Is Living In Brazil Safe? (With Data and Videos)

The many natural wonders and lively people of Brazil makes the country a target for many tourists who want to live in a tropical destination and retreat to somewhere a little more quiet and peaceful. But amongst continuous news of violence and crimes throughout the country, is Brazil really a safe place to live?

In general, living isn’t particularly safe, unfortunately. With crime waves that started growing stronger since the 90s and the increase of power in both traffic drug lords and corrupted militia parties, Brazil still has great lengths to go before being considered 100% safe.

In this article, we’re going through all the major issues that make Brazil an unsafe place to live, which are the most and least dangerous locations to reside in the country, what types of crimes are the most common, and what you can do to make your life easier and safer while living in Brazil.

Before advancing to our first topic, here are a couple of safety-related videos we made in regards of traveling to Brazil:

Why is Brazil Considered To Be Unsafe for Living?

Having topped Forbes 2019’s list of the most dangerous locations to live in, Brazil has continuously shown up at the same list’s top spots for a few years now. While Latin America as a whole is considered the most violent region in the world, Brazil manages to emerge as the most notorious example of that.

Here are a few reasons on why Brazil is considered unsafe for living:

Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking has become one of the core issues in regards to Brazilian safety. Widespread violence, homicides, property crimes, assaults; these are all matters that branch from drug dealing and from the war against it, as the way it is handled by the police force is another key in why Brazil is so violent.

Rio de Janeiro, one of the instant names that come up when you discuss Brazil and drug trafficking; has a little over 25% of its local citizens living in areas ruled by criminal rings. Rio has unfortunatelly became a common setting in a series of examples of how innocent lives are lost in the war against drug trade.

What Are The Biggest Crime Rings in Brazil?

The PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital) is the biggest crime ring in Brazil, controlling drug trafficking in 23 states. CV (Comando Vermelho) is the second largest drug rings, present in 12 states. The PCC is also considered the biggest crime ring in Latin America.


In Brazil, the militia is a group of people that protects the population against drug dealers in areas where the State is not present or providing basic assistance in regards to public safety. Think of it as a type of “parallel justice”, which fills in what the State failed to provide.

Although born out of a genuine idea of self-protection, the militia nowadays has evolved into military or paramilitary organizations composed of common citizens packed with weapons who, in theory, aren’t part of the Brazilian armed forces.

By filling in for the State, the militia started charging local citizens for protection in an abusive manner, branding the houses of the ones who didn’t pay the fee so no protection was given to that person for example. Over 33% of the total Brazilian population lives in an area dominated by the militia, which contributes (a lot) to the increase of local violence.

The emergence of the Brazilian militia (and of the drug trafficking rings) was famously portrayed in the movie Cidade de Deus (City of God).

Upon its release in 2002, the Brazilian movie City of God helped bring light to how the country is so deeply involved with the drug cartels and militia groups; whose war against one another is one of the key aspects on why Brazil is so violent – Credit: Youtube | TvTropaTrailers

Still on the militia subject, it became an even bigger deal once politics started to get involved. By guaranteeing basic rights to the local citizens (even if in an abusive manner), the milicianos (how militia members are known in Brazil) started to get elected in public offices, making another prominent Brazilian issue even worse: corruption.

Criminality Rates Through The Roof

Brazil has an alarming murder rate, with over 1,2 million people losing their lives to willful murders between 1991 and 2017. According to the same research conducted by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, the country registered the second-largest murder rate in Latin America in 2019, with a 30.5 homicide rate per 100 thousand citizens, placing only behind Venezuela with a 56,8.

The shocking numbers even surpass the death rates in conflicted countries such as Afghanistan and Síria, which is inadmissible for a country that isn’t in a warzone. One of the main reasons for the high rates is the increase of organized crime, which we’ll be taking a closer look in one of the following topics.

The Covid 19 pandemic also helped the increase of less serious crimes such as car theft and burgulary.Aside from homicides, these are other common crimes that happen in Brazil:

Pickpocketing and Robberies

Unfortunately, those criminal activities are widespread in Brazil, especially in touristic cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Florianópolis, and Salvador, for instance. To avoid having a bad experience, the best advice I can give you is to try to get to know a little bit more about the area you’re going to, as each place has its own singularities and traits.

