Staying safe in the dangerous city Rio de Janeiro

with 8 Comments

How come Rio de Janeiro turned out not to be so dangerous? A summary of the most widespread precautions from a practical point of view. We speak from personal experience, we are not translating articles or sharing the thoughts of the grandma of a colleague’s wife. There are criminals everywhere, but common sense can be easily scared away by unconfirmed rumors.

 

demistifying the false rumors of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil being very dangerous
A camera, rain, crowd, Rio – are you scared yet?
1. In order not to get robbed, don’t get on a public bus after dark.

Yes, but we were tired and we were not in the mood for walking on foot for several kilometers. We stopped the bus, we even confused which door we should enter through, signaling that we aren’t locals. On the way out we passed through whole bus to the back door and then we confused the directions and wandered around. We were not robbed or followed.

demistifying the false rumors of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil being very dangerous
We are not crazy enough to pull out the camera in the bus.
2. Don’t go to the favelas.

Go there, but on an official tour. Even though we like to discover the areas on our own, the risk should be measured. The favelas are ruled by drug lords, fighting for territory. Your golden Rolex is nothing to these people. But imagine somebody obviously not local going around taking pictures in their territory. This is why we decided to pay for a visit with a guide, who is on friendly terms with the local kings, to avoid problems. And we avoided them successfully. We only had thousands of emotions provoked by the totally different world on the hills.

demistifying the false rumors of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil being very dangerous
A view from the favela towards itself
3. You are going to get robbed on the beaches

How can you go to Rio and not go to a beach? Or to go to a beach with only a towel and a swimsuit? And how are you going to remember it 50 years from now? The reality: people here have much fancier phones than yours, they were wearing jewelry and they didn’t mind leaving their things unsupervised while swimming. And while keeping the radius of 30 m in sight, let’s not forget to have fun! And also, we look like half the people on the beach, so if we are unlucky we could get our towel stolen…

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demistifying the false rumors of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil being very dangerous
The late afternoon is time for beach football
4. Walk only the crowded streets

We took a walk along empty streets after dark and it was in the nice tourist neighborhoods (where there are things to steal). One day, around midnight we decided to go to the Samba school Salguiero and have fun with their dancers. We walked several empty alleys to the main street, where we took a taxi to drive us to the school, which was in the middle of something like a ghetto. From the street to the entrance of the Samba school we walked about 300 m through a crowd of loud groups, musicians, sellers and shady individuals. We managed to survive somehow.

demistifying the false rumors of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil being very dangerous
They look incredibly dangerous!
5. In contradiction with the above, avoid crowded places

We had to walk 10 km along crowded beaches, the samba party was super crowded, as well as the bus stops we waited on and the buses that drove us around. Not to mention the crowds of people with selfie sticks we had to swim through to get to the statue of Cristo. Nothing went missing, there weren’t any wounded.

demistifying the false rumors of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil being very dangerous
A full hall for samba parties

There are some tricks you could consider to lower the constant stress caused by thinking about what might happen. For example, the money belts, hiding your money in all kinds of unexpected places (avoid the underwear), dressing like a homeless person or at least avoid wearing designer brand clothes. It is nice to not wear all your money or credit cards on you. Don’t forget that once we hide our camera in the bag, we can blend in with the Cariocas. At least until we open our mouths. Even if we stumble upon the scariest of streets, as long as we act like the locals (positive and smiling) we won’t attract anyone’s attention.

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We wish you unforgettable moments and less stress!

 

This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.

 

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8 Responses

  1. Joe
    | Reply

    An important post on a city that gets a rep for being an unsafe place to visit! Some very good, practical myth-busting tips here, that actually could apply to other places that are seen through a similar lens. I hope to go to Rio one day, and I will bear these tips in mind 🙂

  2. Funny and true. In truth many places can be dangerous if you are smart about your travels. Sounds like you had a great time.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      It is absolutely true, we have to be mindful! We did have a lot of fun!

  3. Sandy N Vyjay
    | Reply

    All the myths about safety in Rio have been busted. I have found this with so many places that the ground reality is far removed from what is projected. A recent visit to Africa changed my entire perspective of this continent.

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      We should share our personal experiences more and more to bust myths for any places that has that kind of reputation. Africa is super amazing and I felt safe like never before there.

  4. Kevin Wagar
    | Reply

    It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype and fear of a city’s reputation. But the vast majority of these places are far more safe and peaceful than many can even imagine!

    • Bistra Yakimova
      | Reply

      I totally agree, Kevin! That’s why I think it is so important to talk about those places and you experiences there!

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