Is Rio de Janeiro safe for travel? Vibrant and beautiful, Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful destination.
However, travelers should be aware of some safety issues — that's why locals helped us create this guide to staying safe in Rio. It covers everything from public transportation to the coronavirus pandemic.
When it comes to safety in Rio de Janeiro, things are a bit mixed. The good news is that rates of violent crime are dropping in Brazil. But locals say that in a city like Rio, you’ll find that some neighborhoods are safer than others (especially depending on the time of day).
Locals tell us that central, beach areas are safe during the day and that things tend to get more dangerous as you move north, towards Zona Norte.
Rio is a big city with a lot of tourists, which means two things: one, many crimes are crimes of opportunity. Two, you should approach Rio like you would any big city—stay vigilant!
Like any destination, travel to Rio de Janeiro comes with new risks because of the COVID pandemic.
That being said, travel to Rio is possible. Here’s what you need to know:
Want to know more? Ask a local in Rio.
As with any metro area, Rio is full of diverse neighborhoods and some fantastic places to visit. Locals tell us that some are safer than others! Here’s their quick guide to Rio’s best (and worst) areas for safety.
We absolutely love Rio’s neighborhoods. Most of Zona Sul (South Zone) is safe, including:
These neighborhoods are generally safe, even at night, and are good places to stay in Rio. Just remember that you are in a big city (Rio has more than 6 million people) so stay aware of your surroundings and take normal precautions.
As a general rule, don’t visit the favelas (slums), especially in Zona Norte, even on a guided tour. Your safety can’t be guaranteed by the tour company or the police when traveling into these communities.
No one knows the city like the locals do. Locals can give personalized guidance about what places to avoid.
Don't travel blindly. Work with one of our locals!
However, transportation is a spot where getting local advice is important. Our trip planners tell us that riding city buses can be dangerous, especially at night where pickpockets and muggers operate—some of the buses stop in the favelas.
Locals also note that since Rio hosted the 2016 Olympic Games, the city has implemented safe bus services in the southern part of the city with designated bus lanes and express service.
Knowing how to get around is important—there's so much stuff to do in Rio! Here's what our trip planners say about two popular options, taxis and Uber:
Rio’s taxis are yellow with blue stripes and are a safe way to get around. Taxis are available 24/7 and can be flagged down on the street or can be found at taxi stands. Locals say that the best way to get a cab is to use an app like 99 or and EasyTaxi to request a taxi online. Make sure you check the route and fare before you agree to the ride.
Although taxi fare in Rio is regulated by the city, scams can and do happen. Using Uber can minimize your chance of getting scammed.
You can also get cheap and easy airport transportation on websites like GetYourGuide.
There are people in Rio to will try to scam you. Locals say that as long as you pay attention to your surroundings, you can minimize the possibility of becoming a victim of a crime. They say these are the top scams to watch out for:
This is probably the biggest scam in Rio. It’s a pain, but try to use cash everywhere to avoid having to worry about fraud. If you do use a credit or debit card, make sure they bring the card machine to your table or watch them swipe your card—never let your card out of your sight.
Skimming is rampant, so if the card slot seems loose, don’t use it! Check your card balance daily and don’t use standalone ATMs. Try to withdraw money at the airport, at your hotel, or at a bank.
This scam involves someone squirting something gross onto your shoes—and then a shoe shiner will offer to clean your shoes for a hugely inflated price. If this happens, just walk away and clean your own shoes.
Theft and scams are common, but violent crime is relatively rare
Petty theft and scams are by far the most common crimes reported in Rio. Locals tell us there is a high pickpocket risk especially on the beaches and on crowded buses or downtown “Centro” streets. A few simple precautions will minimize your chances of being pickpocketed.
While the tap water in hotel rooms and ice cubes in restaurants are filtered and safe to drink, this is generally not true elsewhere. It’s best to stick to bottled water.
We recommend investing in a reusable water bottle with a filter. That way, you won't be using tons and tons of plastic bottles during your trip. It's a great (and easy) way to make your travel more sustainable.
You should be all set if you are up to date on routine vaccinations and have had the COVID vaccine. However, the CDC recommends all travelers heading to Brazil should also be covered for hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever. Based on how long you are staying, however, or if you plan to explore the rural areas, you may need additional vaccines.
Solo travelers love Rio. As long as you take a few safety precautions, you’ll find it’s an incredibly exciting city to explore. Follow these tips to stay safe as you explore all the fantastic things to do in Rio:
Many of our trip planners are women. So if you're looking for a local perspective on how to explore Rio safely, we recommend working with one to build your trip.
Just in case you run into any trouble while seeing the sights of Rio, here are some numbers to call for assistance.