Rio street crime - Tips for visitors to stay safe

Watch this secretly filmed video and you'll understand why it's important to stay safe while in Rio.

This shocking video surfaced in the lead-up to Rio's hosting of the football World Cup. This street gang came down from the favela to target shoppers on a busy main street.

They brazenly grab jewellery from people's necks, snatch mobile phone, music players and headphones. They even try ripping backpacks from the shoulders of passers-by.

The most shocking thing is almost no-one tries to stop them - although look for the guy who gets in a good punch, and the cop who draws his weapon! Cariocas (Rio locals) seem to accept is as normal, or at least they realise there's nothing they can do about it.

And there lies the lesson for visitors to Rio. After you've watched the video get our tips on how to avoid street crime in Rio.

Crime areas in Rio?

There are many dangerous places in Rio, but this is one of the most notorious - downtown Rio in the Centro district. Check out our map of the location.

Other areas to avoid are clustered in the north zone of the sprawling city. Generally above Centro and spreading west and north. The good news, there's not much of note to attract the visitor anyway, so it's unlikely you'll go there. Stick to the south zone - it's the tourist zone - and the west zone across to Barra De Guaratiba.

Download our Rio Insiders' Guide for more safety tips and ideas on (safe) places to go and what to see.

Also see below for related articles on Brazil and Rio.

How to avoid street crime in Rio

Stick to the safer tourist areas. Cross into the wrong part of town in Rio and this is the trouble you can expect. Downtown/Centro is just one of many places where it's best to simply NOT go. Ask at your accommodation about the places to avoid. Check with a trusted local and share your plans for sight-seeing to make sure you're aware when you're going into a dodgy area.

Leave the bling at home. You've seen how many chains and necklaces the gang took, so don't make yourself a target, don't wear any jewellery. And put the cell phone away, and the camera. Forget about listening to music, the white ear buds are a giveaway that there's a valuable piece of technology on you.

Should you resist? As you saw in the video a couple of people did resist. But you also probably felt it could've turned very nasty very quickly. Were any of the gang armed? Probably. Take your lead from the locals - most did nothing. Some even handed over their valuables rather than risk injury.

Are you insured for theft?

Yes, but don't take that as an excuse to be careless. If you fail to take proper precautions to avoid theft it could have a negative affect on your claim.

You're also covered for medical costs arising from an incident where you are injured.

If you are robbed you will need a police report, and we'll also need some proof of ownership of the item such as the sales receipt, to go with your claim.

There are limits on individual items and overall amounts you can claim, so read your policy documents carefully and make sure you understand these. If you want to know more about your coverage and how you make a claim, visit our Help Desk.

Get a travel insurance quote for Brazil

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.


  • Gustavo Molina said

    Being Brazilian, I can explain why no one tries to stop them.

    ALL minors (<18 yo) are immune to any criminal sanction. That means they can do whatever they want, even killing, and they'll have commited no crime at all, and if caught by police they get back to the streets in the very same day. Yes, there are some rare cases where after killing they become interns in some institution for minors for some months. But that only happens in extreme cases, like when one raped and killed. A normal crime, like robbery, gets no sanction at all.

    And if someone punhces them, this one can be charged for violence against minors.

    So, yes, the laws in Brazil are completely lax for minors. and even cops can't do anything about them. Sometimes when the cop is arresting someone, he says to the cop: "Stop. I'm a minor."


  • Tina said


    I was just there in July 14-18, 2016. I was in the touristic areas and with a local guide. STILL, my phone almost got stolen, but luckily it bounced out of my selfie stick. So the guy on a bike got only my selfie stick on a broad daylight while walking by the beach. He was so comfortable in stealing, he even looked back at me.
    Thought that was it, but during our private tour, on our own van, my whole backpack was stolen with my camera lense, battery pack, new havaianas, etc.
    If Ive seen this before I went, I wouldn't have gone there.


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