Safety in Rio

November 21, 2009 - 7:07 pm 1 Comment

When I started telling people I was going to Brazil, everyone who had been there went on and one about how AMAZING it is. So much fun, they say. So beautiful. The beaches are fantastic. The nightlife is ridiculous. Everyone is gorgeous. They really talk it up. But then they tell me stories about muggings and robberies. Particularly in Rio.

I’ve always heard that Rio was a little dangerous. But since booking a trip down there, I’ve been hearing stories from people who have been there and reading some online travel forums. And I am completely freaked out.

Most people I have met who have been to Rio have been robbed/pickpocketed/mugged or traveled with someone who was. The stories they tell are a little scary. Muggings happen on the beach, on the street, doesn’t matter. Stuff is stolen out of hotels in the nice parts of town. Pocket-pickers are everywhere. One friend told me that she traveled with a group of twenty people for about two weeks. By the end of the trip, each one of them had been mugged or robbed. One of the guys wanted to outwit the pocket-pickers, splitting his money up and putting a bit into every pocket on his cargo pants. By the end of the day, he had nothing.

And things sometimes get violent, too. I’ve read a lot of stories about local kids pulling knives or guys holding broken bottles to your face and demanding your money and bag. Cars don’t stop for fear of being carjacked at a light or stop sign. So if you arrive somewhere intact, you’ll probably get run over when you try to cross the street.

Stay in Ipanema, they all tell me. That’s the safest spot for tourists. Then I find this:

EUA – The Washington Post
Título: Rio thieves armed with grenades rob tourists
Data: 27/11/2006

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) – Thieves armed with automatic rifles and military-issue grenades robbed a busload of British tourists in Rio de Janeiro before dawn on Sunday, the latest incident in a wave of violent crime plaguing Brazil’s seaside tourist mecca.

Police said four armed men pretending to be police stopped the tour bus as it pulled into an upscale neighborhood in the southern part of the city.

At least 18 British tourists who had just arrived in Brazil were robbed, losing their luggage, passports and cash. One tourist who resisted was hit in the head with the butt of a rifle but was not seriously hurt, police said.

The robbery took place near Rio’s famed Ipanema beach, a swanky area where police and drug traffickers squared off in a prolonged shootout this week that sent tourists ducking for cover.

Two days later a prominent socialite was shot and killed by a teenage assailant on a bicycle as she pulled up to a stoplight in Leblon, another glitzy beach neighborhood popular with tourists.

Nestled between lush mountains covered in tropical vegetation and the Atlantic ocean, Rio has long been Brazil’s most popular tourist destination. But it also has one of the highest murder rates in the world, prompting some travel agencies to warn tourists that it might be safer to vacation elsewhere.

So I’m freaking out. I’m not worried about my safety as much as I’m worried about my valuables.

I travel everywhere with my laptop and photo equipment, necessary for keeping an up-to-date, photo-filled blog while I’m traveling. But after suggesting that I wanted to bring my laptop and camera equipment down to Rio, people have told me that I am out of my mind. If I bring it and keep it in the hotel, it might get stolen. If I carry everything with me, I might get mugged.

The prospect of going without this stuff and not being able to blog while I am down there is killing me.

OK, so if I do bring all my stuff down with me, how would I protect myself? Probably a good idea to get insurance on all my gear. And I don’t speak a lick of Portuguese, so it might be a good idea to learn some basic expressions beforehand. Things like “Get your hand out of my pocket!” and “Please remove the broken bottle from my face!” and “You can take the camera but not the memory card!”

During the day, maybe we’re fine if we stay in the touristy, crowded spots and keep our valuables out of view. If we look comfortable and look people in the eye and keep stuff in hidden pockets and don’t flaunt cash or MacBook Pros or Nikon equipment, we might be OK. After dark, we should not be on the streets or beach. Taxis to clubs with a bit of cash and a photocopy of our passport. That’s it.

Maybe we only stay at some of the nicer, reputable hotels. Preferably ones with safes in the rooms. I fear that might get expensive.

I’ve decided. I am bringing my stuff. If the blogging stops, you’ll know what happened.

    One Response to “Safety in Rio”

  1. Simon Says:

    Hey, I really like your HDR shots. Beautiful stuff. I too am planning a trip to Brazil and am a bit paranoid, but I can only try to use some street smarts, never carry too much cash on me, have a throwaway wallet and a money belt, not wear a backpack like a tourist, etc. etc. I’ve heard Rio is amazing… I’m looking forward to it as well.

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