In the odd chance that any Opponauts are thinking about coming to Brazil for the World Cup (Don't. Please.), I figured I'd post a set of safety guidelines in the interest of keeping everyone alive and well during the event. This is not going to be a short post, some of it might be pretty obvious, some of it might not.
Lookin' to score?
Let's face it, the 2014 world cup is NOT the sexy tropical orgy with a side of Football most news outlets seem to believe it is:
What do you get when you stage the world's most popular event in the world's sexiest country? A football fest in a G-string.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/world-c…
That's an actual quote from an Australian blog. Adidas, in one of the most misguided boobs and ass publicity stunts I've ever seen, seems to agree:
And they couldn't be more wrong. For starters, June means winter in the southern hemisphere, so no beach parties, probably. I guess what I'm trying to say is, anyone coming over with that mentality is gonna have a bad time. A rapetastic bad time.
So, now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about safety. Despite what the government might say, Brazil is not a safe place. The favelas have not been completely pacified, organized crime is back on the rise, partisan protest groups called black blocs already have one casualty to their name, and don't expect to be ripped off by a charming hustler, it's the violent thugs that populate our streets and no amount of public outrage at official safety guidelines will change that. As a matter of fact, if your country published any sort of official guidelines, it might be worth checking them out.
Aside from the official stuff, the best safety tips I was able to find are, ironically, from a Brazilian blog, and, even though they focus on Rio de Janeiro, that stuff will work in any of the host cities. Here, allow me to clear them up for you:
Awareness! Be aware of the people around you, sudden movements, people that might observe you or bump into you. Especially in crowded places like a big party in the street or in a metro or train station.
Not being caught by surprise is the best way to avoid getting robbed, though I wouldn't place that much emphasis on crowded places. It's the deserted spots you should avoid, if possible. Bumpers and pickpockets, though very present in larger crowds are far less dangerous than the guys who put a gun to your head. Latrocínio, that is, theft followed by murder, is an unfortunate reality in Brazil. If you get jumped and find yourself at the business end of a .38, don't react, don't talk, don't try to reason, don't look at the thief in the face and hope you walk out with a few bucks less instead of a few holes more. I can't emphasize this enough, I knew people who got killed for as few as 20 bucks.
On a Sunday Rio de Janeiro's business centre is deserted and quiet. During the week it's packed but on a Sunday not. Do not go in there, especially when you are a tourist.
Basically, what they're saying here is avoid deserted areas. Any kind of deserted area, not just business and commercial centers. Those tend to be worse, since some of them turn into veritable crack-lands during the off hours, but, as stated above, crowds are preferable to desert spots. Also, steer clear of underpasses and bridges, unless you feel comfortable walking into the "home" of some homeless dude. Oh yeah, don't freak out if you come across these dudes taking a dump or screwing right there on the street. That's fairly common. And disgusting.
Valuable necklaces are an easy target. My suggestion: do not wear them in the streets. And if you are accustomed to wearing a watch then wear a cheap one, you'd be happy to give that one away.
Well, my suggestion, just don't bring any valuables with you, at all. Having a watch is a good idea, so you don't have to whip out your phone just to check the time, and a simple, black digital watch is the best watch. Mine's a black Casio G-Shock I've owned since 1996 and, well, I've owned it since 1996. Stuff like rings, chains, necklaces, bracelets, earrings are best left at home. The most unassuing you look, the better.
When you're walking during the night, or (especially) in quiet areas, then try to take a taxi or walk with a group.
Pretty much. It might seem absurd to signal a cabbie just so you don't have to walk a couple blocks, but getting jumped in a cab is far less common than on foot. I don't even think it happens anymore, to be honest.
Wearing a backpack? Don't put your valuables in there, it's easy to cut it op from behind. Might want to consider wearing it in front of you instead of on your back.
This is actually common practice here, specially in buses and other crowded areas. Wear your backpack backwards, or keep a hand on it all times. Again, the best way to avoid losing your stuff is by not bringing it along.
If you are not sure about small streets or dark streets then only go in there if you are accompanied by a local (guide).
Uh... Nope. Just don't go in there, with or without a guide. A guide is not a bodyguard, if you get jumped, chances are you'll both get robbed. Look for a larger, busier street instead, unless the guy you're with is absolutely a local. In that case he'll probably tell you what I just did. Look for a busier street and remember: when in doubt, stay out.
Dress local. When everybody walks in shorts and flip flops maybe you should consider doing the same? Wearing the latest summer edition of a North Face outfit with your 6 pound climbing shoes and matching jungle shorts doesn't really make you blend in...
When in Rome... This is pretty good advice, look like a tourist and thiefs and scam artist will see you as a giant walking dollar sign, blend in with the crowd and, soon enough, tourists will be asking you for directions and locals will just leave you well alone. Nevermind that you don't look "Brazilian", the country's so racially diverse most of us don't either. If anyone challenges you on that just tell them you come from Rio Grande do Sul.
Do not buy or use drugs. And when you drink alcohol do not get completely wasted. It can make you an easy target.
Oh yeah, I can't emphasize that first part enough. Drugs are the main source of income for all the criminal organizations that plague this country, so the stuff you buy makes my life hell. Leave your "legalize it" speeches at home or we're gonna have some real trouble, you and I.
Don't take your valuables to the beach.
