How to Keep Safe When Travelling to Brazil

Is Brazil Safe to Visit? Brazil Safety Travel Tips

 

The country of Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest country by area. Its capital is Brasília while the largest and most populated city is São Paulo. Brazil is the birthplace of festivals, music and partying, and one could say that even of football.

The famous Carnival of Rio de Janeiro can be witnessed here, as well as many other carnivals in Olinda, Recife and Salvador. Besides music and parties, Brazil still has a lot left to offer.

The country is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and has borders in north, south and west with ten different countries, every one of them situated in South America, except Chile and Ecuador.

As said, besides the crazy urban life of Brazil, there much left to see. The Amazon River Basin is home to more than half of the world’s rainforest. Brazil is also the home of the most impressive waterfalls in the world, such as the Iguaçu Falls.

If you came here with the question “is Brazil safe to visit” in mind, then you’re in the right place because in the following paragraphs we will present you each and every risk status of this amazing country, ultimately helping you make a decision.

Let’s begin our Brazil safety guide.

Highest Risks You Expose Yourself To When Visiting Brazil 

Overall Risks in Brazil: MEDIUM to HIGH

Overall, Brazil is a pretty safe country, meaning that you don’t have to worry about being the victim of any serious crime while visiting it. However, according to our sources, petty crimes such as pickpocketing and scams – which are very common in Brazil – can still occur, so you’d better keep an eye on everything at all times.

Also, it is recommended that you don’t visit any favelas. These are the slums or “shanty towns” of Brazil and are very unpredictable in terms of security. Here you can find a map where all of the favelas are marked, so you know which places to avoid. Some of these slums are also known to have been the hosts of armed shootouts between the authorities and the many gangs of Brazil.

Therefore, as long as you stay away from these areas or tread with extreme caution if you choose to visit them, your trip to Brazil should be very safe.

Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Brazil: HIGH

Pickpocketing is the crime that is being done the most on the streets of Brazil. We are aware even of football players that have been pickpocketed during their stay in this country. No part of the city is actually safe in this case.

Being a much-visited country, with tourists at all steps, thieves take advantage of this and of you, in order to get their hands on your goodies. But don’t worry, this list of Brazil safety tips includes everything you should do to avoid being pickpocketed or any type of unpleasant incidents.

The case of you, as a tourist, getting robbed, is pretty high, but not as high as getting pickpocketed. While you can get pickpocketed in almost any location in Brazil, thefts and robberies happen only in certain areas and, of course, in poorly lit places and shady alleys – which you should always avoid.

Armed robberies have been reported to happen on the Corcovado walking trail to the Christ the Redeemer statue. In Sao Paulo, you should avoid Avenida Paulista, with its historic downtown area. Very dangerous are the red light districts on Rua Agusta, Catedral da Sé, Praça da República and the Estacao de Luz metro area.

The central bus station of Brasilia is also to be avoided as it has a high incidence of robberies, as well as the Federal District area. In case you want to visit any beaches, keep in mind that these are areas where thefts are most common, especially in Brazil where they involve “arrastões” – big groups of thieves that run on the beaches and grab any valuables they can see.

  • How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Brazil?

First of all, you should leave your most valued possessions back at your hotel – or at least avoid displaying them. Then, as the risk of pickpocketing is higher than the risk of theft, the Brazil safety guide advises you to keep your original documents inside your accommodation and instead carry photocopies of them, to avoid some of the most unpleasant situations – at your departure.

What one repeats, one also learns! With this being said, we strongly advise you to go to the authorities straight away. If someone has robbed you, don’t run after him and don’t confront him as the situation may turn very violent. Instead, alert the police and wait for your problems to be solved.

When it comes to pickpocketing, you should avoid any large crowds, like those of festivals and demonstrations. Then, you shouldn’t travel on shady streets, and of course, avoid entering any favelas. Also, you should be more vigilant when visiting places like Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach and the areas of Lapa and Santa Theresa – as seen here, these are areas with the highest reports of theft and pickpocketing.

As always, keep your valuables out of sight, don’t carry a large amount of money with you and be careful about your surroundings.

If you’ve been pickpocketed or you notice something missing from your vehicle, bags etc. you should alert the police immediately. Don’t run after the criminal or try to fight back as they might be armed as well as under the influence of drugs.

The authorities are sure to solve any of your problems, so you should let them do that, and refrain from acting on your own.

