-1520 and ask the operator to connect you with Europ Assistance at (202) 828-5896. Europ Assistance may be able to arrange direct payment to a medical provider if you call them before an appointment or from the hospital if it is an emergency.
See the UCEAP Insurance Plan brochure for more information and to make sure that it is adequate coverage for your needs.

Prescription Medications

  • If you are planning to buy prescription medication and will submit a claim with UCEAP insurance, you must fill and pay for the prescription within 14 days before the official start of the UCEAP program; otherwise, it will not be covered.
  • Do not have medications shipped to Brazil; Brazilian customs authorities will not accept them. Plan to take enough prescription medication to last the length of your stay.
  • If you have any preexisting medical conditions, carry a letter from your attending physician describing the medical condition and prescription medications, including the generic names of the prescribed drugs.
  • Transport any medications carried from the U.S. in their original prescription containers and pack them in your carry-on luggage.
  • If you cannot take enough medicine to last throughout the program, make an appointment with a physician in Brazil and use the letter from your U.S. physician (describing your treatment and indicating the generic name of the medications) to obtain a prescription for the same or similar medication.
  • Europ Assistance can provide information about whether a specific prescription medication is legal and available in Brazil. Call them in advance of your trip (from the United States dial 1 (866) 451-7606 with the name of the medicine.
  • For more information regarding prescription medications, see the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.


Although many medications are available in Brazil’s major cities, the availability and quality of medications will vary in remote areas and may not meet Western standards.

Mental Health

While in Brazil, a bilingual psychologist at PUC-Rio is available for consultation or PUC staff can refer you to other mental health providers. Living and studying in another country can be stressful at times and may trigger or exacerbate psychological conditions. If you are currently managing emotional issues, talk to your doctor about the program, discuss the need for continued care, and devise a plan for such care.

Food & Water Safety

Due to inadequate or non-existent water purification and delivery systems, boil or purify water or use only bottled water from reputable providers. Avoid buffet meals, raw vegetables and salads, ceviche, and raw seafood. Eat well-cooked food served hot.

Students with Disabilities

Accessibility and accommodations are very different from what you find in the United States. For example, most buildings do not make provisions for wheelchair users. Accessibility to public transportation and the ability to accommodate or understand the needs of persons with disabilities are limited in many areas, including PUC-Rio. Ramps are uncommon in Brazil. Elevator doors are often too narrow for wheelchairs. Brazilian students with learning disabilities (LD) generally are not identified or provided with special education services. For more information on how to prepare read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Theft, intolerance, fire safety & emergency contacts

​Your Role in Safety Preparedness

Many students and their families have concerns about safety and security. Study abroad, like most other things in life, involves the possibility of risk.UCEAP cannot:
  • Guarantee the safety of participants or ensure that risk will not at times be significantly greater than on a UC campus.
  • Monitor the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants any more than is the case on the home campus.
UCEAP takes reasonable safety measures with its programs, and counsels students on potential risks and necessary precautions. You and your family have a role to play in minimizing potential dangers. UCEAP expects you to participate actively in minimizing your risks while abroad. Pay careful attention to the following information. Flexibility and an informed perspective will be critical to help you adapt to your new environment. An understanding of the social reality and close attention to your surroundings may help you avoid potential problems.
With a population of about 12 million people, Rio de Janeiro presents the unavoidable aspects of dense urban living: increased crime, pollution, sexual harassment, social disparities (more than 20 percent of Rio’s population live in favelas), and lower standards of living. Do not underestimate the tension, disappointment, and adjustment involved; on the other hand, normal culture shock should not discourage you from going abroad.

