Brasilia isn’t on a lot of tourists’ itineraries, but it was the headquarters of my mission so we wanted to go there. (For those who may not know, I was a missionary for the LDS Church for two years in Brazil.)

We flew from Manuas to Brasilia, and arrived in the city around 6:30. Unfortunately, my backpack had suffered some minor damage on the flight and after resolving that with the airline and catching a bus into town (R$2.50) it was almost 10. Luckily, however, the tourist information desk at the airport gave us a really great map and we were able to navigate our way around.

Lonely Planet states in its Brazil guidebook that budget accomodations are hard to come by in Brasilia. That, however, is a gross understatement. As the capital of Brazil, Brasilia’s hotels cater to traveling government workers and foreign visitors. Online we couldn’t find anything even close R$100 and walking around and asking at bunch of hotels (often the smallest, most run-down ones we could find) the prices seemed to be closer to R$200. There is also a hostel in Brasilia, but it’s in a terrible location (not dangerous, just out of the way and nessecitating two to buses to get there), and the prices cited in Lonely Planet (which are a few years old) seemed kind of steep anyway.

For all of these reasons, we decided to try to find a pousada/B&B to stay in, and a few days before we arrived I emailed a few to find out their prices.

So, when we got to Brasilia we took the bus to the area where all the pousadas I’d contacted were located. I had expected to see signs or some sort of identification on the buildings so I would know which ones were pousadas and which were private residences, but when we got there I was dismayed to discover that they didn’t. Instead we walked around for an hour in the dark trying to make sense of Brasilia’s nonsensical address system. (Luckily residential areas in Brasilia are relatively safe.)

After asking people on the street and knocking at a few wrong doors, we finally found a pousada. It’s called Pousada 705 and in an email they had told me that they had a double room for R$80. Unfortunately they didn’t tell me that that room was rented out already and the only thing they had available was a different room for $R100. I tried to get them to come down, but it was late and I had no idea where any other places to stay were, so we took the room. And it was actually pretty nice; it was very clean, it had a small fridge, and other than not giving us the room we wanted, the staff was very friendly. I would definitely stay there again if I had to pass a night in Brasilia and wanted something in that price range.

The next morning, however, we decided that we needed to find a place that was either cheaper or included Internet. So, after waking up, I went and found one of the other pousadas and checked it out. It was the Pousada Villa Zen, which is recommended by Lonely Planet. When I got to the pousada, there was a sign on the door that said it had been shut down by the government. That seemed strange because I had received an email from them a couple of days before detailing prices, and I figured I’d knock anyway.

After knocking I was greeted by a woman who seemed extremely paranoid but who told me that the pousada was, in fact, open and that I could come look at the rooms (but I’d have to come in the back door). The room was actually quite nice and included Internet, so we decided to leave the place we stayed the first night and move to the Pousada Villa Zen. I went and got Laura and we moved our stuff (the new pousada was just down the street from the old one). When we brought our stuff over, the woman who was running the place told us to bring our bags in quickly and, if anyone asked, to say we were visiting a friend.

Obviously, the place was operating under the radar, and that was fine by me. However, the experience itself quickly began to disappoint. Lonely Planet descibed it as having a warm reception, as well as a kitchen and laundry facilities. However, the reception was fairly cold and I was abruptly told that I could not use the kitchen. Also, it had a 10:30 pm curfew, which seemed absurd in a country where people usually stay up late and in a city where the streets at night are among the safest anywhere.

In the end, however, we got in by 10:30 and managed to have a fairly peaceful night. However, the two nights we had in Brasilia really demonstrated how hard it is to find budget lodging in the city, and how even mid range pousadas have a lot of problems. Some of those problems stem from a government crackdown on unoffical pousadas, but overall I’d say that both the city’s approach to lodging, as well as the attitude of those in the hospitality industry, may be one of the reasons that Brasilia isn’t really a tourist destination.


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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