With breathtaking beaches, friendly cariocas, and year-round sunshine, Rio was truly an amazing place to hold the Summer Games. Like any metropolis, it has its challenges. How can you stay safe?
Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, who is also a frequent international traveler herself, says travelers may apply some common sense tips to enjoy travel to Rio.
1. Meaning of Color: Considering the current political crises, certain colors have explicit meaning; red is associated with Rousseff’s party. Yellow and green (Brazilian flag) are the oppositioncolors. Avoid these colors.
2. Get around safely: Travel by bus is popular in Rio. The bus doesn’t stop automatically; hail with your hand or pull the cable above the window to notify the driver. If you don’t speak Portuguese, it’s best to plot your route in advance so you know exactly when to get off. When taking a taxi, use a map to be aware & don’t just assume you’re being taken to the right spot. Use EasyTaxi, an Uber-like app, for increased safety.
3. Health Precautions: Ask for bottled water at restaurants, decline ice in drinks, and stock up on large water bottles your hotel room. With the current Zika epidemic, protect yourself by wearing bug spray Mosquitos are a fact of life in Brazil; they’ll be at the hotel, restaurant, and the Games.
4. Currency: Brazil uses the Real, currently exchanged at $0.25, don’t carry more than needed. Have multiple modes of cash access (debit, credit cards) in case of loss or theft. Avoid random ATMs. Only withdraw from a guarded bank or hotel ATM during daylight hours.
5. Don’t be flashy: Leave the nice jewelry, watches, cameras and electronics at home; if you must carry them – conceal them in your bag held close to your body. Why make yourself a target for a crime of opportunity?
6. VISA/Passport: Brazil has extended a visa waiver for up to 90 days from June 1 - September 18 to promote visitors from select countries. Check the website for qualifications.Lock your passport in the hotel safe, and carry a copy at all times with a driver’s license, military or student ID card.
7. Be aware of surroundings. Walk in populated areas, especially at night, and notice who is around you at all times. Walk confidently (don’t look lost, even if you are!) and use the buddy system, ideally with a local. Avoid areas with few people. If a group approaches, cross the street or go in to a store. Be aware of pickpockets; keep valuables in a concealed waistband, shoe, or closely guarded bag.
8. Drugs & Alcohol: Don’t do drugs. While a local might get away with smoking pot, and even offer it to you, police are stricter with non-locals. Stings are common. Just like at home, when alone, decline drink offers from strangers and don’t leave your drink unattended. These are common set-ups for theft. Avoid being over-served, especially at night or alone, which can leave you vulnerable to crime.
9. A samba culture, not salsa: You aren’t likely to be harassed; but Brazilians samba, not salsa or merengue.
10. Favelas Rio is infamous for its favelas, a complex subject not to be feared or avoided outright. On the one hand, it’s true that favelas can be dangerous for travelers to wander through; on the other hand, favelas are home to people from where much of Brazil’s beloved culture – samba, capoeira, funk – are and were created. For as much crime, violence and drugs you will also find community activists, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Understanding the favelas before you go will help you comprehend their complexity as you jump around Rio during the Games.