Been the destination of more than 45% of the foreigner tourists who come to Brazil, it is more than clear that Rio de Janeiro is the favorite Brazilian destination for those coming to visit the country. Home of Brazilian postcards like Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro is a must for any traveler or tourist. However, some security measures are necessary to make sure you will be able to visit Rio de Janeiro safely and not get a headache instead.
The first thing people ask me when I tell them I`m Brazilian is if I have been to Rio de Janeiro and if it is a safe destination. Well, if you check the news, you will probably get as scared as I did before visiting Rio for the first time. My boyfriend`s family is Carioca (it`s how we call those who were born in Rio) and they all told me not to worry about the news.
The thing is, Rio is definitely a dangerous place if you end up in the wrong area, but you can’t think of Rio as being a battlefield as a whole. Of course there are dangerous areas that should be avoided, and of course, accidents happen. However, the tourist areas in Rio (these are probably the areas you will want to visit, hopefully) are quite safe and secure, there are police everywhere and good support for tourists.
Like any place in the world, it is always good to always pay attention, nowhere is completely safe and although Rio de Janeiro can be more dangerous than other places, it is definitely not a reason to avoid a trip there. Here are some safety tips for those planning a visit to Rio de Janeiro.
Is Rio de Janeiro Safe? How to Stay Safe in Rio.
Pay attention at your sides
When walking on the streets look at your sides and back, pay attention who is around you. I’m not saying to raise doubts about every single being that comes close to you. But pay attention and watch out. If something doesn’t seem right, or if you start questioning someone’s action, try to get inside the next shop you see and wait for this person to pass or stop in the street, pretend you are just taking a break and wait for the person to pass by.
Don’t walk around holding your phone
I know it is a pretty normal thing to do, sometimes you need to call someone, or check something on your phone like a map or something like that, but avoid playing with your phone on the streets. Stealing phone from people on the street is the most common crime we have here. If you feel the need to check your phone, look for a shop, supermarket or mall to get in so you can check it.
Don’t wear jewelry/watches
Wearing jewelry or watches in the streets of Rio de Janeiro is a big NO. Don’t wear gold, gems, big watches, nothing valuable. To be honest, it is good to avoid accessories even if they are fake, after all, not everybody knows the difference between original and fake gold.
The best way to walk around Rio de Janeiro is bringing the less with you on the streets, so avoid walking around with your luggage, leave all the big bags at your hotel/hostels, try picking the smallest bag possible to use on the streets and only bring the essential, the rest you can leave with your luggage at the place you are staying. Crossbody bags are the best in this case, you won’t need to spend time worrying too much about your belonging knowing there are safe, tied to your body.
Wear discreet clothes
I recommend you not to walk around the city wearing brand clothes. Try to be discreet, wear basic color, simple clothes, don’t try to be fancy if you are not planning to lose your clothes in the middle of your trip. Pick simple shoes, don’t take your Nike shoes for a walk there. It is fine if you are going for dinner or something, but definitely, don’t take your fancy clothes as a uniform for Rio.
Admire Largo da Lapa from a safe distance
Largo da Lapa is the place in Rio de Janeiro, where you find that famous aqueduct. Really nice, from a certain distance. Unfortunately, it is not a safe zone, on one side you will find nice pubs and many policemen on the street, you can definitely sit there and have some drink. But don’t get too far from the pubs’ area. It is a dangerous place where many thieves stay.
Take the van to climb Christ the Redeemer
There are two ways to climb the Cristo. First is by the stairs or ecologic trails, second is taking a van. Although it can sound fun to climb the hill by your own, it is not the safest way, unfortunately, there are many reports of people being robbed or abducted there, so in order to avoid it. Take the van. There are many companies that offer the service to climb to the Christ the Redeemer, when I went there I took the tour by Corcovado Car Service.
Best Zones of Rio de Janeiro
The best zones in Rio are the South Zone and Central Zone, the South Zone is where you gonna find the best beaches like Ipanema, Copacabana, and Leblon. Neighborhoods like Flamengo, Botafogo, Urca are great for tourists as they are close to the main tourist attractions, these are the best areas to stay, in my opinion. Rio de Janeiro’s downtown called Centro in Portuguese, as well as Lapa are also two other good neighborhoods to stay, however, they require more attention at night. Both zones are relatively calm and safe part of the city, there are many hotels in both areas where you can stay. Not a reason to don’t have cautions though.
Neighborhoods to avoid
Of course, there are neighborhoods that you should avoid at max, although, most of them receive a lot of tourists every year. Favela da Rocinha, is one of them, this is probably the most famous slum in the world, and definitely not the safest area to walk around, however, tourists insist in going there for ‘tourism’ or for the sake of adventure. They like to picture Rosinha as the safest favela in Rio, and for a while it really us, but it is still a favela and you never know when things will warm up. Zona Norte is another area you must pay attention, it is where you will find Maracana and the Samba Schools, however, there are many dangerous areas in this region and is better avoided especially at night.
Avoid going out after 7 pm or measure where you are going at night
I know it is inevitable to don’t go out at night sometimes, as we all have to have dinner, also there are some activities that are better to be done at night, etc. But if you can avoid it, please do. During the night it tends to be more dangerous. If you do get out during the night, measure where you are going, and strongly consider taking a Uber.
In my opinion, this is the best way to visit Rio de Janeiro. Ubers are really cheap, as it is elsewhere in the world. Taxis tend to be quite expensive and sometimes they will try charging tourists more. The good thing in taking a Uber is that different from buses they can avoid some areas and choose different ways to get to a specific place, as they know the city better than us tourists, and know very well what areas to avoid.
If you are driving around Rio de Janeiro or taking a Uber, you will prefer to avoid tunnels, as there are many cases of “arrastões”, where the thieves close the tunnels and rob every car inside it. Normally the drivers already know this fact and try to avoid tunnels after a certain hour.
Avoid bringing valuable things to the beach
I know that going to the beach is about relaxing yourself, drinking some coconut water and free your mind from worries, but it is always good to take precautions to make sure you will really free your mind. Don’t bring valuable things like expensive gadgets to the beach, don’t bring a million dollars either. Try to bring the essential. If you are in a group, why bringing everybody phones and cameras? Bring one or two instead. Why bringing your whole wallet full of dollars? Bring a credit card for lunch perhaps and some few papers for water and ice cream. Also, don’t leave your belonging alone in the sand while everybody goes swimming.