Best Bargains in Brazil

Brazil bridge at the Amazon River

Brazil bridge at the Amazon River

One Reasonably Priced Consumer Good Found in Brazil

Let’s be honest – the overwhelming majority of things that might be considered “middle class” consumer goods in the USA or Europe are overpriced in Brazil. That goes for clothes, electronics, cars, you name it. It’s mostly because of taxes, import duties, etc. Brazilians know this and are starting to do something about it (the “spark” for the protests in Sao Paulo was about bus fares, for example) but generally the trend has just been for people to fly to Miami or Orlando to stock up.

Hint: If you are thinking of moving to Brazil you probably want to budget in a flight or two per year back home if only for shopping. I have yet to meet a gringo who doesn’t have some variation of this plan including asking friends for special items and whatnot to bring back. Many, many Brazilians are doing it too. When in Rome….

Rays of Hope

I have seen two “rays of hope” for consumers in Brazil

1.) one is that I believe some savvy travelers have worked out a parallel import (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_import) system for certain items from the USA and/or Europe. It is kind of hit-and-miss but if they have targeted a certain item (let’s say a certain sports supplement), you can get it for about 5% more than you might have paid in Europe or about 20% more than in the USA. More expensive yes, but not quite so difficult to stomach. How to check if they are working with an item: check on http://www.mercadolivre.com.br/ which is the Brazilian eBay (owned partly by the US eBay). It is not quite the same as the original eBay but it isn’t so difficult to figure out.

Hint: you can purchase things without a Brazilian bank account or credit card etc using the “boleto bancaria” option for checkout. You print the slip of paper with the payment details and take it to a bank and/or a “corner store” type place (they sell lottery tickets and whatnot) and pay cash. It is annoying/depressing to wait in line with lottery ticket buyers but it works!

Most of the parallel importers are based in Sao Paulo which brings us to point two

2.) Sao Paulo is the biggest and most developed consumer market in Brazil for basically everything including cars. If you are not located there and want basically anything, your best shot is to try to find an online retailer based in Sao Paulo. Or at least south of the Sao Paulo state border. Even if the product comes from up north, like coconut oil, chances are that someone from Sao Paulo or southern Brazil has gone to the trouble of setting up the distribution system online etc. If buying a car, it may be worth your time to take a trip there and save a few thousand dollars; I know of at least two people who have done this.

Anecdote: Once I was trying to buy a cheap Chinese knock-off laptop charger in Rio de Janeiro state. After being given two non-functional units (could have been unintentional, probably not), I finally found one that worked with an exorbitant sticker price. When I complained, the seller said something like, “Where do you think we are, Sao Paulo?” So I went online and ordered one from Sao Paulo!

The Supermoto Market of Brazil

Supermotos are a type of motorcycle whose design is a mixture of off-road and on-road. They’re mostly designed for urban environments where sidewalks or unpaved side roads might occasionally be the fastest route from point A to point B. In other words – Brazil! I see more and more of these types of bike all the time. Two interesting points:

  1. this market is not growing quite so fast in the USA although in the crowded cities of Europe (especially southern Europe) they are getting popular
  2. it looks like there is one conglomerate Chinese manufacturer with many subsidiaries that market essentially the same bike all over the world through various brand names and dealer contracts. There are some great enthusiast forums out there with some great information about this. (General conclusion: not super performance bikes but good value for money and for a “first bike” they are a good choice.)

In Brazil, one of these brand names is Traxx, which has a manufacturing facility in Manaus, which is a free trade zone of sorts.

Note: these bikes do not have such good brand recognition as Japanese producers (Honda seems to have a good reputation in Brazil, from observations of the local wildlife). That’s why Traxx has a super aggressive 2-yr guarantee on the bikes and a somewhat racist marketing campaign that probably wouldn’t work in an another country – you don’t have to understand Portuguese to pick up on the idea http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPCw6bWFELU

The Brazil Sweet Spot

So, my theory is that because of the relatively larger Brazilian supermoto market and Traxx’s aggressive marketing effort, the Brazilian price for the Fly 135 supermoto model is basically the same for an equivalent Chinese bike in the USA – about $3k USD. So I was able to make the purchase without all any internal “gripes”!

Other Brazilian Bargains

The other three reasonable bargains I’ve seen in Brazil are not exactly consumer goods:

  • meat, especially in an “all you can eat, pay per kilo” environment; it’s a paleo dieter’s dream come true
  • residence for foreigners
  • domestic, internal airline tickets (think: voeazul.com.br, the Brazilian version of JetBlue)

Readers from Brazil, would you add anything to the bargain list?

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