With our recents posts about Rio de Janeiro, we’ve had several questions about the safety of the city, especially for female travelers. So we since we stayed with someone who lives in Rio and happens to be female, I thought I’d get her firsthand recommendations. Thanks Aline for all of your tips!
How to Be Safe in Rio de Janeiro
1. Personal Safety
Most of the violent crime in Rio is focused in the poorer areas. It may be tempting to wander into the colorful favelas (slums) to snap some “insta-worthy” pictures, but there are plenty of other places in Rio to take great photographs. There are plenty of guided tours of the favelas if you really want to see them. Pay for the tour guide. It’s cheaper than getting mugged.
Just like any busy tourist area, when in a crowded area, put your purse in front of you. It you are carrying a wallet, place it in your front pocket. I left my wedding ring at home. I didn’t even bring expensive looking fakes. When not using your camera, leave it hidden in your purse or backpack.
There are more taxi’s in Rio de Janeiro than New York City, and they are perfectly safe and reasonably priced. I left my cell phone in a taxi and actually had my phone returned! However, I think I got lucky– good living and all of that. We also didn’t have any problem using Uber.
Since we were staying with our friend, Aline, we didn’t need to take the subway or the bus, but she told us that they are fine as long as you’re going to the popular tourist areas. If you’re a young female, crowded subways trains have had some “handsy” issues. A lot of the trains have added female only cars to eliminate that issue.
When walking, stay off of your cellphone. Not only is that an invitation for your phone to be swiped, but you need to stay alert for cyclists and motorcycles. Just because there is a crosswalk, don’t assume any cars will stop for you unless they have a stoplight. Even if it looks like all the cars are stopping, listen for any approaching motorbikes. Those motorcyclists dart in and out all over the place. Our friend has had her side car mirrors knocked off three times by motorbikes. They just hit her car and kept on going!
3. Credit Cards
Credit card fraud is a growing problem in Brazil. Every place we used our card, the waiters brought the card machine out to us, even at nice restaurants. If they want to take your card out of sight to swipe it, switch to cash. Before using an ATM, check to make sure nothing is attached to the reader. If it feels loose, don’t use that machine. Keep an eye on your account online. Learn from our bad experience, trying to get ahold of your bank on the phone while in Rio is extremely challenging.
4. Beach Safety
Vendors are safe and friendly. You can trust that they will give you an honest price, but always trust your gut. If someone or something feels suspicious, don’t deal with them. Take only the necessities to the beach unless you plan on watching your valuables the entire time.
The Brazilian sun is strong. Bring your own sunscreen to the beach and apply it often. This is one item that is sold at the beach that can’t always be trusted. It may be fake or too old to be effective.
Ocean currents change daily. What can be a calm area one day, can contain undercurrents and have deeper water the next. Take note of flag colors. Red– be careful!
5. Food & Drink
Food poisoning is rare in Rio de Janeiro. The majority of restaurants and hotels use ice cubes made from filtered water. In small bars and restaurants, especially in non-tourist areas, avoid using ice. Also, don’t accept drinks given by strangers, it may have been drugged.
A local jokingly told us that Brazil’s most famous exports are the Zika virus and yellow fever. Although not required of most North American or European travelers, travelers from other areas need a yellow fever vaccination. Although not a current problem in Rio, a lot of local mothers are starting to get their children vaccinated against yellow fever because the disease is spreading to that area. When we return, we’ll definitely take this precaution.
Are any of these suggestions familiar or surprising? Please share by commenting below! Any questions? Please ask!
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