Safety in Brazil

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Brazil experiences safety challenges
Despite the country’s natural beauty and friendly people, Brazil continues to experience challenges with social inequality and poverty, and the unfortunate consequence of this has been continuously high crime rates. Safety and security in Brazil is therefore a concern for many expats contemplating a move there and a reality that they cannot ignore. 

Crime in Brazil

Crime levels are high in Brazilian cities, especially in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, which experience regular incidents of pickpocketing, robbery, murder, assault and burglary. Crime rates are slightly lower in other cities, such as Brasília and Recife.
Mobile street gangs and organised criminal groups are responsible for most of the crime, and generally operate from within the city slums, known as favelas. The dense environments of these shanty towns have helped gang members hide from the police quite easily, and it's only in recent years that law enforcement units have begun entering the favelas in a bid to re-establish control.
Many crimes are opportunistic in nature, such as pickpocketing, which is common in popular tourist areas and on crowded public transport. Hotspots for these crimes include beaches, hotels, bars and nightclubs. A phenomenon known as arrastões, or collective robbery, which consists of several people being robbed at the same time, also takes place in crowded areas of cities such as restaurants and during Carnival.
When driving it would be best for expats to keep their valuables out of sight as incidents of smash-and-grabs and carjacking are also common. 
For safety reasons, many expats in Brazil’s larger cities live in apartments or houses in secure closed compounds, which have 24/7 security.

Kidnappings in Brazil

Incidents of kidnapping are common in Brazil. Express kidnappings, in particular, occur regularly. This type of crime involves the victim being kidnapped at gunpoint for a short period and taken to an ATM to withdraw cash or to shops to use their credit cards. Express kidnappings are common outside banks and ATMs, and expats should avoid using ATMs in isolated areas, especially at night.

Road and transport safety in Brazil

The country has an extensive road network, the largest in Latin America. Road conditions in Brazil are generally good, but road markings and lighting are variable across the country.
Brazilian drivers are notorious for road rage. Expats driving in Brazil should do so with caution and drive defensively. Due to the safety concerns and driving conditions, expats may want to reconsider their need to drive, and rather catch a bus or taxi, or use the subway system if possible. 

Due to safety concerns, it is not uncommon for motorists to drive through red traffic lights at night.
Using the Brazilian public transport system is generally safe, although expats should be aware of the risk of pickpocketing at crowded transport hubs and on buses and trains.

Safety tips for Brazil

Here are a few basic safety tips to help expats stay safe in Brazil:

  • Expensive jewellery and equipment should be kept out of view as this makes a person an attractive target for criminals
  • Avoid ATMs in isolated areas, especially at night. It’s best to choose an ATM in a hotel or convenience store.
  • Avoid walking alone at night. If travelling at night, rather use a taxi over other forms of public transport.
  • Be careful when leaving and arriving home. Before leaving, expats should make sure there is no one outside who could pose a threat, and when arriving home they should make sure that no one has followed them.
  • If being mugged, do not resist the attacker; a person's life is more valuable than their possessions
  • When stuck in traffic or stopped at traffic lights, be vigilant as carjackings and holdups are common at intersections

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