But as general guidelines, here’s what you can do to lessen your chances of getting robbed while in Brazil:

  • avoid wearing visible jewelry and accessories, like watches
  • avoid carrying large amounts of money with you, and consider using a money belt
  • avoid taking out digital gadgets such as phones, cameras, and laptops while out on the streets
  • leave your original passport at a safe spot in the place you’re staying, and carry a copy with you while out
  • avoid using buses and prefer the subway if you have that option; they are generally safer

Banking Frauds

There are many scams in which people try to steal your banking information, such as trying to clone your credit card in a shop or a store. Keep sight of your card at all times, and don’t let it in the hands of strangers, as someone may try to copy your card info to use it later.

Is It Safe to Use the ATM machines in Brazil?

Mostly, yes. You’ll need to take precautions to make a safe trip to the bank, but if you follow them correctly, you should be just fine. Here are some tips on how to stay safe while going to the bank in Brazil:

  • If you need to use an ATM machine, prefer to use the ones housed by big circulation areas such as shopping malls or big supermarket chains with their own parking lot.
  • Before you make a withdraw at an ATM machine, be aware of the presence of suspicious or sketchy individuals inside the bank or in its vicinity. If you’re feeling uneasy about something, walk away from the ATM and make your transaction in another place.
  • When you withdraw your money, try doing it quietly and discreetly. When you have the desired sum in your hands, put it in a safe place when no one is looking and only check the cash after you’ve arrived in a safe place.
  • If you’re approached by robbers, don’t react. If you have your family or friends with you, try to remain calm, don’t scream, don’t make sudden moves (so robbers won’t think you’re trying to react), and try to tranquilize the ones who are most distraught.
  • Try to notice and memorize significant physical features such as clothing, hair and skin color, and tattoos, for example. Do it discreetly without staring or directly facing any of the criminals.


Although less common nowadays, express kidnappings are still a problem in Brazil. There are two types of express kidnappings in Brazil; the one in which you’re held at gunpoint for a certain period and taken to the ATM to withdraw cash, or the one in which you’re taken to an undisclosed location and the criminals ask for ransom.

While the latter is growing more and more unusual in Brazil, express kidnappings around banks and ATMs are on the rise. The most common approach is when 2 people surrender the target at gunpoint on a bike, making it easy for a quick getaway.

The main targets are elderly people and women who are alone shopping with their credit cards. These people are usually approach while entering their vehicles or leaving the bank, and compelled to drive around with the criminals making withdraws with their bank cards. During these express kidnaps, the victims are sometimes assaulted and threatened, making this a very traumatic experience.

To avoid these types of situations, here are some times you can follow:

  • If you’re renting a car, be modest with the car model, even if you can afford to rent a Lambo. Flashy cars means money, and you don’t want to attract that kind of attention to yourself.
  • Like we said, most cases happen when the victims entering or leaving their car. Take a good look at your surroundings and be quick. If you’re suspicious about something (like people hanging out doing nothing for too long), don’t hesitate to call the police and remain somewhere with more people around.
  • Don’t make public comments about your assets, nor travel, or business plans. Some criminals can pick up on that kind of information and then follow you afterward to try to ambush you. Always be suspicious of people who are too friendly (even though Brazilians are generally very friendly, keep an eye out for those who seem a bit too sketchy)
  • While getting to know the surroundings of where you’re visiting, try to memorize where the police departments are located. If you notice or feel you’re being followed, head to one of them.
  • Avoid stopping your car in deserted or badly lighten locations.
  • Stay alert at crossings, and never get too close to the car in front of you, keeping enough distance so that you’re able to make a getaway in case you need to. Remain focused and keep your car doors locked at all times.
  • If you’re getting near a red light at night, reduce the speed so it can turn yellow and then green before you need to stop your vehicle completely. By doing this, if someone tries to approach your car, you’ll be able to quickly speed away.
  • Avoid taking all of your credit cards with you, chose the one you use the most, and take it with you while out. It’s also advisable to bring small amounts of money with you and keep them in two different places: put a larger sum in a hidden pocket (like a money belt) and have some petty cash in an easy place so you can use it as a decoy in case you get robbed.
  • Keep someone always posted of your whereabouts. You can use apps such as GeoZilla or even Facebook Messenger to let friends and family keep track of where you’re headed.

