Heading to Rio de Janeiro soon? Fantastic! Just like Mrs. O Around the World, you’ll probably fall in love with Rio and you’ll understand why Brazil is one of the best places on Earth to travel, as Lillie of Around the World “L” discovered.
My first bit of advice is to become an educated traveler. Stop Googling and reading about people being mugged, robbed and pickpocketed in Rio. If you’re aware this could happen then you’re ready for your trip. When I told fellow travelers my employer was sending me to Rio de Janeiro to attend a travel fair, I received a variety of responses.
“Only take two credit cards with the expectation one will be stolen.”
“You’ll be pickpocketed.”
“iPhones and iPads are the number one things stolen.’
Crime Has No Address
I then learned some Brazilian businessmen who visited our community said they really liked our Southwest Florida town because back home in Brazil they had to worry about being mugged and locked in their car trunks. I’m not sure if that’s Brazilian humor but up until landing in Rio, I was concerned for my safety.
Crime has no address and I cannot guarantee something bad will not happen to you but after my business trip to Rio de Janeiro in October, the South American city was a lot safer than I anticipated and a whole lot safer than what I read online. Following are some of the things my sister and I did to stay safe. To read what others think about safety in Rio, Virtual Tourist has a lively conversation in a post about safety called Rio de Janeiro Warnings and Dangers.
Keep Your Head on a Swivel and Pack the Common Sense.
When in Rio, do as the carioca (native of Rio) do, enjoy the beach, but keep your guard up. Tourist police were everywhere in Copacabana where we stayed yet we always used caution and common sense. We carried small, over-the-shoulder bags and left valuables in the room “just in case.” We kept aware of our surroundings and kept to high-traffic areas. We even walked at night about eight or nine blocks from our hotel to dinner without incident.
Honestly, I felt a lot safer than I thought I would but kept my guard up at all times. Perhaps with the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio is stepping it up and making the destination more appealing.
We followed the instruction for dressing such as minimal jewelry and no logo’d apparel, yet, it seemed everyone was wearing that. Not wearing it made us stick out as gringas even more.
Beware of the Food Kiosks.
These small eateries located on the beach are relatively new and offer a great view of the beach, tasty bites, refreshing beverages and sidewalk people-watching. It also makes you a target for vendors selling everything from nuts to bikini tops. These vendors didn’t seem dangerous, just annoying.
There was a language barrier at the kiosks and it seemed the multiple times we visited Pizza in Cone, they didn’t have the cheaper menu items while the higher end items were always available. We had an instance when the server brought out a shot of cacha and beer for my sister when all she wanted was a beer. I just feel we were taken advantage of for a higher tab.
Keep an Eye on Your Credit Card.
Before leaving for the trip, I notified my credit card companies about the international trip. It’s when I learned Discover Card does not charge a transaction fee when using it internationally and even better, Discover is part of the Diner’s Club family. This is important because Diner’s Club is widely accepted throughout Rio. We paid with cash as much as possible but on occasion used plastic. We carefully reviewed the dining tabs to see if gratuity was added and always kept an eye on our cards. Most restaurants have portable credit card machines and brought them to the table and in other instances we went to the register to pay.
Not sure if this was a coincidence or not but a couple of weeks after arriving home, Discover contacted me because of unusual spending. Somehow, someone got a hold of my card and was making online purchases. Thankfully, Discover reversed the charges, canceled my account, set me up with a new one and handed the issue to the fraud department.
Snap a Photo, Pay a Price.
Walking along Copacabana Beach we saw some pretty neat sand sculptures and quickly learned when we snap a photo, the sculptor – or friend of the sculptor – was in our face saying something in Portuguese while shoving a bucket in our face. As soon as we dropped in a coin, he walked away.
Since my sister was on vacation the entire time we were in Rio, she had more experience with taxis than I did. One took her the long way to the zoo via a favela (shanty town in Brazil). On her way back to the hotel, she told the taxi driver she gets sick when being in cars for too long and asked him to drive to the hotel as quickly as possible. How smart is she?
Book with a Travel Agent.
There’s something exotic, romantic and daring about planning an international trip on your own but sometimes seasoned travelers need assistance in travel planning, especially while navigating in another country speaking another language. My itinerary from airfare to hotel and activities and ground transportation were booked through Brazil Vacation Club (Tel: 404-437-6377) based in Atlanta, Ga. These folks are the Brazil travel experts and if my travels lead me there again I’ll be dropping them a line.
Hire a Personal Guide.
In doing research for the trip, I found several guides available to guide visitors throughout Rio whether for half-a-day or several days. Since our trip was booked through a travel agent, they chose a guide for us who met us at the airport, made sure we got checked into our hotel , picked us up and transported us to the airport on departure day and kept tabs on us during our visit. If/when I return, I’ll be contacting our guide for more in-depth tours.
If you need a Rio de Janeiro guide, this is who took care of us: Mr. Gentil Nunes; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Navigate with Lonely Planet Guides.
I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet Travel Guides because they’re no-nonsense, authentic and useful. Whenever traveling to another country with another language, I almost always grab the Lonely Planet Phrasebook for that country/language because they’re a compact size and have practical phrases with phonetic spellings. These two travel guides came along for the ride:
Those are the big things we did to safe while traveling to Rio and other than a misstep on our last night, we had a safe visit. Have you been? What advice do you recommend?
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links in order to support my traveling habit.