Items more expensive and less expensive in Brazil
Things that are more expensive in Brazil than in USA/Canada
- Consumer electronics (laptops, big screen TVs, iPhones) are vastly more expensive due to tariffs since they are perceived as luxury goods. An example: the Apple iPad2, 16GB, wifi model was R$1399.00 or US$764.00 at several different electronics stores in Sao Paulo (April 2012). Back in North America, the same model iPad was US$475.00 including sales tax, making the Brazilian price 60% greater. When Brazilians travel overseas they always return home loaded with electronics for themselves or family and friends.
- As a luxury, perfume is also highly taxed. Dior Hypnotic Poison, 50 ml, is R$250.00 if you go out of your way to get a good price (i.e., not at the mall); that's still about 30% more expensive than a mall price in North America.
- Stationery is more expensive and has less variety in Brazil. High quality printer paper is notably harder to find.
- Contact lens solution is oddly expensive even though it is made in Brazil. Example: Bausch & Lomb Multi-Purpose Solution, made in Brazil, 350 ml, R$53.00.
- McDonald's food is expensive. A Big Mac — by itself, not the combo meal — costs R$12.00. The so-called Big Mac Index invented by The Economist newsmagazine suggests that Brazil has the most overvalued currency in the world. The theory is that commodity-type goods, like Big Macs, should cost the same everywhere, so if Big Macs costs more or less than in the US, the foreign currency must be over or under valued against the US dollar. The Economist's calculation, adjusting for cheaper labor costs in Brazil, says that you should be getting 72.7% more Brazilian reais in exchange for US dollars (Jan. 2014 figures). There are however criticisms of the Big Mac Index theory.
- Cashews and ironically Brazil nuts are quite pricey. For example, R$85.00 for 1 kg of cashews, or triple the US price; Brazil nuts were R$30.50 for 500 g. Brazil is a major producer of cashews (and Brazil nuts) though other major producers like Nigeria get much higher yields per acre or hectare. Then why doesn't Brazil import cheap cashews from Nigeria as the USA does? I don't think the problem is the cost of production. It's expensive because cashews are perceived as a rich person's snack in Brazil and priced accordingly. This leads to the circular problem that ordinary Brazilians don't eat many cashews because it's expensive, so the market for them stays small and for the affluent.
- Gasoline in Sao Paulo is about 50% more expensive than in Canada or 90% than in the USA. Lots of cars use ethanol, known locally as álcool (alcohol), which is about 30% less expensive than gasoline in Brazil.
Things that are cheaper in Brazil than in USA/Canada
- Most alcohol is inexpensive. Beer and liquor made in Brazil are very cheap. Premium brands of liquor imported into Brazil and wines are not bargains. Wine was not popular in Brazil until recent years and Brazil is not a major producer. Wine is still seen as a drink of the well-to-do.
- Cigarettes are considerably cheaper. Example: Dunhill or Marlboro (20 cigarettes) is R$4.50. Although cigarettes are much cheaper, Brazilians actually smoke much less than Americans and Canadians on average. Brazilians smoke 504 cigarettes annually per capita compared to 1,028 for the United States and 809 for Canada.
- Prescription drugs are less expensive. Many drugs that require a prescription in US and Canada don't require a prescription in Brazil. Antibiotics did not require a prescription before November 2010. Pharmacies do not charge a dispensing fee that is typical of North America. I haven't heard any doubts expressed about the efficacy of Brazilian medications. Often they are made by a Brazilian subsidiary of the same multinational drug companies as found in the US or Canada.
- Public transit is half the price of American and Canadian cities. The subway and bus cost R$3.00 in Sao Paulo. Taxi prices are harder to compare: Although the initial charge, distance charge, and time charges are about half what you'd pay in most US/Canadian cities, Sao Paulo traffic is very heavy and the city is huge, so the average trip is probably longer. Nevertheless, my estimation is that taxis are still a good deal compared to North America.
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