In case an express kidnap should happen to you, this is what you should do:

  • If you’re held at gunpoint, remain calm and follow everything the kidnapper says. If you can’t speak or understand Portuguese, let the criminals know you can’t understand them by saying something like “gringo” (which is how most Brazilians refer to foreigners).
  • Keep your hands on the wheel at all times, and don’t make any sudden moves.
  • Don’t try to escape, and don’t try to threaten the kidnappers.
  • Don’t show you’re afraid to the point the kidnappers think you’re too soft. At the same time, it’s not the time to act bold or sassy, so just try to keep cool and show them you’re willing to cooperate. Keep in mind that even though they may have you for a while, they’re mostly only after money and won’t harm you if you play it right.
  • After you’re released, look for the nearest police station to report what happened. You’ll be issued a Boletim de Ocorrência (BO), which is an official police report.

Police Violence

There’s a widespread saying in Brazil that goes “bandido bom é bandido morto”, which loosely translates into something like “a good outlaw is a dead outlaw”. This is unfortunately a philosophy that seems to be closely followed by the Brazilian police force, whose militarized logistics has been keeping violent death rates on the rise.

In 2013, the country witnessed the dissapearence of construction worker Amarildo Dias de Souza, who went missing after being taken by the police during an investigation in the Rocinha favela, in Rio de Janeiro. It was later revealed that Amarildo was mistaken for a drug lord, and out of the 25 police officers involved in the case, 8 were convicted in first degree.

There are several other cases of innocent lives lost supposedly by the police force’s hands during a confrontation. For example, in the case of Claudia Silva Ferreira, who was hit during a shooting in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, and while being transported by the police, she fell from the back of the vehicle and got dragged through over 1k feet.

Even in non-confrontational settings, police have proven to take unnecessary measures even towards their own citizens. In 2018, Rodrigo Alexandre da Silva was shot by the police for holding a black umbrella at a bus stop while waiting for his family to arrive. The police claimed they mistook the object for a rifle and his baby’s sling for a bullet-proof vest.

Another significant example of the truculence of the Brazilian police force is the way most protests are handled by them. Aside from reprehending protestors in an arbitrary manner, the police has numerously attacked journalists covering the events, ignoring citizen’s rights to freedom of speech and manifest peacefully.

This 2014 protest against the World Cup being held in Brazil ended badly, with protestors and journalists being violently handled by the Brazilian police force – Credit: Youtube | SBT Jornalismo

In 2020, the number of people killed by the police increased during the first semester, showing that not even the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t enough to slow down the cases and numbers.

Correctional Facilities and Prison Conditions in Brazil

Another crucial factor on why Brazil is so unsafe, is the fact that most correctional facilities around the country are not only unable to provide the necessary service to reabilitate the inmates, but are responsible for making matters even worse.

The sub-human conditions in which the inmates are kept are devastating: overcrowded cells, degradation life conditions, torture, and daily abuse are a few of the ongoing issues in Brazilian prisons, which are known to lead to riots and rebellions inside the facilities.

All the reasons mentioned above, associated with the expansion of drug traffic throughout the country and the fact that most ex-inmates get underpaid on regular jobs (if they’re lucky to land one), make most convicts get out of jail worse than they entered in the first place. At the end of the day, full ex-con rehabilitation seems almost utopic in Brazil.

Violence Against Minorities Rights (Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+)

Although Brazil may seem like an easygoing place where the people are mostly joyous and kind, there’s still a lot of prejudice in the country. The discrimination against gays, blacks, indigenous, and trans people has always been a struggle in Brazil but has been recently fueled ever since president Jair Bolsonaro’s election in 2018.

Is It Safe for A Black Person to live in Brazil?

June 2020 saw an outburst of anti-racist protests around the world after afro-American citizen George Floyd was brutally murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. While the Black Lives Matter movement grew strong in the North-American country, police savagery against black people was also echoing in Brazil.

During a police raid in a São Paulo slum, 19-year-old Gabriel Nunes de Sousa was immobilized by police in an armlock. After being put on the ground, he passed out while the police officer pressed his feet against his neck; in an eerily similar fashion as George Floyd’s.

In another community in São Paulo, 27-year old W.F.G was captured and tortured by police agents after a raid in the Jaçanã district. The torture session was caught on tape by close residents, which shows the man being beaten, punched, and kicked by 8 enforcement officers.

Is It Safe for A LGBTQIA+ Person to live in Brazil?

