With its beautiful beaches, mountains and infectious energy, Rio is the toast of the world. There are many awesome things to do in Rio, including some not-so-common ones which we put together. But many travelers are concerned how to stay safe while traveling to the Cidade Maravilhoso.
It is true that despite a drop in crime rates in the city, staying safe continues to be a common problem.
I spent a few months living in Brazil and many others traveling through South America. With advise from locals on how to stay safe I managed to enjoy my time without any unpleasant incident. Here are tips from my experience that should, hopefully, help you too.
Hide your cameras.
Yes you read that right! Most Asians click pictures like they were getting paid for it. But in Rio or other South American cities – showing off your big camera can be considered downright stupid. If you pay attention you will see that Brazilians do not carry around their DSLRs and there is a good reason for it. It makes you susceptible to a mugging attempt. Kids skimming the streets for valuables will immediately notice you.
Streets of Rio are filled with stories of kids snatching cameras and running away. And trust me when I say that you probably won’t be able to keep up with them unless you are an Olympian.
Forget being flashy.
Yes, it’s a vacation and you might want to use your best clothes and accessories. But if you want to stay safe, then skip the flashy stuff.
I own only one gold ring, and I had kept it safe in my backpack throughout my entire trip in Latin America. And most of my local friends, agreed that it was a smart thing to do.
Know your plan.
Well, Facebook would have ingrained in you by now that ‘travel is about getting lost’. May be, that’s true. But there are rules while you are in South America.
It is good to know where you are going and whether it is safe. So if you are making a day plan in Rio, ask your hostel/hotel staff for advise regarding places you plan to visit.
Don’t go to the favelas!
If you want to visit a favela(poor areas in Rio and other Brazilian cities), it is better to do so with a well established tour group. Many of Rio’s favelas are still controlled by the drug mafia. So you don’t want to become a news item which states ‘a tourist walked into a favela and got kidnapped by the bad guys’.
However, there are a few favelas which are safe for tourists to visit. A couple of them are Vidigal(where the trail to Dos Irmaos starts) and Rocinha(said to be the largest favela in Latin America). But still do ask around about the situation when you visit. And don’t go to a favela unless you are absolutely sure about your safety.
Never walk alone:
In a way this is the extension of knowing where you are going and what you are doing. Though it is never a foolproof safety method, it is better to be with someone than alone in Rio.
I made the mistake of walking alone late at night once and almost paid for it.
Coming back after a party, I decided to walk a couple of kilometers to my host’s house. I soon realized that I was being followed. Instinctively I knew that I was about to be mugged. I started running towards the neighbourhood restaurant which was still open. That is how I managed to save myself.
But it is a mistake that I never repeated throughout my trip.
Sounds too good to be true? Then may be it isn’t that safe.
This rule holds good for most parts of the world. It could be anything, a pretty girl making a pass on you though you know that you don’t look like Tom Cruise (or anywhere close to him). Or someone makes an offer that is just too good to be refused.
Let your objective self take over and evaluate the situation before you commit to anything. May be asking for help or getting a local involved might help.
And the last thing, don’t be too white!!!
There are 500% more chances that you will be mugged if you are a white person with blue eyes. There is absolutely no research that backs this data, and I am only bullshitting.
But on a serious note, it is true that light skinned tourists are more susceptible to petty crime. Most people in the world equate white with rich, and Brazilians are no different.
You may be a penniless backpacker. But if you are white, then you have to take more precautions than your super rich brown friend has to. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.
Travel is one of the best ways to learn to deal with uncertainty and also appreciate the diversity of this planet. And though I would be the last person to ask you to pay heed to stereotypes, but caution can sometimes save a lot of heartburn.
So save these tips or share them with friends who are traveling. Because ignorance is not always bliss!