RIO DE JANEIRO
20.11.2006 27 °C
'But is it safe?' is a legitimate question to ask anyone who is going travelling in Brazil on their own, and Rio de Janeiro seems a perfect place to write about this.
The answer to the question is: 'Yes, but you have to keep your eyes open.'
Brazil, and Rio and São Paulo especially, have a bit of a name for violence (remember Cidade de Deus / City of God?) But violence exists everywhere, and people get robbed all over the world. True, an Australian girl in the hotel where I am staying in Rio had her bag robbed yesterday morning. So it happens. But as long as I stick to my own set of rules, I feel just as safe as walking around Amsterdam or Dublin as I do in Rio or São Paulo. (In fact, if you want to go to a really unsafe city, go to Washington DC.)
Here's my list of tips and tricks for enjoying Brazil without being conscious of safety all the time:
1. Always look like you know where you are going (even if you don't.)
2. Don't carry too much money with you (but bring some, just in case somebody stops you - at least you have something to give them quickly so they will go away. (I haven't had to use this one yet.)
3. Try carrying money in your socks! You have to wear long pants to pull this trick off of course. But pickpockets can't get there.
4. Carry valuable items (cameras etc.) in a supermarket bag so it looks like you went buying groceries!
5. By the way, Brazilians have absolutely no qualms about bringing mobile phones and mp3 players to the beach. If you rent a beach chair, the people renting out the chairs will keep an eye on your stuff. (iPods are de rigueur in Brazil as well at this stage. You just wear the earphone wire under your shirt.)
6. The best thing to do of course is learn Portuguese so you can tell if people are talking about you, and if they are, you can understand what you are saying.
7. Leave the Lonely Planet at home, it will just scare you. (More about travelling without the Lonely Planet later.)