Do what we do and don't take anything at all to the beach. Beaches are hotspots for a type of crime known as "arrastão", which is when a band of criminals dash along the sand strip, grabbing purses, wallets and bags from whoever's on their way. These guys can be pushy, but they're not actually dangerous. If you find yourself in an arrastão, don't panic, stay in groups, don't run off and fight back if they come for you or your group. Don't run into the water, they'll just come after you, and try not to get ganged up.
You could divide your money into two wallets or have a roll of money that seems a lot but that has more paper than value. Chances are slim but if they want to rob you then just give it away without any trouble.
AKA, the Thief Tax. Dummy wallets and phones are popular, as are shorts and pants with obscure pockets. It's best to buy those locally though, from stores like Hering or Taco. They're sturdy enough and blend right in.
We advice you not to take the minivans that work like a taxi / bus. Either take a big public bus (which is an adventure in Rio) or take a taxi, they're not expensive.
The tourist vans mentioned here are always illegal and usually end in rape. I'm not kidding. Avoid at all costs. Buses aren't worth the effort, specially at a time like this, when strikes are common. Taxis are the way to go, they're reliable, efficient and stories of people getting ripped off are few and far between. If possible, perfer the cabs operated from permanent hubs, like universities, schools, supermarkets, malls and airports. Those are by far the best, most experienced and polite drivers and don't be shy if the drivers ask you to take the front passenger seat; they're just protecting themselves from criminals.
When it's carnival or during the World Cup there will be lots of party! So when, out of nowhere, this gorgeous woman starts an intimate dance with you then think again..yes this could be your lucky night out but it could also NOT be.
See? I told you, this isn't some sort of crazed sex festival with football sprinkled in. Be mindful of anyone trying too hard to get you out of your merry way, as a matter of fact. That guy asking for help with his car in the middle of the night might be harmless, but his buddies hiding just behind that wall probably aren't.
While that covers most of the major tips regarding safety, I'd also like to add a few lesser known general rules for getting around:
- Don't rely on the authorities to do their job. Most of the time there isn't much they can do, but sometimes they just can't be bothered, specially by tourists' complaints.
- Emergency numbers in Brazil are as follows: 190 for military police, 191 for highway police, 192 for paramedics, 193 for the fire department, 194 for federal police and 197 for civilian police. Military police is your regular police, By the way.
- Expect delays and detours. Most of the venues and access points aren't finished yet, and I'm not sure they will by the start of the event. Deal with it FIFA.
- Mind the streets. Traffic laws in Brazil are more like suggestions, so don't expect drivers to respect them, you're the sole responsible for your own safety.
- Don't automatically assume people are being honest and friendly and chalk it up to Brazilian hospitality. In fact, expect to be ripped off. A can of beer does not cost 20 reais, and a pizza doesn't go for 100 bucks, except for tourists.
- Speaking of pizza, street food is bad, mmkay?
- Don't go Favela Trekking. Just... don't. It might be a widely advertised "tourist attraction" but, in the same way buying drugs fuels the organized crime in Brazil, so do Favela tours. Plus, they're not as safe as some people would have you believe, with criminal organizations fighting back and retaking several of the recently pacified favelas. Plus, only tourists go in these tours, and you want to blend in, remember?
- If you're coming to Porto Alegre or Curitiba, bring some warm clothes. The cup will take place in June, that is, winter time, and it gets mildly chilly around here, with temperatures touching 4°C at their lowest. If I remember correctly, Curitiba is a little colder.
Even though I assume most of the tourists won't be driving at all, I'd be irresponsible not to include some of these, since traffic kills about 60 thousand people a year and that number is on its way up, not down.
- Learn to drive stick. I doubt you can even find an automatic car for rental in Brazil.
- Forget creature comforts. Your rental will likely be a bare bones compact with a 1.0 or 1.4 engine. It will probably have AC though.
- Get ready for some epic traffic jams. Porto Alegre has 4 rush hours in the afternoon alone. São Paulo and Rio are even worse. Get ready to just sit there for hours on end.
- Everyone's an asshat. Concepts like slow and fast lanes, signaling and speed limits don't really exist in Brazil, so everyone drives like an asshat. Don't expect people to just stay in their lanes and get ready to have your doors and bumpers kicked by lane splitting bikers trying to pass. Watch out for the people passing you on both the right and left lanes, and don't mind the buses cutting you off, that's just what they do. Driver imprudence is the main cause of death in Brazilian roads.
- Lol, the floor is lava. Get ready to dodge some lunar potholes and martian speedbumps. Brazilian roads ride harsh even in the softest of cars, but higher riding vehicles with meat tires and off road pretenses tend to fair a little better. Rent yourself an old Ecosport and you should be good.
- Windows up, AC on. Remember when I said you'd be sitting on traffic for hours on end? Well, guess what, robbers take full advantage of that, so keep your windows up and the AC on to avoid being trapped at gunpoint at a stoplight or something.
- Get ready to bleed at the pump. Regular gas is 3 bucks per liter, and on the rise. I pay 3.60 for the high octane stuff and it hurts everytime.
- Dummy wallets and cellphones are particularly useful if left lying around a visible place in the car, such as the center console, while the real ones are stored safely in your pockets. If you get mugged at a stoplight, just hand the dummies.
And finally, one last tip for those who, for whatever reason, find themselves in Porto Alegre and in need of help; I'll provide a phone number for contact soon, so feel free to call for assistance if you're so inclined. I don't mind doing for free what the government should be doing with our taxmoney.