Brazil travel tips: The do’s and don’ts
Two of the world’s largest sporting events — the FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympics — are both slated to be held in Brazil in 2014 and 2016, respectively. While the Olympics will be hosted by the famed Rio de Janeiro alone, the many soccer (or football, if you prefer) matches of the World Cup will be scattered throughout South America’s largest country —from Porto Alegre to Fortaleza and beyond.
Brazil’s rich culture is colorful and tantalizing and its varied landscapes are stunning. The sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences for any tourist are endless, and those who venture to this South American gem for either sporting event won’t likely be disappointed. But travelers should be cautious. As CWT noted in a recent travel forecast, only 48% of Brazilians said they feel safe walking alone at night in their hometowns. And while nearly half of all Brazilians may feel safe, that doesn’t necessarily mean a tourist would.
Primary issues causing safety and security concerns for travel to Brazil include:
- Crime Levels. Both petty street crimes and organized crime rings pose significant threats to residents and tourists alike. It is worth noting that at least one major drug cartel has promised violent outbursts during the World Cup. In addition, Colombian narco-terrorists do operate in the proximity of the Colombian/Brazilian border, and within the Amazon region where at least one of the World Cup matches will be held.
- Social Unrest. Many people in Brazil are not thrilled with the tax hikes, disruptions, and other burdens associated with hosting these events. This is a developing country where many people go without basic necessities . . . thus frustration mounts when tax reais (Brazilian currency) go to building new stadiums.
World Cup Protest in Rio de Janeiro (Photo Credit: Tomaz Silva via Wikimedia Commons)
There’s also a highly vocalized frustration with the government’s approach towards crime; that is, they’re dealing with it now for the events instead of years ago as it was mounting. Brazilians are an incredibly kind and welcoming people — but be prepared for at least some protests directed at the government.
Ways to stay safe:
“Favelas” (Photo Credit: Hernán Maglione via Wikimedia Commons)
Stick to the beaten path. If you don’t speak the language and aren’t familiar with the culture, don’t be adventurous during this trip. Know your surroundings, and do not go out alone. Moreover, it is not advised to venture into the “favelas” (shantytowns) that line the hills surrounding major cities unless with a trusted guide.
- Consider a car service over taking street taxis, or at least have your hotel or restaurant call a formal taxi service for you. Flagging one down in the street is not advised.
- If lost or confused, do not let your appearance suggest as much. Tourists have often been taken advantage of in Brazil when criminals pose as good Samaritans seeking to help.
- Prior to your trip, register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
- Remember: the local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Brazil is divided up into three services: 190 – Policia (Police), 192- Ambulancia (Ambulance), and 193- Bombeiros (Fire Department).
- Also check out our World Cup Business Travel Survival Guide, which is full of tips for those whose business travel takes them to Brazil this summer.
International travel never comes without its safety woes, and Brazil is certainly no exception. But an educated, well-prepared traveler is most likely to remain safe, sound, and happy. So do your research, have a plan, and most of all … enjoy one of South America’s most amazing countries!