Staying safe in Brazil: Frequently asked questions
Brazil is a beautiful country with many incredible things to experience. However, it is a country where you can get into trouble if you are not careful. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about safe travelling in Brazil. You will also find some tips and tricks to help you have a safe and enjoyable vacation on Brazil.
Brazil is a safe country for tourists. However, Brazil is a country where tourists must remain vigilant and cautious at all times.
In capital cities and regional hubs the occurrence of petty theft is frequent and the risk of being held-up also exists. However, this be easily avoided if you remember that Brazil has many poor people who are opportunistic. They won’t go out of their way to steal but if you present them with an easy opportunity, they will take it. So, put yourself in their shoes and ask ‘what would an easy target look like?’
If you follow these tips you won’t make yourself an easy target.
Avoid wearing visible clothing brands and don’t be flashy.
This is a big one. If you walk around with designer clothing, jewellery and expensive sneakers you will be a target. One mistake us gringos make when planning a trip to Brazil is we go buy brand new Rip Curl, Billabong or Oakley’s gear in anticipation of looking cool on the Brazilian beach. This is a big mistake. Surf brands that you might not consider special in your neighbourhood are considered high-end and very fashionable in Brazil – particularly in the favelas. Never wear these brands on the street. Instead wear clothing without big brands and logos.
Keep valuables out of sight.
Brazilians love their smart phones and will use them any opportunity they get. So if you look around a busy area (i.e. a market, bar, town square) and notice that no one is using their smart phone it means the area is prone to theft. Keep your smartphone and camera in your pocket or bag.
Don’t leave valuables on tables.
Get into the habit of never leaving any valuables on the café, bar or restaurant table tops. You will encourage someone to walk past and snatch it.
Don’t be a smartphone Zombie.
In this modern age we are so lucky to have Google Maps on our smartphones. Especially when travelling. However, we have a habit of walking down the road, holding the phone out front and focusing on the screen. This might be alright in your neighbourhood but in Brazilian cities you are putting a sign on your head “take my phone!”. A guy will come by on a motorbike and snatch it out of your hands. What I recommend is to observe the map then put the device back in your pocket. When you want to re-check it just pull it out for another short glimpse, then back in the pocket. Zombie walking with the phone will make you a target.
Don’t walk around by yourself late at night.
This is a no brainer but after a few drinks we get a bit confident. If you go out at night try stay local to your accommodation. Otherwise, don’t get too drunk (again, don’t be a target). Always order take a taxi or Uber home. When in doubt, ask the hotel or hostel for advice.
Avoid quiet streets, urban beaches, etc.
Have you ever been walking down a busy street, turned the corner into a lane and suddenly noticed it is really quiet, empty and eerie? You get that weird feeling and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. When in Brazil this is a bad sign. Locals know where to avoid. Turn back and stick to the busy streets- even if it means you need to make a long detour. Common sense right? Well, no. People will put themselves in weird situations to avoid ‘offending’ someone or looking silly. If the situation doesn’t feel right there is no shame in making a quick exit.
Yes, you can drink the treated tap water across the majority of Brazil. You will not have a problem in most cities and towns. According to the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water approximately 99% of the urban population and 87% of the rural population have access to ‘at least basic drinking-water sources’.
So, if you are planning to adventure into the wilderness or remote rural areas you are wise to drink filtered or bottled water.
Regardless of the claims above, the vast majority of Brazilians drink water from a terracotta vessel known as a São João or Cerâmica Stéfani. It is a very effective gravity water filter. Most house holds have one in their kitchen. Otherwise they purchase bottled water.
Rabies is found in Brazil and 46.6% of human cases received it from dogs.
However, between 2000 and 2017 there were only 188 reported cases of human rabies in Brazil. The majority of cases in rural areas.
Rabies is rare in Brazil but if you are bitten by a dog, monkey or bat you should seek immediate medical attention.
Stats obtained from:
Vargas, Alexander, Romano, Alessandro Pecego Martins, & Merchán-Hamann, Edgar. (2019). Human rabies in Brazil: a descriptive study, 2000-2017. Epidemiologia e Serviços de Saúde, 28(2), e2018275. Epub June 27, 2019.https://dx.doi.org/10.5123/s1679-49742019000200001
No, it is not safe to feed or handle marmosets or moneys in Brazil.
Generally speaking, the little ‘monekys’ you see around Brazilians cities and towns are Common Marmosets. The marmoset is small and really cute. It jumps around tree branches and carries its little babies on its back. You will be tempted to feed them or pat them. But this is very risky.
According to the Brazilian Health Ministry there have been 19 cases of humans being infected with rabies from interactions with marmosets between 1990 and 2016.
No. It is not safe. Not just in Brazil, but all of South America. Let’s be totally honest here, Ayahuasca ceremonies are a cool new fad. Podcasters and online influencers have popularised this ‘experience’. The reality is that Ayahuasca was mostly unheard of in Brazil not long ago. It was used by some indigenous groups and a fringe religious group, that was all. Today any opportunistic guy might call himself a shaman and sell you the dream. They had no prior experience and are only in it because there is so much money to be made. The other alarming reality is many young women are attracted to ayahuasca there are many men who are willing to exploit this.
The dangers and risks of Ayahuasca use.
This relates to Ayahuasca use in any South American country, not just Brazil.
- Sexual Assault.
This is the biggest risk for ayahuasca users. When you take ayahuasca and are under its influence you are at the mercy of your ‘shaman’ for several hours. There are many reports of women (and men) who have been sexually assaulted while under the influence of ayahuasca. Some were raped.
People have died because the ‘shaman’ mixed the brew incorrectly.
- Bad trip
People have bad trips that they never wish to re-experience. Some people have accidently killed themselves or disfigured themselves.
- Long term effect.
Regardless of what the diehard ayahuasca defenders tell you, we really don’t know much about the drug. It has not been properly studied and it is totally unregulated.
If you still plan to use ayahuasca then do as much research as you can. There are many scammers and predators out there. Don’t set yourself up for a bad time. Preferably go with a friend and have an arrangement that one friend is sober when the other is under the influence.