Posts Tagged ‘Resources’

Living in Brazil

by admin

Rio de Janeiro

Being host to the fast approaching 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics has opened Brazil’s gems up to the world. From its booming economy, to its diverse landscape of rainforests and picturesque beaches, to its beautiful and welcoming people, Brazil is coming to the forefront as the destination everyone wants to relocate to. Before you dive in, you are going to need to learn the intricacies of the country and how to navigate the culture:

1. Learn Portuguese
Like many of us, your plan to live in Brazil is a few months away and you do not know what ‘bom dia’ means. Even though English might be prevalent in the larger cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, it will be beneficial to you to know how to speak the local language if you want to make lasting relationships.
Many people are overwhelmed with all of the Portuguese language resources available online. Focusing on the right technique and program will allow you to hold your own in a conversation within a few months. You will be a step ahead if you already know some Spanish, as many of the words are similar (with slighty different pronunciations). The following resources will show you how to ‘hack’ your language learning and internalize the most Portuguese in the least amount of time:

  • – Comprehensive reviews and strategies for learning Portuguese. Everything you need to get started on your Portuguese journey can be found on this site.
  • – One of my previous posts on the best method for tackling a new language.
  • – The premise of learning guru Tim Ferris’s strategy for accelerated language learning is to learn the most used words and phrases first.

2. Jobs
Now that you have your sabbatical planned, how are you going to pay for it? Especially with the cost of living in Rio and São Paulo rivaling Manhattan. To sustain your lifestyle, many ideas for jobs can be found in my previous articleon working from anywhere.
If you are planning on staying for a long period of time or finding a job locally, you are going to face some difficult hurdles. You have a few options for gaining entry and staying in the country:

  • Tourist Visa – everyone in the USA must obtain one to be able to enter Brazil, though it only allows you to stay in Brazil a maximum of 180 days a year.
  • Business Visa – this is difficult to obtain. You must first get hired by a Brazilian company and have them provide a formal invitation, which is needed to present to a Brazilian Consulate. A long line is always waiting for approval and you must prove that your skills go above and beyond what any other Brazilian could do. This process can also take months to find out if you are approved or not.
  • Investor Visa – this is perhaps the easiest way to obtain a long term visa, but you need to start a Brazilian company and have $75k USD to invest in it. See this article on the blog for more info on obtaining this.

Note that the Tourist and Business Visas can be obtained through a Brazilian Consulate in the USA. You can use a site like to obtain through the mail.

3. Culture
People are much more family and relationship oriented in Brazil than the USA. Knowing the right people will help you get anything done much faster and minimize frustrastions, especially in a business sense. Socialising and spending time with each other are a must to build trust and succeed in business.
Brazilians also tend to live at a slower, relaxed pace. Punctuality is not always common, which can frustrate someone from a high speed, New York City lifestyle. Do not ever try to rush a business dealing.
Even though it is against the law, differences in class (mostly related to economic differences and skin color) are still prevalent. Darker ethnicities tend to be disadvantaged.
Although culture tends to be informal, Brazilians are very fashion oriented. Make sure you dress smart and conservatively in any gathering you are invited to.
The culture is very diverse as well. It is not uncommon to see a mixture of different races in a relationship.

4. Where to live
With many diverse and interesting cities to choose from, you should do your research and make a couple of visits before settling down in any given location. Here are a few of the more popular destinations:

  • Salvador – has great nightlife, bars, restaurants, arts, and shopping centers. Average yearly tempurature is 80 degrees Farenheit. Known as Brazil’s happiness capital.
  • Rio de Janeiro – most well known city in Brazil. Beautiful beaches, modern infrastructure, great nightlife and restaurants, and site of the 2016 Olympics. Average yearly tempurature is around 80 degrees Farenheit. It does have a high cost of living.
  • São Paulo – huge city and center of all business in Brazil. It is also the richest and most populous city in the country. High cost of living and high traffic. Known for music, theatre, museums, car racing, sports, and varied ethnic cuisine.
  • Fortaleza – located in the North East and know for its energy and excitement. Well know for its nightlife, carnivals, comedians, cuisine, music festivals, and 16 miles of urban beaches.
  • Florianópolis – amazing beaches, nightlife, weather, low crime rate, and smaller city. Very young and vibrant, with a focus on sports and eco-oriented activities.
  • Macapa – located in Northern Brazil and surrounded by the Amazon and its tributaries. Known for its great food (fish and different types of fruit).

