de Janeiro, with a population of over 6 million people, is a big
city by any standards. Working class and the upper middle class often
share the same neighborhood, the same beach. Social contrasts are quite
OK, Rio de Janeiro may not be safe as Copenhagen, but
thinking of the city as violent would be completely unfair. Most areas
of interest to visitors are located either on the South Side, or the
historical strip from Flamengo to Downtown. The high criminality rates
happen in areas of the West Side that hold little interest to visitors.
The city is doing a serious effort to deal with the safety issue, and
results are starting to show. In addition to the federal and military
police, municipal guards help control traffic, and keep the sidewalks
relatively free of vendors. At the beach cops on shorts patrol on foot
and on sand-mobiles. Powerful police cameras have been recently
installed in Copacabana, and Ipanema is the next in line.
Having said that, there are of course a few common sense rules you
should follow to stay out of trouble. We have lined up some basic
guidelines we try to follow ourselves.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
not even bother packing flashy jewelry, gold, or
platinum and diamond-studded watches. If you've got it or like it, this is
place to buy them but not the place to flaunt it...
Your invaluable valuables belong in the safety box of your hotel room.
Carry along a photocopy of your passport, in case you are asked to show
some ID. Leave the original together with your driver's license in your
safety box (unless you're driving, of course).
Do not take along more cash than you need. Most restaurants and stores
take plastic, anyway, and you use your debit cards ATM's at selected banks.
Avoid dark or isolated areas where you do not see a single soul at night (duhh),
such as the Flamengo Park, or the Financial District.
Walk with a sense of purpose, as if you knew where you are going to.
Looking like a victim is the first step to becoming one.
Don't leave your camcorder or state-of-the-art camera swinging from your
limp hand, like a shopping bag. Wear shoulder straps.
If you bring along expensive cameras, camcorders or laptops, consider an
At the beach, do not leave your expensive camera, passport and/or cash
laying around on the sand unattended while you go for a few laps. Do not
hide your money in your $200 sneakers either, or you will lose both (that's
an old one).
Don't take off your watch and leave it laying on the sand behind your back
while you are sitting on the sand distracted by the girls or boys that pass
by (we've seen saw someone do this...)
Do not take regular buses alone (see getting
around), taxis cost much less than you expect. If you must take a bus
(at your own risk), avoid the window seats and the back rows. Keep the exact
change in hand, so you don't have to mess with your wallet (which is
obviously in your front pocket).
Good Night Cinderella is an old trick
that still works. You take a drink offered by a friendly stranger (men or
woman). It contains powerful sleeping drugs. You will need help to get back
to your hotel room, and this caring and friendly person will gain access to
your valuables while you are helpless. Do not leave your drink unattended at
bars or discos, for the same reason.
Don't take strangers you've just met back to your hotel room - even if you
think you are in love! This is the easiest way to become a victim of
violence or theft. Say that your hotel does not allow visitors (which may
well be true) and go to a honeymoon motel,
instead. Everybody knows where to find them.
If someone accidentally spills something on you in the street,
and offers to clean it say thank you, and walk away. They may have a partner
waiting for a chance to pick your wallet while you are distracted with the
At nightclubs and rock shows, stay away from pitboys. These
muscular guys, nicknamed after their pitbulls, tend to hang out in boys-only
groups. They may pick up fights for no apparent reason (we know it's the
steroids speaking). Their favorite victims are members of other pitboy
groups, or with security guards.
Don't get involved with the drug scene, even if you think you know what
If you get in trouble with the police, do not offer a bribe. It could make
things go from bad to sour. Underhanded cops are usually very open when they
are creating a problem to sell the solution. They will take the
initiative of asking for the cervejinha (i.e. tip).
If the worse happens and you are approached by some criminal element, try
and keep calm. Never fight back. They may have guns, be on drugs, could
react violently. You certainly have more to lose than they do.
Though police officers in the street try to be helpful, most do not speak
other languages. If you need to report something
was stolen for insurance purposes, go directly to the tourist police (DEAT).
Their office is located in Leblon, on Av. Afrânio de Mello Franco s/n,
across from nightclub Scala.