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How to stay safe as a lone traveler in Brazil

Brazil is a country of social contrasts
Brazil is a country of social contrasts
Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Are you a backpacker traveling to Brazil this summer?

There’s a small chance you might get robbed or pick-pocketed while in Brazil, but like in any other country in South America, it is better to be safe than sorry. Having your wallet or passport stolen it’s not a nice experience, so here’s how you can avoid trouble.

Generally Brazilians don’t wear anything that shows wealth. This includes things like expensive watches, jewelry, handbags and phones. If you are taking your phone or iPad with you, make sure you keep it in a safe and not so obvious place. Don’t carry anything in your pockets, unless it's a well-hidden secret pocket. Whenever possible, avoid money belts as they are obvious to thieves.

Brazilian dress code is casual and relaxed. Most people prefer just to wear shorts, casual T-shirts and flip-flops from the famous Brazilian brand “Havaianas”. You’ll see an “Havaiana” shop in every corner of Brazil, so don’t worry if you don’t have a pair yet!

Don’t carry a lot of money with you, just enough for the day. Cash is the preferred method of payment among Brazilians. It is handy to have some money for the day in your pocket, as many establishments, especially the smaller ones, don’t accept credit cards. Plan your day ahead in terms of spending and withdraw only the essential, maybe an extra 50 Reais in case you get robbed, as this is usually the amount that will make a robber leave you in peace.

Avoid walking in the favelas on your own, especially at night. Many favelas are now safe and open and people can walk freely there, including tourists who want to take a closer look at how people live there. However, there are many favelas that are still a bit problematic. If you’re not sure, don’t take the risk. If you really want to have a “favela experience”, go with someone who knows the place well or take a guided tour.

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