While in Brazil, I’ve moved thirteen times over the years and over my various trips from the US. That’s a lot of apartment-searching, bag-packing, and flight or bus-taking. It’s also a lot of meeting and getting to know new roommates and people, walking around and getting to know new neighborhoods, figuring out how to set up certain household services in Brazil, etc. If self-displacement were a skill, I’d be an expert. So what are some lessons I have learned from all of this?
I’m going to start with the internet since being on it is how I earn my living. From my understanding, you can get internet through mobile telephone companies (with Oi, Claro, Vivo or TIM), TV cable companies or through ISPs (NET, GVT, etc). With a local address, a CPF (a mix of sorts between a tax-payer ID and a SSN) and, if they ask, a passport, you can usually sign up for any of these services. For example, I’ve signed up for regular post-paid mobile internet service with TIM using my passport and CPF, and currently my flatmates and I are using NET which was signed up for using only a CPF as proof. Stick with ISPs, as they of course specifically work with internet service. Aside from having a little trouble trying to get them installed, I’ve never really had problems with the service itself once installed.
The difficult part is understanding the monthly plans. Companies will ask you what speed you want and what data package you want, although the prices aren’t all that fair. Generally, they are pre-established, thus you can’t choose a high speed with a low data package, for example. In the US, we only bother with data if it’s on our mobile devices but when you’re at home, the last thing you want to think about is reaching your limit and being capped halfway through the month.
At the bottom of the totem pole (as in, the part that sticks in the dirt) is 3G USB modems that most telephone companies sell (the kind you put into your computer for wireless internet). Here, the term “3G” actually means nothing at all. At the risk of sounding too harsh, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. Period.
Strangely, mobile on my cell phone seems to work normally as long as I have a signal. I say it’s strange because, as least with a pre-paid chip, all that is being done is a swapping of devices, from a USB modem to the cell phone, and yet the latter works fine with the same chip and service that was inside the modem.
I’ve written about renting in a previous Street Smart Brazil article and it’s important enough to this particular blog post here that I wanted to give it some sort of mention.
Some additional tips which I don’t mention in the linked-to article are these: look for a living situation where your room or apartment is already furnished and, additionally, situate yourself as centrally as possible. By doing the latter, travel times are lessened, successfully procuring the odd product or service is made way more likely, and meeting up and going out with others is a cinch.
(Stay tuned for Part 2)