Staying Safe at Rio 2016

The 2016 Summer Olympics are being held from August 5 to 21, and the Paralympic Games from September 7 to 18. The games are based out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, although some soccer events are taking place around the country, including in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, and the Amazon city of Manaus. There are 37 venues in total and 306 events, with the country expecting over 600,000 fans to travel from all over the globe to attend. If you are travelling to Brazil this summer for the Olympics, there are a variety of health, safety, and security tips to consider to ensure a successful trip.


Trip preparation

Seek travel health advice at least four to six weeks in advance. Brazil has a variety of tropical diseases in different areas in country, including malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, and, most recently, Zika.

The Zika outbreak has been an international concern for visitors, athletes, and locals alike. The bottom line: anyone who isn’t pregnant or planning to become pregnant should still go to Rio, since transmission rates during August and September are extremely low. However, still be meticulous about avoiding mosquito bites at all times of day by using repellent with at least 50% DEET.

  • Prepare a travel health kit that includes essentials like insect repellent, prescriptions, basic first aid items, sun screen, antidiarrheal medication, and pain medication
  • Make sure you have all necessary visas, travel documents, and a passport for entry into Brazil
  • Leave copies with a relative or friend for safekeeping before departure
  • Take note of your bank’s phone numbers, and be sure to have online access to monitor your account during your trip in the event your card is stolen or skimmed

Security measures to expect

The crime rates in Brazil are notoriously high, which has caused great concern over the safety and security of the Olympics. The political and economic instability of the country has also compounded the issue, with high risks of large-scale disruptive protests. However, authorities are assuring travellers that security for the Olympics will be extremely tight at all venues. Visitors should expect airport-style security checks and two- or three-tier security cordons surrounding the infrastructure. Approximately 85,000 security personnel will safeguard venues, athletes, Olympic villages, and fans. Due to these measures, expect serious congestion and delays at venues. Carry identification and expect random stops and checks by security guards.


Safety tips

In addition to the security measures taken by Brazilian officials, you can take numerous personal security precautions that will also help you stay safe and healthy throughout their trip:

  • Keep a low profile to avoid being a target of crime, and never display wealth
  • Stay vigilant: pickpocketing and mugging are commonplace and are the main threat to foreigners, especially on beaches, busy sidewalks, and public transportation and at tourist sites and intersections
  • Never resist criminals if you are being mugged
  • React with force to avoid danger if you are being pushed in large crowds or public transportation
  • Express kidnapping is a threat to travellers, especially those with perceived wealth
  • Avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations, which have the potential to turn violent
  • Leave your passport in a safe at your hotel or accommodation (carry a photocopy)
  • Always keep doors locked and valuables secure
  • Avoid night travel, and do not take public transportation at night (call a taxi)
  • Never walk alone, and travel with a companion
  • Plan your travel route to avoid dangerous areas of the city, and monitor local media
  • Use official bank ATMs inside buildings, banks, or shopping centres for security reasons, and avoid carrying large sums of cash
  • Register with your embassy or diplomatic office upon arrival
  • Stay hydrated and use sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Exercise caution when eating or drinking (bottled water and thoroughly cooked food)

Have an emergency plan

In the event of an emergency, it is crucial to have a plan. When registering with your embassy, note their emergency phone numbers. The national emergency number in Brazil is 190, and if you don’t speak Portuguese then speak slowly in English. The Rio tourist police specialize in helping provide information and assistance to visitors in the city, and they can be easily contacted or approached. Their headquarters are in Leblon, and they can be reached at (+55)2332-2924. Additionally, make plans with your travel companions in the event of separation or an emergency. Have meeting points and organize ways to communicate because mobile service is expected to be limited near extremely crowded Olympic venues.


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