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See Rio de Janeiro like a local. Work with a local to plan your trip.

Is Rio de Janeiro Safe for Travel in 2020?

ViaHero
Updated September 7, 2020

Generally, Rio de Janeiro is safe to visit—as long as travelers are aware of some safety issues. With help from locals, we created this guide to staying safe in Rio de Janeiro.

For everything from safety tips to restaurant recommendations, work with a local to plan your trip. Learn more.

"Linelly helped us beyond anything we could've planned ourselves. Everything she suggested for us was spot-on, and I feel we got the best experience by following a local's guidance."
Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

When will it be safe to travel to Rio de Janeiro?

Given the coronavirus, when will it be safe to travel to Rio de Janeiro?

Here's the latest:

August 3rd: Brazil has opened its borders for international travel by air. However, coronavirus cases in the country remain high. 

The United States has also restricted travel from Brazil.

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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 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! 

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Don’t venture into the wrong neighborhood

Ipanema Beach | gabyps/Pixabay

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. 

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 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. 

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.

No one knows the city like the locals do. Locals can give personalized guidance about what places to avoid. 

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.

Don't travel blindly. Work with one of our locals!

Most public transportation is safe, just beware of city buses

Locals say that public transit in Rio is generally safe if you stick to the metro, trains, and public minivans. Which is great news! Because you'll find so many incredible things do throughout Rio.

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. 

Work with a local to plan your trip.
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How to use taxis and Ubers in Rio

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: 

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. 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.  

Uber is very popular in Rio

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.

Some common scams to avoid:

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:

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.

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. 

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.

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.

What to know about tap water and vaccines

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. 

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 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.

Rio is a safe destination for solo female travelers

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. Follow these tips to stay safe as you explore all the fantastic things to do 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.

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.

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.

Still have questions about travel to Rio de Janeiro?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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