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How safe is Rio de Janeiro?

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It’s not often that we write about travel destinations here on Head for Points. But since my recent trip to Rio de Janeiro to review Norwegian’s premium economy product we’ve had numerous comments online and in person inquiring about the city itself, so we thought it would be worth covering.

In particular, readers were concerned about safety in the city, which obviously has a reputation for crime.

My experience of Rio was very, very far removed from all the reports you read and hear about online. A quick google about safety in Rio will give you a very skewed picture of the city. Reports on TripAdvisor, travel sites and forums make it sound like you will get mugged every day, have your credit cards cloned and your valuables stolen by hotel staff. People warn of children and teenagers that scour beaches and run away with your bags, and the dangers of being out after dark.

Rio de Janeiro Parque Lage

The simple fact is that, with a little common sense, you are unlikely to encounter any of these things. After a week long stay in multiple hotels, visiting beaches and (yes) staying out after dark, I came back with no dramatic stories to tell whatsoever.

Rio de Janeiro Santa Teresa tram

Of course, these events do happen – and they are more likely to happen in Rio than they are in London or another European destination. But they are still unlikely and you can minimise your exposure to the risks by using common sense.

Here are the rules I abided by:

Always use the hotel safe

Keep a heightened awareness of your surroundings

Keep your belongings close to you on the beach and never leave them unattended

Don’t wear flashy clothing, jewellery or flash expensive technology around – the less you look like a tourist the better

I also made sure to take my cue from local Brazilians. I spent my final day in Rio on Copacabana beach and at one point heard three loud bangs.

To someone with an untrained ear, they sounded a lot like gunshots – not something you want to hear whilst enjoying 30 degree heat on the beach. Nevertheless, not a single Brazilian around us reacted in any way, so I figured it was not a cause for concern and – dear reader – survived the rest of the day.

Rio de Janeiro Leblon

Although I had psyched myself out about personal safety prior to my trip, I felt comfortable as soon as I hit the streets. Of course, there are areas you should avoid (favelas) and others that you need to be alert in. But in areas like Leblon, Copacabana, Ipanema and Santa Teresa – the areas you are most likely to be staying in – it feels little different from a southern European city.

Rio de Janeiro sunset

Rio is a wonderfully diverse, dynamic city that I cannot recommend enough. According to the Foreign Office travel advice crime – when it does happen to British tourists – is typically theft or pickpocketing, and not more serious incidents. Enjoy the samba, caipirinhas (although not too many!), the beaches and food.

Norwegian has been flying to the city from London Gatwick since March. If you have not already read my review of Norwegian Premium you can do so here – you will find their Premium fares are generally under £1,000 return.  With a bit of common sense and a robust travel insurance policy it’s hard not to have a good time.

Comments (129)

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  • Tone says:

    We used a 241 to Rio a couple of years ago. Had a great time in the city, then flew down to Iguazu Falls, then up to Manaus and a rainforest lodge, then back to Rio for the last couple of days. Like you we spent the last day on Copacobana beach. We then walked back along the beach towards our apartment and were suddenly surrounded by a group of teenage boys, one brandishing a large knife. They took one of our mobiles plus the small amount of cash that we had. A sad end to a great trip, but we made the mistake of walking on a part of the beach next to a building site that was virtually deserted.

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