By Hakan Almerfors, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Statistics can be very misleading though, especially if you try to find out which city is the most dangerous for tourists.
It is popularly written that Rio is a particularly dangerous place for tourists, but this information is never backed up by hard facts. Compared to destinations such as Cairo and Colombo in Sri Lanka, Rio is a reasonably safe place.
The fact is that most of the serious crime takes place far away from the dense tourist areas in Zona Sul, thus weakening the argument of using broad-based crime statistics to indite a city for its violence towards tourists.
What a tourist is likely to suffer is theft on the beach, or mugging at night on deserted streets. It is rare that violence is involved, but of course these are unacceptable occurrences, and there are quite effective methods of avoiding this petty crime.
The first advice is to take a look around at what the locals are wearing, and follow suit. That means dressing down, no fancy jewelry or expensive watches. At the sake of coming across as politically incorrect, try to look poor. The more wealthy you look, the more of a target you are.
Behaving like a Carioca also does the trick, and beach behavior is a good example – only Gringos take cameras to the beach and thieves know that. Always wear surf shorts or sungas, rent a beach chair if you are a guy or use a sarong (not a towel!) if you are a girl. Don’t bring big water bottles and buy drinks at the beach, and leave the plastic bags at home.
Other things to remember are; don’t wear football (soccer) jerseys other than on a game day and never wear shoes with common shorts. Again, the trick is to blend in, so watch the Cariocas and emulate.
Most muggings occur at night, so at this time especially avoid empty streets, empty buses, parks, and don’t go onto the beach after dark. Avoid the late-night beach area altogether if you can help it, unless you are in a large group. Remember in Rio, if you are told that a place is dodgy, heed the warning.
Of course there are high-end extravagant restaurants and nightclubs in Rio which require expensive clothes and late nights. If you are seeing this side of the city though, again do as the locals do, splurge on the taxis and don’t stray from the well lit entrances.
Hakan Almerfors is Swedish and has been living in Rio de Janeiro since 2003. He has been working with tourists ever since, in 2007 he created the Rio travel information site Gringo-Rio.com