Rio Safety Tips

Chaotic Rio

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When I started this blog I had the purpose of sharing the beauties of Rio with the World. After  years feeling bad about this city during my whole youth, it seemed that I was beginning to see Rio from a different point of view. Continue reading

4 Places where I still feel safe in Rio

Everyone who has been reading my blog for the last year has been following how my concerns about personal safety had increased and how that has affected my life style.

I definitely stopped doing certain things, as carrying my DSLR camera, in certain places or certain hours and being alert all the time is something that I can’t avoid even if I’m just going to the bakery.

But there are still some few places where I feel a little safer,where I can relax a little bit, where I can turn my “Alert-mode” to “Stand by” . Well, that doens’t mean that those places are immune to violence, but I would say that in those places the chance of living a violent event is a little lower or even improbable comparing to other places. So I found relevant to share them with you.

1. Forte de Copacabana –  The Historical Museum of the Army and Copacabana Fort

In the very right side of Copacabana beach, the location called Posto 6 by locals  lays Forte de Copacabana, a military base, once a fort to protect Guanabara Bay, now a Military Museum and an open Fort to visitors. The Fort constructed in the piece of land that limits Copacabana and Ipanema beach provides a breathtaking view of all Copacabana beach, from Posto 6 to Leme, at the other side of the shore. The two café/restaurants located at Forte are great options for taking a coffee or a whole meal, while feeling the breeze of the sea and enjoying the beautiful view.

When to go? If you can choose, visit it during the week, as during weekends the restaurantsare usually crowded and with long waitings line. I personally like to go for a complete breakfast at Confeitaria Colombo.

Praça Coronel Eugênio Franco, nº 1 – Posto 6 of Copacabana Beach                                           Hours: Tuesday to Sunday – from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: Adults – R$ 6,00/ Over 60 years old – R$ 3,00 /Students with Student ID – R$ 3,00

Sugar Loaf View from Forte de Copacabana

Sugar Loaf View from Forte de Copacabana

2. Barra da Tijuca Beach

It doesn’t matter how many beaches I visit , Barra da Tijuca will always be on my top list places to relax in Rio. The beach is quiet, even during weekends (well, I’m mean besides from summer time it is also crowded, but not as much as Copacabana or Ipanema), a totally family friendly atmosphere, cleaner water and sand than in any Zona Sul beaches and less or I would say almost “none” cases of “arrastões” during summer time or along the year. There I lay down my “canga” and can relax under the sun while watching my boy playing, or while my husband surf without being paranoid that my things are gone be stolen, as I would be in beaches like Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon.

Although reaching it can be a little difficult (Barra is around 15 km far from Zona Sul), and getting there by bus can be quite an unconfortable trip and going by taxi or booking a transfer can be very expensive, it is something that you should definitely consider if your looking for a little bit of relaxing moments while visiting Rio.

The distance from other neighborhoods is exactly what makes Barra da Tijuca beach less busy and less touristy than the South Zone beaches, like Ipanema and Copacana, which can easily be reached by anyone by bus or subway.

With the expansion of the Subway lines to reach Barra da Tijuca, that is said to be ready before the Olympic Games next year, Barra da Tijuca Beach will be a neighborhood that must be considered by tourists looking for relaxing moments in Rio.

When to go? Anyday will be a good day to go to Barra da Tijuca beach, but if you plan to do during the week avoid the rush hours ( 7-10am and 4 to 8 pm) or otherwise you can hit a lot of traffic. Go to spend the day at the beach or to watch the sunset on a beautiful sunny day.

Barra da Tijuca Beach, Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca Beach

Barra da Tijuca Beach

3- Praia Vermelha

A small beach with a short strecht of sand, quiet sea,  located between two mountains, Morro da Urca (the first mountain to the Sugar Loaf) and Morro da Babilonia, and surrounded by Military buildings, which makes it a safe place to visit, that’s Praia Vermelha  (Red Beach, translating to English).

It is a perfect place to go with kids,practice Stand up Paddle, Kayaking, or just walk by the short sidewalk and have a coconut water while watching the view. I like to enjoy a little of the beach and go to walk along Pista Claudio Coutinho trail for some exercising.

From Praia Vermelha sidewalk you will be able to take a great photo of Sugar Loaf mountain, like this one I already shared here.

When to go? Everyday is perfect to visit Praia Vermelha, but keep in mind that on weekends Praia Vermelha tends to be busier.

