Brazil receives a lot of bad press about its violence and high crime rate. Use common sense and take general precautions applicable throughout South America:
- Carry only the minimum cash needed plus a fat-looking wad to hand over to would-be thieves.
- Dress down, leave the jewelry at home and don’t walk around flashing iPhones, iPads and other expensive electronics.
- Be alert and walk purposefully. Criminals home in on dopey, hesitant, disoriented-looking individuals.
- Use ATMs inside buildings. Before doing so, be very aware of your surroundings. Thieves case ATMs and exchange bureaus.
- Check windows and doors of your room for security, and don’t leave anything valuable lying around.
- Don’t take anything unnecessary to city beaches (bathing suit, towel, small amount of cash – nothing else!).
- After dark, don’t ever walk along empty streets, in deserted parks or on urban beaches.
Scams & Robbery Techniques
Distraction is a common tactic employed by street thieves. The aim is to throw potential victims off guard so that they’re easier prey. It may be something as simple as asking you for a cigarette or a light so that you slow down and take your attention off other people around you.
There have also been reports of druggings, including spiked drinks. While you’re temporarily unconscious or semiconscious as a result of some noxious substance being slipped into your beverage, you’re powerless to resist thieves. If you start to feel unaccountably dizzy, disoriented, fatigued or just mentally vacant not long after imbibing, your drink may have been spiked. If you suspect this to be the case, call for help, quickly extricate yourself from the situation and try to get to a safe place – your hotel room.
Exercise extreme caution when someone you don’t know and trust offers you a drink of any kind or even cigarettes, sweets etc. If the circumstances make you suspicious, the offer can be tactfully refused by claiming stomach or other medical problems.
Cut-rate Tour Operators & Touts
In Manaus, Cuiabá and other parts of the Amazon and the Pantanal, there’s a major problem with freelancers and shady operators selling cut-rate tours that turn out to be ecologically unsound, awful and/or unsafe. As a rule, never book a tour (or even accept help) from someone who approaches you unsolicited at the airport or on the street. Go directly to the offices in town, or book on websites ahead of time.