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 tourism.
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.
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.
Rio is a much bigger city than you imagine. The most practical and economical way to do all the main attractions is participating in a panoramic day tour. This will give you a sense of direction, and take care of the mandatory main attractions on a single day.
Take advantage of wi-fi to see where you are and use Google maps to give you an idea on how to get to your destination. Keep in mind that Rio has hills everywhere, a straight line is not always the easiest way.
If there is a subway station nearby this is the safest and cheapest way to go. There are stations where you get off and board an integrated bus line that takes you to Urca, for instance.
Buses are my least favorite way to get around. Safety has improved, many buses are air-conditioned, and if you are on a budget they may be the right alternative for you. Some bus stops changed streets because of the subway extension renovations.
Taxis are my favorite means of transportation, and they are very easy to find. You can even download an app to figure out how much a ride will cost you. Yellow taxis *must* run by the meter. Prepaid deals mean you get the short straw.
Driving in Rio can be a stressful experience, so unless you are staying in Barra or Recreio in most cases you will not need a car. Make sure that the GPS is working, the malls in these areas have plenty of parking space, a rare commodity on the South Side. .
Unless you have a specific purpose or a local friend whom you trust to show you around, we suggest you stay on the South Side or Centro of Rio, and other areas
specifically recommend by our guide.
YOUR SAFETY FIRST, ALWAYS
Most safety tips here apply to any big city. Rio is big, so you have to be streetwise.
Avoid dark or isolated areas where you do not see a single soul at night (duh),
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...)
EXTRA CAUTIONS THAT MAKE SENSE
Do not take regular buses alone, and if you do avoid the window seat. If your creep alert beeps, it is much easier to change seats when you're sitting on the aisle seat.
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 adults-only hotel.
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
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 turn
things go from bad to sour.
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 Precint (DEAT).
Their office is located in Leblon, on Av. Afrânio de Mello Franco s/n,
across from Shopping Leblon.
DISCRIMINATION IS A CRIME IN RIO. SERIOUSLY.
If you feel you were discriminated against and you want to go litigious about it the law is on your side. Ever racial slurs are punishable if you have witnesses and want to go through with it.
Coordenadoria da Diversidade Sexual is dedicated to preventing discrimination against minorities including lesbians, trans-gendered and gays. They will point you in the right direction, and instruct you on how to proceed.