Brazilians are people the world likes to like. It’s a magical country. If you’re open to and learn about its charms and mysteries, it will take you under its spell, and no other tourist destination holds the fascination of the world as does Rio de Jainero at Carnival. We love their samba, the carnival rhythms, the caipirinas, soccer stars and athletes, the contagious “joie de vivre” of Brazil’s sons and daughters. They have a culture that imbibes a samba beat and a wiggle-down the-street attitude. Good times or bad, life is lived for today with a spirit of revelry, creativity, ingenuity and optimism. Their famous, four-day, non-stop street party, draws revelers from all around the world. What’s not to like?
In any given popular tourist attraction, where masses of people gather on the streets and sites of interest, there is the inevitable gathering of criminal opportunists as well. Professional pickpocketing has been around since the creation of pockets on garments, one would suppose. Because of economic restraints on a thriving population (until recently), petty crime is at an optimum level this year, and there’s no lack of scams and dangers in Rio de Janeiro to be aware of.
You are Your Best Bodyguard.
There is a large population of poor in Brazil: keep in mind that their daily wage is a fraction of that earned in the developed world. Also that, as is true anywhere else, there are the honest, upstanding, ordinary folk and contrarily, there are the opportunists looking for you to let down your guard.
Personal Safety tips: Take bare minimums when traveling around and always carry a photocopy of your passport biographic page. If you don’t have your credit card number memorized, write it down and leave it with your belongings at the hotel in case you have to report a stolen card. Keep whatever you’re carrying close to your person, no back pockets. You’ve heard the expression “they stole everything that wasn’t tied down”. If you chose to wear an accessory such as a scarf, secure it with a safety pin to your clothing: pearls and fantasy jewelry are safe to wear. If you value anything, it’s better to leave it at home; taking the necessary precautions to avoid confrontations with a potential robber. Be aware of what and who is around you.
Typical Scams and Dangers to be Aware Of
The following are the most typical scam and dangers you are prone to find during your stay, and you should constantly be aware of them without forgetting to have fun. Some are common in any big city, but I’m also pointing out a few that are unique to Rio de Janiero in Carnival.
- Ticket scams: As is true of any big international event that draws a crowd of hundreds of thousands, (close to a million people attended the 2015 Carnival show) there will be scalpers and unethical sales of entrance tickets to the Sambódrome parade, usually a “must see”. The samba schools are paid millions by the controlling mafia in order to attract those huge amounts of tourists to the city, where they are an easy prey for the scams run by these criminal organizations. One of the main moneymakers for these scammers are the black market tickets, which can be sold for hundreds of dollars to tourists eager to experience the famous Rio samba parade at the Sambódrome. When buying your entrance tickets at a late date, be aware that you will pay over and above the normal price. Compare rates given by different providers as they can vary immensely, sometimes as much as twofold.
- Petty crimes: Generally, petty crimes are committed in two ways: the grab and run (yanking jewelry, cameras, and high tech apparatus from the person of the victim) or the more subtle pickpocket If you are a victim of the former, let the perpetrators run without pursuing them as this could put you in danger. Avoid pockets of boys you may see by crossing the street. Often stealing is a profitable game to them. They also flourish at the beaches, so never leave your belongings unattended. Watch out if somebody walks up to you asking questions– he may be distracting you while a partner fiddles with them.
- Public transportation scams: Plan your outings, their locations in the city, and ask at your hotel or guest house for the transportation schedules. Avoid public transportation at night. Take taxis that are part of a registered line with the appropriate identification of both the taxi line and driver, but beware of a typical taxi scam: when paying the driver he’ll tell you that the bill you gave him was of a different denomination acknowledging it often happens because as a tourist you’re not familiar with their appearance. . Buses are a safe and convenient option during the day, consider taking a radio or call taxi especially when travelling to less secure or unfamiliar locations at night. The line 1 of the underground (especially, City Centre- Copacabana) is perceived as being safer than buses at night, however, the entrances to the subway stations are a focal point for the homeless. Check with your hotel for schedules and routes of the public transportation in the city. Joining an organized tour group for certain sites of interest.
Going with the Flow
A rule of thumb, go where there are people gathered, where security is more vigilante and you are not alone in confronting a would-be street thief. Alwaysutilize authorized agents. If you find yourself in the middle of the crowd and have some personal belongings that could be attractive to thieves make sure you have them under control. You’ll be pushed and shoved with the crowd, and this consistent movement will make you ignore any unnatural contact- the precise moment you’re being mugged.
Seeing the sites: The city center should be visited during work hours (but be aware of intense pickpocketing ). It is generally considered an empty and dangerous place at night – although some parts of it have been renovated, particularly the Lapa district where many world-class samba clubs are located. Always take a registered taxi if visiting Lapa and make a reservation at the club you intend to visit in advance.
Avoid walking across the tunnel that connects Ipanema with Copacabana. Sometime you’ll find police officers at the ends of it, but they may leave while you’re crossing. Violent assaults have been reported here- it’s not worth the risk.
Safety in numbers. Try to travel in a group preferably with local friends. At night, avoid walking on the streets alone. Whether enjoying the beach or dancing in the streets, it’s best to be accompanied by at least one other person, each of you looking after the other. If you or anyone in your group is consuming alcohol, choose a “designated driver” -one person who maintains their wits and can be vigilant.
Be Smart. Think prevention. Take precautions
Make a copy of the Biographic page of your passport and carry this with you. It makes it easy to get into night clubs & restaurants or to provide ID for credit card purchases if stopped by the police.
Stay away from the slum areas (favelas) once the sun sets, though there are some respected favela tours for tourists.
Report all criminal incidents to the nearest police station.
Dial 193 for the fire department, 190 for the police and 192 for ambulance services.
In São Paulo, dial (11) 3120-4447 or 3151-4167 to reach the tourist police (Delegacia de Proteção ao Turista). In Rio de Janeiro, dial (21) 2332-2924, 2332-2511 or 2332-5112 to reach the tourist police.
In case of emergency or an accident with injuries, dial 193 throughout the country. In the event of an accident without injuries, contact the military police at 190. Never confront the driver of the other vehicle in an accident, as this should be handled by the police. Roadside assistance is generally offered by local garage owners.
Are you aware of any other scams that happen in the city? Has something ever happened to you? Do you know of other areas to avoid? Share them with us in the comments section below- visitors will appreciate your help!