With all the controversy surrounding Brazil and the World Cup, many people are still wondering whether it’s worth the trip. The growing tension of people rioting in the streets, protesting the excessive costs of stadia construction, union subway workers threatening strike on the eve of the opening of the games, and even construction worker deaths seem to have dampened the festivities of this global event. Though this may not necessarily deter you from going to the games, it’s important to be aware and respectful of the struggles that many Brazilians are facing.
All of this shouldn’t detract from Brazil as a beautiful country with a rich history of savory foods, a world renowned music scene, gorgeous scenery and outdoors, and friendly people which is more than enough reason to come and visit. Here are some helpful tips to protect yourself and enjoy the games.
1. Credit cards vs debit cards
In case of fraud or theft, credit card companies are more likely to reimburse you for any losses. The same, however, cannot be said about most debit cards.
2. ATM machines
Make sure to withdraw money during the daytime as muggings are more likely to occur at night. Also be aware of your surroundings at all times. A rise in arrastão or a “big sweep” of thieves can occur at any time of day or night, but especially around ATM machines where they target people who don’t pay attention to their surroundings.
3. Withdrawing money
Consider withdrawing two separate amounts of money when at the ATM: one a smaller amount and the other a larger amount. If mugged, give the thief the smaller amount with the receipt, thus avoiding any unnecessary conflict if they hound you and insist that you have more money than that. It’s better to lose $20 than $200, right? You can check out my previous article (5 Simple Tips For A Worry Free Trip) for more info.
4. Decoy wallet and pre-paid phone
Some people even advise carrying a dummy wallet with expired credit cards, some cash, and even a cheap pre-paid phone as well. This way thieves will be inclined to believe these are your only valuables. Maybe this is a bit extreme but it’s an option nonetheless.
5. Don’t scream if you’re being mugged
This may seem counterintuitive but Brazilian authorities have handed out pamphlets advising tourists to not scream or yell if a mugging occurs. Thieves will not hesitate to use violence, so don’t fight with them and just give them what they want. It’s not worth it.
6. FIFA is the only legitimate place to purchase tickets
If you’re looking to buy tickets then make sure to go to FIFA’s official website as they are the only one’s authorized to sell World Cup tickets. You can also try StubHub for aftermarket tickets but at this point the prices will be expensive.
All US citizens need to apply for a temporary visa when visiting Brazil. Make sure you have your visa before you travel! You will be denied entry into the country if you don’t have the visa in hand. They can be purchased for $160 and they last for 10 years. Check your passport’s expiration date and make sure it doesn’t expire for at least 6 months before you go or you’ll be denied entry, even at the airport. This means if it expires before Jan.14, 2015, you should apply for a new one. Parents with minors (under age 16) will also need to fill out a passport for each child. For help with lost/stolen passports and other inquiries, check out the US Embassy of Brasilia’s website and this helpful FAQ on airport customs and much more.
It’s been advised that tourists should stay out of the favelas (slums), especially if they’re unfamiliar with the area. The alleyways and corridors can be very narrow so it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know you’re way around. Though most people will want to see and experience the real Brazil (which is great and always encouraged) you probably don’t want to wander into a favela unless you know someone who is willing to take you there. (Play the video below)
9. Emergency numbers
If you’re ever in need of help then you should remember these three emergency phone contact numbers: 190 – Policia (Police), 192 – Ambulancia (Ambulance), and 193 – Bombeiros (Fire Department).
10. Sex Tourism
With over 3 million people expected to visit Brazil for the World Cup this year (500,000 from the US and Europe alone), a campaign against “sex tourism” has gathered momentum. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 sex workers are minors (some as young as 14). With the influx of foreign tourists (“gringos”) at the games and lack of viable income, many girls are forced to turn to the sex trade to help support their families. Authorities have been conducting nightly raids for years in response to the rise of so-called “sex tourism”. Also, guys be wary of the beautiful woman who keeps eyeing you and wants your attention, maybe it’s because she knows as a tourist you have lots of money to spend and therefore seen as a convenient target to be robbed than a love interest.
Only use official taxis when you need to use transportation. The self-proclaimed “taxis” without any official markings or a proper taxi license should be avoided. Call your hotel or hostel to arrange a taxi to pick you up and take your where you need to go, this way you know it’s a legitimate service.
Your best bet on getting around in the cities will be on public transportation. So use the bus and metro systems to get where you need to get. Just be careful of pickpockets. Also, traffic in these cities are sure to be hectic so watch out when you’re walking in the streets.
13. Learn the language
You don’t need to be fluent but just learn a few key phrases. Most Brazilians will only know Portuguese so knowing a few words will go a long in making your stay a more pleasant one. Also, Spanish is not as widely spoken here as in other South American countries (after all, it was originally a Portuguese colony).
14. Don’t wear flashy jewelry or expensive clothing
This one is self-explanatory, really. Don’t try to stand out or wear clothing that will automatically mark you as an ignorant tourist. Dress like the locals and you’ll be fine.
Try to carry as little as possible on your person as pickpocketing is common. This is especially true in crowded places like waiting in queue for a game or a bus. Put your valuables in your front pockets instead of your back pockets. And if you bring a back pack, place a small lock through the zippers of your bag so no one can open it when you’re walking.
16. Avoid Protests
The World Cup continues to be a topic of hot debate for many Brazilians. If you see a protest or rally, it’s best to avoid it.
17. Illegal Drugs
Given the lucrative potential for profiteers, drugs are sure to be in high demand. There’s no way to tell what’s really in “them”, which could easily turn your World Cup trip into a trip to the hospital or worse.
18. Tourist maps
You should get a map as soon as you arrive to a new city, but don’t look like a lost tourist and star at your map in a crowded area. People have been known to be robbed when not paying attention to their surroundings. It may sound impractical but go to a café or other less busy location to look at your map in order to avoid looking like a target.
19. Stay healthy
Make sure you have all of your vaccinations before you travel and bring along a first aid kit, just in case. Drink bottled water instead of water from the tap. Check out the CDC’s website for more information. They also have some useful phrases in Portuguese that could be helpful in emergency situations. Also, consider getting travel insurance.
You should make a copy of your itinerary with lists of emergency contacts and places you intend to visit and leave it with family members or friends so they can contact you during emergency situations. You can also sign up for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), which is a US State Dept. sponsored program offering assistance in case of emergencies such as natural disasters, political and social unrest in foreign countries, help replacing a lost/stolen passport while overseas, and assists family and friends to get in touch with you in case of emergency. There is also the Smart Traveler App (for iTunes and Google Play) which allows you to organize your itinerary, gives you important facts about the country you’re visiting and provides travel alerts. Don’t forget to check out the US State Dept. Travel Checklist to make sure you have everything you need before you go.