There I was, standing face-to-face with the smallest yet most expensive air conditioner I had ever seen in my life, all the while thinking “does this blow golden air or something?”.
And as my eyes were locked onto that 300% too high price tag out of sheer surprise, a sales assistant approached me and asked “Oi, tudo bem? Posso te ajudar?” (Hey, how’s it going? Can I help you).
Me: “uh…yeah…is that air conditioner so expensive because it’s imported?”
Sales assistant: “nope, it’s made in the tax free zone in Manaus!”
Me: (surprised) “then why does it cost so much?”
Sales assistant: “well…there are a lot of other taxes…”
Me: (thinking to myself) “If I would have known this, I would have purchased one back home for R$200 instead of R$749…”
Bottom line: I could have easily and legally avoided this inflated price tag if I knew what I’m about to tell you…
Brazil: the Land of Milk and Honey but Not Cheap Material Items
Before I dive more into the details of what you should bring, let me reveal to you the truth about material items in Brazil.
Yes, many things are much cheaper then abroad but material things we are used to from back home are very limited and expensive to get ahold of in Brazil.
This doesn’t make the country any less livable as we all know that “things won’t make you happy”, though some of these things can facilitate and make our lives easier (like an air conditioner per se…).
Import Tax + high local taxes + low demand = exorbitant prices
Let’s say you would like to purchase a nice Kyocera Ceramic knife.
When you purchase this nice knife in the USA, you normally pay 0% in import taxes. Join that together with lower local taxes then Brazil, high demand and competitiveness and you get a recipe for a very cheap price.
On the Brazilian side, you first have low demand, 60% import tax, numerous federal and local taxes and usually a higher markup, which make this same knife double the price (triple if purchased locally).
The above is actually on the cheap side of examples I could show you – it’s not uncommon to pay 3 times the price of back home for a pair of Nike shoes (but you can pay in 12 payments!)…
Now that you have a rough idea of how pricing works, let me give you 3 tips that you must know when moving to Brazil.
1: What You Should Bring when Moving Short Term
When looking at moving to Brazil short term, your priorities will usually be a lot different then someone coming long term.
You will most likely be trying to max out your luggage space vs. paying for a transport container.
Chances are that you will get a furnished apartment or house and can live without some of your luxuries (or necessities) from back home for a while.
But what are some things that you know you will miss or won’t be able to get in Brazil?
Here is a general list to help out:
- Everyday electronics such as laptops, cameras, phones, speakers etc.
- Small household electronics such as blow driers, electric toothbrushes, blenders.
- A stockpile of good cosmetics, hair care products, sun block: especially allergy-free, perfume free stuff!
- Any good kitchenware you can fit (good frying pan and knifes)
- Enough clothes and footwear to last.
- Any specialty items you get back home.
- Contact lenses and solution.
- Children’s toys, videogames and clothes.
- Spices you can’t live without (taco seasoning etc).
- Any medicine or good multivitamins.
- A good universal screwdriver, flashlight etc.
Some of the stuff above including blenders and the like can be had at an ok price but it’s really tough to find anything of quality, so I recommend bringing what you can.
If you are coming on some type of temporary visa such as a volunteer visa or student visa, then you shouldn’t have an issue bringing this stuff into the country in regards to customs.
Though if you bring a container or a bunch of new, unboxed items, you could risk paying a lot of tax…
If you are arriving on a tourist visa, then don’t worry (I’ve tried this before a couple of times without problem) and just make sure to explain how you can’t avoid these things day-to-day during your trip.
2: What you Should Bring when Moving Long Term
If you are coming long term then that means you have some type of permanent visa lined up. This could be in the form of having Brazilian family, a business visa, investor visa, retiree visa or the like.
In the case of a permanent residence visa (or Brazilian who has lived abroad longer then 5 years and returning), you are allowed to bring whatever you want, tax-free into Brazil!
Here is my advice: arrange to get a container shipped to Brazil (go through your embassy first to make sure that you are able to) and fill it to the brim.
I will go over the procedures on how to find a company, get approval from the embassy and get it into the country later.
Though as a rule of thumb, you can expect to pay around $4-5,000USD for a full container (you can pay for half or quarter containers with some companies).
You only have one shot at getting all of your stuff for free into Brazil, so make it count!
Elaborating on “everything”, here is what you should consider bringing:
- Furniture (Go to IKEA and splurge if you need to get more)
- A good vacuum cleaner (make sure you can get the bags in Brazil!)
