Some general tips for your trip to Natal. Upon arrival you will instantly notice that even on an international airport there are just a few people who speak English. Therefore it is useful to learn a little bit about the Portuguese language. With some phrases or words you will already be in favor and this will be appreciated by the Brazilian. A small travel book does wonders.
Another important point is ofcourse the time difference, 5 hours earlier in the summer and 4 hours in the winter compared with Europe. So if you are thinking at the end of the day to call home from Brazil you have a big chance that in Europe everybody is already sleeping. Keep this in mind.
The currency in Brazil is the real. The rate is currently about 3,5 real for one euro. But this can sometimes change daily, so please always the rates. Upon arrival at the airport you can change if you have just past customs a few meters. Exchange not too much and go the next day just somewhere using a payment card or a bank card for withdrawals from cash machines, then you will get the best rate.
The rate can change from day by day. For the time being the rate is about 3,5 real for 1 euro. The banks are open from monday to friday from 10.00 to 16.00.
On the boulevard of Ponta Negra is the bank usually only open in the afternoon. You can also exchange cash. In Brazil you can easily withdraw money with your credit card. There is a daily maximum. Please enquire in advance at your bank how much that is and make sure that your pass is registered at your bank to do transactions outside Europe.
Keep also note that there are often breakdowns. In Praia and Natal Shopping and in Midway Mall there are ATM machines to find from Banco do Brasil and open until 10 in the evening.
The tap water is not potable in Brazil. There are everywhere in the supermarkets or other stores bottles of drinking water for sale, ranging from a bottle for R$ 1,00 up to 20 litre bottles. You can also buy chilled bottles in the supermarkets. A few ice cubes in your drink, however, is not a problem.
The voltage in Natal is 220 volts, there is another plug, so you have to use an adapter plug. The easiest way is to bring a power strip with you so you can connect multiple devices with one adapter plug.
You can buy at the "bancas", newsagents or small supermarkets a phonecard and use it in all blue phones that you see everywhere on the streets. You can also use whatsapp at wifi-points.
There are a number of internet cafés in Natal where you can access Internet very cheap. Most of them are located in the shopping areas.
If you are with a group it might be easy to buy prepaid cards, so you can just use your mobile phone. If you want to call from Brazil to Europe you must first enter your country code and then the local phone number. The number for Brazil is + 55 and the local area code is 84. You can however just leave it out if you have a European number and want to call in Natal to a local number.
The post office, ‘Correios’ in Portuguese is located within the shopping centre Praia Shopping. Here you can also buy stamps. Try to find out in advance what you want to ask and how to pronounce it in Portuguese, otherwise it can sometimes be quite difficult to explain what you want. The opening hours are from 08:00 to 17:00, on Saturday from 08:30 to 12:00 and closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Taxis are cheap and safe in Natal, for example, a short drive from Ponta Negra to Natal Shopping (about 10 km) costs 10 R$. Prices are rising slightly in the evening and also in the high season (July, Dec, Jan and Feb). You can often negotiate a bit about the price in advance, especially if you have to go to multiple places.
By bus you can get anywhere. The local bus certainly has its charm, but is hardly comfortable for longer distances. The bus station in Natal is called ‘Rodoviaria’ and is located in the Centre of the city. From here you can travel to almost all destinations in Brazil. Especially on popular routes this is a superclass bus (VIP) with airconditioning. These buses drive mostly at night and offer good service. Bus tickets are out there for sale.
As the salary is very low in Brazil, tips are always welcome. To baggage personnel or room girls you can give a tip of about 2 or 3 R$. When you are satisfied with your guide or driver you can give him about 5-10 R$ a person after a day tour. The driver who brings you to the airport or hotel and that carries your bags for you; you can give about 2 or 3 R$ a person. In the middle and higher class restaurants it is customary to leave a tip of 5-10 percent of the price.