Guide to Punting in Brazil
Brazil is a major punting destination for some people. Prostitution is legal (there are no laws against adult prostitution) although it is illegal to operate a brothel or to employ prostitutes in any other way. There is a big range of punting options available, from very cheap ("trash" places) costing only a few pounds to high-flyer, which can easily set you back several hundred pounds. As Brazil combines many different ethnicities, the range of girls is also impressive. The main cities are Rio de Janeiro (a major holiday destination in its own right) and Sao Paulo. There is also well-established prostitution venues in most other major cities of the country.
- The national language is Portuguese. Little English is spoken outside of the main tourist areas such as Rio's Copacabana.
- A direct flight from London to Rio takes about 11 hours. Although British Airways fly these regularly, cheaper flights are usually available that involve a connection in Spain, Portugal, France or the United States.
- Costs of everything, including top-level punting, have increased dramatically in recent years. Brazil is no longer a "bargain holiday" destination. Accommodation can be particularly expensive, also doubling in price during Carnaval or New Year. For stays of several weeks, the best option is usually a rented apartment. This gives you your own front door key and in almost 100% of cases complete freedom to take whoever you want back to your apartment. Apartments generally have high levels of security, located in high-rise flats and usually with concierge and gated entry.
- Recreational drugs are commonly available and used by locals but foreigners are advised to beware: police will be less lenient towards foreigners. You should also check the I.D. of any prostitute that is not very obviously over 18. Penalties are severe. If you stick to the main venues however you are unlikely to come across underage prostitutes, in spite of the media frenzy.
- Brazil's main cities are not third-world style resorts. Rio and Sao Paulo are populated with skyscrapers, a highly developed transport system (even with many shortcomings), and first-world business systems. Sao Paulo has more private helicopters than any city in the world outside of Japan. Highways have enormous multi-lane high-speed traffic – but also infamous gridlocks, especially in bad weather.
- In spite of a high level of development, things often go wrong. Particular care is needed with credit cards, and especially in Rio de Janeiro where the airport is famous for hijacked ATMs (that will clone your card). It is wise to change money at established venues, and to take care when using ATMs in town, keeping your money concealed and travelling straight back to your hotel or apartment after making a withdrawal. ATMs with security cameras or security personnel are the easiest way to withdraw safely. Note that not all credit or debit cards will work in Brazil, as not all banking systems are linked internationally to UK banking systems. You may have to try several. Sometimes there will be a limit on how much you can withdraw, or the ATMs are only open at certain hours, or the one you happen to pick might not be working (for instance if it is empty). The best places to change money are Currency Exchanges. Trying to change money at a bank can involve long delays and probably poor rates.
- One needs to be familiar with personal security at all times. Most visitors will never experience any trouble, but daylight street robberies are not so uncommon. The Brazilian way is to only carry the money you need that day, and to keep it in several different places on your person so you don't display how much you are carrying when paying for something. Most robberies in the main cities are violence free (it is not worth resisting as the robber may be armed with a knife or a gun and not hesitate to use it.) There is tourist police if you have problems, but once you get into a Brazilian way of thinking, taking normal precautions, you can relax without worrying.
- Brazilians generally are exceedingly polite and go out of their way to avoid confrontation. (Note that Brazilian politeness and Brazilian politeness are not necessarily the same!) Before accusing anyone, always ask "if there has not been some mistake." The very touristy areas, as in any country, have their sharks, but generally if you feel you have been wrongly charged it will be a mistake (whether on their part or on your part). It is also advisable to learn a few words of Portuguese. Conversations start with a good morning or good afternoon and asking, how are you? (Tudo bem? literally, everything good?). This is good practice, even in shops. Failure to observe this common courtesy marks you down in their eyes.
- Sense of time. Planes depart on time. Not much else does. Arriving at a party at the stated time, for instance, is considered uncouth and the host might be shocked. Traffic delays can also mean times are not adhered to (for instance, an escort sent to your apartment might be unavoidably delayed).
There are three main levels of punting, not including escort agencies, clip-joints and streetwalkers.
- Termas. These are the top level. They are similar to a luxury spa, with added punting facilities (though not to be confused with German FKKs). Mostly you will pay an entrance fee, get changed and leave your belongings in a locker, then take as long as you like to relax in the bars, saunas, restaurant and sometimes see a show while checking out the ladies that are available. With food and drink you can generally pay-as-you-go or run up a tab (to reassure yourself against mistakes that might sometimes happen, some people feel that paying cash can simplify things). When you choose a girl, you will often have the option of different levels of en-suite facilities and agree how many hours to engage her at the set rates.
- Private apartments, Casas de Massagem. These offer best value at a reasonable price. In Rio de Janeiro they are mostly located in high-rise blocks near the city centre. They may be next to normal residential apartments or businesses so it is very good manners to be quiet and discrete. The receptionist will explain the prices and introduce the girls. There is no pressure to take anyone - just say "maybe another time" if there is no-one you fancy. Facilities are usually spotlessly clean and service quite good. Even at today's prices they will generally be less than half what you would pay for a similar service in the UK. They are advertised in the local papers or check ISG for latest listings (they change quite often). Prices are not normally negotiable.
