Subject: Re: Trip to Fortaleza, Brazil
Hello Vince - You are asking for info about the country where I have lived for the last 29 years!!!! Let's see if I can help.

Brasil is a fabulous country. Nature wise it is simply magnificent. It is also a country of extreme situations. The city of Sao Paulo is almost a New York, physically, culturally, etc. But then, there are areas of the country where people are extremely poor, with very little food and water, specially in the interior of the Northern and Northeastern Regions.

Fortaleza is the capital of the state of Cear, facing the Atlantic Ocean. There are marvelous beaches near the city, some of the sand dune areas are famous. There is a typical culture of the northeastern area of Brasil that is very interesting. Nowadays Fortaleza probably has about two million inhabitants.

They have very good hotels, restaurants and lately a lot of apartment buildings have gone up as flats - furnished apartments you rent by day, week or month.

Air Travel: The national airline Varig, is one of the world's best. Internationally it seems to go everywhere and their national flights go to most cities in the country. If your parents are leaving from New York, Varig has more then one daily flight to Rio de Janeiro and to Sao Paulo. I don't know whether there are any direct flights from the States to Fortaleza. Either from Rio or from So Paulo there are many connecting flights.

Political climate - The new president was elected by such a huge number of votes more than the other candidate, +60% , that everybody is very happy! So there are no problems there. Brasil has had a totally democratic system for many years. One can go anywhere whenever one pleases to do so. There is one problem, not political but crime wise. Some cities, like Rio and Sao Paulo, have a very high crime rate. This means that there are areas in these cities where it is better never to go. Fortaleza is supposed to be quite safe. I haven't been there for several years, but from what I hear, you can walk at night along the coastline in perfect tranquility. During Carnival, this year it was in early March, and in July when they have a special holiday, Fortaleza can get very crowded. But the police patrol the city more at those times, so there are seldom any problems. However, as in all large cities in this world, it is better always to be careful with cameras, handbags and jewelry.

Economic climate - It is perfect if you have dollars. Today the exchange is R$ 3.38 (reais) for US$ 1.00. When you divide by more than 3 almost everything comes to a very reasonable price, and some things are really cheap. In So Paulo, where I live, there are exchange bureaus in all good shopping centers.

If there will be someone waiting for your parents in Fortaleza, they should not have any problems in traveling by themselves. Almost all attendants in airports here speak English, and if their airplane ticket includes all the connections, they wouldn't have to leave the airport. Actually there would be at the most one connection, from Rio or Sao Paulo to Fortaleza and another on the way back.

I suppose these are the basics. If you need any more information, please let me know. I can find out quite rapidly if I don't have the answer myself.

Susana Ravecca-Figoli Sao Paulo, Brasil