Rio de Janeiro’s ‘Unsafe’ Reputation: Is it Really Deserved?

Brazil’s most popular city is neither its capital nor its largest. Located between the Atlantic and one of the world’s most impressive mountain ranges, Rio de Janeiro is widely regarded as a breathtaking centre for semi-tropical beach life and immense parties. With several of the world’s greatest beached in its commercial core, it’s very much a city that breathes beach life and athleticism.

It’s also, unfortunately, a city with a fairly deserved reputation for crime and danger. Rio’s extensive collection of slums and substandard housing communities have contributed somewhat, alongside its great deal of social issues. Known as ‘favelas’ to residents, the city’s slum communities stretch into the distance, illuminating the base of the many mountains and cliffs that lock in the city centre.

But how dangerous is it for you, the tourist? While violent crime rates in Rio de Janeiro are some of the world’s highest, they’re a fairly inaccurate measure of its safety for visitors. Most tourists remain within a defined and specific area during their visit, a reality that can make citywide statistics all but completely irrelevant when it comes to measuring tourist safety.

Petty crime, however, remains a major concern for tourists. Outside of its commercial core, Rio can become a fairly deserted city during the night. Drug dealers and gangs are common in areas known for nightlife, and petty thievery is a concern for tourists who adopt a ‘wealthy’ dress sense. Tourists are advised to dress modestly, removing the temptation for thieves and would-be muggers.

The situation, while far from ideal, isn’t the crime apocalypse that a number of publishers make it out to be. At the same time, however, Rio de Janeiro is a city that’s home to social issues and large pockets of limited safety. While its reputation for questionable safety and violent crime is deserved, it’s unlikely to interfere with most tourism activity in the city.