Rio de Janeiro Safety Tips

Tips for Staying Safe on Vacation in Brazil

Cops taking a break in Ipanema

Rio de Janeiro safety is a concern, as the city of more than 8 million people has a large amount of crime and is reported to have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Most violent crimes occur far away from the areas frequented by tourists, but aggravated robberies do occur in the Copacabana and Ipanema Beach neighborhoods. These tourist areas are also known for occasional purse snatchings, pickpocketing, and muggings.

Crime Statistics Update - February 2010

Reliable government statistics released this month indicate a significant decline in the 2010 homicide rate in Rio de Janeiro state, to a record low 4,768 murders, or 29.8 per 100,000 residents. Although the results include the entire state, the large metropolitan city of Rio de Janeiro accounts for 75-80% of the statistics. The murder rate dropped 18% from 2009 levels and are the lowest on record since recordkeeping began in 1991. These murder rates, although not great, are lower than the American cities of St. Louis, Detroit, and New Orleans.

Other crimes are also on the decline, some hitting record lows, including car thefts, street crimes, robbery, and violent crimes committed by police.

Both the media and state government officals indicate the results are due to the Rio de Janeiro safety policies of governor Sérgio Cabral, which include a crackdown on drug traffickers, pacification of crime ridden favelas (slums), and better training and pay for police officers.

Rio de Janeiro homicide rates 1991 - 2010

The graph at right depicts annual homicide rates in Rio state from 1991 to 2010, during the terms of past and current Governors.

Visitors to the city should still keep their guard up and not be lulled into any false sense of security. Rio, as a worldwide tourist destination, has its share of criminals that prey on foreigners.

If you are interested in understanding safety while traveling, consider a Regis online Masters in Criminology to learn how to keep yourself and others safe.

Precautions and Rio de Janeiro Safety Tips

  • Leave expensive or expensive looking watches and jewelry at home. Wear a cheap watch and never have gold chains or pendants visible.

  • Keep your camera deep in a zippered pocket, or attached in a small pouch to your belt and covered by your shirt. For more information see our photo and camera tips page.

  • Make copies of your passport and credit cards. When possible leave passports locked up in the hotel room safe and take a photocopy out with you.

  • If possible, don't carry large amounts of cash with you on the street. You might carry small amounts in a pocket that's easy to reach, and keep larger bills deeper in zippered pockets.

  • Women: a purse is OK to carry, just make it a cheap one, and keep most of your cash and cards in a money belt under your blouse.

  • Some people carry a "mugger's wallet" in their front pocket, which is a small amount of paper money and an expired credit card clipped together or held with a rubber band. The theory is that if you are held up, the mugger will accept this "wallet", while your real wallet is hidden away. Note: we cannot vouch for the effectiveness of this strategy!

  • Avoid walking on the beaches after dark, unless you are with a large group of people. Tourist robberies occur with great frequency on the beaches adjacent to the nightclubs and hotels on Copacabana beach. Also avoid walking down streets near the smaller Favelas (shanty towns) that border Ipanema and Copacabana.

  • Resist the any temptation to bring strangers back to your room, as after a night of partying you could be robbed or assaulted. Many of the guys and girls who cozy up to tourists in nightclubs are actually prostitutes and some are criminals. Avoid the late night stolen cash, credit cards, and passport drama!

  • Be careful when visiting Lapa, Santa Teresa, and Centro neighborhoods after dark. Stick to the well lit and busy restaurant and nightclub areas.

  • Don't ride the city buses later at night, when robberies may occur. Walk on well lit streets and take taxi cabs to further away destinations.

  • If you are held up or are the victim of a purse snatcher or pickpocket, cooperate and don't give chase. Many thieves in Rio de Janeiro carry knives or guns and are quick to use them when challenged.

  • Don't take valuables to the beach. In addition to reading these Rio de Janeiro safety tips, visit our Rio de Janeiro Beach Tips page.

  • Dress down whenever possible if you are walking on the street at night. Don't make it a fashion show while on your Rio de Janeiro vacation.

Above all, like in any large city, exercise caution and common sense when being out on the street in Rio de Janeiro. Maintain a low profile and have a great time!

Visit our BOPE Elite Squad page to get more information about Rio de Janeiro safety, the Special Forces SWAT Teams, and to see the eye opening photos of their operations in the favelas (slums).

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