SAFETY TIPS

SAFETY AND SECURITY

CRIME

Crime is a serious problem throughout Brazil. Crime rates are highest in urban centres, particularly in areas adjacent to impoverished neighbourhoods of:

  • Rio de Janeiro
  • São Paulo
  • Brasilia
  • Recife
  • Salvador

Foreign tourists are most commonly affected by theft but incidents of violent crime have also occurred, due to the high prevalence of guns coupled with the willingness of criminals and police to resort to violence. To avoid becoming a victim of crime, be aware of your surroundings at all times and follow the security directives of local authorities.

PETTY CRIME

Street crime, including pickpocketing, purse snatching and theft from cars, is common in Brazil’s large cities. Tourists are a favourite target.

Petty theft on buses and the metro is common. It is a significant concern in Recife.

Incidents of opportunistic crime increase significantly at large-scale sporting events, international conferences and during holidays such as the Carnival and New Year’s celebrations.

Flash mob robberies (arrastões) have occurred sporadically on Rio’s city beaches and in other crowded tourist areas. This type of crime involves a group of thieves (often young children and youth originating from nearby favelas) that swarm an area and snatch valuable items such as cash, jewellery and cell phones.

A common ruse used by criminals is the Good Samaritan scam, where a criminal offers to help a tourist who looks lost. If you are lost, go into a nearby business or hotel to ask for help.

  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Remain vigilant when visiting tourist destinations such as:
    • beaches
    • outdoor markets
    • hotel grounds
    • bars and nightclubs
    • airports and bus stations
  • Avoid showing signs of affluence such as expensive jewelry, watches, clothing and bags
  • Carry only small amounts of cash
  • Keep cameras and portable electronic devices concealed
  • Be aware of ploys to distract your attention
  • Remain cautious with new acquaintances who ask for information or offer hospitality or assistance
  • Book tours with reliable agencies

VIOLENT CRIME

Armed robberies occur regularly, even during the day. They are a growing concern at restaurants, particularly in larger cities. Hold-ups can occur on Brazil’s trains. Assaults are frequently perpetrated in unofficial taxis.

Incidents of sexual assault against male and female foreigners have been reported, sometimes involving the use of sedatives.

Victims have been seriously injured or killed when resisting perpetrators, who may be armed or under the influence of drugs.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution at all times
  • Avoid travelling alone, especially at night
  • Avoid parks or central (downtown) areas of major cities
  • Avoid poorly lit and isolated streets
  • Avoid walking on isolated and unsupervised beaches with poor visibility from the sidewalk
  • If you are threatened by robbers, don’t resist.

KIDNAPPINGS

Express kidnappings, although rare, occur throughout the country, particularly in larger cities. Victims are picked up from the street, usually at night, and forced to withdraw funds from ATMs.

  • Use only ATMs in well-lit public areas
  • Restrict withdrawals during day hours
  • Be discrete when putting your money in your wallet

BORDERS WITH COLOMBIA AND VENEZUELA

There is a concerning level of serious criminal activity by organized criminal groups along the border areas with countries bordering Brazil, particularly Colombia and Venezuela. Incidents of attacks on tourists and kidnapping have occurred. Be extremely cautious when crossing into bordering countries.

FAVELAS

Favelas are impoverished, urban neighbourhoods where crime levels are high. Gang-related violence is prevalent due to the presence of organized crime and drugs.

Police operations in favelas have led to retaliation by criminal gangs. Armed clashes and shootouts between police forces and alleged criminals regularly occur. As a result, there is an increased rate of violence everywhere. Targets have included police stations, buses, official buildings and businesses. Incidents have occurred on major thoroughfares, including the highway to and from the Galeão Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport in Rio.

There is a risk of violence spilling over into nearby, affluent neighbourhoods and tourist destinations. There have been incidents of injuries and deaths as a result of stray bullets near, and in, favelas. Police assistance in these areas is very limited.

  • Don’t visit favelas
  • Don’t rent accomodation located in a favela

FRAUD

Credit card and ATM fraud is a major problem. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards:

  • pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
  • use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
  • avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

Cybercrime is also a growing problem.  Perpetrators monitor social media sites and eavesdrop on your conversations when you are in the country.

  • Do not discuss travel plans or any other personal information within earshot of strangers
  • Be cautious when posting information on social media
  • Be particularly vigilant in internet cafes

More about overseas fraud

PIRACY

Pirate attacks and armed robbery against ships occur in coastal waters. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.

Live piracy report – International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre

DEMONSTRATIONS AND CIVIL UNREST

Demonstrations take place regularly. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

In São Paulo, protests can cause delays along the main road to Guarulhos International Airport. Demonstrations tend to increase in numbers and intensity during major events that attract foreign visitors.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)

WOMEN’S SAFETY

Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.

  • Avoid travelling alone at night
  • Avoid carrying purses

Safe-travel guide for women

SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

The use of sedatives to facilitate robberies of personal belongings has been reported on beaches in Rio and in crowded restaurants in São Paulo.

  • Never leave your belongings unattended on city beaches
  • Ask for drinks coming from sealed bottles or cans instead of in plastics glasses
  • In restaurants, avoid sitting close to the entrance

SWIMMING

Coastal waters can be dangerous.

  • Swim or surf in areas where lifeguards are located
  • Avoid swimming where there are strong currents
  • Be wary of sharks, especially in Brazil’s north east near Recife
  • Follow the instructions and warnings of local authorities.

TREKKING

Robberies are frequent and occur in tourist destinations, including on hiking trails. Be especially cautious on the Corcovado trail in Rio, where several robberies have happened.

If you intend on trekking: 

  • never do so alone
  • always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
  • buy travel insurance
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • ensure that you’re properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back
  • obtain detailed information on trekking routes before setting out
  • ensure the trail doesn’t pass through a favela
  • do not venture off marked trail

ADVENTURE TOURISM

Amazon border regions and the Pantanal wetlands are largely uninhabited and dangerous areas.

Travel in these regions only with trained guides.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

SUBWAYS

The subway systems in Rio and in São Paulo are generally safe during the day. Be extremely cautious using public transportation at night

BUSES

Bus accidents occur regularly.

Major bus stations charge fixed, pre-paid rates.

Do not use public vans.

TAXIS

Local law requires the use of the taxi meter to determine the legal fare. Adding surcharges to a fare is illegal.

Should taxi rates change and their taxi meters have not been adjusted, drivers may indicate these changes by showing an authorized paper with the new fares.

Many tourists hire “radio taxis”, also known as “commun taxis.” These taxis operate at a fixed price irrespective of the time of the day and the time it takes to arrive at your destination.

  • Only use official taxis
  • Upon arrival to Brazil, purchase your fare from licensed taxi offices in the airport arrival hall or near the taxi queues
  • During your stay, use licensed taxis from taxi stands

ROAD SAFETY

Brazil has one of the highest road accident rates in the world.

Road conditions are generally acceptable in large cities but badly maintained in the rest of the country. Poor signage and construction also pose a hazard.

Drivers do not respect traffic laws. Drivers are extremely aggressive and reckless and often drive at excessive speeds.  

At night, it is common for drivers to treat red lights as stop signs to protect against hold-ups at intersections. Pedestrians and motorists proceeding through green lights during these hours should be particularly cautious.

  • Be careful when stopping on the side of any highway because of traffic
  • Be careful of motorbikes when changing lanes
  • When driving in the city, pay particular attention to your surroundings while waiting at traffic lights
  • If you feel threatened at any time, do not stop
  • If you are in a traffic accident, call the police immediately
  • Never confront the driver of another vehicle

AIR TRAVEL

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

General information about foreign domestic airlines