In 2017, the New York Times conducted a story on the epidemic of violence against queer people in Brazil, stating that a hate wave has ravaged the country, making it unsafe for LGBTQIA+ travelers who wish to visit. According to the piece, over 1,6k people were murdered for homophobic reasons in Brazil in less than 5 years, a shocking number.

This number is in clear contrast with the “tolerant and free-minded” image Brazil conveys to the world, as well as with the fact that the country holds the biggest Gay Parade in the world and it’s Carnaval festivities are fueled by messages of sexual diversity and liberty.

One of the main reasons why the hate culture against LGBTQIA+ people grows strong in Brazil is the fact that the country remains very sexist. Research conducted by Grupo Gay Bahia, Brazil’s oldest human rights organization, noted that even though most Brazilian citizens are becoming more accepting of gay rights, those who are opposed develop new strategies to block the development in LGBTQIA+ issues, making it impossible to advance on important topics.

Another crucial factor on why homophobia is widespread in Brazil is the rampant growth of conservative religious organizations which condemn same-sex marriage and promote homosexuality as a sin or as a perversion. In 2019, the Brazilian Federal Court of Justice criminalized homophobia, but religious leaders still have the right to preach their convictions as long as it doesn’t turn into hate speech (which cannot be 100% guaranteed).

Is It Safe for Woman to Live in Brazil?

The Covid 19 pandemic helped to bring to light one of the country’s main violence-related topics: the alarming rates of femicide in Brazil. While this has been a longtime problem for a country that’s always been considered one of the most sexist in the world, the Covid 19 pandemic seems to have made things even worse.

The implementation of police stations dedicated only to crimes against women may have been a step in the right direction, but Brazil still has a long way to go towards gender equality – Credit: Flickr | Governo do Estado de São Paulo

A report issued by the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety (Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública – FBSP) stated that at least 648 women had been murdered in Brazil in the first semester of 2020 due to gender-related issues, almost 2% more than in the same period of the previous year.

While the 911 calls for domestic violence went up by 3,8% in the first half of 2020, there was also a significant drop in numbers in cases where the women need to personally go to the police station to register offenses as willful injury, threats, and rape. The report stated that the lack of public policies may have hindered or made it impossible for women to seek help.

Racism also plays a big role in this, as 66,6% of the women were dark-skinned. This high percentage only goes to show how vulnerable black women are in Brazil, as they represent 56% of the total of women in the country.

What Are The Least Safe Cities in Brazil?

Every year, the Mexican NGO Seguridad, Justicia y Paz (CCSPJP), made a ranking of the world’s most violent cities. 10 Brazilian cities landed in 2019’s top 50, representing 20% of the whole list. This goes to show that, unfortunately, living in Brazil is not easy, as safety is an urgent issue that’s been plaguing the country for years now.

Here are the 10 most violent cities in Brazil according to CCSPJP:

1. Vitória da Conquista – Bahia (BA)

Total Population: 341.597 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 60.01

Least Safe Districts in Vitória da Conquista: Patagônia, Vila América, Cruzeiro Miro Cairo and Guarani

Credit: Wikimedia / Ronaldosst

Vitória da Conquista is the third-largest city in Bahia and has very worrying homicide rates. Based on a paper issued by Sudoeste da Bahia State University in 2018, the city has endured an alarming number of deaths over the years, especially by black men between the ages of 15 and 24.

Although Vitória da Conquista has been experiencing a decrease in violence since 2010 and is noted as the best city to live in Bahia, it still is viewed by the CCSPJP as one of the most violent cities in the world. It ended up as number 10 in the top 50 worldwide and scored first in Brazil’s unsafest cities in 2019.

2. Feira de Santana – Bahia (BA)

Total Population: 614.872 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 56.76

Least Safe Districts in Feira de Santana: Aviário, Mangabeira, Conceição, Tomba and St. Antônio dos Prazeres

Feira de Santana is one of the least safe places in Bahia – Credit: Ricardo Patrese Soares Lima

Up until the mid-2000s, Feira de Santana was a pretty chill city, with low homicide rates and on the tracks for great developments. From then on, drug traffic started to overtake the city, and the outcome was an exponential increase in the cases of citizens’ lives lost amid the war against traffic, which puts Feira de Santana as the 2nd unsafest city to live in Brazil.

Although Feira de Santana has been experiencing a drop in violence rates, 97% of the total of victims have the same profile: young black men between ages 15 to 27 years old. This shows how uneven the city’s social-racial status is, as most of the aforementioned victims come from the slums and have poor life quality.

3. Natal – Rio Grande do Norte (RN)

Total Population: 1.334,817 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 48.32

Least Safe Districts in Natal: Lagoa Azul, Nossa Senhora da Apresentação, Redinha, Pajuçara and Planalto

Credit: Wikimedia / Roberto Faccenda

Given Natal’s small proportions, you wouldn’t think it would be one of Brazil’s most crowded cities. However, it has one of the highest homicide rates in the country per 100 thousand inhabitants, placing it at 3rd in Brazil’s most dangerous cities to live in and 22nd on the worldwide scoreboard.

According to CCSPJP’s research, these rates went up almost 157% between 2006 and 2016, mainly due to the lack of control in restraining local drug trafficking and the fact that the State doesn’t support and invest as it should in public safety.

This often leads to numerous cases of innocent lives who are literaly caught in the crossfire between the law enforcement and the drug lords, which has, unfortunately, became commons news in Brazil.

4. Salvador – Bahia (BA)

Total Population: 3.490,792 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 47.47

Least Safe Districts in Salvador: São Cristovão, Periperi, Lobato and Paripe

Credit: WikiMedia / Fotos Gov/Ba

Salvador is a very well-known destination amongst Brazilian locals and tourists, especially because of its Carnaval celebration, which instead of Samba, has Axé as the main rhythm. Even though that sets Salvador as the wealthiest capital in the North of Brazil, the social inequity is still an issue that puts people’s safety in jeopardy.

At the same rate there are districts in Salvador with the same or superior HDI as some countries in Europe; there are those with a lower score than some regions in Africa. Ultimately, the crime rates end up being high for that reason, which made Salvador end up as the 4th unsafest city in Brazil and 23rd in the world.

5 . Rio Branco – Acre (AC)

Total Population: 407.319 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 44.93

Least Safe Districts in Rio Branco: Tancredo Neves, Vila Nova, Loteamento Novo Horizonte, Montanhês and Alto Alegre


Although Rio Branco is also part of the group of cities that have been experiencing a gradual decrease in violence and homicide rates, it is still one of the unsafest places to live in Brazil, ending up at #5 in the national general score and at the 27th spot in the top 50 worldwide most dangerous cities.

In 2017, the homicide rate per 100k inhabitants was 85.3, which has dropped almost 50% since then. As in much of Brazil, the main source of the violence are the conflicts against criminal organizations, which experienced a huge growth after 2015.

6. Caruaru – Pernambuco (PE)

Total Population: 361.118 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 44.31

Least Safe Districts in Caruaru: Santa Rosa, Petrópolis, Vassoural, Alto do Moura, José Carlos de Oliveira

Credit: WikiMedia / Israel Neiva

Caruaru is the cultural capital of Pernambuco, holding the biggest Festa de São João in Brazil, a traditional party that originated in the North of the country. The city is also, unfortunately, the 6th least safe to live in Brazil, ending up at 28 at the CCSPJP 2019 top 50 most dangerous cities in the world.

After being pointed as the deadliest state in Brazil back in 2007, the Pernambuco government launched a social program called Pacto Pela Vida (Pact For Life), which implemented security measures to make homicide rates and violence in general drop considerably around the state up until 2013.

One of the main reasons why Caruaru has a hard time keeping violence at low rates is the fact that the city’s prison (called Juiz Plácido de Sousa) holds 10 times more inmates than it was designed for. The precarious conditions in which the inmates are kept and lack of opportunities for resocialization with the society are unfortunately too real in Caruaru.

7. Manaus – Amazonas (AM)

Total Population: 2.182,763 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 40.22

Least Safe Districts in Manaus: Petrópolis, Centro, Cachoeirinha, Raíz, Novo Aleixo

Credit: WikiMedia / Portal da Copa

Manaus is the capital of Amazonas, the biggest state in Brazil, and has a higher development rate than the rest of the country. Even so, it still placed at 36 in the top 50 most dangerous cities in the world, mainly because of the drug traffic and constant wars between rival criminal organizations.

Aside from frequent shootings, the districts in Manaus (especially Cidade de Deus, Cidade Nova and Novo Aleixo) also suffer with regular cases of theft, making the local residents feel unsafe and helpless. The heavy dominance of the drug cartels in the aforementioned districts is the main reason why police force has been having a hard time keeping violence in check.

8. Recife – Pernambuco (PE)

Total Population: 3.999,817 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 35.55

Least Safe Districts in Recife: Ibura, Várzea, Torrões, Vasco da Gama, Campo Grande

Credit: WikiMedia /  Portal da copa

Recife is one of Brazil’s most crowded cities, with the biggest GDP in the North of the country. During the first half of 2010, Recife started to experience a decrease in the homicide rates, but numbers started to go up again since 2014, placing the city at the 45th spot in the top 50 most dangerous cities globally.

A local research conducted by Brazilian institute IPEA (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada) in 2017 pointed out that the major motives behind the high homicide rates are rivalry between gangs and other issues triggered by drug traffic and territory dominance.

9. Fortaleza – Ceará (CE)

Total Population: 3.959,923 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 34.47

Least Safe Districts in Fortaleza: Barroso, Jardim das Oliveiras, Edson Queiroz, Lagoa Redonda and Alagadiço Novo

Credit: WikiMedia / Claudio Oliveira Lima

Fortaleza is one of the most searched destinations in Brazil, attracting a lot of tourists to the beautiful city. On the flip side, being so frequently visited by outsiders has also made the sex market in Fortaleza much more notable, which contributes to making the city less safe.

Although it experienced a brief drop in violence between 2017 and 2019, Fortaleza (and the majority of the state of Ceará) became the center of attention in early 2020, when a police strike led to riots and homicides, risking the lives of local citizens.

10. Maceió – Alagoas (AL)

Total Population: 1.018,948 citizens

Homicide Rate per 100 Thousand Inhabitants: 34.05

Least Safe Districts in Maceió: Benedito Bentes, Cidade Universitária, Jacintinho, Clima Bom, Tabuleiro do Martins and Vergel do Lago

Credit: WikiMedia / Legacy600

Maceió has one of the highest teen urbanization rates in the country, and unfortunately, the highest in teenager homicides as well. Placing last at the top 50 most dangerous cities to live in, Maceió was voted by the City Mayors Foundation in 2015 as the most dangerous city in Brazil but had been gradually moving down spots.

Between 2016 and 2019, saw an improvement in the public policies dedicated to keeping citizens safe, lowering violence rates in the most vulnerable and affected districts in Maceió. According to Unicef, there was also a significant drop in black teens between ages 10 and 19, indicating that Maceió is taking steps in the right direction in order to keep citizens safe.

How To Be Safer in Brazil?

Even with all the issues we’ve just gone through, there are still ways you can be safe in Brazil and avoid some unpleasant situations. Here’s what you can do to make your stay safer while in the country:

Try To Blend In

One of the first things you need to do is learn how to blend in with the locals. Criminals observe everything from mannerisms to your looks, and if you stand out in any way, you might become a potential target. So the best advice I can give you is to try to learn as much as you can about the local culture and try to emulate some of it, making it less likely for you to be noticed by criminals.

Know Your Surroundings

It’s very easy to get distracted by Brazil’s natural beauties, and I know you’ll probably want to register all you can with pictures and footage. But unfortunately, there’s little room for mistakes in Brazil, so be very mindful of your surroundings at all times.

For example, express bike robberies are prevalent in Brazil, and in some situations, it happens so fast you’ll hardly ever know what hit you or where it came from in the first place. Try not to keep your valuables in plain sight, avoid deserted and empty locations, and whenever possible, always walk accompanied by someone.

Avoid Public Transportation and Prefer To Uber

Using public transportation is not an easy task in Brazil. Here in Rio de Janeiro, for example, it’s been quite a few years since I’ve last used the bus lines, as there are hundreds of reports every year of people being mugged and stolen on a daily basis. And although the subway is a much safer option, sometimes the price you pay to use it is almost equivalent to paying for an Uber ride, depending on the distance.

If you decide to go out at night, calling an Uber is mandatory, as wandering the streets at night in Brazil is highly not advisible. You can also use the services of yellow cabs, but don’t risk flagging one down the street and always prefer to used reliable apps in Brazil such as 99 Taxi, for example.

