Brazil receives a lot of bad press about its vio­lence and high crime rate. We feel that the dangers to travelers, while they do exist, get exaggerated. By using common sense, there is much you can do to reduce the risks of getting robbed. Don’t start your trip by wandering around touristy areas in a jet-lagged state soon after arrival: you’ll be an obvi­ous target. Accept the fact that you might be mugged, pickpocketed or have your bag snatched while you’re in the country. If you carry only the minimum needed for the day, and don’t try / to resist thieves, you’re unlikely to come to any real harm. Other tips:

  • Dress down in casual clothes that blend in. Clothes bought in Brazil are a good choice.
  • Keep small change handy so you don’t have to flash a wallet to pay bus fare. Don’t wander around with a camera in view – keep it out of sight. Consider car­rying it in a plastic bag from a local store. Disposable cameras are much less worry.
  • Before arriving in a new place, get a map or at least have a rough idea of the area’s orientation. Use taxis to avoid walking through high-risk areas.
  • Be alert and walk purposefully. Crim­inals will home in on dopey, hesitant, disoriented-looking individuals.
  • Use ATMs inside buildings. When using any ATM or exchanging money, be aware of those around you. Robbers sometimes watch these p aces looking for targets.
  • Check windows and doors of your room for security, and don’t leave anything valuable lying around. If you consider your hotel to be reliable, place your valu­ables in its safe and get a receipt.
  • It you’re suspicious or uneasy about a situation, don’t hesitate to make excuses and leave, change your route, or what­ever else is needed to extricate yourself.
  • Don’t take anything to city beaches ex­cept your bathing suit, a towel and just enough money for food and drinks. No camera, no bag, no jewelry.
  • After dark, don’t walk along empty or nearly-empty streets or into deserted parks.
  • Don’t wander into the favelas (shanty­towns) unless you’re with a trustworthy guide who really knows the area.
  • Never carry any more money than you need for the specific outing you’re on, and keep it discreetly stashed away in a money belt, sock, secret pocket or shoe. But always have enough cash on hand to appease a mugger (US$5 to US$10).
  • If something is stolen from you, you can report it to the police, but it can be an enormous hassle just to get a police re­port for your insurance company. The tourist police are the best equipped to deal with foreigners, but are rare outside of Rio.

Scams & Robbery Techniques

Distraction is a common tactic employed by street thieves in Brazil and elsewhere around the world. The aim is to throw potential victims off guard so that they’re easier prey. It may be something as simple as asking you for a cigarette or a light so that you slow down and take your attention off other people around you.

Techniques are continually being devel­oped, and imported or exported across na­tional borders to relieve the unwary of their belongings. Keep abreast of new scams by talking to other travelers. Theft and secu­rity are sources of endless fascination and stories.

A classic, revolting distraction method is the ‘cream technique,’ common the world over, including in Brazil. You’re walking down the street or standing in some public place, when someone surreptitiously sprays a substance on your shoulder, your daypack or anything else connected with you. The substance can be anything from mustard to chocolate or even excrement. An assist­ant (young or old, male or female) then taps you on the shoulder and amicably of­fers to clean off the mess …if you’ll just put down your bag for a second. The moment you do this, someone makes off with it in a flash. The golden rule is to ignore any such attempt or offer, and simply endure your mucky state until you can find a safe place, such as your hotel, where you can wash.

There have also been reports of drugging’s, including spiked drinks. While you’re temporarily unconscious or semiconscious as a result of some noxious substance being

Slipped into your beverage, you’re power­less to resist thieves. There have even been reported cases of rape in such circum­stances. If you start to feel unaccountably dizzy, disoriented, fatigued, or just mentally vacant not long after imbibing, your drink may have been spiked.

Exercise extreme caution when someone you don’t know and trust offers you a drink of any kind or even cigarettes, sweets etc. If the circumstances make you suspicious, the offer can be tactfully refused by claiming stomach or other medical problems.