What is a Pousada?
The word “Pousada” in portuguese means a “place to land” or “place to stay”, and there are thousands of them throughout Brazil. Unlike in Portugal where these generally offer luxury accommodation in restored historical buildings the Brazilian pousada concept includes a much wider range of price and accommodation: from bed and breakfasts, guesthouses and inns to eco-lodges and more sophisticated boutique hotels. Pousadas in Brazil are always small with up to 40 suites, but the most charming ones in this guide have fewer than half that number and the majority have fewer than 8 suites.
Prices in pousadas tend to be around the same as for hotels in the same class. However, unlike hotels there are no pousada “chains” and they are all individually run and managed. What they may lack in terms of amenities like phones, flat screen TV and 24-hour room service, is more than made up for by charm, hospitality and personality. It is worth noting that whilst your mobile may still not work in many places off the beaten track the majority of pousadas now offer guests free wi-fi.
To compile this guide, we initially select pousadas which have either been recommended to us by other travellers, or which have exceptional reviews from trusted sources. However before we personally recommend or highly recommend any we not only check the pousada against our own criteria but also make a personal visit normally lasting 2 days. We obviously look for comfort, cleanliness, location and amenities but we also look for pousadas with individual character, for places which demonstrate a commitment to responsible tourism and for those where the whole team works together to make guests' experiences exceptional.
What to expect from a Pousada
- A good-sized room, usually with a double bed, two single beds, or a double and one single
- En-suite shower room, with electric, gas or solar powered shower, washbasin and WC Wardrobe, chest of drawers or shelves and hanging space for clothes
- Air conditioning and/or ceiling fan
- Bedside tables and lamps
What is provided
Hand and bath towels
Soap and/or shower gel
Mosquito nets or spray or plug-ins, in areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes
Small fridge (frigobar) with beer, water and soft drinks
TV with Brazilian programmes
Occasionally (usually from price category $$$ up)
CD player and/or DVD
Superior bed linen (250 thread count up)
Rooms are normally cleaned on a daily basis, but, in keeping with ecological principles, in some places you will be asked to indicate when you need your sheets and towels changed.
Occasionally you may find a musty smell in rooms which have not been aired sufficiently. If this bothers you, ask to change rooms.
Similarly, you may occasionally find tiny ants or small lizards in the more basic pousadas. If you find anything else which bothers you, tell the manager and/or ask to change rooms.It should be noted that plumbing is rudimentary in much of Brazil, and waste baskets are provided for anything you want to throw away- including toilet paper! Failure to remember this is likely to result in some embarrassment!
Food and Drink
A buffet breakfast is nearly always included in the price, and is usually excellent, with a variety of juices, coffee, tea, breads, jams, cake, ham and cheeses. Occasionally hot dishes are available and eggs can be ordered - usually at no extra price.
Nearly all rooms have small fridges where you can help yourself to water, soft drinks and beer at reasonable prices. Tap water is not for drinking!
There is usually a bar service of some sort available, or an “honesty” bar, where you take what you want from the fridge and just note down the quantity. Payment is settled at the end of your stay.
Where pousadas have a pool and/or beach, bar service is often available here as well.If pousadas do not have their own restaurant, most will recommend good places to eat nearby. Pousadas which are really off the beaten track will normally have their own restaurant and include half or full board in the price.
Languages and communication
In most pousadas there is at least someone who speaks English and/or other European languages, but there are a couple in this guide where only Portuguese is spoken, so it is worth checking on the site if this is an issue.If communication in a certain language is important to you, please search pousadas “by language”.
Internet and Wi-fi
Most pousadas have internet and an increasing number have wi-fi. Where internet access is not available there will usually be an internet café in the nearest village.Blackberries, I-phones and mobile phones should work in most places if they are activated for roaming, but there are still areas of Brazil where there is no coverage at all.
Brazil is a large country and the voltage varies from state to state and sometimes within states. It can be 110v or 220v. Check with individual pousadas.
Plugs used to be either 2-pin US style or elongated European. However more recently a 3 pin version has emerged as standard which does not seem to have been picked up by those who make the adaptors. Where pousadas only have new sockets they will nearly always have adaptors for guest usage so just ask.
Safety and Safety Deposit Boxes
Most pousadas are safe but only a few have safety deposit boxes. It is usually possible to deposit items of value with reception to be put in their safe.
Transfers, trips and excursions
Taxi transfers in and out of the pousada can nearly always be arranged at reasonable cost and it is strongly advised that you take this option to your first pousada at least on arrival.Trips and excursions can also usually be booked at reception, or they can advise where to go.
Payments and tipping
Some pousadas charge 10% service charge, but the majority include this in the daily rate.
It is not obligatory to tip cleaners, but it is normal to tip people that carry your luggage around R$2,00-3,00 per bag- or R$10,00 if they are carrying in a longer distance with a cart/wheelbarrow.
10% service charge is usually added as standard to any restaurant meals, and there is no need to leave any extra.
And finally…many pousadas these days take credit cards but there are still some which do not, and many smaller towns and villages do not have ATMs or any sort of international banking. If you are planning to go anywhere off beat, and particularly if you are going to islands, peninsulas or deserted beaches, do check the situation before you go.