Shopping for Expats in Brazil

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: July 2014

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population and geographical area. It has an abundance of traditional specialities and well known goods, here you can find some of the best agricultural products such as Brazilian coffee and tropical fruits.

Brazil is behind its neighbouring countries in South America, such as Colombia and Peru, in terms of big brand shopping. However, there is always something special that can attract you to spend in Brazil. Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world and provides one third of the world’s coffee consumed each year. Another example is its large variety of precious stones such as amethyst, opal and topaz. More than half of the world's coloured gem stones are produced in Brazil.

Most of these goods can be found in the markets or on street stalls. If you have some knowledge about the products you are buying, such as precious stones, you can get a very good price for them. If you are not confident about buying expensive items in the markets then buying in larger shops would be more suitable for you. If you prefer one-stop shopping, you can visit a shopping centre. A list of shopping centres in Brazil can be found here:

For day to day shopping, it may be difficult to find a modern supermarket with a large variety of goods and services. Instead there are many markets in different cities and there you can find an abundance of fresh produce. Just like its neighbouring countries, Brazil has an astonishing range of fruits and vegetables, including some you may never have seen before.

Haggling is acceptable in Brazil, especially on street stalls or when buying something from the beach vendors. This is a great way to get a bargain and an unexpected discount.

In Brazil, you may find the return policy is different from the policy in your home country. Some large stores may offer a cooling off period or easily accept the return of goods in a resalable condition. However, you should check the return policy before you make a purchase. Many tourists have shared their experiences that in Brazil, there are no return policies. If you are unable to return goods for a cash refund you may be able to swap them for different items in store.

Online shopping

Online shopping is not very popular in Brazil. You can buy what you want online from all over the world from websites such as from Amazon and ebay but you need to be aware that this is a form of importation. Therefore, this may trigger custom duties and VAT. The VAT known as ICMS is levied on the circulation of goods (both imported and domestic), interstate and inter-municipal transportation, electric energy and communications. Such activities are taxable even if the transactions or services originated abroad. Rates vary from 7% to 25% depending on the state and the kind of goods. 

Furthermore, some items may not be allowed to enter Brazil, before making any purchases check carefully here to see what items are banned:  

Shopping hours  

The shopping hours differ between regions. Typical business hours in a day are 8am to 6pm. However, some shops open at 10am in the morning. Shops on the street may open according to the typical hours, while those in shopping centres can open between 10am and 10pm.

Many shops close on Sundays but some larger stores open with shorter hours between 2pm and 8pm.  For more information about business hours in Brazil, you can check here: