Fortaleza, Brazil – July 2000


I wanted to call this issue ‘My landlord is a ****’, but I thought that was a trifle too impolite, so I have decided to call it “My landlord is the dregs of humanity and as soon as I have finished writing this I am going to go and let his tires down”. Which I am sure you will all agree is a wonderfully snappy title.

Of course, you know by now that I am really a nice guy and wouldn’t hurt a fly (anyone who works at Schipol Airport is, however, a different matter) but this guy has really tried my patience. Consider this, I had just come back from a horrendous trip to Guyana. I was tired, smelly and just getting over a case of dysentery. All I wanted to do was lay in my hammock, stare at the sea and feel content that I wouldn’t have to go to Guyana again until at least September. But no, this was not to be! No sooner had I dragged myself into work, out of some sick masochistic feeling towards my colleagues (I thought maybe I was still infectious or had Ebola) then my landlord calls one of my students (not me I may add) and tells me I have 24 hours to get out my lovely beach front apartment. I mean, it wasn’t even as if I had been having regular (well, not that regular) all nighters!

Aside from all the hassle of moving, changing my phone line over and reinstalling my life-saving satellite TV, it means the end of my legendary Friday nights in Drago do Mar, drinking and dancing till the sun comes up and then staggering home. An end to being able to watch from my window the women on the beach. An end of my nightly stroll along the beach to buy a cashew nut icecream and an end to having the guards on my building shout, for some inexplicable reason, Benfica at me every night (at least its an improvement from Manchester United). It probably also means an end to my constant stream of friends visiting as my new apartment in the city seems to lack the selling points of a Baywatch setting.

So what did I do ? Obviously I went drinking. Leaving the house as the sun set on Thursday and finally staggering home on Sunday morning. Of course, I wasn’t out having fun all the time, most of it was serious research for BootsnAll. Honest!

Although its probably not of much interest to people who are coming here for a short holiday (you may skip to my closing witty anecdote if you wish) or just passing through, it is perhaps worth having a poke around the legislation and ins-and outs of renting an apartment here.

The first interesting thing is that there are many many more apartments than people want to rent, so if you are here for the duration finding a decent place is not too difficult. For somewhere really funky with a beach view and 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, which is about the norm, you can expect to pay between 500 – 600 R$ a month. If you move into town, which is a better place to live anyway as it’s closer to all the amenities you can have a much larger apartment for about 400 R$. My new apartment has a kitchen which is about as long as a cricket pitch. I am told it is 125 square meters which sounds large to me.

So far so good. But you must also consider the condominium charge. This is a fee paid to the building each month to pay for guards, lighting, security and so on. This can range from an average 120 R$ to a staggering 600 R$ a month. If you live in a new building with lots of people, expect to pay about 120 R$. This is a good investment as you get 24 hour security for this and someone who each morning greets you with a friendly smile and tells you the latest football scores.

The best way to arrange renting an apartment is through an agent. It can be done privately, but as the Brazilians have a warped and twisted view of what and what is not acceptable it’s probably better to get things done officially. The agents advertise each day in O Povo and some have even been known to speak a word or two of English.

After collecting the keys for the apartment you want to view, you have to make you own way there (don’t for a second be so bold as to expect more then the bare minimum help as the estate agent will invariably be glued to the latest soap opera or painting his nails – why do Brazilian men do that??) and have a poke around.

Once you finally settle on the place the amount of paperwork you actually need is rather minimilistic. You will need a copy of your CPF (like a social security #), a copy of your registration card, a copy of a wage slip and something official with your address on it. These all then have to be certified, which is one hell of a strange procedure. You take all your documents to a grotty office somewhere on the outskirts of town and have a clerk make a photocopy of them and stick a little hologram sticker on them. Quite what this achieves I am not sure.

The next step is the tricky one. You need to find a guarantor, risk paying three months rent up front as a deposit or take out a security bond. Finding a guarantor is a little difficult as most people either don’t own their houses or are loathe to get involved with a foreigner who could wake up tomorrow and decide to go home owing 6 months rent.

Paying the rent up front, in my opinion, is asking for trouble as although the Brazilians are generally an honest bunch, estate agents are estate agents the world over and it will be easier to get the average Brazilian to admit that Luxemburg is perhaps not the best footy manager in the world than get your deposit back. At least Japan legalizes this form of exploitation and everyone knows where they stand.

This leaves the final option of taking out a bond. The idea is through a company you can pay once each year 110% of one months rent as a bond. For example if your rent is 400 R$, each year you pay the company 440 R$ and they act as your guarantor. Of course, this seems like throwing money down the drain, but if you negotiate easy installments, like monthly if you should suddenly leave the loss is minimized.

This should be relatively easy, except if you go through Cretin and Sons as I have done. I have wasted more time in their tatty offices talking about football and drinking coffee in the last week trying to extract my documents. Believe me, it’s easier to get a Dutch man to buy you a drink than to get these people to rush anything – apparently, being homeless is marginally less important to them than it is to me! Ideally, this process can be completed in 3 days, but you should allow about a week.

Finally, if you have any friends left now and if you have any sanity remaining, all the papers are sent to Sao Paulo to be checked against the Federal Police computers (coming soon – my further adventures with the Feds). Theoretically, this will set you back 35R$ and takes three working days. You can count on about a week realistically. Then, after all this you can sign the contract and move in. That is of course if some bugger hasn’t pipped you to the post, bedded the secretary in the bond agency to get the papers quickly and is now having a wild housewarming party in your dream pad. Yes humble readers, I am a little cynical this month.