Favelas in Rio

UCEAP policy prohibits living in a favela. If you choose to live in a favela, you will be dismissed from the program.
Historically, Rio’s favelas have been hotbeds of insecurity where drug lords rule over a community with little or no access to government support or community services. The Brazilian government does not maintain a monopoly over lethal force or the rule of law in these communities and is in no position to assist locals or foreigners who enter favelas and find themselves in need of assistance.
Conditions in favelas vary widely, but they are often sites of uncontrolled criminal activity that are not patrolled by police. The U.S. Embassy recommends avoiding these unsafe areas. The U.S. government forbids any U.S. government employee from entering favelas. Those who enter these communities do so at their own risk. No government service has the power to support a need for assistance or medical emergency within favelas.
There is no rule of law inside the favela except the one established and enforced by the leader of the street gang that controls the favela. Severe consequences for spousal abuse, violent assault, rape, and non-sanctioned murder creates an environment considered significantly safer than the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The calm, however, breaks when rival gangs or Rio’s military police enter the favela unannounced to attack a safe house, target and kill a specific gang member, or attempt to take over the entire favela. In the past, stray bullets have maimed and killed innocent bystanders at a rate of one injury or death every other day.
The entrances to the favelas, often referred to as “bocas de fumo,” are drugs sales points. These areas are often the flash point for any violent confrontations between rival gangs or any given gang and invading police. Favela entrances should be avoided at all times, especially at night, after midnight, when planned operations against favela-based gangs often begin.
In Rio’s southern zone, some of the more famous favelas, such as Rocinha, which overlooks the neighborhood of Sao Conrado, have opened their streets and passageways to local tour companies that place favela poverty on display for tourists. Rocinha is perhaps the most popular and safest favela in Rio, but a superficial sense of security can change in an instant. This is true for all favelas. Other favelas such as Vidigal (Leblon), Dona Marta (Botafogo), Pavao-Pavaozinho (Copacabana-Ipanema), and Cantagalo (Copacabana) have all experienced community policing efforts with varying degrees of success. Cantagalo has perhaps had the best response to community policing efforts, yet across the board, these progressive policing efforts have not removed the indigenous criminal element at the root of insecurity in the favela.
Favelas in Rio’s central and northern zones are generally more violent and should be avoided at all times—neither tours nor “Baile Funk” parties should be considered for these favelas, especially in the Centro do Brasil, Penha, Plaza Maua, Complexo Alemao, and Complexo da Mare areas of the city. Further to the north, avoid at all times the neighborhoods of Baixada Fluminense and Duque de Caxias. You should also avoid those favelas along the borders of the highways Linha Vermelha and Linha Amarela, as well as the favela Cidade de Deus and those favelas to the west of Barra da Tijuca, located in and around Jacarepagua.
In the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup Games and 2016 Olympics, both to be held in Rio, the state governor has initiated stronger security policies. The center of these new policies is a Favela Pacification Program (FPP), in which police enter favelas known to be dominated by criminal gangs, re-establish rule of law and allow for the introduction of municipal and social services. The program has effectively pushed gangs out of dozens of favelas around the city. However, in retaliation, small armed groups have begun blatant daylight robberies of motorists throughout Rio de Janeiro, including the South Zone. Heightened levels of retaliation by drug gangs are possible in the year preceding the World Cup.

UCEAP strongly discourages visits to favelas. If you must enter a favela, do so only with the permission and guidance of PUC officials and  formal social service programs. In the favelas, building codes are not strictly enforced, creating very dangerous situations.

Avoid Becoming a Victim of Crime

Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike, especially in the evenings and late at night. Foreign tourists are often targets of crime and Americans are not exempt. This targeting occurs in all tourist areas but is especially problematic in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife. Authorities blame most assaults on juvenile gangs.
A discussion on personal safety will take place during the on-site orientation. Tourists are particularly vulnerable to street thefts and robberies in areas adjacent to major tourist attractions and on the main beaches in the city. Violence and crime are most likely to occur in establishments and neighborhoods near favelas without a visible police presence.
Read carefully the following description of the current crime situation and follow suggested tips on personal security:
  • Random acts of robbery, theft, and assault are the number one security concern. Most victims of crime are not harmed if they surrender personal belongings and comply with instructions from armed criminals.
  • Distraction is a favorite method of pickpockets. Criminals may work in pairs or small groups, staging elaborate scenes designed to get your attention.
  • Caution is advised with regard to nighttime travel through more rural areas and satellite cities due to reported incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing vehicles.
  • Crime rates in Rio de Janeiro affect even the most upscale neighborhoods. Most incidents occur in the evening hours between 8 p.m. and midnight, and weapons are often used.
  • The U.S. consulate in Rio de Janeiro has received a number of reports of Americans being drugged, commonly with what is referred to as “goodnight Cinderella” drugs, in bars and nightclubs and subsequently robbed and/or assaulted.

