10 security tips for travelling to Brazil

Singapore - As thousands of visitors prepare to spend June and July in Brazil, International SOS and global risk consultancy Control Risks are offering travel security advice so they can stay healthy, safe and secure.

Travel in Brazil can be challenging and at times chaotic. By following some simple common-sense guidelines, visitors can have an enjoyable experience and avoid potential problems.

Across the country, crime poses a significant risk to travellers and no area of major cities is immune.

Debora Rocha, Regional Security Manager at International SOS and Control Risks said: "There will be a huge influx of people over a wide area-in many areas of Brazil that aren't accustomed to so much international traffic. International SOS and Control Risks will be supporting up to 30,000 visitors and in many cases this will be their first experience of Brazil.

"Visitors face a variety of healthcare, travel, language and security challenges so it is essential to plan ahead. To pick one issue, the recent violent protests and demonstrations are likely to continue through the tournament period and will probably take place close to football venues."

Here are the 10 tips for safe travel in Brazil, according to International SOS and Control Risks:

1. Watch your surroundings

Official data indicates that robberies have increased by almost 50% year on year in São Paulo, highlighting the risks posed by violent street crime.

Although most violent crime occurs in poor districts of major urban centres, mugging is a risk in all parts of the country. When walking around, don't carry valuables or more money than you need for the day. Avoid isolated or poorly lit locations after dark and travel in groups when possible. Keep hotel doors secured and locked. In public, be cautious around overly friendly strangers. Never accept drinks from strangers in a bar, as they could be drugged.

2. Don't drive

It is not a good idea for those unfamiliar with Brazil's roads and driving habits to rent a vehicle and head out on their own because traffic can be fast and chaotic. Flying is the safest way to travel between events - but airline tickets are likely to be expensive, so plan accordingly.

3. Avoid protests and demonstrations

Though foreign travellers are unlikely to be targeted in any unrest, if caught in a protest, leave the vicinity immediately. The use of crowd-control measures by the police, such as batons and tear gas, would pose incidental risks to anyone nearby. Also avoid spontaneous celebrations or protests that could develop and do not attempt to cross picket lines as this may prompt a hostile reaction from demonstrators.

4. Avoid the favelas (shanty towns)

Do not visit deprived areas of cities due to increased crime risks - avoid all favelas as a basic security precaution.

5. Arrive at venues early

Those attending events should arrive early at venues and minimise time spent outside near entrances. Plan routes to avoid known protest locations to minimise inconvenience and the risk of exposure to any unrest. Anticipate travel disruption in the vicinity of protests and allow additional time to complete important journeys.

6. Accept language may be a challenge

Brazilian Portuguese is the local language; this is different from European Portuguese in pronunciation and some vocabulary. There are many English speakers in business and federal government circles, but visitors cannot rely on a contact's ability to speak English and should check in advance whether interpretation will be necessary.

7. Carry only what you need for the day

If demands are made for your wallet, purse, cash or other valuables, give up the items. Consider carrying a "robbery wallet" with expired credit cards, old photos and a few dollars in cash that can be handed over. Criminals are often armed so avoid doing anything to resist or antagonise the assailant.

8. Understand limitations of medical care

The quality of health care varies considerably across Brazil-and each region has its own challenges. Public healthcare in Brazil is universal and free for all, including travellers. But demands on the system outweigh supply. In rural areas and smaller cities there is a shortage of physicians and specialists. Private facilities are found in most major cities and are comparable to hospitals in the United States and Western Europe.

Obtain routine medical and dental care before you leave for Brazil. In addition, see a travel health practitioner 6 to 8 weeks before departure. Some vaccinations require a series of doses spaced weeks apart. Certain malaria medications should be taken a week or more before arriving in affected areas. Arrange a copy of your personal health record to carry with you when you travel. If you take prescribed medication carry a copy of the medical prescription and take enough medication for the duration of your trip.

Please note that anti-malarial medications are strictly reserved for the treatment of infections and are not available for preventive purposes. In addition, doxycycline is not prescribed to prevent malaria. Bring adequate supplies of any medications in the original packaging, together with a copy of the prescription. There is a low risk the medication may be confiscated by customs officials.

9. Try to blend in

Due to their perceived vulnerability, short-term travellers may be targets for opportunistic street crime such as purse-snatching, armed street robbery, car theft and carjacking.

Such incidents are especially likely to occur in tourist areas, on public transport, outside major hotels, on beaches and in other densely populated areas, though there are also risks associated with very isolated areas, too. Always be aware that this could occur and never forget that as a tourist you are easily recognised as a potential target.

Avoid displaying items of real or perceived wealth. Travellers and expatriates are advised to vary routines, choose a modest model of vehicle if you drive a car and maintain vigilance for signs of surveillance.

10. Do your research

Most fans are probably spending more time researching food and social outings than health and safety issues. Spend some time researching what issues could affect your plans. Speak with your travel assistance company to get a personalised brief prior to travel, and check your government's travel advisories and warnings, for example guidance from the US State Department or UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.