Fifteen things foreigners should know about Brazilian nightclubs

Here are my observations on Brazilian nightclubs, having lived here as a foreigner and been taken out many times over the years.

1) Going out to nightclubs in Brazil is EXPENSIVE. Expect to spend R$200 to R$400 (£110, US$160) on an average night out for nightclub entry, drinks, taxis and late-night food. It’ll cost way more if you’re in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo.

As an example, entry into a nightclub might be R$40 if you don’t drink, or R$100 for the opportunity to drink (not free drinks, just the permission to drink). On top of that, cocktail and spiritss might be R$17 with a beer about R$12.

2) You queue to enter the club… and you queue to exit. Most nightclubs give you a drinks-list card when you enter, which you use to “pay” for drinks during the night. Barmen NEVER accept cash or card. Instead they mark what you order on the card and you pay at the end at a register near the entrance. It takes ages, so get in the queue early and pay for your drinks, then carry on dancing until they kick everyone out. But remember, you can’t have any more drinks once you’ve paid.

3) If you lose your drinks-card you’ll pay a HUGE fine at the end of the night when you try to leave. I’ve seen threats of R$1000 (£250, US$350) written on the card. This is to stop people drinking the bar dry and then “losing” their card to get out of paying.

Example of a drinks-card you'll be given when you enter a night-club (this one includes food).
Example of a drinks-card you’ll be given when you enter a night-club (this one includes food).

4) DO NOT LOSE YOUR DRINKS-CARD. I can’t stress this enough.

5) It’s common for a Brazilian guy to start kissing a girl in a nightclub with the minimum of talking, like teenagers at their first roller-disco. Just don’t be surprised if they’re kissing someone else at the end of the night. Kissing doesn’t have the same value it has in Britain or America. In a Brazilian nightclub, kissing is as intimate as a hug.

6) I almost guarantee the music in a Brazilian nightclub will be Sertaneja (two guys crooning love songs), Forró (Swing dancing, pronounced “Fo-ho”),  Pagode (Samba-dancing, pronounced “Pagojj”), Funk (Favela rap with a cha-cha-cha beat, pronounced “Funky”), crappy UK and US pop music or electro.

7) Learning to dance a little will not steer you wrong. Brazilian girls are very approachable and they will enjoy you teaching them something cool. I can’t dance but my friend can, and the girls love him.

8) If a girl is not with her boyfriend in a night-club then she is (almost certainly) single. Same for guys. Brazilians with boyfriends and girlfriends do not go to nightclubs, and Brazilian couples rarely go out together, unless it’s a special event like a Forró dance. 

9) If you have been talking with a girl or guy for more than two minutes in a nightclub you are expected to kiss her. “Why are you talking to her if not to kiss?” is the reasoning behind this.

If a girl or guy does not want to talk to you do not press the issue.

10) Most big nightclubs let you choose between paying just for entry, or entry and free drinks all night. The first option might be R$20, the second might be R$100. You get given your drinks-card and it will be marked with the option you chose. Remember, bar-staff don’t accept cash, so choose carefully.

11) Some nightclubs don’t offer “drink-all-you-can”, and so you have to queue up at a little booth and buy tokens. It’s a security issue, to keep all the cash in one heavily-secured place, and to stop barmen from stealing it.

12) You will be patted down or made to walk through a metal-detector when you enter a Brazilian nightclub. Leave your guns and knives at home.

13) You might see a drunk guy in a nightclub with a gun tucked into his waistband or around his ankle. This will be an off-duty police-officer. They get free entry to nightclubs so long as they’re willing to “keep the peace” if there’s trouble inside. Sounds pretty reasonable, eh? They can still drink a few beers, get lairy, start fights, all with a gun in their waistband.

14) You can get VIP in most nightclubs if you’re willing to pay a little more. Girls can go in and out of VIP areas but guys will need a wristband. You’ll have bottle service and you’ll get lots of attention, blah-blah-blah.

15) You’re a gringo, a tourist, a foreigner. You may get lots of attention by virtue of this, but keep it respectful. Brazil is a dangerous place to get really drunk and start fighting or being rude. Enjoy yourself, have a few drinks and go back to your hotel at the end of the night.

Please take all advice about picking up Brazilian guys and girls with a grain of salt, I don’t want you thinking Brazilian men and women are constantly “lookin’ to score” (like certain Adidas executives believe).

Brazilian looking to score Adidas t-shirt for 2014 World Cup
In all seriousness, this t-shirt from Adidas was quite rightly pulled for promoting a kind of “sex-tourism” myth amongst lusty foreigners that Brazil is trying to remove.

Uphold the same values and respect you have for the opposite sex in your own country. Brazil is no different to other countries, despite over-sexualised, cartoonish media imagery that portrays Brazil to most foreigners as a land of sun, bums and caiprinhas.

This is completely the wrong perception to take with you when you travel to Brazil, and one that will get you slapped.

Brazilian girls in a nightclub World Cup 2014

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