Scam Risk in Brazil: HIGH

Is the country of Brazil safe and care-free for tourists? It is safe – but not care-free. As you can see here, there are over 22 types of scams that you might run into when visiting Brazil. Your task here is to get informed and get prepared, in order to avoid being scammed.

You must be extra careful with the ATMs in the airports of Rio de Janeiro, as Brazil has one of the highest ATM theft risks. Be careful and choose your way of action wisely.

  • How to avoid getting scammed in Brazil?

As mentioned before, there are more than a dozen ways through which you can get scammed. The most important rule is that you mustn’t trust any stranger. Many of them might offer to help you, for free, with some problem you may face, after which they will ask you for money and become violent. As for the ATM scams, you must use your credit cards as swiftly as possible or choose to withdraw money from within the bank.

Always be very alert, trust nobody and avoid unlicensed taxis.

If you find yourself scammed out of a sudden, there’s pretty much nothing you can do. In most of the cases, there is no person you can run after for, or threaten because the Brazilian scammers are known to use elaborate plans – leaving you with just the fact that a certain item is missing.

Therefore, the first thing to do is alert the authorities – nothing else has to be said. Alert the police, fill in a report and wait for the results.

Kidnapping Risk in Brazil: MEDIUM

The risk, in this case, is stated as being a medium one. But as seen here, there is something called “express kidnappings” in which a certain individual, local or tourist, is kidnapped for a short amount of time, then forced to withdraw money from the ATM to pay for his freedom or hand over any valuables he or she has.

Carjacks and vehicle break-ins are reported to happen on a regular basis, so you should be very careful in case you travel by car or rent one just during this visit.

  • How to avoid getting kidnapped in Brazil?

As we always recommend you, avoid any large crowds, especially if you are alone. If you are accompanied, keep an eye on the person next to you that you trust. In this way, there’s no chance that something bad will happen. As long as you are vigilant at all times, you are safe.

Also, to avoid any situations involving carjacks or break-ins, prepare your keys before reaching the vehicle, for a faster get in and keep your doors locked and windows closed.

If you have been kidnapped, remain calm and do whatever the criminals say as you will probably be released very soon. If something that hints at a kidnapping occurs, you should, again, remain calm and reach the authorities for their help.

As we said, this Brazil safety guide provides you with everything you should know about the risks of Brazil and how to avoid them – but in all cases, the first thing you should think of is alerting the authorities, as they have the required power to act and help you solve your problems.

Terrorism Risk in Brazil: LOW

Recent history shows no reports of any terrorist attack in Brazil. Still, demonstrations and proofs of civil unrest still occur across the country. This means that large groups of people may gather – in locations such as Avenida Paulista, Largo da Batata, Sao Paulo, Esplanada dos Ministerios in Brasilia and Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro – and there might be a chance of a terrorist attack.

While low, this risk should be taken into account as you can never know what could happen.

  • How to avoid terrorism in Brazil?

Unknown areas, favelas, shady streets or the slums should be avoided. You don’t want to find yourself peaking on some criminals of sorts. Therefore, avoid the mentioned areas as well as churches or government building that happen to host a large crowd.

If you see any suspicious activity you should contact the authorities immediately. Don’t wait for a second confirmation and rush to the police. This way you save yourself as well as the lives that may be put in danger.

Risks for Women Traveling alone: MEDIUM

After all these safety travel tips, you might wonder if Brazil is safe for solo women travelers – and the answer is yes. In most areas of Brazil, being a solo woman traveler is no big deal, and you won’t have any issues.

However, you have to keep in mind that this implies having the same chances of being robbed or pickpocketed as anyone else. While your gender may not attract too much of the usual harassment or creepy looks, youi are still prone to theft and should take the appropriate measures to prevent that from happening.

  • How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Brazil?

If you are a woman and traveling alone you are mostly safe if traveling across Brazil. However, be very careful if traveling in the North East and the remote parts of the Amazon. Also, while in Rio de Janeiro, be careful as well, as there have been some cases of tourists’ rape cases.

If traveling in the locations mentioned above, you should be accompanied by someone you trust and avoid shady streets and crowded areas.

Naturally, you should run away and call for help at the same time. The faster you call for help, the faster the authorities can help you or the persons in need. As always, keep calm and think straight.

Rape Risk in Brazil: MEDIUM

In Brazil, sexual offenses are quite rare, when it comes to tourists. But, in the reported attacks, which have been against both men and women, the most common way the criminals do such a thing is by using “date rape” drugs.