Breaking Into the Diving Scene

by admin

As 70% of the planet is covered with water, there is much more of this world to explore than most people can fathom. Being able to traverse underwater wrecks and caves, photograph multi-colored fish in tropical reefs, and see how all the different types creatures interact opens your eyes to an entirely new world and experience. After you become certified, you will be able to dive anywhere in the world for the rest of your life. Diving also opens up additional career avenues in the commercial, police, scientific, and military sectors. Over a million new people (aging from 10 to well into their 80s) are getting certified every year. If nothing else, it provides a fun, new hobby to broaden your horizons. The answers below should get you all the information you will need to start your new found hobby, or even down the path to a new career.

Why do you need a certification?

Besides getting used to breathing under water at different depths and how to use different types of scuba gear, there are various risks with how pressure affects your body you will need to learn about. Careful training and preparation helps to significantly reduce these risks, which include:

  • Decompression Sickness (DCS, or the “bends”) – This is caused from surfacing too quickly from a deep underwater dive. It can cause a lot of pain, and, if untreated, can result in nerve and tissue damage, and even death.
  • Air Embolism (Pulmonary Barotrauma) – Happens when a diver holds his or her breath while ascending. The air inside the lungs will expand and can cause serious or even fatal damage to the lungs.
  • Nitrogen Narcosis – A feeling of drunkenness that divers feel at deeper depths, usually around 80-100 feet. It is not directly damaging, but can cause bad decision making and motor coordination. This can lead to poor decisions, resulting in DCS, drowning, or Pulmonary Barotrauma.

What does certification entail?

Your initial certification will allow you to dive down to 60 feet. To obtain this, divers must be at least 10 years old, be able to demonstrate they can swim 200 yards, and tread water for 10 minutes. Scuba courses are typically divided into three parts:

  • Information Development – Learn the basic principles of scuba diving. These include planning for a safe dive, how pressure affects you underwater, and dealing with various underwater creatures. This can be usually taken online beforehand ($120).
  • Pool/Confined Water Learning – Learn how to use your dive gear and get used to scuba diving in a confined environment.
  • Open Water Learning – You will need a minimum of four open-water dives to achieve certification. This will usually take two or more days, as most agencies limit training dives to two a day. You can get a referral to do your open water dives in a destination of your choice once you complete the information development and pool learning sessions. Upon completion, you will receive a C-card, which is physical proof you are certified. This is good for the rest of your life and you will need to be able to present this when doing subsequent dives.

After you have received basic certification, you can proceed to more advanced courses, which can open up additional commercial and career opportunities for you.

Where do I get certified?

With more than 1,800 professional retail dive stores in the US alone, finding a place to learn how to dive is pretty simple. There are three main scuba diving certification agencies:

  • PADI – The front runner with 55% of the divers around the world certified through them. PADI is geared more towards recreational diving during initial instruction.
  • NAUI – NAUI courses are longer in duration and delve more into technical matters related to diving and specialty.
  • SSI – SSI courses are similar to PADIs’ and are offered in 2400 locations around the world.

When picking an agency to get certified with, make sure you find out what the price includes up front. The pricing should be made up of the following components:

  • Equipment – The use of gear (other than mask, fins, and snorkel, which you usually provide), and the cost of airfills for the scuba tanks you’ll be using.
  • Coursework and Confined Water Sessions – The training you‘ll be doing at your dive center’s facility, or at the facility they use.
  • Open Water Sessions – The real-world diving (usually 4 or 5 sessions) that you’ll do at an actual dive site.

An accredited training course from a certified instructor will cost about $300-$500, including practice and certification dives.

Where can I find dive shops and referral locations?

There are many places to find dive shops and places to complete your training around the world. These include:

How much does diving gear cost?

If you are expecting to dive only a few times a year, renting is more cost-effective than buying all your own equipment. Daily rental costs range from $40 to $60 for a two-tank dive. If you own your own equipment, the cost of air ranges from $5 to $8 per tankful. At the minimum, you will need to purchase a mask ($40-$70), snorkel ($20-$50), and fins ($50-$100). If you want to buy all of your own equipment, you are looking at shelling out around $1300-$1500. On top of the mask, snorkel and fins, here’s a rundown of standard scuba equipment that will get you started with warm water dives:

  • Buoyancy Compensator (BC) – Inflatable jacket allowing divers to adjust their buoyancy in the water ($250-$500)
  • Regulator – This mouthpiece from which you breathe. It is connected to the air tank and regulates the pressure to a safe level for you to inhale ($150-$600)
  • Weight belt – Holds you down in the water and counteracts the buoyancy of other diving equipment ($20-$50)
  • Air Tank – Holds the compressed air you use underwater ($150-$400 each)
  • Octopus – This is your alternate air source used as a back up to the regulator ($125-$350)
  • Depth Gauge – Displays your air supply and depth. ($75-$350)

You can get all the new scuba gear you will need from places like,, or Or you can find used gear on and I will have a later article describing a detailed rundown of the top valued scuba equipment to purchase.

Where can I find a diving buddy?

