Manaus & travelling the Amazon → Is it safe?

The bustling city of Manaus lies midst the world’s biggest tropical rainforest, the Amazon. Is it safe to travel there though?

Manaus is a relatively safe city for travellers to explore during the day and night without a tour guide. But even the most experienced travellers can fall foul to local criminals looking to make a quick dollar or cause harm, so we have compiled some essential safety information for your trip to Manaus and beyond into the Amazon.

How to stay safe in Manaus

There are always the obvious places to avoid; walking along dark alleys and the beach at night or through the jungle alone is not advisable.

Favelas have the same reputation as anywhere else in Brazil and are mostly viewed from a distance or in a car with a paid tour guide. Sadly, Manaus has issues with drugs due to its connection with Colombia by boat. There is minimal border control to stem the flow of drugs and the favelas are rife with drugs.

Like any destination, take care of your valuables and belongings. Here are some important tips to take on board:

  • Banks and ATM’s should be avoided at night time for obvious reasons. The banks have serious, heavy-armed guards which may seem intimidating but if you go in the day this is the time to discreetly withdraw large amounts of cash. Even better if have the time to withdraw half of what you need from a bank and then withdraw the rest from another ATM or 2.
  • Don’t stash all your cash together and to minimise potential theft is to keep a fake wallet with a small amount of money and the larger amount of cash in one or more smaller, hidden change pouch(s) or similar. Consider travel locks on your bags.
  • Don’t wear expensive jewellery, lots of makeup or fancy clothes. It makes you an instant target for thieves of all varieties.

  • Make use of the free Wi-Fi but be careful what you access. Avoid accessing banks or important details online as the free wi-fi might not be a secure network. 

You may encounter locals with nefarious intentions when you arrive at Manaus Airport, offering services, tours, guides and more. Prebook your tours, accommodation and other needs as much as possible before departure from home. 

There are limitless tour agencies and guides to choose from. Some are reputable, some aren't so, do your research and find one that will suit your needs. There are many Caboclos that work for smaller tour agencies; Caboclos are some of the best people to take you to the jungle, they know the city well and they know the jungle like the back of their hand. You will be safe in the jungle if you are with someone who knows the jungle. The downside is most of these smaller agencies are not available online, you can find them through word-of-mouth, by talking to the locals and other tourists. 

It is highly recommended that you hire a guide if venturing out to the villages or forest as it can be difficult to find people that speak English. There is also less access to public transport and accommodation.

Learning a little bit of Portuguese can make all the difference in being aware of your surroundings and knowing the potential dangers of any given situation one may be placed in. It will also give you the chance to communicate with someone from the culture you are trying to discover. 

Health tips for Manaus

Before you leave home, it is recommended to check out what vaccinations you may need for your trip. Many diseases such as hepatitis A & B, typhoid and yellow fever are prevalent in South America, with some particularly found in remote locations where access to proper sanitation and personal hygiene may be limited.

When staying in urban areas, if you are either heat sensitive, hate mozzies or both, avoid the hostels that don’t have working air-conditioning. The heat and humidity is consistent so make sure you are adequately hydrated. Mosquitoes breed incessantly, especially in the wet season so its important to take precautions to minimise bites.

Do not go into the jungle alone and or underprepared.  The Amazon is an ancient, primal place and once you are deep within the rainforest, access to medical services will be limited. There are many things to do and experience but always remain aware of your surroundings and your intuition can be your best friend here. Check out our great articles on how to prepare for your Amazon trip and travelling safely through the Amazon.

Safety tips for women

Like any large city in the world, there is always the standard safety tips women should follow and Manaus is no exception.

  • Never let anyone see where you hide your valuables (even your new cool hostel sharing friend that-loves-the-same-music-as-you, might not have the best intentions).
  • Unless you have family, friends or a highly recommended guide living in Manaus that you can trust, it is smart to teach yourself some Brazilian Portuguese and keep a language app or two handy on your phone. You may be surprised how quickly you can learn a language when you are immersed in it and most locals will appreciate your effort to communicate with them.

  • The people of Manaus are very friendly and helpful when being asking for help or suggestions on what to do. Don't be afraid to talk to people.
  • When alone in public, use your body language and behaviour to convey a level of confidence, this will help deter anyone waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of a female solo traveller.

  • Have a good time; don’t spend all your time worrying you will be mugged. If it happens, it happens. That is why you don’t keep all your valuables together and have travel insurance.

  • Do not swim in any open water whilst you have your period; attracting piranhas, jacare or any other predator probably isn’t on your to-do list. Your safest bet is to just shower or swim in pools. According to Smithsonian Magazine, piranhas can smell a drop of blood in 200 litres of water.

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