With over half a million tourists expected to arrive in Brazil this month for one of the world’s largest sporting events, Allianz Global Assistance is urging Aussies to stay safe during their travels.
As the fifth-largest country in the world slides further into recession, Rio’s unemployment rates are on the rise and wages are in decline, resulting in concerns of increased crime and violence.
According to AGA owned data, 26 per cent of all paid luggage claims occurring in Brazil were caused by violent crime including mugging or armed robbery, while travellers are also likely to be the target of non-violent crimes, particularly opportunistic theft of electronic devices.
Allianz Global Assistance General Manager Travel & Medical, John White said, “It’s an exciting time to be travelling to Brazil, with people from all over the world set to visit the country in the next few weeks. We do however advise all Australian travellers to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings as tourists will be a key target for crime in the region, particularly when attending large sporting events and visiting major tourist attractions.
John White’s recommended advice to remain safe while travelling in Brazil this month:
- Stay alert in locations where petty crime such as pickpocketing and mugging is rife – Even when in a group it’s best to avoid travelling in shanty towns or ‘favelas’, minimise night-time travel and remain vigilant in crowded outdoor areas such as markets and beaches. If you are the victim of a mugging, AGA recommends handing over your items – safety is more important than your phone!
- When taking out money – Avoid using ATM machines on the street. Try to withdraw cash from secure locations such as banks or in shopping centres.
- Carry minimal cash and credit cards – Money should be stored securely in multiple locations and be sure to use the hotel safe in your room. Ensure money is concealed safely before walking away from shop counters or ATMs. Where possible, use ATMs inside buildings and banks and do not use ATMs that show signs of tampering. Only take the money you need for that day / evening.
- Be aware of local scams – It’s not uncommon for scam artists to work in pairs to distract you while stealing your valuables. This could be anything from pretending to spill something to asking for directions.
- Stick together – If possible, try to travel in large groups – couples and singles are at a greater risk of being targeted by thieves.
- Always report the incident to the police and ask for a police report – even if it’s in Portuguese, this can be translated later for insurance purposes. If your passport is lost or stolen you are required by law to report it. You can do so online or at the Australian Consulate.
- Making the ‘OK’ sign – (See below) with your hand is considered a very rude gesture in Brazil and should be avoided if you want to keep out of trouble with the locals.
- The “horn fingers” – (See below) has been adopted around the world by rockers as a sign of approval or “rock on”. In Brazil, making this sign at someone is the equivalent to telling them that their spouse is cheating on them and should be avoided at all times, even in private.
- Don’t be impatient – The lifestyle in Brazil is relaxed and as a result you might be caught in long queues while waiting for ATMs and at shopping checkouts. Don’t show feelings of frustration or impatience as this will reflect poorly on you as an individual. If you are caught in a long queue, we recommend you relax and enjoy the scenery, this will improve your interactions with your Brazilian counterparts.
- Be cautious on the bus network and avoid taking trips at night – Tourists are increasingly targeted at night on public buses, and are encouraged to find alternate transport such as registered taxis.
- Taxis are inexpensive and efficient, especially at night and for longer distances – Avoid unregistered taxis! Official taxi drivers must display their photographic license. Try to use an official booking system or catch taxis from registered ranks or prepay at the airport to reduce the risk of robbery.
- Plan your transport in advance – Before setting off sightseeing, make a plan to navigate the city and be discreet when reading maps. Utilise maps of the Metro Rio and bus network and take advantage of apps such as Easy Taxi to order registered taxis.
- Drink spiking does occur – Avoid leaving food and drinks unattended at bars or entertainment venues and do not accept drinks from strangers.
- Be prepared for personal security screening and bag searches at event venues – Follow directions from Brazilian authorities on what is permitted in venues and act accordingly.
- Invest in comprehensive travel insurance before you embark on your trip – Always take a copy or two of your insurance policy details and ensure emergency contact numbers are accessible throughout the trip so you can act quickly if something goes wrong.