Is Manaus Safe? Everything Travelers Need to Know

The bustling city of Manaus lies in the Amazon Rainforest, but is it safe? From staying healthy to keeping your belongings safe, Kahlee Eyles shares her tips.

These houses are common along the Amazon River in Manaus city Photo © Getty Images/mspoli

Manaus is a relatively safe city for travelers to explore during the day and night without a tour guide. But even the most experienced travelers can fall foul to local criminals looking to make a quick dollar or cause harm.

How to stay safe in Manaus

It's not smart to walk through dark alleys or isolated beaches at night, let alone through the Amazon jungle without a guide when it's dark.

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 here are rife with drugs.

Beyond the importance of looking after your valuables and belongings, here are some important tips to take on board:

  • Banks and ATMs should be avoided at nighttime in Manaus. During the day there are heavily-armed guards watching overactivity in the banks, which may seem intimidating, but if you go during the day it's much safer to discreetly draw cash. Try to only withdraw small amounts of cash, as it's not ideal to walk around with heaps of money in Manaus
  • Don’t stash all your cash together. Minimize potential theft by keeping a fake wallet with a small amount of money in it – that way if anyone tries to rob you, you can hand over the fake wallet knowing your hidden pouch has the larger sum of money
  • Before you leave for Brazil, put locks on your bags so you can leave them locked back at the hostel
  • Don’t wear expensive jewelry, lots of makeup or fancy clothes – this just makes you an instant target for thieves of all varieties
  • Make use of the free Wi-Fi but avoid accessing your bank or important details online, as the free Wi-Fi available might not be a secure network.

You may encounter locals with scandalous intentions when you arrive at Manaus Airport, offering services, tours or guides. Pre-book all tours and accommodation prior to arriving to avoid the headache of deciding which potential scammer you should trust. 

There are stacks of tour agencies and guides to choose from. Some are reputable, some aren't. Do your research and find one that operates sustainably and responsibly, but also offers the services you're looking for in the Amazon. 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, and you have to find them through word-of-mouth, by talking to the locals and other travelers. 

I highly recommend that you hire a guide when venturing out to the villages or into the jungle, as it can be difficult to find people that speak English. There is also less access to public transport and accommodation here.

Learning a little bit of Portuguese can make all the difference. It will also give you the chance to communicate with the locals and experience a different culture. 

Health tips for Manaus

Before you leave home, there are a few recommended vaccinations to get for a trip to Manaus and the Amazon. Many diseases such as Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever are prevalent in South America, with some particularly found in remote locations where access to sanitation and hygiene may be limited.

When staying in urban areas, if you are sensitive to the heat, attract mosquitoes or both, avoid hostels that don’t have air-conditioning or bug nets. The heat and humidity can be intense in Manaus, so stay hydrated. Mosquitoes breed incessantly, especially in the wet season, so always wear long-sleeved clothing in the early mornings, during the early evening and at night. Always carry insect repellant with you, and apply it to uncovered areas throughout the day, and especially at night.

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 is limited. Always remain aware of your surroundings and your intuition can be your best friend in Manaus.

Safety tips for women

Here are a few standard safety tips for women traveling in Manaus.

  • Never let anyone see where you hide your valuables (even your new hostel friend might not have honest intentions)
  • Unless you have family, friends or a highly recommended guide living in Manaus that you can trust, learn 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 everyone will appreciate your efforts
  • The people of Manaus are very friendly and helpful when you ask for help or suggestions – don't be afraid to talk to them
  • When alone in public, try to act confident to deter anyone waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of a woman traveling alone
  • Have a good time; don’t spend all your time worrying you might be mugged. If it happens, it happens. That's also why you should purchase travel insurance
  • Do not swim in any open water while you have your period; it could attract piranhas, jacare or any other predator
  • Your safest bet is to shower or swim in pools. According to Smithsonian Magazine, piranhas can smell a single drop of blood in 200 liters of water.

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