Is Rio de Janeiro Safe for Travel in 2019?

Is Rio de Janeiro Safe for Travel in 2019?

ViaHero · September 12, 2019

Quick answer: yes—it is absolutely safe to visit Rio de Janeiro in 2019. Still, there are some significant safety concerns. That’s why we’ve put together this collection of safety tips, including info on personal security, common scams to avoid, transportation safety, and much, much more.

For the most up-to-date safety advice, connect with a local to plan your trip. Since no one knows Rio like someone who *actually* lives there, your itinerary will be safe, immersive, and oh-so-fun. Learn more.

We’ll be honest: Rio has some unsafe areas

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 in a city like Rio, you’ll find that some neighborhoods are safer than others (especially depending on the time of day). 

The general rule of thumb is that the 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! 

Pro tip: For the best safety advice, connect with a Rio local who knows how to navigate the city.

Don’t venture into the wrong neighborhood

Is Rio de Janeiro safe? Yes but don't venture into the wrong areas
Ipanema Beach | gabyps/Pixabay

As with any metro area, Rio is full of diverse neighborhoods. Some are safer than others! Here’s a quick guide to Rio’s best (and worst) communities for safety. 

Safe neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro

We absolutely love Rio’s neighborhoods. Most of Zona Sul (South Zone) is safe, including: 

  • Ipanema
  • Copacabana
  • Leblon
  • Botafogo

These neighborhoods are generally safe, even at night, and good places to find accommodations. 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. 

Pro tip: Nervous about traveling around Rio at night? When you connect with a local to design your itinerary, they can provide safety advice and transit tips. 

Areas to avoid in Rio de Janeiro

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.

Pro tip: Make sure to run your itinerary by a Rio local before you plan your trip (or better yet, have a local Rio travel expert plan your trip). They’ll make sure that you don’t accidentally wind up in the wrong neighborhood—after all, no one knows the city like they do. 

Here are some more tips to keep you safe in Rio:

Don’t….

  • leave your bag unattended.
  • put your wallet in your back pocket or the outside pocket of a bag.
  • walk alone on the beach at dusk or at night.
  • take out and/or use your cell phone more than absolutely necessary.
  • wear jewelry in the street.
  • openly carry a camera.
  • take more than you need to the beach.

Do….

put your money, credit cards, passport and ticket in the safe deposit box of your hotel.

  • take cabs rather than buses.
  • roll up the windows of your car or taxi if you are stuck in a traffic jam.
  • ask the police for help if you need it.

Pro tip: It's always a good idea to get advice from a Rio travel expert before you land. Don't travel blindly—make sure a local's got your back.

Most public transportation is safe, just beware of city buses

Public transit in Rio is generally safe if you stick to the metro, trains, and public minivans. Riding city buses can be dangerous, especially at night where pickpockets and muggers operate—some of the buses stop in the favelas. Since Rio hosted the 2016 Olympic Games, they have implemented safe bus services in the southern part of the city with designated bus lanes and express service. 

Taxis are safe to use in Rio, but ugh… the traffic

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. 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. If you use Uber, you can guarantee you won’t be scammed by crooked taxi drivers.

Pro tip: You can also get cheap and easy airport transportation on websites like GetYourGuide.

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. 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. So, get started on your Rio itinerary

Some common scams to avoid:

There are people in Rio to will try to scam you, but as long as you pay attention to your surroundings, you can avoid becoming a victim of a crime. Here are the top scams to watch out for:

Credit Card and ATM scams

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.

Pro tip: 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.

The shoeshine scam

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.

The tap water is not safe to drink, so stick to bottled water

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. 

Rio is a safe destination for solo female travelers

Is Rio de Janeiro safe? Yes, even for solo travel
Woman in Rio | Elizeu Dias/Unsplash

Solo travelers love Rio. As long as you take a few safety precautions, you’ll find it’s an incredibly exciting city to explore. Here are some tips for solo travel in Rio: 

  • Research the area before you go—female travel bloggers who share their solo travel experiences are a great resource.
  • For lone travelers of any gender, stay vigilant. Protect your personal info and don't accept drinks or food from strangers.

Pro tip: If you're traveling on your own, ask a Rio trip planner for advice. They'll share how they keep safe. 

You may need to get additional vaccines—check with your doctor

You should be all set if you are up to date on routine vaccinations. 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.

Emergency numbers everyone should know

Just in case you run into any trouble while seeing the sights of Rio, here are some numbers to call for assistance.

Plus, you can always reach out to your Rio trip planner 24/7 if you run into any issues. 

Conclusion

Is Rio safe for travel? Of course! Just be aware of your surroundings and have a local help plan your trip for the most up-to-date safety advice. You'll have a fantastic time!

For advice on everything from safety to Rio’s best beaches, connect with a local to plan your trip. They'll help design an itinerary that fits you—your travel style, your interests, and your budget. With their help, you'll see a unique side of Rio—the local side! Why see it any other way? Learn more.

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