Brazil Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Brazil
How safe is Brazil?
Threat level: Medium
The general travel advice for Brazil is to exercise increased caution due to high crime levels, particularly in major cities, and be aware of the current health and safety requirements when visiting to remain vigilant, and report anything of suspicious nature. Health wise there are some ongoing concerns with Brazil suffering a major Yellow Fever outbreak, see our Immunisations section for further details.
For specific travel advice for Rio de Janeiro, see: Rio de Janeiro travel advice.
You should be particularly cautious during the Carnival period, as crime tend to be on the rise at this period.
On the 16th of February 2018, former President Temer signed an emergency decree to order the army to take over policing duties in Rio de Janeiro to fight and defeat organised crime and gangs. Military intervention ended on the 31st of December 2018.
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On the 11th of November 2017, it was reported that members of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team were robbed at gunpoint in Sao Paulo, where the team is preparing the Brazilian Grand Prix, to be held on the 12th of November. Shots were said to have been fired but none injured.
The main security problem and highlighted travel advice in Brazil is the high level of violent gun and knife crime across the country. Bag-snatching, car-jacking and kidnappings are quite common place in many areas of the country. Virtual no-go areas exist including the “Favelas”, very poor shanty-towns that exist in all major cities.
Travellers should take great care when drawing cash from ATM machines as credit card fraud is common place. There have been a number of violent robberies targeting people who have just made withdrawals so do not withdraw large amounts of money if at all possible. Furthermore, tourists have been targeted, kidnapped and demanded to withdraw money from a cash point. In 2016, a Kiwi Olympic athlete was kidnapped and forced to withdraw over £500 from two separate cashpoints before being released. Extra caution is advised.
Drug taking, production and trafficking is widespread in Brazil. Travellers should take care not to get involved in drugs. In Brazil possession and trafficking can lead to long prison sentences.
Brazil's International Relations
The Brazilian government and Intelligence services work very closely with their international counterparts in combatting organised crime and terror in the region. Its law enforcement and intelligence capability are very good and have benefitted from much investment in the run up to the 2016 Olympics and its ongoing “war on drugs” within the tri-Border area of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
Travelling around Brazil
Travellers should take care and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Brazil has one of the highest road mortalities in the world and is thought to be a combination of poor road conditions and erratic driving. It is paramount that you drive carefully and do not expect other road users to follow regulations.
Demonstrations regularly take place across the country and can turn violent between the police and protesters, so avoid crowded areas where people gather together to protest.
Industrial disputes and strikes may affect public transport and this can take place at short notice causing disruption. Bear this in mind when travelling, particularly through the cities. Care should be taken during busy periods as public transport is often targeted by petty thieves and pick-pockets.
The number of incidents of deaths on the roads in Brazil is quite high, up to 40,000 deaths per year (compared to around 2000 in the UK). The road infrastructure and standard of driving is very poor throughout the country and worse in rural areas. If you are planning on driving in the country, you should take extreme care behind the wheel.
2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games
Rio de Janeiro was the host city for the XXXI Olympiad. The Olympic Games went without serious security incidents, see: Rio 2016 Olympic Games security advice
Emergency services in Brazil:
Police emergency: 190
Tourist Police: (Rio de Janeiro) 021 3399 7170
Tourist Police: (Sao Paulo) 011 3214 0209 or 011 3107 5642
Federal Highway Police: 191
State Highway Police: 198
Fire emergency: 193
Medical emergency: 193
Religion: Christianity (Roman Catholic Church)
Time now in BrasÍlia:
Consular information for Brazil
U.S. Embassy BrasÍlia
Quadra 801 - Conjunto K - Lote 03,
Av. das Nações - Asa Sul,
CEP 70403-900 BrasÍlia,
Telephone: +55 61 3312-7000
Emergency Telephone out of hours: +55 61 3312-7400
Telephone: +55 21 3823 2000 (Rio de Janeiro)
Telephone: +55 11 3250 5000 (São Paulo)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rio de Janeiro)
Email: SaoPauloACS@state.gov (São Paulo)
British Embassy BrasÍlia
Quadra 801 - Conjunto K - Lote 08,
Av. das Nações - Asa Sul,
CEP 70408-900 BrasÍlia,
Telephone: +55 61 3329 2300
Telephone: +55 21 2555 9600 (Rio de Janeiro)
Telephone: +55 11 3094 2700 (São Paulo)
Telephone: +55 81 2127 02000 (Recife)
Email: email@example.com (Rio de Janeiro)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Consular enquiries)
Email: email@example.com (São Paulo)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Recife)
Visa requirements for Brazil
Visa requirements for Brazil vary depending on your nationality. Canadian and American citizens tend to require a visa before entering the country whereas most European citizens can enter visa-free. More information regarding visa requirements can be found here: Visa advice Brazil
Healthcare and Immunisations
It is advised that visitors to Brazil are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR (measles-mumps-rubella). It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccinations.
Since December 2017, there has been a resurgence of the spread of the Yellow Fever virus in unvaccinated travellers who visited risk areas in Brazil. So, although it is not mandatory, you should consider getting vaccination against Yellow Fever. Yellow fever vaccination is particularly recommended for travellers older than 9 months who are likely to visit the following areas in Brazil: the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Distrito Federal (including the capital city of Brasília), Goias, Maranhaõ, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins, and designated areas in the states Bahia, Paraná, Piauí, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Iguaçu Falls.
Areas where there is a low risk include: Fortaleza, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Sǎo Paulo. You will not need vaccinating if you will be staying predominantly in these areas. You should check with your local health professional prior to your departure as the yellow fever vaccine is not suitable for all travellers.
There is currently a moderate risk of Zika virus transmission when visiting Brazil. However, pregnant women should postpone non-essential travels until they’ve given birth. There is no vaccine or medicine to cure the virus so great care and caution must be taken including measures such as using a mosquito net at night time and frequently applying insect repellent. You can find more information on the Zika virus and how to prevent mosquito bites here: Zika virus facts
Healthcare in Brazil can be very much hit and miss if you are in a rural area, and cities hospitals can run short of supplies and be overcrowded.
It is advised that all visitors to Brazil take precautions against Malaria, such as the use of Malaria mosquito nets and anti-Malaria medications. The viral illness Dengue Fever is also an issue in Brazil. Similar to the Zika virus, the disease is transmitted through mosquito bites and at present there is no vaccine. More information on Dengue fever can be found here: Dengue Fever facts
Schistosomiasis (parasitic infection also known as bilharzia) is also an issue, so contact with fresh water including activities such as swimming, bathing or paddling in fresh water lakes and streams is advised against.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. There have been a number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold.