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Safety and Security

May 25, 2009

Levels of Crime

Brazil is associated with high levels of violent crime, but the vast majority of tourists will experience no problems.   Levels of violence and crime are high in major cities, although much of it is organised and drug related, rather than being focused on tourists. The statistics speak for themselves:

“Around 177,000 British nationals visited Brazil in 2007 (source: Brazilian Ministry of Tourism).  Most visits are trouble-free.  The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Brazil in 2008 were crime (74cases of lost/stolen passports); arrests/detentions, mostly for drugs offences (18 cases); deaths, mostly from natural causes (13 cases); and hospitalisations (24 cases).” Source: UK Government Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

As a tourist you should remain vigilant, particularly before and during the festival and Carnival periods, as there is often a seasonal increase in robberies against foreigners.

The best advice is to stay streetwise and avoid calling too much attention to yourself. That means dress down, avoid wearing jewellery and expensive watches, and only carry small sums of money. Conceal mobile phones and cameras.

You should always carry identity, but it is advisable to lave your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy of it with you.

Avoid venturing out after dark in quiet streets except under reliable local advice.

If you are unlucky enough to be a victim of a robbery should be ready to hand over your valuables if threatened; do not attempt to resist attackers who may be armed.

Shanty-towns (“favelas”) exist in all major Brazilian cities; they are characterised by poverty and extremely high levels of violent crime.  Do not venture into a favela even with well-organised tours, as favelas can be unpredictably dangerous areas.

The threats are far lower outside the cities.  However, incidents can occur anywhere.

On Arrival

On arrival in Brazil, ensure that you use licensed (rather than unlicensed) airport taxis. You can pick up licensed taxis from the many recognised taxi ranks around Brazilian cities – a driver’s photographic licence on display is a good indication that a taxi is registered.

On Public Transport

Public transport and Inter-state buses (e.g. buses, the metro, and trams), is safe in the areas of Recife most likely to visited by tourists. There is higher chance of robbery on buses in sub-urban areas. When travelling by inter-state bus you should be aware that there is a higher risk of robbery on certain routes. Get reliable local advice if travelling at night and, try to avoid journeys at night.

On the Road

Drive cautiously in Brazil. The style of driving and standards are very different from the UK. Brazil has a high road accident rate; much higher than in the UK.  Brazil has a zero tolerance policy on drink driving.  Even a small alcoholic drink will put you over the legal driving limit.  If you are caught driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, it is likely that you will be prosecuted.

On the Beaches

Recife´s urban beach can be very busy at times and robbery is a possibility if you are not vigilant. You should not leave belongings unattended. In the water shark attacks are a possibility, but the risk are greatly exaggerated and can be almost entirely avoided by swimming between the natural reef and beach. Attacks have been on surfers beyond the reef and surfing is banned. Other beaches in the region are safe.

Sexual Offences


The incident of rape and other sexual offences against tourists is statistically low. Offences by tourists, especially child sex tourism are high in some areas of Brazil, but offenders will be prosecuted and receive sever punishments.

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