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:
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 druggings, 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.