A lot of people out there have Brazil on their “places to visit” list, which is great. However, many people seem to be uncertain about Brazil’s safety. Let me tell you, don’t believe everything you see in the news. If you do, you will not leave your house. Since Brazil has been in the spotlight lately, the country has been seen in a more positive light. But even to this day there is a lot of misconception and misunderstanding about the meaning of safety. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying crime doesn’t exist there. It does. Because Brazilians tend to conglomerate in populous areas, they are naturally more exposed. There’s definitely a correlation between being more exposed and being more accessible to incidents and unfortunate situations. That’s just a fact.
Here are a few tips on how you can stay safe while visiting and/or working in Brazil:
Brazilians can spot a “gringo” from a distance and that makes you an easy target. To avoid that try not to carry big cameras or laptop bags around. It’s also smart to act as natural as possible and even though you will be amazed at so much beauty, try to walk straight and be aware of your surroundings. Another easy way to spot a foreigner is by how they are dressed. For some reason a lot of foreigners insist on wearing flowery shirts in Brazil. DON’T. This may work in Hawaii, but in Brazil it’s almost like putting a sign on your forehead saying “I’m ready to be robbed.” The key here is to be low-key and stay under the radar. Wear traditional and simple business attire when working and you should be fine.
Don’t Show Off
You are ready to work and enjoy Brazil. You have all your gadgets with you: smartphones, tablets, laptop, MP3 players, you name it. Well, depending on where you are going, there is no reason to carry all that around. The less you carry when walking from point A to Point B, the better. If you are at the beach avoid carrying too much and avoid leaving items unattended. There is nothing wrong with carrying bags but try to be as discreet as possible. If you are in a big city like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, whenever you take a taxi from the airport to your hotel, ask the driver to put all your belongings in the trunk. This will prevent incidents from happening if you are stuck in traffic and people have a chance to look inside the car. Talking about taxis, don’t flag taxis on the street. Try to always carry a number of a reliable cab company with you or have someone call a taxi for you.
When it comes to jewelry, there are occasions and places for them. It is advisable that you don’t flash your cash too much if you will be walking around and more exposed to crowds. If you are going to a nice event, a cocktail reception or a work function, feel free to use whatever you want assuming you will be riding a car. Again, the key is to be aware of your surroundings and be aware that you are a foreigner and everyone can probably see that. In Brazil there is a simple equation: foreigner = money.
Don’t ever react
In Brazil it’s possible that things will be taken away from you without you even noticing. On the other hand, it’s also possible that someone may approach you and ask for your wallet or purse. If this ever happens, don’t react. Simply give them what they want and they will walk away 95% of the time. There is nothing to worry about.
One thing I’ll say right off the bat, forget what you have been taught about reacting. The key in Brazil is: do not react. In bigger cities like Sao Paulo and Rio some people carry two wallets with a little bit of money on the spare one. In case you are approached, give the spare wallet and you should be ok. Most of the time thieves are not carrying guns but they will put their hands under their shirts to give the impression they have something. Don’t wait to see if they do. Do what they say and give them what they want. Be aware that pepper spray is prohibited in Brazil so do not carry one with you. This could get you in trouble.
There you are. I hope these tips can help ease your safety concerns. Brazil is a huge country and most places are safe. Your safety depends on your demeanor. Blend in and try to take in as much as possible without becoming an easy target. Have fun!