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Is Rio safe?

Is Rio, Brazil, safe for a few days break for a streetwise solo female traveller? Thinking of going late Feb 16 and staying at the Windsor Atlantica hotel. Any advice greatly appreciated.

Posted by
32265 posts

Mike,

Have a look at THIS website for some information on the topic. The Canadian government website provides much the same information. Even the "streetwise" will have to exercise some caution there.

If the person is travelling with a British Passport, apparently a tourist Visa is not required.

Posted by
11294 posts

Funny - I was there in February 2000 and was just thinking of this very topic yesterday.

Before I went, I was determined not to listen to exaggerated fears. But while there, I got multiple warnings from Cariocas themselves about safety. One told me never to take a regular city bus, but only the special air-conditioned buses, or taxis. (The look of horror when I told him I had taken a bus - to Sugarloaf, not to some slum - was unforgettable!) Another told me to take off my watch to avoid theft of it. When I explained that it was a very cheap watch, she said it didn't matter - it still made me a target.

What was annoying was to constantly read that all one has to do to stay safe in Rio is to take "normal big city precautions." Well, no one who goes to tourist areas of London or Chicago is told they can't wear a watch, and no one who goes to Paris or San Francisco is told to stay off all city buses for safety reasons. So, at least in 2000, it was not just like any normal big city.

I had no actual problems, but the constant drumbeat of "it's fine here, just act like it's a warzone and you'll be safe, but it's really a great place, so just relax, but don't let your guard down for a minute" was extremely wearing. I couldn't wait to leave. Unfortunately, my hotel was a cheapie, the kind suitable only for sleeping; that's fine in a city I like, but in Rio I really needed a refuge and didn't have one.

A further problem is that I was light skinned and not tanned. I was also not comfortable at being in such a beach-focused city. These factors made me a very visible tourist, so I spent my whole time there feeling I had a target on my back (Cariocas who are not of mixed race all have tans, and they not only live at the beach as much as possible, but look like they are ready for the beach at all times).

São Paulo was an interesting contrast. There's a much greater range of types of people there, so I didn't stand out at all visually. Fitting in there is a matter of acting like one does in big cities, which I know how to do from living in New York - move with a purpose, don't make unnecessary eye contact, etc. And I have proof that I fit in - I was actually asked by locals FOUR times for directions! At first I thought this was part of a scam, but nothing was pick-pocketed from me, and when I explained that I didn't speak Portuguese, they walked away, so they really did seem to want directions. Even though São Paulo also has a very high crime rate, I felt much safer there.

Again, this was only my experience, and it was over 15 years ago, so things may have changed. I just went back to Madrid and Barcelona after 20 years, and had very different experiences from my first trip. And when I first went to Amsterdam in 1990, I hated it; when I returned in 2012, I liked it a lot. Who knows what I'd think about Rio now, particularly with all the changes they're making for the upcoming Olympics?

All that said, I see that the hotel is right at the beach. If all you want is to go from the beach to the hotel and back, you'll be fine. If you like walking around beyond the beach, I'd go elsewhere.

Posted by
661 posts

Harold, thx so much for your great reply. Ken, thank you, I'll definately read those websites.

Posted by
706 posts

No, Rio is not safe. From having lived in Brazil (not Rio) for 7 years a long while ago and visiting most recently in 2010, we have many stories, both personal and otherwise, plus an abundance of public information that confirm this. But if you are set on visiting, go. Heed the tips in the links Ken provided and other such websites. Also, consider finding a travel buddy. Further, hire a driver or use a trusted taxi service for trips to Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, the bondinho, the cathedral in "o centro", and more. Finally, be careful and have a great trip.

Posted by
2531 posts

Government websites warning of travel dangers in certain locations are now to be trusted?

Posted by
1062 posts

From everything I have heard and read, it is very easy to accidently wander into a bad area. I had friends who were repeatedly warned by their hotel, not to leave it in the evening. I think the risks are not worth the rewards in Rio.

Posted by
191 posts

I was in São Paulo in May for work which isn't Rio, but some of the stuff would probably still apply.

I would say if you are cautious (more so than usual travel cautious, more than "I live in a big city" cautious), Brazil would be fine. Before my trip, people really were warning me about safety and when I got there it is definitely different than most places (company insisted on car and driver pickup with all their identification/car info sent prior to arrival, every building and hotel had security, visible protection like razor wire and electric fences on residences). Lots of stories about muggings/robberies/scams/car jacking with advice such as always put your bag in the trunk or under your seat.

The basic advice was that if someone is robbing you, don't resist, don't hesitate, just hand everything over they ask for...which is probably good advice in general but more likely to happen in Brazil.

On my free day at the end of the week, I was fine taking cabs (including hailing them on the street) and visiting some museums. If you speak Portuguese, you'll be ahead of the game, but Spanish is also great for communicating. I don't have either language so I always had addresses written down and the hotel information as I'm sure they would be able to assist in translating if I got into a pinch.

Definitely get advice from the hotel on your plans and heed their advice. I asked locals about where to go and some interesting places were crossed off because I was going solo/wouldn't blend in.

If you are cautious, have travel smarts and a sense of adventure, Rio should be fine. I wouldn't choose to vacation in Brazil, but I would go for work and tack on a few extra days :-)

Posted by
1806 posts

My company also operates similarly to Stephanie. If going to Rio for business, we have to have a driver and security at all times when leaving the hotel. They are actually stricter in this sense when it comes to business travel Rio than they are with travel to our other offices in India or the Philippines.