On a more positive note….I cut this from the Sunday Times the other day:

FLIGHT times to the golden beaches of unspoilt north-east Brazil will be cut from 15 to nine hours with the launch of an Airtours non-stop charter flight next summer. Previously, British tourists would have travelled via Rio or Lisbon on expensive scheduled flights to Salvador, the capital of Bahia which has one of the most spectacular coasts in South America.

Packages start at £599 per week departing from Gatwick on June 1, including B&B, flights and transfers, with accommodation in the beach resorts of Costa Sauípe, Praia do Forte and Lauro de Freitas. The price is equivalent to the current price of a scheduled flight alone. Brazil has long been tipped for a comeback following tourism setbacks in the mid-1980s, when economic decline led to a rise in crime. The government has since developed the infrastructure of the north-east to attract international tourists again.

Ed Sims of Airtours said: “Cancun and Acapulco have been our role models. Bahia has good hotels and trusted brands, such as Marriott, SuperClubs and Renaissance which open this autumn, are suitable to the charter market.”

  • Airtours: 0870-900 8639 in UK.

    Great news for tourists I guess, however I am not too sure how the paranoid tourist agency (“come to Salvador and die”) in Salvador will cope with the influx of beer-swilling Brits on package tours, they seemed to be perplexed enough when I turned up last year. But anything that opens up the North East to tourism, and generates badly needed capital is applauded. I shall be keeping an eye on this over the coming year.

    The interesting point is that opening up Salvador to such flights will make visiting the whole of the North and North East of Brazil a whole lot easier as Salvador has excellent flight and bus links to the rest of Brazil. I am sure the warm and friendly people of Bahia will rise to the challenge of structured tourism and with a little bit of luck the resort will take off.

    Philip’s True Story of the Month
    It’s amazing what you find out hanging around small dirt strip airports in the middle of the rainforest waiting for an air-taxi. I was told this story by several people recently and it has even appeared in the excellent magazine Veja – therefore, it must be true.

    The story is that sometime a year ago something strange crashed in Campinas (Southern Brazil). What ever it was had obviously been tracked by air traffic control as the area was immediately sealed off and a fleet of black helicopters was dispatched to the scene. The word on the street, and in high academic circles, is that not only was an alien space craft recovered, but that two bodies were removed from the wreckage and sent to the university of Campinas were immediate postmortems were performed.

    After hearing this story from so many eminent scientists, I called the medical science department of the university (using my professional title as a bluff) to ask them for a quote for a magazine article I was writing. “We deny it,” they told me as soon as I told them what I wanted. “In fact, we deny that there is even a university here.” – which means it must definitely be true.

    It is another “only in Brazil…” true story.

    Have a good month wherever you are in the world, especially if you happen to be a stranded visitor from outer space. I shall return next month with more sites and sounds of the city and another true story.

    Geography

    Located just under the equator, in a clearly tropical position, is the Cearense coast. The greenish-blue water is warm all year around. The average temperature ranges from 25 to 28°Celsius.

    Fortaleza is the capital of the North Eastern Brazilian state of Ceará. It is a large, modern city where bold, new architecture contrasts with beautiful beaches and tall coconut palms.

    Brazil Map

    Ceara State Map

    Weather

    Why ask? It’s going to be hot, between 27 – 33 degrees, blue skies and heaven is a local call.

    Accommodation

    Accommodation falls into three categories. Hotel, motel and pousada.

    Hotels range from the reasonably priced such as the Hotel Passeio (tel/fax 085 252 2104) which has doubles for about R$30 a night, to the mid priced Olympio Praia Hotel (about US$100 a night) which includes a massive breakfast (tel 085 244 9122) to the massive Ibis Hotel (silly price).

    Motels are a Brazilian institution and most rent by the hour. Mostly, or so I am told, they are clean and reasonably priced. If you are considering staying in one it might be a good move to check the room before handing over any cash.

    Most people stay in a pousada. These small, often family fun hotels generally offer excellent value for money, clean rooms and friendly service. There are about 65 officially registered pousadas in central Fortaleza. Unless you are arriving in the height of summer, finding a nice room shouldn’t be a problem.

    Health

    Generally Fortaleza is a healthy place – the odd hangover permitting. However, there is some concern about a recent outbreak of dengue fever. As always, plan ahead and ask your local doctor before travelling. Malaria is not an issue in this area. Up to the minute updates can be found at:

    www.cdc.gov

    And more specifically on dengue.

    Travel

    Fortaleza is three hours flight, or two days by bus from São Paulo the main gateway to Brazil. The flights are not cheap, but sometimes Varig has special deals.

    The best way to travel around Brazil is with an air pass, which must be bought outside the country.

    The Author
    The author, who by his very own low standards is a hell of a guy, can currently be found pounding the streets of Fortaleza after his landlord kindly evicted him for no apparent reason.

    He divides his life between a stunningly unfulfilling academic career, traveling and trying to convince people to give him money. He has recently returned from Guyana where he spent most of his trip on the toilet.

    His favorite flavor of ice-cream is cashew nut and he really does have no clue who Brittney Spears is. He writes regularly for this and other travel magazines.

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