The most common forms of crime affecting tourists are pick pockets and street muggings. However, kidnapping (other than express-kidnapping) is not an issue like it is reported to be in some other Latin American countries.

In the past, the security risk was higher than it is today and police protection has improved significantly in Zona Sul (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botanico) and Barra da Tijuca in the last two years. Today, although the likelihood of experiencing crime in Rio has diminished, it still exists. It has to be said that much of the crime that occurs is opportunity crime. Meaning that criminals focus more on those they think are easy or high-value targets. For example, the elderly or someone walking alone at night or someone wearing lots of jewelry.

While Rio does have a certain security risk involved, visitors can greatly minimize their risk by following a few common sense rules. These tips may sound alarmist but they could equally apply to any big city in the world. 

Security Tips for Visitors:

  • Try to travel in a group preferably with local friends.  At night, avoid walking on the streets alone.
  • Be careful about public transportation at night. Take a taxi and not a bus at night. Late at night, consider taking a radio or call taxi especially when travelling to less secure or unfamiliar locations. Many people prefer calling a taxi company than picking one randomly in the street. The line 1 of the underground (especially, City Centre- Copacabana) is perceived as being safer that buses, but at night the entrances to the subway stations are a focal point for the homeless.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and others when walking on the street. Especially at night. If you see a group of young kids that look suspicious walking towards you, cross the street. Avoid dark/enclosed areas.
  • Do not walk around wearing flashy jewelry or expensive looking items. A basic watch or wedding band is okay (prospective criminals won't be able to distinguish between a fake Rolex or costume jewelry and the real thing).
  • Do not carry a lot of cash around. Carry around only enough for your expected purchases and a credit card (none if you don't expect to use it). Leave the passport and other credit cards in the safe at the hotel.
  • Make a copy of the Biographic page of your passport and carry this with you. It makes it easy to get into night clubs & restaurants or to provide ID if stopped by the police.
  • Do not keep all of your money in one pocket. Distribute it in different pockets.
  • Take extra care when taking out money from an automatic teller machine. Beware of suspicious characters lurking near by. It is best to use the machines located inside banks, buildings and shopping centers.
  • Keep digital cameras in your pocket or in non-descript paper or plastic bags.
  • Don't leave belongings unattended.
  • Stay away from the slum areas (favelas). There are some respected favela tours for tourists, but remember that these operators must pay a percentage of their profits to the criminal gangs controlling the favela to ensure the safety of the tour party.
  • The city centre should be visited during workhours (but be aware of pickpocketing there) and it is generally considered an empty and dangerous place at night - although some parts of it have been renovated, particularly the Lapa district where many world-class samba clubs are located. Always take a taxi if visiting Lapa and make a reservation at the club you intend to visit in advance.

Rio's beaches are gorgeous and seemingly tranquil, and as such may lull you into a sense of safety;  but it has been reported, however, that thieves are on the look out for people who appear to be alone and have watches,  jewelry, cameras, or anything else that can be quickly stolen.  If you're alone, you may want to take beach pictures from the restaurant or the top of the hotel if you use a good camera. 

Although the food offered by beach vendors (such as shrimp, oysters and natural sandwiches), might look wonderful, it's best to be circumspect about what you order.  Most foods sold by vendors on the beach are prepared the night before in somewhat unsanitary conditions and then spend most of the day in the hot sun in the hands of those selling it. If you want to drink beer or soda on the beach, it's best to use a cup or a straw instead of drinking directly from the can. If you will be drinking from the can, clean it with some (mineral) water and then dry the can before drinking.

An excellent way to avoid many of the safety and sanitary issues while at the beach is to rent deck chairs and an umbrella from one of the many kiosks located on the major beaches. Most hotels also have a kiosk and some even pay for a military police presence in the vicinity of their location. Drinks and snacks ordered from the boys working at the kiosk are usually of high quality and you can pay for your entire days consumption as you leave at the end of the day. 

Here is a list of medical clinics in Rio de Janeiro that accept international travelers health insurance:

Galdino Campos Clinic
Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana 492
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
tel: 2548-9966
24 hours, 7 days a week. All specialties.
Accepts most traveler´s insurance or health plans.
Home-care visit at hotels and hostels also available.