Safety in Brazil

Safety in Brazil involves taking necessary precautions, and minimizing risk. Visitors should take extra security and vigilance measures at night. Dress inconspicuously and leave all valuables, including laptops, electronics, jewelry, and watches, in your hotel.
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Brazilian Police LogoOnly carry the cash that you need for the day. While technically Brazilian law requires you to carry your passport with you at all times, a photocopy should be sufficient, and it would be wise to leave your passport in your hotel. Avoid social and political demonstrations, as they have the potential for violence, and you may be detained by authorities if they suspect your involvement.
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In the cities of Sao Paulo, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador, exercise particular caution at night. It’s important to remember that crimes of economic opportunity can take place in wealthy parts of town as well. If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the authorities, who will provide you with a boletim do occorencia (police report). The tri-border region, with Paraguay and Argentina, is known to be dangerous due to smuggling, and should be avoided.

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Brazilian Highway PoliceWhile tour companies in recent years have begun to offer tours of the “favelas” (slum areas in major cities), these are not advisable. While some areas of the favelas have seen increased police presence recently, the vast majority of the favelas are beyond the control of local authorities. If something happens, the police and the tour company will be unable to provide security or assistance.

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Exercise special precaution on beaches, both with regard to crime and swimming. Always talk to locals about currents and ocean conditions before swimming on a beach, as many, particularly in the North Atlantic, have strong riptides, and few beaches have lifeguards.

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It is ill-advised to purchase drugs in Brazil. The police may only confiscate the drugs from you, or they may ask for a costly bribe, in lieu of taking you to the police station. If you are arrested for drug use or any other crime in Brazil, you have the right to meet with your consulate. You should also ask for the services of a translator if you do not speak fluent Portuguese.

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Be especially careful with your drinks in bars, clubs, and street parties, as criminal elements have been known to target tourists, rendering them unconscious with sedatives or tranquilizers, and then robbing them. If you are the victim of a robbery, do not resist, and readily surrender your belongings. Be wary of strangers approaching you on the street, especially at night, as they may be working with an accomplice in an attempt to rob you.

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Above all, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and always ask locals (in your hotel, restaurants, tour operators, etc.) what areas should be avoided. While crime rates are higher in Brazil than in the US or Europe, the vast majority of foreign tourists have problem-free, enjoyable experiences, especially those who take simple precautions, and don’t make themselves an easy target.

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