Essential Do’s and Don’t’s For Reporters Going to Brazil
There is no doubt Brazil is a beautiful country, but it is a country with a dark side. We all know it has wonderful beaches, samba music and a fantastic football tradition, but they will count for little if you are held up in broad daylight by some knife-wielding, wild-eyed scumbag lowlife demanding your wallet, mobile phone and laptop.
So to try and help you avoid becoming a victim while you are out there, I’ve put together a guide based on my own experiences with some tips that Reuters journalists have been asked to observe while in Brazil:
1) Most importantly do not resist a robbery attempt. Turn over your valuables quickly and without comment. To try to minimize becoming a target, do not carry or wear valuable items that will attract the attention of thieves. Try to dress down in public and avoid using your phone while walking around in the streets. To minimize your chances of being attacked, please try and follow these tips too:
2) Keep your wits about you. Do not wander around listening to music through your headphones. Do not relax in the street. As Shaw Taylor used to say: “Keep ‘em peeled”
3) Be very careful when withdrawing money from ATM machines as debit card fraud is very common in Brazil at the moment. Avoid ATMs in the airports. Many airport ATMS have been tampered with because so many foreigners use them and often don’t realize until much later their cards have been copied etc.
4) Apart from when you are collecting your accreditation, you should not have to keep your passport on you all the time. Carry a copy instead and leave your passport in a hotel safe or other safe location.
5) Don’t carry around credit cards you don’t need or an excess of cash. Have enough to pay your way for a day and to satisfy a robber if you are held up, and keep the rest somewhere safe. In fact keep a “second wallet” with just cash in it. Leave your main wallet in your hotel safe.
6) Be alert if you go out at night. Maintain control of personal effects like phones and bags in bars and restaurants. Try not to get too drunk !
7) Keep to the main roads: Wealth and poverty are intermingled in Brazil where some of the most dangerous slums are next to the most expensive apartment blocks, and taking a wrong turn can get you into trouble.
8) Try to take taxis from your hotel or from a taxi stand if you need one. Take official taxis at airports.
9) Be wary of pickpockets working a crowd or on public transport.
10) Try not to drive at night, especially long distances. Avoid driving on your own.
11) Don’t open your hotel room door until you positively confirm who is on the other side. Regarding hotels: you can ask whom you like back to your room, and without being silly or sexist about it watch out for this scam. You may meet a very attractive person and invite her back to your room. What you don’t know is that she is working in league with a gang, texts your room number to her accomplices downstairs and she lets them in to your room, so you end up with rather more than you bargained for.
12) Do not walk on beaches or in parks after dark.
13) Be careful about using public wifi. Brazil has the world’s second highest incidence of online banking fraud.
14) Do not use a laptop, iPad or iPhone in the back of a taxi as thieves on motorbikes habitually weave through traffic jams looking for robbery opportunities.
15) Take care in stadiums and in press tribunes in stadiums and keep watch over your gear – especially in media work rooms. Professional gangs may have managed to get accreditation or stadium passes, as they have succeeded at doing in many international sporting competitions in Latin America in the past few years. BE VERY ALERT TO THE POSSIBILITY OF THEFT IN STADIUM – IT IS A MAJOR PROBLEM in LATIN AMERICA.
Bear in mind that although we will be in Brazil in June and July, it is the Southern Hemisphere winter and with Brazil being so close to the equator, it gets dark very early in the evening, around 6pm in Rio …. and that makes for a very long , dark evening and night. It takes a bit of getting used to. It can be very sunny and warm with the sun high in the sky around 5.15pm or so, but gets dark and can get very chilly very quickly, so if you are going to be out late afternoon and into the evening, make sure you take some warm clothing with you.