Brazil Security Tips
Security is a big issue in Brazil, while it isn’t generally dangerous the possibility of being non-violently mugged is decent in Brazil. Many people warn you of how to defend against pickpockets, however in Brazil that seems to be a smaller problem than actual muggings.
Many of these muggings appear to be just opportunists, people who see you have something of value and come after you. They might have just been going out for a walk, and then suddenly you come along with a flashy gadget and they decide to mug you. They aren’t waiting for someone to come along, you just happen to catch their fancy while they are out and about.
Because a lot of these opportunists, it makes it a little easier to protect yourself. In essence, blend in and show nothing of value.
Smart phones, jewelry and cameras are dead giveaways. Everyone has a smartphone, right? Not in Brazil. They can represent up to 5 months of a worker's salary! Would you carry around with you 5 months of your salary in your pocket in your own country? Probably not. Smart phones are still working their way through the Brazilian economy, while many people have them, they are still for the wealthy because of their import taxes, which make them extremely expensive here. You might think your 2 year old iphone is worthless, but remember, those phones have 100% taxes in Brazil and they can’t tell if your phone is new or not. So your $600 phone you paid for 2 years ago, would be $1200 or more in Brazil!
Motorbikes are the favorite tool of these thieves, with 60% of violent crimes involving one! They are cheap enough that the poor can afford them, and they have the ability to get away in traffic by driving between cars. They often will just pull up to a person using a smartphone, hold a gun to them and say hand it over, and drive off. Few on the street will even notice. There is very little you can do to protect against these types of attacks, but they will ignore you if they think you have nothing. They are opportunists, they might have been driving to the bar and simply seen you pull out a phone and stopped to rob you. Had they never seen your phone, they would have been on their way for a night of drinking.
If you want to carry a smart phone, do not put it in a tight pocket where it is visible. Never pull the phone out on the street, no matter how busy it is. If you want to call someone, look something up on google, or check your email, do it indoors. Go into a restaurant, go into a shop, go into a mall.
Don’t wear expensive, or expensive looking jewelry. Simply don’t even bring it. There really isn’t a good reason to bring it. If you have an engagement ring, don’t bring it. You’re on vacation, don’t worry about the time. Leave your watch back at home. If you really want to make calls in Brazil, look at buying a cheap $20 phone before you leave. Watch out for roaming charges, phone calls in Brazil are extremely expensive, and roaming will only make it more so!
Don’t carry all of your credit cards with you, and split your money up into 2-3 locations on each of you. Put some in a sock, some in another pocket, and the rest in your wallet. Even if it’s just R$10 in your sock, it could come in very handy if you need to grab a taxi or make a phone call! If you are already in the country, just take your cards, ID and passport out, lay them on your bed and take a picture of them all. Email that to yourself. If you do lose them, at least you will know which ones you brought with you, and what companies to contact about the left. Don’t forget to get the backs of the cards as well.
Watch out for deserted streets at night, watch out for who is around you at night. Don’t feel bad about crossing the street to avoid a couple of people, and don’t feel bad about just hanging around the hotel at night instead of exploring. It’s common practice here, and just part of being secure. It will be pretty obvious to the people who you are avoiding and why you’re doing it, but that is life. Be safe.
If you are mugged, just hand over whatever they ask for. A drug pusher might kill someone over a R$10 debt, so if they’re trying to raise R$10 to pay off that debt to save their lives, they’re not going to be looking to negotiate with you. Get rid of them quickly, give them what they want. All they care about is getting away clean and quietly, so just hand everything they want over. It’s terrible, it might happen. Don’t carry anything of value with you, but do carry R$20-30 just to appease them.
You won’t be murdered, shot or stabbed. Just consider it as a donation to the poor. They’re desolate and lead miserable lives, not poor lives, miserable lives. They aren’t using this money to buy the latest pair of running shoes, they’re using it buy some meat and bread to survive.
Don’t let this ruin your vacation, don’t get too worked up about, but do consider what you are bringing with you. While it might be only a $50 gadget you got on sale for 80% off, it might be a $900 gadget here. Leave it at home, bring only what you need and enjoy the Brazilian life! Eat, drink and dance your vacation away!
Seriously, don’t let this discourage you from visiting Brazil, it’s a wonderful place! Just keep in mind that there is a lot of poverty. When in rome, do as the roman do, blend in and treat security like the locals do, and push away those opportunists.