  • How to avoid getting raped in Brazil?

As always, one important thing to remember while visiting Brazil is to never go inside any of the favelas marked on the map we have provided you with earlier. These areas have a high incidence of any criminal offenses that happen across the country.

Avoid any shady streets or dark alleys and always walk accompanied by someone.

In case the unpleasant happens, contact the authorities immediately. There’s not much you can do, just abide these Brazil safety travel tips and you will be just fine.

Risks for People Traveling with Children in Brazil: MEDIUM

To the questions “is Brazil safe for solo women travelers” we have answered you with a yes – that in most of Brazil’s areas. When it comes to children, it’s just the same. As long as you keep an eye on your child, everything should be just fine.

Don’t leave the children unattended and have yourself or someone watching over them at all times. Care for your children as much as you’d care for you – of course.

  • How to avoid unwanted scenarios?

In terms of children, the most important thing is to keep an eye on them and make sure that they don’t get into trouble. Naturally, this requires almost permanent supervision. On top of that, you must also prepare a special pouch of medicine, so to say, just for them – with vitamins and pills for common children aches. Make sure that any of the medicine you plan to bring with you can be brought into Brazil legally.

Overall, children will not be exposed to any risks as long as you keep an eye on them and make sure that they don’t get lost in the crowd of tourists and locals.

Natural Disaster Risks in Brazil: MEDIUM

While in Brazil, you should be especially careful when swimming, as there is the risk of riptides which can be very dangerous. Therefore, never swim alone or far away in the sea.

Is Brazil safe to visit? Yes, but bring bug spray.

Many of the natural hazards come in the form of animals and insects, such as mosquito-borne diseases.

Transportation Risks in Brazil: MEDIUM

When it comes to traveling, tourists usually rely on certain websites specific for the region they’re in – for example for Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. If you want to search for your own, keep in mind to take into account only the information found on those that are maintained by the Brazilian authorities, as that’s the most accurate info that you can find, so to say.

Then, as a general useful tip, you should check both the safety standards and the integrity of any transport or adventure travel companies before you sign a contract with them or simply use them.

On the other hand, when it comes to public transportation, keep in mind that, due to common civil unrest and demonstrations, this manner of transportation may be disrupted. As such, you should never fully rely on a city’s – especially if major one – public transport system. Moreover, if you do use this type of transport, be extremely cautious – reportedly, petty crime is more than just common on buses and such, especially during rush-hour.

If you have to rely on public transport and think that you may not be able to pay enough attention to your belongings, statistics suggest that the metro system of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is much safer than buses. However, it’s still recommended that you avoid crowds and large numbers of people in the same place – as criminals work in gangs which focus such groups and, usually, rob more than a couple of persons at once.

With taxis, it is better if you make sure that the ones you use are licensed before you get in them. There are plenty of taxi ranks around the Brazilian cities – from here, you can safely pick up a licensed taxi. To ensure that a taxi is legal, so to speak, you can check for its company details on the vehicle’s outside. For extra safety, you can use taxi apps – with them, you can request inside pickup and even share your journey with family and friends for easy tracking.

In terms of overall road travel, Brazil comes with a high rate of accidents, mainly because the country’s driving standards are poor. As such, it is recommended that you are extremely careful, both as driver and as pedestrian.

Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Brazil: MEDIUM

As mentioned above, most cases of rape and sexual assault in Brazil imply the use of date rape drugs. As such, women and men alike must learn how to avoid and possibly even identify beverages and dishes that have been contaminated.

First of all, go only to reputed restaurants and avoid eating street food – unless street food is prepared right under your eyes. However, the real danger comes when you go to a night-club, pub, or bar – naturally, mainly due to alcohol. Here, you may have a hard time keeping your alcohol intake under control. This is why you have to remember that you are in a foreign country, where anything can happen to you – therefore, you have to be more than careful.

When in a night-club or pub, never leave your drink unattended and always buy your own drinks – no matter if they’re alcoholic or not. Lastly, it is better if you can see the drink as it is prepared – there have been some reports of bartenders working with offenders to drug men and women. In short, keep you drink close to you at all times and refuse any offered by strangers. If, by chance, you notice a weird taste – call a taxi and return to your accommodation.

