Is Rio Safe for Tourists?

Is Rio Safe for Tourists?

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I travelled to Brazil in 2016 and was in Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, which was incredible although we did have a couple of unnerving experiences.  I haven’t written much about Brazil or Rio yet, so I asked Yvonne from Now in Rio to share her thoughts on a question that is often asked about Brazil’s buzzing city – Is Rio safe for tourists?

Favelas. Drugs. Violence. Guns. This is the most common image of Rio that the media chooses to portray. It is an image that garners clicks, gains readers and skyrockets page views, but it’s not Rio’s only reality. Rio is colour, music, beaches, beauty, culture.

Rio is magic.

Rio de Janeiro has a population of around 7.5 million residents. It is a city where some of the richest neighbourhoods are found right beside the poorest neighbourhoods and favelas. It is a city of extremes. And those extremes are often manipulated by the media, painting Rio as a lawless city, something akin to a horror movie. It has terrified tourists. Many have changed their plans, while others repeatedly ask: Is Rio Safe for Tourists? My answer is always Yes and No.

Rio’s political and social situation is indeed precarious. It is a city riddled with problems and issues, but as a tourist who comes and stays in the marvellous city for a couple of days or even months, these issues will likely not affect you. However, the way you spend your money and interact with the locals might affect the city in a positive or negative way.

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Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf Mountain - Is Rio Safe for Tourists?
Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf Mountain – Is Rio Safe for Tourists?

This is not to say that your stay in Rio will be stress-free, but let us help ease your mind with a couple of safety tips for your trip to Rio:

Safety Tips for Rio de Janeiro

Avoid Flashy Clothes & Jewellery

This tip is short and sweet. Leave all of your expensive items at home. Period. Don’t make yourself an unnecessary target.  Even a simple gold necklace can draw unwanted attention, so choose your accessories carefully, or don’t wear any jewellery at all.

Bring a Backup Credit Card

Card skimming is common in Rio de Janeiro. However, we don’t recommend that you come to the city with large amounts of cash. Instead, make sure to bring a backup credit card (or two) just in case your usual card gets compromised. Most establishments in Rio de Janeiro will accept a credit card, so always make sure to bring just enough cash to cover your expenses for the day and a card. Never walk around with a large sum of money in your wallet. Always leave your passport and any important documents locked up safely in your accommodation. Keep a photocopy of your passport with you.

Sunset on the Beach at Rio - Is Rio Safe for Tourists?
After sunset, stay off the Rio beaches at night – Is Rio Safe for Tourists?

Is Rio Safe for Tourists? – Avoid the Beach at Night

A midnight stroll or a late night dip in the ocean might seem like a great idea, but once the sun goes down, tourists are warned to avoid going to the beach for two simple reasons: it’s dark and in some areas it is secluded. As a result of this, it’s much easier for someone to rob you quickly and efficiently without anyone being the wiser.

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Beach Security During the Day

In the summer months the beaches of Leblon, Copacabana and Ipanema are packed with tourists and thieves take advantage of the chaos. First, if walking along the sidewalk, never walk with your phone in your hand. Snatch and grabs are common. If you must take a picture, make sure to take a quick scan around you before pulling out your phone. Take a picture then immediately put your phone away. Second, if you plan on spending the afternoon lying on the sand, just bring the essentials. Never bring your passport or important documents and limit the amount of cash you have with you. Always keep an eye on your bag and watch out for common distraction techniques where one robber will draw your attention and then another will take off with your stuff.

Always watch your belongings on busy beaches in Rio - Is Rio Safe for Tourists?
Always watch your belongings on busy beaches in Rio – Is Rio Safe for Tourists?  Credit: Yvonne Ivanescu

Is Rio Safe for Tourists? – Be Careful in Lapa

If you are a tourist in Rio, you will probably end up in Lapa. It is a great place to enjoy amazing samba music and cheap caipirinhas. But it is also the worst place to get robbed. First things first, try to take direct transport to Lapa.  Don’t try to walk there, especially by yourself or at night, and you should take care during the day too. Remember, there is safety in numbers. Don’t wander around by yourself and when you are ready to head home for the night, call a taxi or UBER and make sure it stops IN FRONT of your club and only come out of the establishment once the cab/UBER has arrived, especially if it is at the end of the night. If someone is drunk, don’t leave them alone in Lapa even if they say their cab is coming. Wait with them. Drunk people are easy targets and are often robbed if left alone. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it. And if you absolutely need it, avoid putting anything in your back pockets and opt for a travel safety bag with locking zippers.

Christ The Redeemder in Rio de Janeiro Brazil - Is Rio Safe for Tourists?
Christ The Redeemder in Rio de Janeiro Brazil – Is Rio Safe for Tourists?

