Natal, Brazil – General Info

Geography

Natal is the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. It is, geographically speaking, the closest point of Brazil to Europe, Africa and America. The state is situated in the north eastern oriental region and has a long coast. To the north and east is the Atlantic Ocean, to the west is Ceara and to the south Paraibe. The state has an area of about 55,000 square kilometres.

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History

A good section on the history of the area can be found at:

www.brazilinfo.com

Climate

Hot, hot and hot. The climate is actually semi-equatorial and the average temperature throughout the year is 28°C. You can expect about 300 days of sunshine per year. The heat is tempered a little by the sea breeze. It tends to rain in June – August and then again in January – February. Check the weather here.

Where to Stay

For some reason Natal is known as the Cancun of Brazil and along the coast there are 13 world class hotel complete with swimming pools, private beaches and 5 star service. Most of these cost more for one night then I budget for a month, but if you simply have to impress someone or are travelling on company expenses, then you might like to check out:

One of many hotels

www.oceanpalace.com.br

www.piramidepalace.com.br

www.rifoles.com.br

www.manary.com.br

For the more budget minded of us there are a number of hotels in the centre, a few at the decidedly down-at-heel Praia das Artistas and a multitude of good places at Ponta Negra. As long as you aren’t arriving at peak time there is no real necessity to book and you should be able to get a decent place for about 35 R$ a night.

Where to Eat

The good news is that food is served in large and cheap portions. Along Ponta Negra there are many great places to eat prawns. The most famous being the aptly named Camaroes (219 2424), which continually gets rave reviews.

How to Get There

Buses run from Fortaleza, and most other cities in Brazil whilst all the main airlines have flights. Many travel companies sell packages which can work out extremely good value if you are travelling up from Rio or Sao Paulo. These are available from local travel agents and can also be found in the back pages of the popular Brazilian travel magazines.

How to Get Around

As most of the places are a little way away from the city centre and the buses can be a little difficult to fathom out it is perhaps best to rent a buggy or car. For those of you not familiar with driving in Brazil the following simple rules should be followed at all times:

1. Only use the horn (the Brazilian hand break) when it is imperative. Such times might include;

A: When moving forward.

B: When moving backwards.

C: When someone is in your way.

D: When someone is not in your way.

2. The horn should never be used to attract the attention of girls on the beach. In this case the correct etiquette is to drive as close as possible behind them and at the last possible moment scream ‘phawwwwwwww’ at them.

3. Never have less than 17 people in your buggy at one time.

Buggies can be rented from numerous beach front shops but you are on your own when it comes to insurance.

Some top tips from the locals

  • Never go out without sun cream – even if it is grey. You will get burnt. Buggy trips are notorious for leaving people looking like a lobster – wear a hat and good sun glasses.
  • Get up early. The sun rises early in Natal and as most of the places of interest are some distance away you will need to be on the road early.
  • Try to avoid staying at Praia dos Artistas because it’s not very trendy anymore.
  • Try to find out the times of the tides if you are exploring the deserted beaches. Brazilian air-sea rescue is getting quite fed up with rescuing stranded tourists.
  • Be aware that in most restaurants the main dishes are sufficient for two (fat) people. Ask for tira-gosta if you are travelling alone.
  • Keep an eye on the clock for lunchtime as for some bizarre reason the restaurants keep silly opening times.
  • Take care on the roads. Natal is packed with pot holed roads with dangerous curves and stray animals.
  • If you want to visit in the summer try to book a reservation in advance.

    About the Author

    The author has traveled to about 50 countries and lived in places as diverse as Brazil and Japan. When not travelling he can be found writing sarcastic letters to Air Portugal or with his head in a map whilst nursing a pint in his local Cambridge pub. Travelling or not, he can be contacted at: nihon_news@yahoo.com

    Read Philip’s story on Natal: Prohibition Town Blues

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