Brazil travel

Rio de Janeiro is getting safer. Is that the whole story though?

NPR has been running some excellent Morning Edition reports this week specifically focused on violence in Latin America. Travel publications and news outlets both tend to either ignore or over-hype the crime situation in various places, but we try to keep it real here on this Luxury Latin America blog, pointing out the shades of gray.

So I’m linking to this story because it’s one travelers to Rio and other parts of Brazil should be checking out: Criminals feeling Rio crackdown set up shop in the suburbs.

You may have heard a few years ago that Rio de Janeiro is one of the most unsafe cities south of Caracas. You may have also heard things are getting better, especially in the favelas—those slums above the tourist zones that have often been controlled by gangs. That’s true, but as this story shows, there’s more to the story. Sometimes criminals don’t quit; they just move.

Brazil’s government has no choice but to invest heavily in cleaning up Rio though. They know the spotlight will be shining on them twice: first for the World Cup, then again for the Olympics. If they don’t get crime under control by then, it’ll be a nightmare. They’d love to get it under control everywhere—who wouldn’t—but without unlimited resources you have to prioritize.

Just don’t get lulled into a false sense of security when you venture elsewhere after being in Rio. Leave the Rolex watch and diamond necklaces at home. There are places where it pays not to flaunt your wealth. Brazil’s economy is lifting a lot of boats, but there are still plenty that are way underwater.

See our reviews of the best luxury hotels in Rio de Janeiro and the rest of Brazil.