- Kitchen appliances, kitchenware, dishes – everything. (buy any new appliances you could picture yourself in the future.)
- Tools, everything tool-wise you would use.
- Washer and dryer (double check on the internet to see if it’s sold in Brazil, otherwise it could be a pain to repair in the future).
- Refrigerator (again, double check to see if you can get it in Brazil).
- Ceramic stove top (double check to see if it’s available in Brazil)
- Air conditioner (a good one, maybe a central unit!)
- All electronics such as TVs, speaker systems, printers, computers, wireless routers, video games, projectors etc.
- Clothing, shoes, rain clothes, rain boots, umbrellas (this stuff is expensive and bad quality in Brazil).
- Anything children related: backpacks, clothing, books, toys, especially baby stuff or maternity items! (think into the near future as well).
- Any lighting (all lighting) or ceiling fans.
- Bathroom kits (rugs, towel hangers etc)
- If you are building or remodeling, then anything related to that (think: vanities, sinks, etc).
- Tools of your trade, whatever they may be.
- Any rugs.
- Bedding (including beds/mattresses)
- Special decorations.
- Any food, wine you won’t get back home.
- Anything of quality that you would want to hold onto.
- TV mounts or the like
- Recreational gear (wetsuits, surfboards, hiking, camping, biking, running etc)
- Anything hobby related
- Car accessories (though not the car).
- Electrical accessories such as: extension chords, power strips (surge protector kind).
- Pens and other drawing related stuff.
- Office equipment
- Massage chairs or other specialty furniture.
- Any preventative parts for repairs (extra belt for your washing machine etc)
- Lawn care equipment, gas lawnmower, gas weed trimmer, tiller etc.
Note: if you are purchasing anything brand new, take it out of the packaging, mix a little water and dirt together and make it look a little used (just so you don’t raise any eyebrows and give anyone reason to tax you).
There is obviously a lot more you could bring then above and much more specific items, but it should serve as a good outline to figure out what it is you are thinking of bringing.
Maybe you can’t afford a container and are considering purchasing any of the above in Brazil? Just remember to either double or triple the price you would pay for the above at home and see if it ends up being worth it to send a container anyway.
It may end up being worth it either way as you can sell some of the stuff at a premium.
3: What You Should Know about Electronics + Warrantees
You may be thinking “what if my electronic goes caput when I’m in Brazil?!”
In that case you have two options:
A. Some Electronics offer Worldwide Warrantees
My wife purchased a brand new Macbook from Apple from the clearance store in the USA.
She paid about $600USD for it compared to almost triple the price in Brazil.
Well the mouse pad had clicking issues and we needed to get it checked at the apple store in Florianópolis…
We walked in and explained that we purchased it in the USA and it was having XYZ issues. The Apple proclaimed “Genius” then told us that Apple offers a worldwide guarantee, meaning that it would be covered within Brazil.
All this despite the fact that the parts for the repair cost Apple about double to replace!
So read up on the warrantee information of electronics you are purchasing to see if they offer coverage in Brazil – I know that several companies that make cameras, mobile phones etc offer built in worldwide warrantees or offer extended coverage.
B. Paying to have your electronics repaired in Brazil
When purchasing things like dishwashers, washer and driers and other appliances, you have to consider the option of having them repaired in Brazil incase something goes wrong.
This is especially pertinent if you live in a coastal area as the salt corrodes electronics fast! (unless you have a good closed and controlled climate inside).
Whatever big electronics you are bringing, make sure and see if they are readily available in Brazil.
Be warned that the huge appliances sold in the USA will need parts from the USA (expensive to import).
If you are determined to bring something despite of it’s size or availability in Brazil, just have a plan ready when it’s time to get it repaired.
Most washers and driers can be repaired by most places in Brazil, it’s getting ahold of replacement parts that can be tricky.
You will want to plan on the following:
- Bringing it in to find out what is wrong with it.
- Checking to see if the part is available in Brazil.
- Having to get the part from abroad.
- Paying 60% import tax on the part.
- Waiting several weeks/a couple months to have it repaired as you wait for the part to clear customs.
Having your own common replacement parts stockpiled that can be quickly replaced, such as:
- Washing machine belts.
- Oven/fridge bulbs.
- Blender gaskets.
- Vacuum cleaner parts.
This ended up being a pretty long post but I wanted to make sure that you were prepared as best as possible for your move to Brazil, with as little headache possible.
Is there anything you think I should have added on this list? Please comment below.
Thanks for stopping by and best wishes!
Valeu – Cheers,