The first thing I want to tell you about safety in Rio is: do not be so afraid to come. I know sometimes you hear, through the media, bad news about Rio involving violence and terrible crimes. Unfortunnately, it’s true it happens. But as a tourist in a big city like Rio I would to say to any foreign: stay always alert! When brazilians travel to any place they become tourists like you and the advice is the same for them. Of course, the level of violence is different in many parts of the world… I know, I know… What I want to reinforce is if you take some precautions, nothing will happen to you or at least you know you can do some things to minimize risk, avoiding future problems.
Believe me… Violence in the city has declined significantly. Accordingly to recent news (O Globo/March 3, 2013), the number of deaths caused by firearms dropped in 43.8% in the state between 2000 and 2010. The numbers are related to increased investment in public safety. The local government has launched a citywide offensive against crime, particularly drug-fueled violence in the slums (favelas). UPP (Pacifying Police Unit; in portuguese, Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora), is part of this program as an intensive policing and improvements in social services to meet the needs of locals, while overt criminal activities are inhibited.
Also, in 2000, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro implemented the first special group in charge of the tourist areas, the BPTur, fully trained to assist tourists. The officers are bilingual and usually they are riding bikes.
Based on BPTur Command orientations, below are listed some useful tips to enjoy your stay with safety.
- Do not carry your original passport. A copy is enough.
- Change your money into local currency (Real).
- Preferably use ATMs that are inside banks and shopping malls.
- Avoid walking with a lot of money. Most credit cards are easily accepted.
- Do not wear jewelry or expensive watches. Keep your valuables stuffs in the hotel safe.
- Do not take valuables to the beach and never lose sight of your belongings.
- To order a taxi, always ask the hotel front desk.
Some other recommendations I give you:
- If you’re on the street and need to take a taxi, make sure the driver/car are from a cooperative cab service.
- Do not take a minibus on street, unless it is a tourism service you hired with your agency/hotel.
- The buses are safe at daylight. Always make sure the bus number and its route. Always use taxi at night and avoid taking it alone.
- Do not walk alone and avoid telling to everyone you are gringo!
What to do if you get in trouble?
Immediately report the incident to the DEAT – Special Police Support for Tourism!!! This department investigates and reprimands criminal offenses committed against foreign tourists visiting the city temporarily. It is also responsible for suppressing criminal offenses against the tourism activity, including fraud and other crimes that undermine the tourism industry. The officers are also bilingual.