Speaking of taste, we highly recommend you to drink only drinks/ spirits you area accustomed with. Don’t try new things while you’re abroad – except for brands that are specific to Brazil -, as they may be stronger than what you usually drink and you also can’t tell if they taste like they normally should. Still, no matter what you drink – drink responsibly.

Health Risks in Brazil

As a foreign tourist, you are entitled to emergency medical treatment while visiting Brazil in one of the country’s public hospitals. However, don’t get your hopes up, as these hospitals are usually overcrowded and thus accompanied by long waiting lines for a simple bed. On top of that, the large number of patients also causes a lack of medication.

When it comes to private hospitals, you will not be accepted in them unless you present evidence of either insurance of enough funds to cover the costs of the treatment that you need. As such, make sure that, before buying your plane tickets, you equip yourself, so to say, with proper travel health insurance as well as with more than enough funds to cover any unexpected costs – medication, treatment, emergency evacuation, and so on.

Given that several health authorities have classified the country as having a risk of transmission for the Zika virus, it is essential that you take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Moreover, Brazil also comes with a risk of yellow fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya virus transmission – especially in southeast, north, and central-west parts of Brazil. Malaria is also present in several parts of the country.

Keep in mind that Brazil comes with extremely strong sun. Therefore, do your best to protect yourself against the high UV levels – sunglasses and proper skin care via lotions and oils.

List of Vaccines You Need in Brazil

In the ending of this Brazil safety guide, we will provide you with a list of vaccines that you will need when visiting Brazil. But, as always, you should consult your medic before leaving for Brazil, as he might offer you precise information regarding this aspect.

  • Hepatitis A
  • Yellow Fever
  • Malaria
  • Zika Virus
  • Dengue Fever

Most Dangerous Areas in Brazil

  1. Salvador

Reportedly, there has been an increase regarding criminal offenses in Salvador, as well as fights between gangs. Also, take into account that even the locals of Salvador recommend against traveling into this city – it has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

  1. Sao Paulo

Besides the petty crimes that happen in Sao Paulo, there is also the threat represented by the gang wars. Organized crime groups, theft and assault are very likely to happen in Sao Paulo according to the yearly criminal reports. Therefore, you should tread carefully.

  1. The favelas

While not necessarily a city, the favelas are definitely locations that should be avoided at all costs. Here, crimes from petty to extremely violent can occur and they are not safe areas. Check the map to know which areas you should avoid while visiting Brazil.

Concluding Remarks: Is Brazil Safe to Visit?

Brazil – you surely have heard of it and its wonders. The Sugarloaf Mountain, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer are sights you will definitely want to see while visiting this beautiful country. And there are also the festivals that you won’t want to miss!

Still, you should be careful during your journey. The highest risk is that of getting pickpocketed or getting robbed – and you don’t want that to happen! Therefore, follow these Brazil safety travel tips into account before venturing into this country. Also, contact your embassy and ask for additional information before traveling, so you’d be fully prepared when landing in Brazil.

As always, if you ask yourself “how safe is Brazil for tourists”, besides reading this article you should always check the sources we provide you for better understanding of this country’s situation.

3 Comments

  1. Hi, i don’t know who was your source, but i can say that is someone that doesnt like living in Brazil!
    I am brazilian, i live in São Paulo, and i can ensure you that the only thing you said that is true its the information that you said about favelas. There are a lot of favelas that is save to go, but is still a “lotery”…
    I am just saying this because this post about my country bothered me a little bit! We have a lot (thousand or maybe millions) of people from medium or high class that dont like living here, and you probably got your source with someone like this. I really love my country, and i wont be denying about our problems, but i think that you need a few more opinions about Brazil!
    I apologize for anything!

    • Hi Enrique,

      Thank you for your input! Indeed, the information that we post is gathered from numerous sources, such as government websites, statistics and indexes. For example, you can check the following article which was one of our sources: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/brazil/safety-and-security

      If you feel like we were wrong in any way, we’d like to invite you to write an article from your own perspective (presenting both the good & the bad of visiting Brazil from a local’s point of view). We promise to post it. If this sounds like a deal, please send us an e-mail at travel@isthatplacesafe.com

      Best,
      Tiberiu

  2. It’s soooooo true! Henrique is that type of Brazilian who doesn’t see what’s right in front of him because it is sad to admit it but it’s true! We are a dangerous country and my advice is: don’t go at least not now. There are so many beautiful & safer countries out there why would you risk yourself?

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