South America

A Traveler’s Guide to Staying Safe in Brazil During the World Cup

This year’s FIFA World Cup will be hosted in Brazil, where the teams of 31 countries are to play a total of 64 matches in twelve cities across the country from June 12th through July 13th, each in their pursuit to show which the best soccer nation in the world is. If you are among the lucky football fans heading to Brazil to see this exciting tournament, there are a number of safety tips and recommendations you should follow to make the most out of your trip.


You must first make sure before your departure that you have all the documents to allow your stay in Brazil, like a valid passport, ID, certificate of vaccination, and so on. Check with your local Brazilian consulate for a complete list of the required documents, make photocopies to carry with you when going out and leave the originals safely at your hotel. It would also be advisable to note down the emergency numbers (note that these services are available in Portuguese only, so you might want to consider taking a conversation guide or a list of useful phrases as well): 192 for the ambulance, 190 for the police, 193 for the fire department, etc.


While a stunningly beautiful country, Brazil is also notorious for its high criminality rates, especially in the big cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, with staggeringly high occurrences of homicide and theft. Avoid walking in the streets at night as much as possible and if you do, travel with a companion. Avoid shady, high-risk areas (document your route beforehand) and very large crowds, respect the local laws and customs and keep alcohol consumption to recommended safe levels to make sure you won’t get yourself into unnecessary trouble, or – worst case scenario – arrested. And definitely stay off drugs. Also, be cautious when a stranger offers you a drink of any kind, there have been reports of spiked drinks. If the situation raises any kind of suspicion, politely refuse claiming medical issues.

The World Cup is above all a crowds and foreigners magnet, therefore a pickpocket magnet as well, so always be on your guard when on the streets or when using public transport. It’s important not to carry too many valuables or too much money on yourself or wear expensive jewelry and smart clothes that would instantly make you an easy target. When in crowds, it’s important to blend in and draw as little attention to yourself as possible. A good idea to keep your money safe when out and about would be to wear a money belt; or you could distribute your money in two wallets and keep each one in two different places. If you are wearing a backpack, it would be safer to wear it in the front of you as backpacks can be easily cut up from behind. If, however, confronted with a mugger, the absolute worst you could do is put up a fight or argue. Thieves often kill victims who resist. Just keep calm and hand over the wallet (luckily you’ll still have that plan B wallet left…). Use ATM’s only in safe indoor places or at the hotel or the airport and lastly, never flag down cabs on the street. Have your hotel or restaurant book one for you or use an app.


Mosquitoes are very common in Brazil and can transmit diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and dengue. You might want to get a vaccine against yellow fever or prescription medicine against various local diseases before you head out to Brazil. Since it takes at least two weeks for some vaccines to produce immunity after they’re administrated, it is advisable to visit your doctor four to eight weeks before your departure. Since there is no vaccine for dengue, the only way of prevention is protection against the bites by using good insect repellents that contain DEET. Also, wear hats, long sleeves, long pants, and shoes for a better protection from insect bites.

Another potential health threat is the contamination food and water that can lead to the transmission of typhoid fever, hepatitis A, traveller’s diarrhea, etc. Tap water is definitely not safe to drink in some places so choose bottled water if you want to be safe. Be wary of foods sold by street vendors and dairy products that might have unpasteurized milk.

Lastly, make sure you have a valid medical insurance in case of emergency and check your medical coverage before departure. Medical care is good in the larger cities but can be hugely expensive regardless whether you have an insurance or not and many doctors will expect to be paid in cash nonetheless. To counteract the effect of heat and heat-related issues, keep yourself well hydrated, wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Also, do not swim in freshwater lakes and rivers, as this exposes you to the risk of schistosomiasis, a dangerous parasitic infection – among others.


It’s perhaps for the best not to use public transportation, especially in Reife, which has the record of over 1,600 homicides a year in a city with less than 4 million people, Manaus and Salvador being not very different from this. And if you’re under pressure and you just have to, try to take the cabs at night. And as weird as it may sound, as there are many phantom cab companies, you should ask the locals for the two most popular local companies and travel exclusively with them. The train would also be safe, between a city and another, but it’s important to check whether if there are enough departures so that you’ll be in time for the other plans you’ve got. If anything looks shady, it’s safest to avoid it.

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