If you would like to feel more safe, or just want to make new friends, there many easy ways to find a diving friend:

Currency Conversion Fees (And How To Avoid Them)

by admin


Financial companies make their astronomical profits in one way or another. Foreign currency conversion fees are one of the ways they accomplish this. Any time you’re using or exchanging money in a foreign land, someone is trying to make money off of your transaction. Banks and credit card companies aren’t letting you make purchases around the world without getting their own cut. Most of the companies add a few extra percentage points onto the transaction and include it in small print on your statement. These “hidden fees” can pile up quick, and are easily overlooked. This can lead to a couple hundred dollars in fees you could have saved on your foreign vacation. The same goes for any foreign currency exchange location.  All of the rates are exaggerated in the house’s favor.  The following list will give you an overview of the currency conversion fees you will encounter and help you find the best options for making payments while traveling:

1. Exchange Rates – Get an idea of the current exchange rates before you leave for your trip. XE provides current exchange rates of currencies around the world. You can also view historical rates. The site also includes a useful Travel Expenses Calculator for keeping track of expenses in foreign currencies) and a Global Payments and Transfers Tool (for sending and receiving payments (with a guaranteed best rate) around the globe) for free.

2. Credit Card Fees – Most people are unaware the majority of credit card companies tack on an extra 3% foreign transaction fee. This usually includes the 1% Visa/Mastercard fee and a 2% bank fee. The chart below shows the foreign transaction fees for mainstream credit cards. Cards from Capital One, which eats the 1% Visa/Mastercard fee to offer a 0% foreign transaction fee, are your best bet for travel purchases. And don’t even think about taking a cash advance from a credit card. The fees for a cash advance usually include 3% on top of the normal foreign transaction fee and 24% interest accrued daily.

Card Issuer Fee
Capital One 0%
Wachovia 1%
Washington Mutual 1%
Discover 2%
American Express 2%
Bank of America 3%
Citibank 3%
JP Morgan Chase 3%
Wells Fargo 3%
US Bank 3%

3. ATM Fees – Call or check online to see what fees your bank charges for ATM withdrawals. Some banks charge a fixed fee (around $5), some charge a percentage of the funds taken out, and some charge a combination of both. Find out which brands of ATMs are in your bank’s network and how much they charge. For example, Bank of America customers who use ATMs with the Global ATM Alliance network can withdraw money from ATMs for free, but are assessed a $5 fee for ATM usage outside of their network. Citi will charge a 1% conversion fee (with no ATM fees) for in-network ATMs, and an extra $1.50 fee for out-of-network ATMs. Doing some extra research and writing down addresses for several compatible, in-network ATMs in every city you plan to visit can save you some headaches and money in the long run.

4. Dynamic Currency Conversion – When making a purchase overseas, always decline when a merchant asks if you want to convert the purchase to your credit card country’s currency before charging it. These rates of conversion are usually much worse (sometimes up to 6%) than the rate you will get from the credit card company. Always check the receipt to make sure the merchant has not done this conversion without asking, which is against credit card merchant agreements. Make sure the purchase was charged in the local currency.

5. Debit Cards – Like ATM cards, check with your bank for the fees (usually around 3% and called “Point of Sale Fees”) you will incur while using a debit card abroad. It is recommended you don’t use a debit card when traveling because, unlike a stolen credit card (in which charges can be easily disputed), a stolen debit card can lead to a largely overdrawn bank account with a significant amount of turmoil to get it fixed.

6. Cash Exchange – Exchanging money at a certified bank is your best bet. You will get the best rates and have the least risk of fraud. At a hotel or airport, you will get the highest transaction fees and worst exchange rates.

7. Prepaid Travel Debit Cards – Visa currently offers the only travel debit card (Visa TravelMoney Card). You can purchase it at US banks and AAA. Fees typically vary from US $4.95 to $9.95. You can reload the card online or via phone, with up to $15 charge. You can use it to withdraw money from any Visa compatible ATM ($2.50 charge) and to make purchases. Making purchases in any other currency than is on the card will incur a gouging 7% conversion fee. It is recommended to pursue other options for making foreign purchases.

8. Travelers Checks – There are many pros and cons to using these. The advantages include: refunded usually within 24 hours if lost or stolen, can be purchased in currencies (Euro, Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, Pound Sterling, and Japanese Yen) other than US, no withdrawal fees, and you can cash in your checks for local currency wherever you are. On the other side, you have to first find a bank that will cash the checks (many countries will not cash them), you usually will be given you a bad rate and charged you a high commission for cashing them, and you are charged between 1% and 4% when purchasing them. If you decide to buy some, stick to major brands like American Express, Visa, and Citibank. Also, consider buying checks loaded in foreign currency. For example, checks in Euros will be much easier to use and cash when traveling in Europe.