Some countries in South America lend themselves kindly to backpacking, such as Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and maybe Colombia. Yet Brazil seems just too large to ever consider backpacking fully! How do you do it? How do you even begin planning it?!
From whichever part of the world you are coming from, you will probably enter Brazil by air (unless it’s overland from a neighbouring country!). Entry points would be in the capital, Brasilia, or more likely Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro. In my experience, immigration can be a pain at Brazilian airports, so you had better double check that paperwork before you land!
With Brazil being such a large country, the climate often differs from region to region, with the north experiencing some cooler Atlantic coastal winds, whereas the south has a permanent tropical climate. The state of Amazonas, with its famous rainforest and river, is hot and steamy throughout the year. It is also a good idea to research when special festivities are occurring in Brazil, such as the Rio carnivals. New Year’s Eve is also very special on the beaches of Rio, as the famous Copacabana Beach gets used by tens of thousands of drunken revellers!
Travelling around Brazil is not easy, either. True backpackers would prefer to journey overland with bus and train travel as options. But in Brazil, it is often necessary to fly from A to B, even on such popular tourist trails as from beachfront Rio de Janeiro to the Iguassu Falls on the border with Argentina. While domestic travel within Brazil (excluding to and from the Amazon) is not as expensive as in Australia, the United States, or in Europe, it is nevertheless a big step up financially from other parts of South America (in particular Peru and Bolivia) and especially in South East Asia. This financial perspective alone will surely put off many backpackers from even trying to travel around Brazil.
You probably won’t be taking many trains in Brazil, as although there is an extensive rail network, most of it is for cargo only, and even where there are passenger trains they’re almost invariably slower and less convenient than the buses. The bus system in Brazil is excellent (despite a lack of queuing etiquette that makes the Chinese look orderly) and makes travelling around the country easy, comfortable, and fairly economical, despite the distances involved.
Buses are operated by hundreds of private companies, but prices are reasonable: Rio to São Paulo is around R$80, whereas Rio to the Iguassu Falls costs R$200. Long-distance buses are comfortable enough to sleep in, and have on-board toilets (which can get smelly on long journeys). Buses stop every two or three hours but it is not a bad idea to bring along water and some food of your own.
There are luxury buses called “leitos”, which do overnight runs between the major cities, which are worth taking once for the experience, with fully reclining seats and an attendant plying insomniacs with coffee and conversation. They cost about a third of the price of an air ticket, though twice as much as a normal long-distance bus. “Leitos” also need to be booked a few days in advance. No matter what kind of bus, it’s a good idea to have a light sweater or blanket during night journeys, as the air conditioning is often uncomfortably cold.
If you are interested in backpacking Brazil, and have understood the logistics of doing so, then you may be asking about the major sights in the country, and what would be worth checking out. As if to prove my point about everything being so spaced out, you have the glorious beaches of Fernando de Noronha in the far north, the Amazon in the west, Rio in the east, and of course the aforementioned Iguassu Falls in the south. I found that travel prices to the Amazon are scarily high, as a flight from Sao Paolo or Rio to Manaus is often comparable to an international departure to Florida! Because of this, it may be better off exploring the Amazon from the Peruvian side, but then it asks the question once again: is it worth coming to Brazil at all if you can do most things in other, smaller countries?!