There is very little that can prepare you for a city the size of Rio de Janeiro, especially when its during Carnival. Rio is nicknamed the Cidade Maravilhosa or “The Marvelous City” for good reason, its quite stunning with its long white sand beaches and beautiful people. Still I was nervous flying into the city. Its the got over 11 million, and doesn’t have the best reputation for safety.
Each February when Carnival rolls in, the city becomes flooded with tourists and can be even more overwhelming. Here are a few tips to stay safe in Rio and stay sane during the worlds biggest party.
Carry as little on you as possible
No day bags, no purses, no bum bags, no jewelry, no camera dangling around your neck. Give the criminals very little reason to rob you by looking like you have nothing worth while. If you need to carry things with you, opt for a plastic shopping bag.
Wear a money belt, but also have a stash of cash elsewhere
Money belts are a good idea to keep your very important things safe, but make sure you have an easily accessible bill or two in case you do get robbed so you can quickly hand it over. Its also a good idea to carry a stash of cash in your shoe, bra, etc to make sure you can get a taxi home in case of emergency.
Prepare for the sun and heat
This seems like a no-brainer, but many tourists aren’t really prepared for 40 degree heat and bright bright sun. Put on your highest SPF lotion (40 or higher) before leaving your hotel and make sure you reapply every few hours. Try to stay in the shade and limit your beach time, if you aren’t from a hot and sunny country you cant handle it like the locals can. Also, drink as much water as you can – especially when drinking alcohol.
Consider day tours for exploring the city
Like many other backpackers, I don’t like being shuffled around on big bus tours, but Rio may be one place you want to consider it. Most of the major sites (Cristo, Sugar Loaf, Sambadrome) are scattered around the city and some are in less than ideal areas. Taking public transport can be costly and waste a lot of time while many agencies offer day tours that cover all these sites for very competitive rates. If you do decide to venture into the city on your own, make sure you know where you are at all times and don’t wander into any favelas.
Always take a taxi at night
Even if you don’t have to go very far, don’t wander around at night. And don’t walk on the beach! Dont even walk on the side of the road where the beach is – this is where most robberies happen. If you decide to rent a car (something advised against) consider leaving it behind and taking a taxi at night. Taxi’s drive through red lights at night for a reason – car jacking.
Women – dress for the situation
If you are going out to a bar or to a Carnival parade, wear shorts or pants. Skirts and dresses allow too much access for wandering hands in crowded areas. Also note that beach wear is only for the beach. If you wear something skimpy expect to get groped.
[slickr-flickr tag=”carnival” items=”6″ type=”gallery”]
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