Is Rio de Janeiro safe for travelers in 2021?
Rio de Janeiro is the most popular tourist destination in South America.
It’s no secret that Rio has its own unique and iconic landscape, beaches, landmarks, food, people and culture.
Rio was the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Is Rio de Janeiro Safe?
A light was shined onto Rio’s greatness during this decade just gone. But there were some that were skeptical about Rio’s safety for tourists.
Most travelers and backpackers looking for things to do in Rio are aware of the city’s dangerous side before making the trip, but may still worry about its potential for a serious crime.
Rio has its petty crime, just like most major cities, but is the serious crime that bad?
Is it Safe to Travel to Rio de Janeiro?
In a one-word answer, yes.
Rio is safe for visitors and tourists and has been for many years.
The increasing crime rate, whether it reaches previously unseen peaks or not, is mostly from the favelas.
As you probably can imagine, Rio has thousands of tourists a day.
The issues you’ll have with crime will be similar to European or American cities: low rates of theft or muggings.
The safety of most tourists depends on where they go. When I travel to Rio, one place I recommend is Santa Teresa for the relatively lively nightlife scene in a bohemian sector.
Just as this page and most advice forums say, the favelas are no-go.
Unless you go with a guided tour group!
This makes it safe for you to enter these controlled zones by the community leader.
Favelas contain most of the crime. Plus, there’s nothing for travelers in the favelas to see or do except be crime targets.
Safety Facts about Rio de Janeiro
Curious to see some statistics? Below are some facts about Rio:
- Brazil’s murder rate dropped by 13% between 2017 and 2018.
- Crime rates have dropped recently due to crime prevention strategies launched over the past decade in Ceará, Paraíba, Rio de Janeiro, and Santa Catarina.
- Nearby cities such as São Paulo have seen a dramatic drop in crime. Murder rates dropped from more than 52 per 100,000 in 1999 to six per 100,000 by 2017.
- Brazil is the number two consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the United States. As such, a large proportion of crime is drug-related.
- Most of the major crime within the city happens within the favelas, which tourists should never travel to.
- The cost of living in Brazil is quite high and the average worker in Rio de Janeiro typically earns around 9,890 BRL per month.
- Despite the high perception of crime, the city has a lower incidence of crime than most state capitals in Brazil.
- Rio de Janeiro at night can get sketchy quite quickly if you are not familar with the neighbourhood you’re staying.
- 154,586 British nationals visited Brazil in 2018. Despite high crime levels, most visits are trouble-free.
Is Rio de Janeiro Safe to Travel Alone?
Are you planning to travel to Brazil alone by any chance?
The good news is, Rio is perfectly safe to travel alone. If you stay within the confines of the beach areas and trust your instincts, you’ll see everything you wish to.
You’ll need to abide by the necessary precautions when traveling to South America such as don’t go out at night (alone), don’t trust strangers, don’t flash expensive items, etc.
If you’re doing solo travel you’ll find lots of handy tips on this site!
Rio is full of tourists, so you can easily find people who speak English/your native language that you can ask for directions from.
Don’t trust everyone around you, only those in the hotel you’re staying in.
Lone tourists can be targets for pickpocketing, so look out for your belongings on beaches. Never leave bags or belongings unattended.
Backpacking Rio de Janeiro Safety
Backpacking across Brazil can be tricky due to most of the country’s roads being on the coastline.
However, Brazil is an amazing country to navigate, but you definitely need to look up which regions should be avoided when backpacking.
Rio is close to other great locations such as São Paulo, a fast-growing tourist destination with modern art galleries and a cosmopolitan sensibility.
You’re probably better off taking a cruise or a flight, but backpacking has its own rewards.
- Best Places to See in Brazil
- Brazil Packing List
- Salvador, Bahia – What to see
- Best Waterproof Backpacks
Rio de Janeiro: Travel Safety Tips
This region of Brazil isn’t one of the safest, so it will pay back in dividends if you exercise the right precautions.
Don’t take Rio lightly, because despite what you may think, it is not one of the safest cities in Brazil. Just because there are many other tourists there, that does not make it safe, per se.
Tourists are targeted in all locations around the globe, so keep on the lookout for petty crime.
Here are some tips to help you on your journey:
- When looking for ideas on where to stay in Rio de Janeiro, make sure to use trusted and accredited hotels/hostels. Then once you’ve booked your room, book taxis or buses through the hotel/hostel.
- If you are a person that suffers from typical culture shock symptoms see our tips on adapting to new surroundings on this blog.
- Parks, beaches, and other recreational areas have experienced violent crimes, mostly at night, to include assault, theft, and sexual assault. Depart from these public areas before sundown. Although assaults are also common during the day, higher rates of crime occur after dark.
- Don’t accept offers of drugs. Not only is it illegal, but it’s dangerous.
- Keep dummy wallets for pickpockets and keep your money hidden away. Bras, money belts or secret bag compartments will do.
- There have been reported contractions of the coronavirus. Visit the foreign travel advice page for more information on this.
- Whilst vacationing in Rio DO NOT drink any of the tap water. Stick to bottled water or gas water.
- Don’t leave any valuables unattended while you swim. Run-and-grab thefts by people on the beaches praying on sunbathers are a common occurrence.
- Only use legitimate, well-marked taxis, which are yellow with a blue stripe and possess state-issued red livery license plates in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
- Don’t go where there are few other people in the vicinity; this includes camping in secluded places. A simple rule: if there are families around, you’re probably safe.
- If you want to take expensive equipment such as cameras or smartphones, keep them hidden, locked away and on your person. A PacSafe backpack is perfect for this.
- Be wary of attempts at credit-card fraud. Either use cards for emergencies only or take cash out at trusted atm’s either in shopping centers. Ask where you’re staying for the nearest safe atm.
Getting around Rio de Janeiro
Although the bus system runs regularly and relatively on time, demonstrations against the government or gangs often target buses.
Not to mention the roads in Rio are extremely congested due to the topography of the city itself, with mountains and underground tunnels creating choke points in the roads.
If you are to use the roads, you’re better off getting a taxi, but make sure the taxi is legitimate.
Some major roadways run through or next to favelas, increasing the potential for violent crime to spill out onto the roadways, causing potentially significant traffic delays.
The metro system is relatively efficient and keeps a regular schedule.
However, the metro system is often crowded, and there have been reports of citizens suffering a loss of personal items and of individuals touching female riders inappropriately.
The metro system offers and encourages using women-only rail cars during morning and evening rush hours on most operating lines.
The best way to see Rio in all its grandeur is with the cable cars, which are often only used by tourists visiting the Corcovado hill or Sugar Loaf mountain.
Travel Insurance for Rio De Janiero
I always recommend backpackers and travelers (no matter who you are) use World Nomads Insurance for fully comprehensive cover.
If you are due to travel soon, you can get a Get A Free Quote by clicking the link or the image above and filling out your details – that way you’ll get instant cover from the exact date that you choose.
On many occasions World Nomads has provided me with reliable insurance cover for travel in Latin America and the rest of the world.
Is Rio de Janeiro Safe?
Rio de Janeiro is the pinnacle of Brazilian culture. It stands as the icon of South America and deserves its millions of yearly visitors.
However, no one should arrive in Rio without their wits about them.
Follow these rules for travel, as well as any others you can find online, and you’ll love your stay.
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