Safety in Brazil

Brazil offers many things for visitors. There are varied landscapes, from the gorgeous beaches, to the Amazon region, the stunning Iguazu Falls, the soaring Andes Mountains, and dry, arid deserts. There are world class cities bursting with world class attractions. One can enjoy a vibrant night life mixed with a tame countryside atmosphere. It is a country of really delightful contrasts, an one that continues to attract multitudes of visitors each and every year.

Whilst most visits pass without incident, Brazil is also, unfortunately, known for its high crime rates. Even locals say that this is the biggest problem that the country has today, and reference the growing crime figures. Crimes can be violent, with an otherwise simple pickpocketing theft or a soft mugging turning quite nasty. Weapons are often carried by criminals. Large drug cartels operate in the country.

Of course, safety is not only about exposure to, or risk from, criminality. Other factors, such as accidents, natural disasters, illnesses, and so forth all contribute to a person’s overall well being and safety.

Tips to Stay Safe in Brazil

Before even setting off on your Brazilian adventure, make sure that you have good travel insurance that covers all activities that you plan to do and adequately covers your belongings. Read the small print, and check that it does not exclude certain activities, items, or events. Check that all required vaccinations are up to date and that you take enough medication with you, as well as a copy of any regular prescriptions that you need.

When packing, don’t take any non-essential expensive or valuable items. Leave the delicate jewellery at home. When thinking about laptops, Ipads, Ipods, etc ask yourself are they really essential for you to enjoy the trip? You may find yourself bored on long journeys, but will the worry of losing them or having them stolen, or indeed actually losing them or having them stolen, be better than temporary boredom?

By law, all people must carry their ID on them at all times. For foreigners, this means their passport. You must be able to produce your passport if asked by a police officer. Most will, however, accept a good colour photocopy.

Try not to appear like a target. This means not looking like a typical foreigner. Little things to avoid include black socks, baseball caps, and shiny sunglasses. Don’t carry a backpack or big bag. Some people recommend buying some cheap clothes in Brazil to wear during your trip.

Only take out with you what you need for the day. Keep most of your money in a coin belt, or another hidden location. Only take money out of it when you are in a private place, for example a toilet cubicle. Keep a small amount handy for bus fares, entrance fees etc, and also make sure you have some kept in a separate part of your body, like a pocket, for if you are approached by thieves. If you have something to hand over, for example $20, they are less likely to injure you. There have been reports have people who have nothing to give to thieves being badly beaten in anger. If you are approached, the number one rule is to stay calm and not resist. Do not, under any circumstances, try and fight with an attacker. The chances are that they will not be working alone and are armed.

Keep your camera hidden. Consider using disposable cameras. If you do use a regular camera, try and keep a backup of your photographs somewhere – you do not want to lose all your holiday photographs if your camera is stolen, or indeed, lost.

Withdraw little cash and often. Even if you are not carrying it on you, try and avoid leaving large amounts of cash in a hotel room. Only use ATMs in daylight and try to use ones that are in very busy public places – ones actually inside a bank building are always recommended.

When checking into a hotel or guest house, check that it is secure. Check the windows. Places with bars are best.  If possible, use your own padlock on doors – some have fittings to allow for this as well as the standard key. If there is a safe in the room use it. Think carefully about leaving things in receptions safes.

Try and avoid walking around in the dark. This is especially important for lone travellers and small groups of, say, two or three people. Be wary of isolated places, even in the daylight. Avoid walking on lonely stretches of beaches at any time of the day or night.

Do not be tempted to take a peek inside a favela shanty town area unless you are on an organised tour. These areas can be very dangerous. If you find that you have inadvertently strayed into a less salubrious neighbourhood, turn around and quickly make your way out of there. If you are in a situation that you feel uncomfortable in, leave.

Be careful when out partying. Never leave your drink unattended and never accept a drink from a stranger.
If hiring a car, know which areas are prone to car-jackings and avoid them.

Do not drink the tap water. Only drink bottled water, and check that the seal is intact before you consume it. The normal rules apply when it comes to raw foods and salads.

Be aware that the sun is very strong. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, apply and reapply sun cream regularly, and try and stay in the shade as much as possible.

Avoid touching animals, and if you are bitten or scratched immediately wash the area and seek medical advice. Also take steps to avoid insect bites and use a good repellent, especially in the evenings and at night time.

Whilst this may seem like a lot of scary advice, it is meant to serve as a guide. Remember that most visitors to Brazil have a wonderful experience and come home with only fabulous tales and beautiful pictures.