Safety tips at Rio’s beaches

Recently I wrote a guest post for Annie, the girl behind the travel blog Annie Anywhere,  revealing some clever advice for travellers coming to Rio about how to enjoy Rio’s beaches safely. You can check it here!

As we are in the middle of Summer, I thought it would be very opportune to share this post here too! So, here it go!!!

Spreading information and smart tips to enjoy a great vacation in Rio, is one of the reasons why I started blogging. I got a little surprised, when talking to Annie to know that some travellers just avoid the more incredible attraction in Rio, the beaches, for not feeling safe when traveling alone.

Ipanema beach on a Saturday in Summer

I really hope this post will help to change this! Coming to Rio and not enjoying a day at the beach is almost a sin. Of course, it is well-known that Rio have many safety issues, but with the right attitude and some extra care, anyone can have an amazing stay in Rio. As a Brazilian, born and raised in Rio, I will share here some tips that I myself follow every time I go to the beach.

First of all, whoever is coming to Rio should understand that unlike other cities in the world, where keeping away from certain dangerous areas is enough to make you feel safe, things are a little different here, as the “favelas” (places where poor communities concentrates, and where many criminals hide) are spread all over the city. Unfortunately, the risk of being robbed exists even if you are in an area considered quite safe, such as “Zona Sul” (South Zone), where a lot of popular beaches are located.

Let’s go straight to some practical advice to keep you away from any unpleasant experiences.

1. Which beaches are safer in Rio

Most of the beaches in Rio has the same level of security. If you are in “Zona Sul” any of the beaches are quite safe to go, such as Copacabana, Leme, Ipanema and Leblon. Barra da Tijuca, a beach in “Zona Oeste” (West Zone) is pretty safe too. For the most distant and deserted beaches like Praia da Reserva or Grumari, also in “Zona Oeste”, I highly recommend not going alone.

Copacabana Beach, view from the sidewalk

2. What to take and not to take to the beach

Pack light and avoid taking any kind of valuable things with you. Leave your credit card, tablets and expensive cameras at your hotel. Take with you only your money, a copy of your passport, sun lotion and a “canga” (that piece of soft cloth we, Brazilians, use instead of a beach towel. You can buy one at the beach for R$ 25).

Avoid taking backpacks as they call attention to yourself. Prefer to carry your things in bags like those tote canvas bags, or in any simple and discreet bag.

Most of robberies happening on the beaches during the day are pick pocketing and are related to opportunity. Cases of armed robbery at the beaches of South Zone during daylight are really rare and quite improbable to happen. Those robbers like easy work and pick the victims that will have more to offer and will give them less work. They will prefer to rob someone who is holding his cell phone on his hand, rather than someone who keeps it inside a bag.

In case you decide to take your smart phone or a camera with you, keep it inside your bag and only take it out to take pictures. Don’t show off your belongings.

3. What to wear at the beach

A simple advice is to try not to look like a tourist! Ok, this might not be so easy.

So, girls can wear bikinis, shorts and a t-shirt, or a simple summer dress. For the guys, trunks or board shorts and a t-shirt will do fine, but most of Carioca men wear “sungas” (a brazilian version of the speedo) , which most of the foreigners don’t feel comfortable to wear. On the feet, havainas flip-flops are the more proper shoes to look like a local in Rio.

If you want to look like a real Carioca, buy your bikini when arriving in Rio. You don’t need to buy those super small bikinis, but the brazilian styles for bikinis are different from those from USA and Europe. There are plenty of beach wear stores in Copacabana and Ipanema, from all price ranges.

Be the most discreet as possible, not to call too much attention for yourself.

Copacabana Beach, Posto 6, during the week

4. Where to put your things when you want to swim and you’re alone at the beach

Going to the beach alone in Rio is quite fine, unless for this question. What to do with your belongings when going to swim? This is a hard question, because there is no special place to keep your things safely. I recommend not leaving your things unattended in the sand. Sometimes, when the beach is empty I try to put my things as close as possible to the water while I take a quick jump in the sea, or I just look for a family nearby and ask them to take a quick look in my stuff while I give a jump in the water. But in this case, don’t delay too much in the water.

5. What are men attitude towards a woman alone

Seeing women alone at the beaches is very common. We Cariocas do it all the time! So it is not a big deal for men seeing a woman sitting by herself at any of Rio beaches.

Of course, a girl alone may attract some men wanting to socialize but in general men behave well with lonely women in the beach. As I said on tip number 2, avoid going by yourself to distant beaches.

If you are a girl and want to avoid some “Don Juans”, bring a book or a magazine and keep reading. If there is anyone bothering you, just move to some place else in the beach, or say you are waiting for your boyfriend.

6. What is the best time to go to the beach

You can go to the beach in Rio any time you want. Early morning, midday, late afternoon, it’s up to you. But one thing I highly recommend, specially if you are planning to visit Rio during summer season, is to avoid the beaches on Sundays. This is important in terms of safety, because most of the robberies happen on Sundays. This day, beaches get overcrowded and this makes the bad guy’s job easier to do and more difficult for police to prevent.

Barra da Tijuca beach

7. What to do in case of a robbery

If you unfortunately get robbed, the first thing to do is to search for police. During the summer season, you will easily find police officers patrolling the beach neighborhoods. They will lead you to a police station to file a complaint.

To go back to your hotel, you won’t have a problem if you ask a taxi driver to wait in the car while you take cash in your room.

Another thing that is good to know is that the south zone beaches has a special Police Program to patrol the beaches during Summer. So you’ll probably find many policemen patrolling the beaches.

Well I hope those tips are useful and in case of any further doubts don’t hesitate to get in touch!

I hope to see you in Rio soon!!!



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