Praia Vermelha view from Pista Claudio Coutinho

Praia Vermelha view from Pista Claudio Coutinho

4.Jardim Botânico

I never get tired of writing or talking about Jardim Botânico (The Botanical Garden), I’ve written about it before, as you can see here, but it is one of my favourite places in Rio, not only for being a safe place, specially if you like photography like me, and the only worries you want to have is with the perfect shot, but also because the place is clean, well preserved and with a great variety of botanical species. When planning your trip to Rio, don’t forget to schedule a day for visiting Jardim Botanico. You won’t regret it!

When to go? Only check the working hours and plan the best day for you.

Rua Jardim Botânico, 1008 – Jardim Botânico – Monday – from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m /Tuesday to Sunday – from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Admissions: R$ 9,00 (cash only) (Gratuity: Children and seniors over 60 years old)

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The Fountain at Jardim Botânico

Summer in Rio, Heaven or Hell??

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If you visit Rio during summer you might feel that a very fine line divides the sensation of being in a heaven or in a hell! In this last weekend Rio beaches had warm waters almost as clear as Caribbeans, beautiful sunny days, breathtaking sunsets, but the sad reality of crimes and violence is still a shadow that insists to disturb our peace.

Only, a few hours after I published my last post, sharing tips of how you can enjoy Rio beaches safely, another “arrastão”was taking place in Arpoador and Ipanema beach. Many of you might not have an idea of what I’m talking about, and I really wonder how many people who plans visiting Rio during summer have already heard about it.

Let’s explain it! “Arrastão”( Big Drag, in english) is a kind of a mass beach robbery, when a group of criminals surround a location (usually the South Zone beaches of Rio) and steal every object in it. It is more common during Summer time and most of the cases occur in Arpoador, Ipanema and Leblon beaches.

In the sunny Sundays during Summer time, when beaches are overcrowded, gangs composed by very young delinquents (many of them still children or teenagers) starts a kind of riot in the beach sand. They start acting a fight to promote panic among people in the beach. Quickly the ripple of fear spreads among the beachgoers and as people run to protect themselves, the thieves  sweep down the beach seizing bags, wallets, cellphones and everything they can .

Unfortunately this is an old problem, that in the last few years seemed to have disappeared, but that this summer came back to frighten us .

Although the government and the Public Security Secretary increased the police patrolling in the beaches areas, with a special police program for the Summer called “Operação Verão” (Summer Operation), unfortunately, it just seems not to be enough to avoid “arrastões” and robberies in the South Zone beaches neighborhoods!

Last year I saw with my eyes violence returning to Rio and frightening all Rio citizens! The Favela Pacification program is not working. Something else must be done, quickly! Otherwise Rio will be in hands of the crime again, as it was in a near past.

It is so sad that the peaceful Rio I experienced during World Cup had suddenly disappeared. The city that looked like Heaven, starts to suffocate by violence once more!!

I’m sorry to say all those sad truths about Rio. Most of you might be asking yourselves, “but what about those tips to be safe in the beach? They are for nothing?” And what I have to say is that no, they are useful, but they might not prevent you for living a bad experience if you come to Rio in Summer. And even if you are coming to Rio anyway, (Carnival is almost there!!), just avoid going to the beach during the weekends, especially in Sundays.

Or if after all I said, you feel yourself uncomfortable to come to Rio during Summer, and don’t wanna take chances, just reschedule your trip to Rio to another season.

Wishing and dreaming about better and safer summers in Rio in the near future!!

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!!!

Reflections on Rio

Yesterday, April 23rd,  it was a local holiday in Rio de Janeiro, the celebration of Saint George’s Day. It was a cloudy and quiet day, perfect for some reflection on Rio de Janeiro future.

After a 4-day-weekend, from Good Friday til Tiradente’s national holiday on monday, tuesday was quite calm, until the end of the afternoon, when we were surprised with another violent episode in Pavao-Pavaozinho and Cantagalo favela, two favelas between Ipanema and Copacabana neighborhoods.

Pavao-Pavaozinho residents burned barricades to protest after a young man was found dead in the favela. Police blocked streets next to one of the access of Morro do Cantagalo in Copacabana neighborhood. Although the reason of the man’s death is still not clear, “Favela’s” residents blame the police for the death.

To understand better what happened, you can check what international press has published about it ( here or here or here ).

Streets were blocked and the feeling of insecurity was back not only for those who live in the favelas or in the favelas surroundings, but for all cariocas. Unfortunately it seems that Rio de Janeiro’s State Security Office has still a lot of work to do in order to bring real peace for all Rio residents.

Thankful we weren’t reached by this sad incident, but we are all feeling quite apprehensive trying t o answer the question “when we will finally get rid of this violence that persists to haunt Rio?”

To clear my mind of all those worries, yesterday in the club, while my son played with friends I took some photos of those pretty flowers.

After all, life goes on.

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