How to Stay Safe in Brazil

Brazil Travel Advice and Common Scams to Avoid

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    While Brazil, like many other developing countries, has a bad rap of sorts, this shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting and admiring the stunning natural beauty and cultural offerings of the largest country in South America. Your government’s travel advisories may point out some obvious crimes and scams around, usually focusing on large cities like São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. But, with common sense and good judgment, you can safely have a Brazilian experience of a lifetime.

    Whichever popular tourist destination you visit on the planet, there’s always a chance of encountering cunning people who are looking to make easy money and take advantage of uninformed travellers. The best defence is to avoid making yourself an easy target. To help you, we’ve gathered some pointers on how to stay safe in Brazil. We hope this basic Brazil travel advice and list of common scams to avoid will help you make more informed decisions and get the best out of your trip.

    1

    Lock up your valuables

    From prying eyes and greedy hands

    A wallet lifted. A bag filched. It can happen anywhere, from the soothing sands of Copacabana and the heart of the festive Rio Carnival crowds to the middle of a busy street in broad daylight. To stay safe, a good rule of thumb is to leave the bulk of your cash, your passport and important documents locked up in your hotel room’s safe. It’s also good to make and have copies of your docs and carry only enough Brazilian reals for your day out.

    2

    Don't flaunt it

    Dress like a local

    If you dress like a foreigner – especially like a typical tourist, flaunting a camera and such – chances are you’ll draw unsolicited attention. The rule of thumb here is to try blend in with the locals by simply dressing like one. Wear minimum jewellery and accessories, such as watches, handbags, smartphones and visible earphones. Bustling areas full of locals and visitors are common hunting grounds for prying eyes and sticky fingers. Ideally, carry nothing to the beach but your towel, sunscreen, and enough change for a caipirinha or 2.

    3

    Watch where you withdraw

    Recount your cash

    When you really need to exchange some of your home currency into Brazilian real, do so at designated exchange booths at the airport or inside a bank. Rates can usually be disappointing, so change just a small amount for transport and change. Always count your money, before and after. When withdrawing from ATMs, use the ones at banks and avoid those in subway stations and in public areas as rigging and card skimming is common. Credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s best to stick to cash to save you from any worries of identity theft, double swipes, and card cloning.

    4

    Buy tickets online for sightseeing tours and concerts

    Get real tickets from official sites

    One thing that the whole world learnt from the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio was that fake tickets can be convincing and virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Buying tickets online from ads and third parties always comes with high levels of risk. You might not receive anything after your transaction or get counterfeits if you do. The safest way is to buy soccer, concert, or show tickets through the official sites. They typically explain the time of delivery, handling of refunds in the event of reschedules or cancellations, as well as specific seat numbers.

    5

    Book taxis directly from your hotel, restaurants or apps

    Hitch a ride in Brazil, wisely

    Rather than hailing a free-roaming taxi on the street, a safe and easy way to get around in Brazil is by asking for one to be called for you by your hotel concierge or restaurant’s reception desk. Ride-hailing apps are increasingly the most convenient way to go about finding a taxi in Brazil. These range from Uber to 99 Taxis and Easy Taxi and they cover most Brazilian cities. You only need to install the app on your smartphone and register an account. Their GPS assisted maps and the cash or online payment options make riding in Brazil a breeze.

    Valokuva: mariordo59 (CC BY-SA 2.0) muokattu

    6

    Keep hydrated, safely

    Drink bottled water

    Brazil has the world’s largest freshwater supply and tap water in large Brazilian cities like Rio and São Paulo is treated and generally safe to drink. However, it’s good to be on the safe side by drinking bottled water instead. Among the many different brands are Brazil’s own Bonafont, Petrópolis, and São Lourenço, which are each around 1.50 real per bottle.

    7

    Drink wisely

    Watch your cup or glass

    Brazil is a relaxed country when it comes to booze. You can buy beer, wine, and liquor any day of the week from convenient stores or shops, and you can drink freely in public places. However, it’s always best to know the ingredients of your cocktail and only order mixed drinks from reputable venues. You can samba hard with a glass in your hand but try to maintain a good level of soberness and keep a watchful eye on your glass, so nothing gets slipped into it.

    8

    Avoid dark and deserted areas

    It’s best to stick to the crowds

    When night falls, try to avoid walking down empty streets, through dimly lit parks, or along isolated beaches outside the main city strips. Also, you’ll often find the central business districts to be virtually deserted over the weekends. Petty crimes can happen in broad daylight and in the middle of a crowd, but it’s far safer than roaming through deserted places, especially after dark. On another note, street protests and strikes commonly take place in the cities. Stay informed – ask your hotel concierge beforehand to ensure you have an undisturbed stay.

    9

    Visit a favela in a group, with a reputable local guide

    Explore Rio’s shanty towns safely

    Favelas in Rio mostly still have a bad rap, but there are some that have embraced tourism, realising that it can greatly help to alleviate poverty and support local businesses. Friendly local tour guides who were born and raised in favelas like Rocinha and Vila Canoas know their home neighbourhoods like the backs of their hands. They can give you a closer look at life in Rio’s slums, with interesting insights. Good ones often affiliate with larger organisations, giving some of their profits back to local charities. If you wish to visit one, it’s best to do careful research and plan to go as a group.

    Valokuva: chensiyuan (CC BY-SA 4.0) muokattu

    10

    Get travel insurance

    Are you covered yet?

    Sure, you could take a gamble on your entire trip Brazil running perfectly smooth, but it’s generally good practise to get insurance when travelling to any corner of the globe. You don’t want to end up seeking help through Facebook or GoFundMe after some mishap occurs. When researching travel insurance policies, be sure to check that they cover the basics, including theft and loss of valuables as well as comprehensive medical support.

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