Photo by: Discovery channel
The first thing everyone asks me is: Is Rio de Janeiro really that dangerous?
This is a tricky question. Personally, I have rarely felt threatened in this city and all of those times have been in the last couple of years. Either the city is changing or having children has thinned my thick skin.
Normally you will find two opinions: 1. the foreigner saying that the city is super safe. Ironically, they say the city when it's unlikely they have ventured outside of the Zona Sul (south zone) more than going to Barra in the Zona Oeste (west zone). 2. The Brazilian who grew up here and knows the real story. Of course they are normally overly cautious when it comes to foreigners as they see them as a target.
The thing is, Rio de Janeiro's danger is spontaneous and generally unpredictable. It is quite possible to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time even if you were being careful. Of course there are areas where you should generally be more aware, for example Lapa, centro, and Botafogo and Copacabana on the emptier streets at night. Also be warned that there's more snatching of bags in Leblon/Ipanema as that is the tourist zone, but it is not all that prevalent.
What I tell my friends who come to visit is that you don't get to be stupid but you don't have to be scared. You are visiting a city with a diverse economic background. Do not flaunt.
Finally, here are my personal rules:
1. Do not walk in dark empty streets, take a cab. Hell people, I even follow this rule in the states (unless in Coronado)
2. No diamonds on the street (not that I have any)
3. Know where I'm going. This one is easy now that I know Rio but when I didn't I'd do a little research so I didn't get too lost.
4. No prolonged digging around in my purse
5. No talking in English on my cell in centro loudly or for long periods of time
6. Do not leave anything I would not want stolen unattended in public places
7. Enjoy yourself
8. Use cabs with the name on the side. Those cabs work for posts and you are less likely to be taken advantage of.
9. When it's late, do not hesitate to take a cab instead of mass transit. This isn't always necessary, for example if you are going from Ipanema to Leblon. Sometimes though, it is best, like when you are going to Lapa late and the bus would drop you far from your destination.
It comes down to this, the actual real dangerous moments are in places where you will never go as a foreigner. It's just a fact. The other dangers are random and more or less avoidable by paying attention to your surroundings. No, that does not mean in a paranoid way. Just know where you are and what is going on around you.
And if you should find yourself in a bad situation, stay calm. Hand over your things slowly and do not panic.
What tips do you guys have? What is your feeling on Rio de Janeiro safety?