Brazil receives a lot of bad press about its violence and high crime rate. While undoubtedly sensationalized by the media, many tourists do get robbed while in Brazil, and you’ll want to minimize the risks of becoming a victim. Don’t start your trip by wandering around touristy areas in a jet-lagged state soon after arrival: you’ll be an obvious target. Accept the fact that you might be mugged, pick pocketed or have your bag snatched while you’re in the country. If you carry only the minimum needed for the day (neither too much nor too little), and don’t try to resist thieves, you’re unlikely to come to any real harm. Other tips:
- Don’t come to Brazil with jewellery, iPods, expensive watches and other items you’ll worry about.
- Don’t dress like a gringo. Avoid wearing baseball caps, shiny sunglasses and black socks (Brazilians, like North Americans, wear white socks with sneakers). Dress down in casual clothes that blend in. Bermuda shorts, T-shirts, a pair of Havaianas and other clothes bought in Brazil are a good choice.
- Keep small change handy so you don’t have to flash a wallet to pay bus fare.
- Don’t wear a backpack when out sightseeing.
- Don’t wander around with a camera in view – keep it out of sight. Consider carrying it in a plastic bag from a local store. Disposable cameras are much less worry.
- Before arriving in a new place, get a map or at least have a rough idea of the area’s orientation. Use taxis to avoid walking through high-risk areas.
- Be alert and walk purposefully. Criminals will hone in on dopey, hesitant, disoriented-looking individuals.
- Use ATMs inside buildings. When using any ATM or exchanging money, be aware of those around you. Robbers sometimes watch these places looking for targets.
- Check the windows and doors of your room for security, and don’t leave anything valuable lying around. If you consider your hotel to be reliable, place your valuables in its safe and get a receipt.
- If you’re suspicious or uneasy about a situation, don’t hesitate to make excuses and leave, change your route, or whatever else is needed to extricate yourself.
- Don’t take anything to city beaches except your bathing suit, a towel and just enough money for food and drinks. No camera, no bag, no jewellery.
- After dark, don’t walk along empty or nearly empty streets or into deserted parks.
- Don’t wander into the favelas (shantytowns) unless you’re with a trustworthy guide who really knows the area.
- Never carry any more money than you need for the specific outing you’re on, and keep it discreetly stashed away in a money belt, sock, secret pocket or shoe. But always have enough cash on hand to appease a mugger (R$20 to R$40).
- If something is stolen from you, you can report it to the police, but it can be an enormous hassle just to get a police report for your insurance company. The tourist police are the best equipped to deal with foreigners, but are rare outside of Rio.