Amériques, Brazil, Destinations

Rio de Janeiro: How to stay safe at the beach


Today, I’ve invited someone special on the blog to talk about my next destination: Rio de Janeiro. Last week, a few readers and I had a conversation on Facebook about a big concern regarding a trip to Rio: safety at the beach. As I will travel alone for a part of this trip, and my guide-book couldn’t answer all of my questions, I used my number 1 tip to plan a perfect trip: Ask a local.

So, I’m pleased to introduce you to Cristina from My Little Rio Journal!

Big round of applause!

She kindly accepted to answer all of our questions in a special post, just for us! Aren’t we lucky?

Rio de Janeiro – How to Stay Safe at the beach

Post by Cristina Landi from My Little Rio Journal
When Annie invited me to write this guest post to reveal some clever advice for travelers coming to Rio about how to enjoy Rio’s beaches safely, I got very excited! Spreading information and smart tips to enjoy a great vacation in Rio, is one of the reasons why I started blogging. I got a little surprised, when talking with her, to know that some travelers just avoid the more incredible attraction in Rio, the beaches, for not feeling safe when traveling alone.

I really hope this post will help to change this! Coming to Rio and not enjoying a day at the beach is almost a sin. Of course, it is well-known that Rio have many safety issues, but with the right attitude and some extra care, anyone can have an amazing stay in Rio. As a Brazilian, born and raised in Rio, I will share here some tips that I myself follow every time I go to the beach.

First of all, whoever is coming to Rio should understand that unlike other cities in the world, where keeping away from certain dangerous areas is enough to make you feel safe, things are a little different here, as the “favelas” (places where poor communities concentrate, and where many criminals hide) are spread all over the city. Unfortunately, the risk of being robbed exists even if you are in an area considered quite safe, such as “Zona Sul”, where a lot of popular beaches are located.

Let’s go straight to some practical advice to keep you away from any unpleasant experiences.

1. Which beaches are safer in Rio

Most of the beaches in Rio have the same level of security. If you are in “Zona Sul” any of the beaches are quite safe to go, such as Copacabana, Leme, Ipanema and Leblon. Barra da Tijuca, a beach in “Zona Oeste” (West Zone) is pretty safe too. For the most distant and deserted beaches like Praia da Reserva or Grumari, also in “Zona Oeste”, I highly recommend not going alone.

In 2016, there was big problems regarding the quality of the recreational water in Rio and swimming could cause illness. Please make sure to stay informed before making the decision to swim in Rio’s beaches.

Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro

2. What to take and not to take to the beach

Pack light and avoid taking any kind of valuable things with you. Leave your credit card, tablets and expensive cameras at your hotel. Take with you only your money, a copy of your passport, sun lotion and a “canga” (that piece of soft cloth we, Brazilians, use instead of a beach towel. You can buy one at the beach for R$ 25).

Avoid taking backpacks as they call attention to yourself. Prefer to carry your things in bags like those tote bags, or in any simple and discreet bags.

Most of robberies happening on the beaches during the day are pick pocketing and are related to opportunity. Cases of armed robbery at the beaches of South Zone during daylight are really rare and quite improbable to happen. Those robbers like easy work and pick the victims that will have more to offer and will give them less work. They will prefer to rob someone who is holding his cell phone on his hand, rather than someone who keeps it inside a bag.

In case you decide to take your smart phone or a camera with you, keep it inside your bag and only take it out to take pictures. Don’t show off your belongings.

3. What to wear at the beach

A simple advice is to try not to look like a tourist! Ok, this might not be so easy.

So, girls can wear bikinis, shorts and a t-shirt, or a simple summer dress. For the guys, trunks or board shorts and a t-shirt will do fine, but most of Carioca men wear “sungas” (a brazilian version of the speedo) , which most of the foreigners don’t feel comfortable to wear. On the feet, havainas flip-flops are the more proper shoes to look like a local in Rio.

If you want to look like a real Carioca, buy your bikini when arriving in Rio. You don’t need to buy those super small bikinis, but the brazilian styles for bikinis are different from those from USA and Europe. There are plenty of beach wear stores in Copacabana and Ipanema, from all price ranges.

Be the most discreet as possible, not to call too much attention for yourself.

Discover more about Rio de Janeiro:

People enjoying the beach in Rio de Janeiro

4. Where to put your things when you want to swim and you’re alone at the beach

Going to the beach alone in Rio is quite fine, unless for this question. What to do with your belongings when going to swim?

