Travel Do’s and Don’ts
Many visitors may be fortunate enough NOT to experience any direct crime while travelling in Brazil but these Do’s and Don’ts are given as a matter of information and as a warning. Here’s an example of what happened to my friend who was walking down a main street late in the afternoon. He felt something wet land on his back, and shoulders. He started to wipe the mysterious goo off (which turned out to be yogurt) when two middle-aged women came from behind to help. By the time they finished helping to wipe him clean, they had his cell phone and his wallet and had disappeared into the evening. So take heed:
Be careful when walking the streets. Brazil is a huge country with bustling city streets. It pays to be alert. As a pedestrian, do make sure you look in all directions before crossing the street.
Leave your valuables secured at your hotel/lodging. Only travel with the funds that you need. Leave your valuables and most of your money and important paperwork (your passport, your identification, credit cards etc.) stored in a safe place. Carry only the funds you need for the day with you. Do carry a copy of your paperwork with you if you really need to have it with you, but leave the originals secured at your accommodations.
Use available Resources. a) If you do not speak Portuguese, use the translator on your phone or tablet and show the person to whom you are addressing, exactly what you want to say in their language. b) Use the map finder on your phone or tablet so you can find your way around the city. c) Since your accommodation staff are most likely familiar with the area, to ensure your safety, always check with the staff who will direct you on where to go and where not to go. Brazilians are very supportive. Be selective, but accept their help if offered.
Convert your Currency. U.S. dollars and other currencies are not commonly used in Brazil. The locals use their own currency called reals. So go to a currency exchange at the airport or at various locations in the city and convert your currency as soon as possible because most vendors will not know the conversion rate from one currency to the other. You will also be able to get a better rate in the city. Remember to take your passport as it is required in order to make the exchange but the process can be simplified if you ask a Brazilian person you trust to do the exchange. Also if you need to withdraw money, choose an ATM that is located inside of a mall or a bank rather than one located on the street.
Be constantly attentive to what is happening around you. It is not considered rude or strange to make eye contact as you walk through the streets and marketplaces. It is encouraged especially when travelling on public transportation – buses, trains etc. Pickpockets are ever present so it is advisable to keep your eyes peeled as they too are aware that if you do not make eye contact, then there is a good chance a perpetrator will not be able to be identified if a crime takes place.
Be aware that crime is prevalent. In and around the bustling cities of Brazil, pickpocketing is widespread particular in the areas where the tourists and the locals gather and shop. Therefore, when visiting a very busy area, it is advisable to not wear valuables such as jewelry and wristwatches and if you carry such items as cameras, wallets etc., secure them on your person where they cannot be seen or taken.
Wear your Backpack backwards. When visiting a busy area, wear your backpack, hand bag or fanny-pack in front of you (and not behind you or on your side) at all times.
Stay at really cheap accommodation. The smaller accommodations may save you a few dollars but they may not be able to offer the safety, security and conveniences of larger establishments.
Leave your personal items unattended. Because Brazil is so huge and the cities are bustling places, avoid leaving your packages, your luggage or any other personal possessions unattended.
Walk the streets at night. Avoid wandering the streets or strolling along the beaches after dark.
Get drunk. Brazilians enjoy liquor as well but they are not often intoxicated and do not respect others who over-indulge.
Use drugs. It is illegal to use or be in possession of drugs in Brazil.
Hire prostitutes. It is not unusual for prostitutes to supplement their income by robbing their clients.
Give money to vagrants. This is discouraged. Although these persons pose little or no physical danger, they should not be supported financially.