Published on June 3rd, 2014 | by admin
Traveling to Brazil for the Olympics? Safety Tips from the Experts
As host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro is on more travelers’ itineraries than ever before. If you’re lucky enough to be going, what can you do to make sure your trip goes well?
Two experts from iJET International, a private intelligence firm that provides travel, risk and security consulting services, are offering their own safe travel practices for Brazil. With the idea that it’s best to be prepared for everything, LatinFlyer.com presents this safety-minded travel advice from Bruce McIndoe, CEO, and Bob Howell, manager of response operations, of iJET International (check out the info graphic at the bottom for even more information).
Is there a protocol that travelers should follow when packing and preparing for their flights to Brazil?
One of the most important preparations to take is to check your visa requirements prior to travel. For example, U.S. passport holders need a visa to visit Brazil for any purpose at any time. This visa MUST be obtained PRIOR to travel, without exception. Passport holders from other countries have different requirements. Be sure to check this in advance of travel.
Review health procedures and requirements. For example, while Brazil does not require a Yellow Fever vaccine to enter the country, many other countries require the vaccine when returning from Brazil, even if it is your home country. For example, an Indian national may travel to Brazil without a vaccine, but might not be allowed to reenter India until vaccinated, because Brazil is identified as a risk country for Yellow Fever. Also, even if not required, certain vaccines and health precautions are strongly recommended. (Yellow Fever, influenza vaccine, etc.)
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What specific tips can you share with travelers about Brazilian airports or transit authorities, to avoid potential issues?
Leave plenty of time for security screenings when arriving and departing. Security will be increased at the airport, which may add to the time it takes to go through customs due to additional security screenings of luggage. Authorities may select bags at random to search for contraband materials.
If carrying important prescriptions, be sure they are properly labeled in their original bottle. If the medication is not well-known, consider getting a note from your healthcare provider that can be translated into Portuguese, explaining what the medication is why you need it. Also be sure to have enough to last through your trip, to avoid having to refill a prescription while traveling.
Brazil has specific customs regulations regarding medication upon entry to the country. Certain procedures must be followed by any travelers planning to bring medications to Brazil for short- or long-term stays. All prescription medications must be kept in their original containers with all labeling clearly legible and intact. Generic labeling is preferred, as this reduces the risk of miscommunication. An accompanying original prescription must also be brought along with each medication to assure its validity and purpose. A drug store receipt assessing valid purchase for each medication should be supplied to customs upon entry as well.
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What are the most important things that travelers should know or keep in mind while they are navigating the streets of Brazil during the World Cup?
• Avoid displaying signs of wealth, including flashy jewelry or expensive clothing, as this draws attention. Theft is likely to the most prominent risk to travelers. Large crowds of people, especially people who aren’t from the area, will be a good target for petty criminals.
• Avoid walking around alone, especially at night.
• Avoid carrying around large sums of cash.
• Use ATMs only at secure, indoor locations, such as your hotel, the airport, or an upscale restaurant. We’re even telling travelers to avoid using ATMs in a bank lobby as a precaution, as this also draws attention to the fact that you are withdrawing money.
• Normal food and water safety precautions. Drink bottled water whenever possible. Consider avoiding street food.
What types of lodging arrangements allow for optimal safety and security?
If you can still find a hotel available at this time! (Rio is probably near impossible now.) Make sure it’s in a decent area and that it has a safe for valuables in the room. Also, be sure the front desk can order radio taxis for you, as this is the most reliable form of transport. Most upscale hotels have private security at the front entrance.
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What about transportation once travelers have arrived?
Radio dispatch taxis or private drivers are certainly the most secure and reliable options. Public transportation in the large cities is relatively safe and reliable, but pickpocketing is a risk, especially since trains and buses will likely be very crowded. Likewise, public transport does not reach all parts of the city, leaving travelers vulnerable when walking around to and from stations.
Avoid hailing taxis off the street when possible. Instead use radio dispatch taxis. If you are at a location and need to be picked up, you can always call your hotel, and they will send a taxi to your location. Taxis at the airport and upscale hotels are reputable.
In general, leave plenty of time to arrive at destinations due to traffic congestion. Traffic will likely be worse on game days. Taxi shortages may occur on occasion (if public transportation are overwhelmed during games days etc.) Anticipate possible flight delays/cancelations, especially on game days.
Do you have any additional tips for travelers in order to make their trip safer?
Stay in well-lit, well-patrolled areas/tourist areas. Travel in groups. Avoid speaking foreign languages loudly while in cabs or walking around at night. If confronted by thieves, surrender all belongings without hesitation.
Avoid all protests as a precaution, as violence is a possibility. In the unlikely event that protests get out of hand, or if the military police go on strike in a particular city, stay indoors. When in doubt, stay indoors. If protests turn violent, and police use tear gas to disperse crowds, do not take shelter in subway stations, because tear gas tends to accumulate there. While gang violence is a serious concern, travelers are not typically affected if they take common sense precautions.