This is a hard question, because there is no special place to keep your things safely. I recommend not leaving your things unattended in the sand. Sometimes, when the beach is empty I try to put my things as close as possible to the water while I take a quick jump in the sea, or I just look for a family nearby and ask them to take a quick look in my stuff while I give a jump in the water. But in this case, don’t delay too much in the water.

I asked a local how to stay safe at the beach in Rio de Janeiro. Here's what she had to say about it. #Riodejaneiro #travel #backpacking #beach #Brazil #holiday

5. What are men attitude towards a woman alone

Seeing women alone at the beach is very common. We Cariocas do it all the time! So it is not a big deal for men seeing a woman sitting by herself at any of Rio’s beaches.

Of course, a girl alone may attract some men wanting to socialize but in general men behave well with lonely women in the beach. As I said on tip number 2, avoid going by yourself to distant beaches.

If you are a girl and want to avoid some “Don Juans”, bring a book or a magazine and keep reading. If there is anyone bothering you, just move to some place else in the beach, or say you are waiting for your boyfriend.

Discover the best deals on hotels in Rio de Janeiro:  Rio de Janeiro Hotels

6. What is the best time to go to the beach

You can go to the beach in Rio any time you want. Early morning, midday, late afternoon, it’s up to you. But one thing I highly recommend, specially if you are planning to visit Rio during summer season, is to avoid the beaches on Sundays. This is important in terms of safety, because most of the robberies happen on Sundays. This day, beaches get overcrowded and this makes the bad guy’s job easier to do and more difficult for police to prevent.

Reading at the beach in Rio de Janeiro

7. What to do in case of a robbery

If you unfortunately get robbed, the first thing to do is to search for police. During the summer season, you will easily find police officers patrolling the beach neighborhoods. They will lead you to a police station to file a complaint.

To go back to your hotel, you won’t have a problem if you ask a taxi driver to wait in the car while you take cash in your room.

Another thing that is good to know is that South Zone beaches have a special Police Program who patrol the beaches during Summer, which this year has been extended and began since October. So, you’ll probably find many policemen patrolling the beaches.

I hope to see you in Rio soon!!!

Rio de Janeiro Make My Day Lonely Planet

If you’re planning a trip to Rio de Janeiro, take a look at Lonely Planet Make My Day : Rio de Janeiro. This tiny guidebook covers all the essential and is way less expensive then the Complete Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide.

Cristina is a typical Carioca girl, born in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Her passion for photography and her city led her to start My Little Rio Journalwhere she shares her point of view of a life in Rio de Janeiro, through her photos and thoughts.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a reservation, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I use and love myself. Thank you for your support!

How to stay safe at the beach

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6 Commentaires

  • Reply Cristina Landi 8 décembre 2014 at 10 h 59 min

    Hi Annie, thanks again for the opportunity of being a guest on your blog!!! I loved the experience! : ). Cristina

    • Reply Annie Anywhere 30 décembre 2014 at 17 h 13 min

      Oupsy! I didn’t see your comment! I guess I was busy running everywhere preparing the Holidays. Thanks again for the collaboration! :)

  • Reply Paula Wheeler 13 février 2015 at 16 h 07 min

    Very helpful and appreciated. It’s always nice getting such info from the locals.
    Thank you Cristina and Annie

    • Reply Annie Anywhere 13 février 2015 at 16 h 55 min

      Thanks Paula! Cristina has a lot of posts about safety in Rio, and a ton of ideas of what to do in this town. With the Carnival beginning this weekend, her blog’s worth a look! :)

  • Reply Maria Luísa 29 avril 2021 at 14 h 35 min

    The idea that beaches like Copacabana are “safe” for travelers not only defies the facts revealed in the statistics but is also very dangerous to their health and well-being. The beaches swarm with pickpockets who are more savvy than any tourist, and the water is toxic, full of dangerous chemicals and raw sewage dumped right into the edges of the ocean. You are putting naïve people at great risk by promoting the illusion that they can safely visit Rio’s beaches or enter the water. You should remove this article.

    • Reply Annie Anywhere 30 avril 2021 at 4 h 57 min

      Hi Maria! Thanks for sharing your opinion. It can help travelers make a decision to visit or not Rio’s beaches. This article has been written by a local in 2014. It does talk about security regarding pickpockets. Sadly, that’s a problem in a lot of touristic places around the world. Regarding the quality of the water, I’ve just made some quick research and I will add a note inviting people to stay informed.