Don’t Hike to Christ the Redeemer

One of the most common hikes in Rio de Janeiro is the one from Parque do Laje to Christ the Redeemer, the stunning statue which overlooks the city. The trail goes through the Tijuca Forest, which the largest urban forest in the world.  However, as there are multiple entrance points, robbers have been known to hide out in more secluded areas of the trail and attack unsuspecting tourists. Our advice is to take another route, such as the bus or the tram up to Christ the Redeemer and skip the trail altogether.

Check out these tours of Rio de Janeiro with GetYourGuide:

So, is Rio de Janeiro safe for tourists?

Yes and No. We can’t promise that nothing will ever happen to you when you travel. But at the same time, we want to put your mind at ease about visiting Rio. Let us put it this way, almost every tourist that we met who had previous concerns and fears about the city left with a deep sense of connection and love for Rio de Janeiro, taking a piece of the city’s magic back with them.  There are always risks, but with these tips, you should be able to have a safe and enjoyable time in Rio de Janeiro.

So what’s the hold-up? Rio is waiting for you.

Prepare for your trip to Rio de Janeiro with these top picks from Amazon:

About the Author

This guest post was written by Yvonne Ivanescu of Now in Rio. Now in Rio is a travel and culture website that provides comprehensive information about Rio de Janeiro for both tourists and anyone interested in travel and/or Brazil. It seeks to change perspectives, shatter stereotypes and introduce you to the real Rio de Janeiro – its vibrant communities, delicious local cuisine, thriving underground culture and unbelievable scenery. To follow their adventures, visit their websiteFacebook page or their Visit Brazil Facebook group.

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When planning a trip to Rio de Janeiro Brazil, most visitors ask "Is Rio safe for tourists?" Yvonne from Now in Rio shares her safety tips for Rio de Janeiro and her thoughts on safety in Rio. #Rio #RiodeJaneiro #Brazil #Brasil #Travel #Tourism #Safety #SafetyTips #IsRioSafe

Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you!

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Last updated: June 14, 2018

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11 thoughts on “Is Rio Safe for Tourists?

  1. Rio and Brazil in general have always had a reputation. But I won’t be considering Brazil anytime soon with the current political crisis happening there, as much as I’d like to go.

    1. I know there has been a lot of scandal in the last couple of years, and every politician in Brazil seems to be involved with something shady – I don’t know if it is having any day to day effects for visitors to Brazil though, if you have any more info on that I’d love to learn more!

  2. Thank you for the tips. It’s good to be able to read honest reviews of tourist spots. Since snatching and robbery is pretty common, I hope their local police is doing something about this because I am sure it will hurt their tourism if they arent additional security measures in place.

  3. NIce set of tips. I think Rio jas its fair share of petty crimes as in anyother super urban tourist places. It always to be safe now than sorry later.

  4. This is great cause I am always hearing about lack of safety there. Great tips that I will keep in mind. Won’t be hiking up to Christ the Redeemer either lol..didn’t look like something I would have wanted to do anyway to be honest lol.

  5. Thanks for the tips. I never thought of carrying a backup credit card. Such a good idea. I would have tried to hike to Christ the Redeemer. Surely will avoid that after reading your post. Tram is probably a better idea.

  6. I would visit Rio in a heartbeat. Reading this it is like most other cities. There are some good parts and some bad parts. You just really have to be sensible as a tourist wherever you go in the world today. There are parts of London or Paris that I would not walk around in on my own at night either. There are some great tips in this post that make sense to use generally in your travels.

  7. It’s very funny, just this morning a friend of mine got in touch to ask me if South America is safe to travel through and I literally gave her the same advice as you did in this post apart from the hiking of hiking Christ the Redeemer. Although I didn’t manage to get to Brazil many of these tips apply to the rest of South America too. In my experience, most people who end up getting in trouble comes from their own stupidity and lack of common sense.

  8. I love posts like this that demystify tourism myths. You really did a good job of showing Rio’s true colours with your lovely photos and words. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. I think that every city can be more or less safe depending on our behaviors. I’m a solo female traveller and sometimes it isn’t easy, but I follow common sense rules (such as the great advices you gave in this post) and everything has always been ok, the positive aspects of a trip are always more than the bad memories 🙂

  10. Nice tips. They can actually be applied to most places, especially if being highly populated and popular with tourists. Still, it’s good to know what really to expect. There are always two sides of the coin, right!
    Never the less, you got me a bit worried with advice like “call the cab and make it come for you in front of the cafe”. I was imagining myself getting nervous looking out of the cafe door every 15 seconds. 😀

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