Be Responsible for Your Personal Security:

  • Practice good safety precautions and avoid putting yourself in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation.
  • Many residents and visitors find that renting or purchasing cellular phones is very useful. Cellular phones are widely available, inexpensive and generally highly reliable—especially in the major cities.
  • Consider having a high-quality, loud whistle easily accessible that you can use in case of emergency. One of the safest forms of personal protection is a loud whistle.
  • You will put your safety at rsk if you enter crowded venues with digital cameras, cell phones, and wallets full of credit cards and cash. If you must carry expensive items, conceal them until you arrive at your destination.
  • Traveling in groups of three or more persons reduces your chance of being targeted. As risk increases substantially at night, do not walk alone. Stay alert to what is happening around you and be aware of your personal safety at all times.
  • Do not wear flashy watches, jewelry of real or apparent value, obviously expensive clothing, or carry large purses that will attract the attention of thieves. Carry as little of value as possible.
  • Do not leave belongings unattended.
  • Wear a flat money pouch that fits under your clothes to keep your money, credit card, etc. Backpacks are some of the easiest targets for pickpockets.
  • If you choose to carry a bag, also carry a small amount of money in your pocket or money pouch. This way, if your bag is stolen, you still will have some money to get home or make a phone call.
  • When in bars or clubs, never drink too much and do not leave your drinks out of sight. Boa Noite Cindarella (date rape) drugs can be slipped into your drink.
  • Be aware of the street environment and avoid contact with those who may be looking for crime targets. Seek a safer location. Go into a store or bank or simply cross the street.
  • Do not walk on the beach or in parks after dark. Assaults are common in these areas.
  • Take appropriate precautions to avoid dangerous situations and to ensure your safety. The general rule among cariocas (inhabitants of Rio) is that the closer to favelas, downtown, and the north part of town (Zona Norte), the greater the probability of assault.
  • Vary your routes and times, and make sure that your residence is sufficiently protected (doors should be substantial and equipped with deadbolts and a peephole).
  • Avoid high-risk areas and learn to look and act like a street-smart local (speaking in Portuguese will help reduce being labeled a tourist). Seek out and take the advice of Rio residents about areas and situations to avoid.
  • If you are confronted by robbers, give them what they ask for without resisting; do not pursue the thieves or respond aggressively. Resisting a robbery attempt increases chances of injury significantly. If approached by an assailant, surrender all valuables without hesitation and do not attempt to pursue the criminal. Tip: Carry, separate from your wallets, a small amount of cash (up to USD $30). Most assailants will quickly take the cash and jewelry (such as watches) and flee the scene.

Passport/Document Security

When in Rio de Janeiro, do not carry your passport with you; leave it at your Brazilian home in a safe place. Make a photocopy of the passport information page containing the passport number, name, photograph, location where issued, and expiration date. Also, make copies of important records, such as travelers check numbers and credit card numbers. Keep copies separate in a safe place. It is a good idea to leave copies of these documents at home in California. If you lose your passport, report this immediately to the local U.S. embassy or consulate.
When traveling to areas outside of Rio, you will need to carry your official passport. Carry it in a security pouch under your clothes. Passports are required for most bus travel and all airplane travel within Brazil.

Illegal Activity

Do not consider engaging in any illegal activity in Brazil. If you violate Brazilian law, you will be subject to the Brazilian legal system, which will not afford you the same protections as U.S. law. Being “an American” will not help. Breaking local laws and ordinances can be grounds for dismissal from the program (refer to UCEAP’s Student Conduct and Discipline Policy).
Individuals face severe penalties for the sale or possession of illegal drugs in Brazil. The possession or sale of illegal drugs in Brazil is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Judges may also impose fines at their discretion. Foreigners charged with crimes in Brazil are not permitted to leave the country until the case is resolved. Prison conditions in Brazil are harsh.

