Q My husband and I have heard about the high crime rate in Rio de Janeiro. Some of the information is conflicting. What is the real scoop?
A Rio de Janeiro saw a wave of bold attacks against tourists in November, including the shooting of a Spaniard during a mugging, the stabbing of a Japanese woman in front of the well-known Copacabana Palace hotel and the robbery of 20 Angolans on a group tour. Crimes against tourists rose 9.6 percent from January to September compared with the same period last year, according to the Sao Paolo newspaper O Estado. The State Department warns that "the city continues to experience a high incidence of crime" and that tourists are "particularly vulnerable."
Peter E. Tarlow, an international travel security consultant based in College Station, Tex., recently returned from Rio, where he gave a lecture to the city's police officers. Tarlow said Rio's favelas, or slums, in the past had been contained to the hills above Rio but now are creeping closer to the city's popular tourist areas. A bad economy has contributed to the increase in crime, and tourists are easy targets. Plus, urban areas along beaches generally see more crime worldwide, he said.
The government has added more police foot and helicopter patrols and security cameras. Still, if you do go, Tarlow suggests that you don't walk anywhere alone and always carry enough money to satisfy a robber if you're approached (leave the rest in your hotel safe). On the beach, don't leave anything unattended; if you want to swim, have one person stay on shore to watch your possessions, he advises. The State Department also warns Americans to avoid city buses, to be cautious when using ATMs and not to venture into the favelas. These tips, and others suggested by the agency, are essential if you visit during February's Carnaval.
Info: Embassy of Brazil, 202-238-2700, www.brasilemb.org; State Department, travel.state.gov/travel/brazil.
Do any airlines still allow smoking on board?
Jana Marney Nelson