Brazil has an international telephone code of 55 and two-digit area codes, and telephone numbers are eight or nine digits long. Some regions used seven digits until 2006, which means you can still find old phone numbers that don’t work unless you add another digit. (Most of the time, try adding a 2 or 3 at the beginning, or if it is an eight-digit number that starts with 6 to 9, try adding a 9 at the beginning.)
Eight-digit numbers beginning with the digits 2 to 5 are landline phones, while eight- or nine-digit numbers beginning with the digits 6 to 9 are mobile phones.
All cities use the following emergency numbers:
- 190 – Police
- 192 – SAMU (Mobile emergency service)
- 193 – Firefighters
However, if you call 911 while in Brazil, you will be directed to the police.
To dial to another area code or country, you must select a network operator with a two-digit network operator code. The operators available depend on the area you are calling from and the area you are calling to. Operator 21 (Embratel) is available in all areas.
The international number format for calls to Brazil from other countries is +55-(area code)-(telephone number).
- To dial another area code: 0-(operator code)-(area code)-(telephone number)
- To call another country: 00-(operator code)-(country code)-(area code)-(telephone number)
- Collect local call: 90-90-(phone number)
- Collect call to another area code: 90-(operator code)-(area code)-(call number)
- International collect call: 000111 or via Embratel on 0800-703-2111
Public payphones use single-use prepaid cards with 20, 40, 60 or 75 credits. The discount for purchasing cards with larger denominations is marginal. Phone boxes can be found almost everywhere, and all cards can be used in all booths, regardless of who owns the phone company. The cards can be bought in many small shops, and almost all news agencies sell them. Farmácia Pague Menos sells them at the official (telephone company) price, which is slightly cheaper. Calls to mobile phones (even local ones) use up your credit very quickly (almost as expensive as international calls). Calls to the US cost about one real per minute. All international and Brazilian phone codes can be found on the DDI and DDD phone codes.
With the mobile phone
When travelling in Brazil, although it may seem preferable to take your mobile phone with you, don’t overlook the benefits of phone cards for calling your loved ones. Buy a Brazilian phone card when you plan your trip. Brazil phone cards [www]
Brazil has four national mobile operators: Vivo (Telefónica Group), Claro (Telmex/América Móvil Group), OI and TIM (Telecom Italia Group), all of which operate GSM, HSDPA/HSPA+ and LTE networks. There are also smaller operators, such as Nextel (NII/Sprint Group) (with iDEN Push-To-Talk and HSPA+), CTBC-ALGAR (GSM and HSDPA in the Triangulo Mineiro region (Minas Gerais)) and Sercomtel (GSM and HSDPA in Paraná)
Prepaid SIM cards for GSM phones are widely available in places such as kiosks, pharmacies, supermarkets, retail shops, etc. Vivo uses 850/1800/1900 MHz frequencies, while other operators use 900/1800 MHz (and in some specific cases 1900Mhz). 3G/HSDPA coverage is available mainly in the major cities of the south-eastern states and in the capital cities. Some states use 850MHz, while others use 2100MHz for 3G/HSDPA. For LTE, all states and operators use the European frequency 2600Mhz (B7) (700Mhz B28 is currently being tested).
If you prefer, you can use international roaming with any operator (subject to roaming agreements). In this case, if you want to call Brazil, you must call the number directly, as shown above, or use the standard method, such as +<country code><region code><number>, to call abroad.
All major operators (Vivo, Claro, TIM and Oi) can send and receive text messages (SMS) and phone calls to/from abroad. Some operators (such as Vivo, Claro and TIM) can send and receive international SMS.
Internet cafes (lan houses) are becoming more and more common, and even in small towns there is often at least one place with more or less decent connections.
More and more hotels, airports and shopping centres are also offering hotspots where you can use Wi-Fi with your laptop or smartphone.
The Brazilian Correio [www] is fairly reliable and post offices are everywhere. Be aware, however, that if you ask how much it costs to send a letter, postcard or parcel, you will automatically be told the ‘priority’ price (prioritário) instead of the normal price (econômico). You may think it’s quicker with priority, but that’s not always true; sometimes the delay is as long as with the normal rate, so make sure you ask for the “Econômico” price for everything you want to send.