Maverick Traveler

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Living Series: Belo Horizonte, Brazil

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Belo Horizonte is the 5th largest city in Brazil as is a capital of Minas Gerais, a land-locked state north of Rio de Janeiro.

It’s a cosmopolitan city dotted by museums, parks and, to compensate for the lack of beaches, the largest per capita concentration of bars of any Brazilian city.

My first visit to the city was in June 2009, but I barely spoke Portuguese, and furthermore it was only for one night.  I decided to return to the city after I finished my Rio stint to check it out again.  I left several months later.

The biggest benefit to Belo Horizonte is its disadvantage: lack of beaches.  Thus, the city had to evolve to develop an alternate social scene.  It has large concentration of bars, and few clubs as well.  The result is it’s much less of a shallow city than Rio with its beach culture.

I was fortunate enough to meet an awesome girl in the first few days in the city.  She showed me around and introduced me to her circle of friends.  One night I was in a group of ten people actively discussing some pressing issues in Portuguese.  I was integrated into their social circle instantly, something that as far as I remember, never happened in Rio.

The other big benefit is that in two weeks that I’ve stayed there, I did not speak a single word of English; I simply did not meet a single foreigner.  I spent many hours talking to the hostel owner about issues of safety, about Brazil’s economical growth, etc.  Topics that challenged my existing Portuguese knowledge and improved it.

I probably would’ve spent few months in the city had not I had a flight out of Brazil shortly.

belo-horizonte-03

Orientation

The city is a vast expanse of urban sprawl, but the areas of interest will likely be in the area bounded by the Avenida do Contorno.

Live

  • Serra: I stayed in this is a residential neighborhood just outside the Av. do Contorno perimeter, located slightly to the right.
    It’s a quiet neighborhood with nothing to do, but is cheap, and you can grab a bus (15 mins) to get to the center or just walk (20 mins).
  • Savassi: This is the bohemian neighborhood of BH.  A lot of coffee shops and affluent restaurants are located here.  Great for people watching and hanging out.  When young people think of Belo Horizonte, Savassi is the first thing that pops up.  This would my preferred neighborhood for living.
  • Lourdes: This is a more upscale neighborhood located adjacent to Savassi, which houses some nice bars and restaurants.
  • Funcionarios: A blue colar neighboorhood.  I went here few times to grab some cheap food by the kilo (Comida a quilo).
  • Center: The business heart of BH.  Similar to Funcionarios in terms of eating options, but not much else.

Eat

  • Grab a copy of Veja Belo Horizonte for restaurant reviews and ideas.  Most restaurants serve food by kilo during lunch (roughly 12-3pm) which is what I did most of the time.  I liked K-Bab, Nectar da Serraand Eddie Fine Burgers
  • Make sure to checkout Cafe com Letras.  It’s a bohemian cafe shop that serves food and mean caipirinhas.  It’s also the only place in Brazil where I’ve seen people working on their laptops in the outside areas.
  • Also, make sure to swing by Lourdes area on a Sunday afternoon to see very beautiful people enjoying their beer.

Sleep

  • I slept in Hostel Taiua ($) for all two weeks of my stay.
    During the two weeks, there’re were very few guests so I had the whole thing all to my myself.  Not bad for $16 a night.  The owner was extremely helpful and answered all my questions.  I did speak to him in Portuguese, so your mileage may vary.

Nightlife

  • My favorite club is Swingers.  It’s about 20 minute taxi ride from the city center, but worth it in my opinion.  Bring your wingman and your A game.

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8 Comments

  1. Hey man, great post in this relatively unexplored destination.

    How did the quality of the finer sex compare to the girls of rio? Anything liked roosh described?

    Is it considerably cheaper than rio?

    From what you say, it seems you didn’t encounter the conservativeness that some people mention when talking about Mina Gerais…. wonder if this is like Brazil’s Medellin (non mainstream, good climate and muchas guapas 🙂

    • mavtraveler

      June 3, 2010 at 12:27 am

      I felt everyone was more friendlier here than in Rio, it was easier to make connections – Rio is more in the moment.

      The finer sex was different than Rio’s, walking around I saw less pretty girls, but in select places (on Sunday checkout Lourdes neighborhood) the women were are absolutely gorgeous. Swingers club is a must see as well.

      It is cheaper, I would say perhaps 20% than Rio.

      Never lived in Medellin, but from what I heard they sound similar.

      I would completely recommend this city as an alternative to Rio. I think if you build roots here your worth as a gringo will be higher than in Rio. I’d live in BH and go back to Rio every now and then for the beaches.

      • I’m looking into my Brazil options and I think that Belo Horizonte sounds really cool. I like Rio but don’t think I’d want to live there due to the cost and the pretentious image-driven culture. I like that BH isn’t too far from the beach if you wanted to take a beach weekend somewhere and the fact that you can use a laptop out in the open sounds promising. So far as girls, are they still fairly decent looking? I know it’s hard to top Ipanema, but should still be pretty good right? Are most the girls there mixed or are they more white or more black?

        I’m also thinking heavily about Sao Paolo. How would you compare SP to BH? I figure SP is more exciting than BH, but BH is easier to escape from if you tire of the concrete jungle.

        • mavtraveler

          June 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm

          It’s hard to compare Ipanema to anything. Ipanema is the richest area in Rio de Janeiro. The girls are usually upper class, so they’re simply out of rich for gringos or lower class Brazilians.

          The Mineiras (girls in state of Minas) are very decent looking.

          In Sao Paulo, I’ve only spent about 4 days total, so I don’t have a great handle on it. I did like Vila Madalena for going out, however there’re can be other areas as well. I say spent some time in both and then decide for yourself. That’s what I would do.

  2. I look forward to reading more of your living series, good inside info. Interesting to know that despite being landlocked, BH isn’t ‘dry’ – with all those bars!

  3. I love your posts! Very very helpful, because I’m also seriously thinking about moving to Brazil to live there for a couple of years after I finish college. After just returning from a year in Argentina, I found it hard to find many people in the US who understand what I experienced and what I felt while living abroad… but reading your posts make me just laugh so hard literally saying out loud, “omg that’s so true; ahhh seriously!!” Again, really appreciate your blog! I’d love it if you could do one about your experience in Sao Paulo.
    (: 

  4. Nice post about Belo Horizonte. Btw, i am from Brazil, and a city that i suggest you visit is Natal, in Northeast of Brazil. Natal has some great
    beaches, historical sites,
    and nature areas, beautiful women and it is a
    frequently used base for
    exploring the paradisiac
    beaches and nature of the
    Rio Grande do Norte state.

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