- 'Trash' places (so-called). These can be exceedingly good fun and cost next to nothing. They cater to short time punts, between ten and twenty minutes. Unlike the more expensive places, not all the girls in trash venues will be beautiful, yet you can find gems that are equal in looks to the top places if you search hard. Most are situated centrally, with a stair that has knock-shops leading off on each floor. There is never any pressure, but the scantily-clad women on the stairs may try to entice you by fondling your ass or balls as you explore the options on each level. The cabins where the action will take place after you choose are often not the best (some are, but most have very basic worn mattress and a sheet). The women however are usually very clean and shower properly between every customer. (Brazilians are almost obsessive about hygiene and washing.) The most famous trash venue was Vila Mimosa, an escort run village to the West of Rio's central district, with dozens upon dozens of bars with escorts, cheap beer and loud music. Brazilians, especially Cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro) love to party, and if the girls aren't with a customer many of them might be shaking their dancing asses off or doing their best to flirt seductively. (Note that women in Brazil, including prostitutes, have equal standing to men and sexism is openly prohibited: Brazilian men are dominant by their game.) Vila Mimosa got so much publicity that instead of being a locals-only place it is almost a tourist attraction and prices have rocketed, often charging as much for 15 minutes as you would pay for an hour in a very civilised downtown casa. It is worth trying to negotiate in most cases. Mimosa, in spite of its run-down appearance, is generally safe and it has private security (in other words, it is unwise to step out of line). In Sao Paulo, at least one main walk-up ('trash place') is in a central area next to Luz station. The area is known as 'Crackolandia' due the number of drug addicts and special care should be taken at all times. In Rio, all the main walk-ups are either in Centro or North Centro and generally considered safe. Belo Horizonte, a city further north, has a street not far from the bus station where many large, old hotels (with private security) have been converted into multi-storey trash venues.
- also consider:
- Streetwalkers. These are not that common in Rio or Sao Paulo. It can be hard to ensure you are not talking to a tranny if approached on Avenida Atlantica (Rio's Copacabana district) or on the edge of Lapa (Rio's historic and regular nightlife district). In the evening, girls may sometimes be found wandering between pick-up venues in Copacabana. Always negotiate on price. Bear in mind that Copacabana is also a residential area and most women are not prostitutes!
- Agencies. Standards vary, but some will have at least a receptionist that speaks enough English to help you book a girl. Prices will generally be a bit above those of the private apartments.
- Independents. Advertised in the local newspapers they can offer excellent value, but are as varied as anywhere else and, unless you can speak fast, fluent Portuguese on the phone, you may find yourself unable to converse. If your doorman seems liberal, you could maybe ask him to phone for you (as with anything, he will charge a small tip, whether openly or as an agreed kickback with the girl, or both).
- Part-timers. If you get to know a girl at a casa or a terma or even a trash venue, it is often quite possible to arrange to meet her outside at a reduced fee or overnight booking. Except at trash venues, this is almost always heavily frowned on by the establishments, so don't be too open about it. If you get on well with a prossie, irrespective of where you met her, she may like to hang out with you for a few days for considerations. This can save money, but she may get quite possessive, wanting to protect her 'investment.'
- Strip shows. Mostly in Copacabana. They can be entertaining if you are careful not to run up a bill but there is no guarantee of quality if you take one of the strippers back for the night, and she will generally charge more based on the venue where you met her. Negotiate on price before leaving the venue.
- Civvies. Brazilians aren't more promiscuous than any other nation (and contrary to the occasional report, are not 'open minded' about a person being a prostitute or visiting a prostitute). You may think you have found a very beautiful escort who can pass as a civvie: however, don't fool yourself: it will be blindingly obvious to a Brazilian that she is a prostitute. Don't go wearing your hobby on your lapel in polite company! Neither are civvie women likely to fall into the arms of a foreigner who is older and doesn't even speak Portuguese and is clearly on holiday looking for a quick fuck. If you are staying longer, you have more opportunities though if you a) learn some Portuguese language and manners and/or b) learn to dance. Bear in mind their are plenty of wealthy, athletic-looking young Portuguese men available, so don't expect an easy lay.
- Beach. Hook-ups can sometimes be made on Copacabana beach but it is also a favourite place for prostitutes to take advantage of gullible tourists. If you meet someone on the beach, maybe take her for a coffee to negotiate a price. Robberies on the beach are not uncommon and it's best only to take what you need. Topless bathing, surprisingly, is generally frowned on and even men should put a shirt on when going back onto the street. The deckchair/beer stall will usually look after your belongings if you go for a swim. Avoid the beach at night.
Rio de Janeiro is the main tourist destination. It can be confusing to a first timer, but not nearly as much as Sao Paulo. It has numerous beautiful beaches and tourist sights, fabulous hotels, mostly good weather, and many beautiful women. It is at heart very much a party city and the beach is the 'summum bonum' of existence.
Sao Paulo is the business centre of Brazil and also one of the biggest cities in the world, which makes navigation an immediate priority. Prices for punting are generally cheaper and better value than in Rio, but more travelling may be involved as they are rather spread out. (Count on a couple of subway rides and then a walk or a taxi for the last bit). Public transport is excellent (though the bus system complicated). There are no beaches and no obvious tourist attractions to compare to Rio, but it has some of the best restaurants in the world (if you can afford them) and a vibrant art scene. For regular nightlife there is no shortage of either hectic or sophisticated options. Paulistanos tend to be sophisticated and well-educated.