Public Transportation Safety Tips

Taxis are generally safe. To limit the possibility of encountering “pirate” cab drivers, use licensed, radio-dispatched taxis. They tend to be safer and more reliable than street-hailed cabs.
Rio de Janeiro has a metro system that extends as far as the Copacabana area, and construction is under way to extend the metro system into the Ipanema area (for more information, see The metro system is generally safe and well maintained. The trains operate Monday–Saturday from 6 a.m.–11 p.m.
The bus system that operates in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area is uneven in terms of safety and reliability. As in many Latin American countries, criminal activity plagues the public transportation systems in major Brazilian cities. UCEAP strongly discourages the use of bus transportation due to the high rate of petty thefts, muggings, and violent assaults.
There are buses that run from the Zona Sul area into the city center and to PUC (Gávea) that are generally safe during daylight hours; however, exercise caution as to which bus you take as some bus routes run through dangerous areas of the city.
Avoid buses at night and do not use the small vans—called kombis—that operate throughout the city. Brazil has an extensive intercity bus system for longer distance travel, and these buses are generally safe.

Key things to remember:

  • Choose your transportation wisely. Use legitimate taxis that can be called ahead of time. This is much safer than hailing a random cab on the street. If you choose to take public transportation, be aware of the route the bus will take. Avoid using buses due to the high rate of petty thefts, muggings, and violent assaults.
  • Be careful about public transportation at night. Take a taxi and not a bus at night. Late at night, consider taking a radio or call taxi especially when travelling to less secure or unfamiliar locations. Many people prefer calling a taxi company than picking one randomly in the street.
  • Stay alert at all times and tuned in to your surroundings (wearing headphones while walking or in public transportation can reduce your alertness level). Do not listen to your MP3 player while on a public bus.

Fire Safety

In Brazil, a lack of interest in fire safety appears to have contributed to the absence of well-marked evacuation routes, exit signs, emergency notifications, and regulatory enforcement. The significantly more dense areas have very different problems related to fire incidents, for example, emergency vehicle access to the fire. Maneuvering vehicles through cities to get to the fire-related incident can be a challenge, resulting in poor performance by the fire and rescue services. The fire code requires sprinkler systems to be installed in buildings but it does not require them to be in use.  Many buildings do not have smoke detectors, alarm systems, or evacuation procedures.
Educate yourself about fire safety. Buy a battery-operated smoke alarm before departure and take it with you. Know all your exits and have an escape plan. It is your responsibility to make your home fire safe!  Read the Fire Safety section in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.

Emergency Contacts

What is an Emergency?

An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
  • Any life/death situationsituation
  • A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
  • An arrest
  • Civil unrest or a natural disaster in the host country

In an Emergency

Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Operations Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office
After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone number at (805) 893-4762
If you are abroad
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times. If you have a health or safety emergency, contact the UCEAP Resident Program Director at 9301-8118. If you do not have access to local or Study Center emergency contact information, call the UCEAP 24-hour emergency phone number above.
Carry your insurance card with you and call the University of California emergency assistance provider, Europ Assistance, if you cannot reach the Resident Program Director. Europ Assistance managers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
Phone: call the the international collect operator from Brazil at 001-(240)-330-1520 and ask the operator to connect you with Europ Assistance at (202) 828-5896
U.S. Department of State Resources
UCEAP strongly encourages you to cooperate with Study Center safety measures and to register online with the U.S. Department of State before your departure from the U.S.
The Resident Program Director will receive safety information, which will be shared with you.
Rio de Janeiro Emergency Phone NumbersAmbulance: 192
Fire Department: 193
Federal Police: (21) 3213-1400
Civil Police: (21) 3399-7170
Tourist Police: 511-5112
Resident Program Director (24 hrs/day): (55 21) 9301-8118
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