Rio de Janeiro can be a very dangerous place but that’s no reason to panic. Most of the violence here takes place in the unspoken civil war between the drug cartels and the military police. The latter regularly storm the favelas in search of cocaine to steal and then sell for themselves to supplement their salaries. The result is that there’s often gun shots to be heard near favelas but that doesn’t mean that you’ll ever see a gun.
There’s a good deal of mugging in Rio de Janeiro but it’s usually done in a pretty relaxed way. The average bandit has no interest in harming you, he just wants your money or your watch. If you find yourself getting shaken down don’t fight back, give him what you have with a smile and walk home unhurt.
The best way to avoid trouble is to take the usual sensible precautions: don’t walk around with expensive watches or cameras around your neck, don’t leave your possessions alone on the beach, avoid shadowy streets at night and don’t walk home drunk.
Many of the richer people in Rio de Janeiro would never take a bus by day, never mind by night – the buses here are pretty good though and the armed assaults have gone down in recent years.
The water is pretty bad so drink mineral if you can.
Be careful when swimming as the currents can be strong in many places, especially in Ipanema.
Don’t go to buy drugs in the favelas. We repeat: don’t go to the favelas to buy drugs. You may think you’re getting a good deal on your coke but 9 times out of 10 the police will be waiting to search you when you come back down.
Cocaine in Rio is cheap and good but don’t run around like kids in a candy shop. If you must sniff powdered obnoxious attitude, go for it but keep an eye on your limits. You’re a guest in another country and it’s as well not to let your ego swell up too much.
For more on staying safe check out the Travel Health Guide