There are cases of fake taxis that could rob, mug, or worse, so it’s always best to call on a trustworthy driver to pick you up. And don’t forget to always check the license plate before you get into the car and don’t ever get inside if there’s someone already in it.

Is It Safe to Drive in Brazil?

In most of the times, yes. Like in most of the country, if you rent a car and decide to drive yourself to your points of interest, spend a few minutes learning more about the location you’re staying at, as car robberies are more common in some places than others.

If you’re thinking about making short trips to neighbor cities, for example, getting to know more about the conditions of the roads you’ll be driving on is also a good idea. There are some roads in Brazil (such as BR-101 and BR-116) who have very high rates of car accidents, so try to learn as much as you can before you jump in the car.

Here are a few general tips on how to drive safe around Brazil:

  • lock your doors and keep your windows up unless you’re on a highway and free of traffic
  • Don’t let attention-grabbing objects such as cell phones or bags exposed inside your car. Put them under your seats or in the trunk to prevent burglars from trying to break in.
  • When you stop at a red light, be mindful with your rear mirror. Keep the engine running at the bottom gear, and make sure you have enough room to make a getaway in case of emergency.
  • Don’t roll down your windows for street vendors nor street artists.
  • If you’re driving at night, be extra careful on red lights and watch out for motorcycles.
  • Road rage is pretty common throughout the country, so even if you’re right, try not to engage in any type of discussion with other drivers. National TV broadcaster Globo recorded 39 deaths over road rage in Brazil in 2019 alone; 23 of those were caused by gunfire.

So, that’s it for our post! I hope we were able to give you a good panorama of what makes Brazil be considered one of the unsafest cities in the world, as well as provide you with some tips on how you’re able to dodge some of the safety issues in the country.

While you’re here, I think we may interest you with these:

Living in Rio: How much does it cost in USD? – Is living in the paradisiac city of Rio de Janeiro as costly as they say? Click to find out what is the average cost of living in the city of wonders!

Curitiba: Best City To Live In Brazil – Cool weather, lower crime rates than the rest of the country, lots of green areas for leisure, and tons of cultural activities: meet Curitiba, the best city to live in Brazil.

Related Questions

What Are the Safest Cities in Brazil?

According to IPEA’s Atlas da Violência (a national publication that lists the most violent regions in Brazil), the top 10 safest cities in Brazil are:

1. Jaú (São Paulo)
2. Indaiatuba (São Paulo)
3. Valinhos (São Paulo)
4. Jaraguá do Sul (Santa Catarina)
5. Brusque (Santa Catarina)
6. Jundiaí (São Paulo)
7. Passos (Minas Gerais)
8. Limeira (São Paulo)
9. Americana (São Paulo)
10. Bragança Paulista

Is Brazil Safe for Digital Workers?

If your work involves carrying around relatively expensive equipment such as cameras, laptops, digital gadgets, and such, you’ll need to double your attention and be extra cautious in Brazil. These types of gear are easily sold in the slums, and you’ll most likely hardly ever get it back. If you absolutely must carry those valuables with you, make sure to hold them in an inconspicuous bag and make sure of your surroundings once you have to put them out. Travel insurance is highly advisable if you’re a digital nomad.

Is It Safe to Use My Credit Card With Vendors on The Street in Brazil?

Yes, it is safe to use your credit card with street vendors while in Brazil. Portable credit card readers became very inexpensive in Brazil, making it possible for informal workers to accept that kind of payment. Although there are rarely any problems, always make sure they have the correct price so you won’t get ripped off.

Is It Safe to Party at the Carnaval in Brazil?

Carnaval in Brazil is pretty wild, as you can imagine. In any situation where lots of alcohol, drugs, and big gatherings are involved, you’ll want to be extra careful. There are a lot of pickpocketers waiting for the right opportunity to snatch your belongings, so have fun, but remain vigilant. One of the best ways you can prevent having anything stolen is only bringing with you the essentials (your phone, document, and cash) and keeping them in a hidden money pocket inside your clothing.

Cover Photo: Brazilian Civil Police officer during a confrontation at a favela | Credit: Flickr – André Gustavo Stumpf

Bruno Reguffe

What's up, everyone! I'm Bruno, and I'm a nutritionist living in Rio de Janeiro. I've been a longtime friend of Ana's, and I'm excited to help her expand on all things Brazilian with y'all, as well as sharing some of our culture and a few personal experiences while living in the country!

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