With the explosion of vacation rentals across the globe, travelers may wonder if it's safe to stay in a home rental. In Brazil, there are many types of home rentals available on vacation rental sites. From luxurious penthouses and waterfront mansions to room rentals in city-center apartments, there are still hundreds of properties available for rent in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Here are some safety tips for home rentals in Rio de Janeiro:
Choose an Appropriate Neighborhood
There are many neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, some of which are quieter and safer than others. You can't go wrong with the established waterfront areas of Copacabana, Ipanema, and quieter Leblon, but do some research into the area if you choose a neighborhood that you are not familiar with.
Read the Reviews
Established vacation rental sites have standards and expectations regarding safety which help keep travelers safe when staying in a stranger's home. The most important thing for users to know is that vacation rental sites like Airbnb and HomeAway use verified reviews to allow users to know what really happens at each property.
According to HomeAway spokesperson Melanie Fish, it's important to read the reviews when searching for a property in Rio. She states, "These will give a better idea of what the property and the neighborhood is really like based on travelers’ experiences." If a property does not have a review, you can see if the host has reviews based on other properties; if not, that may mean that the property is newly listed, and you can try reaching out to the host directly to get more information.
Communicate With the Owner
Once you've chosen a potential rental, Fish reminds us to talk to the homeowner directly. The homeowner is the best resource when it comes to answering questions you may have about the house itself or the surrounding area. Use the messaging service offered through the vacation rental website.
For example, Airbnb allows users to message the homeowner directly. Before booking, use the messaging system to make sure to clarify details. Ask questions about specific amenities and house rules, whether other people share the same space, home safety (e.g. alarm system, smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, etc.), and the safety of the neighborhood.
Homeowners are also great resources for information about the area. Because they are locals, they know the best Rio de Janeiro restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping centers, etc. Ask them if they have a list of recommended places near the home and if they are located near public transportation. Many homeowners leave guides for your use, but if not, they may be able to send you information before you arrive.
Get the rental contract in writing before you pay, and ask for the owner to include details about check-in/out times, cancellations, and refund policies. If it’s in writing, there will likely be no misunderstandings. In addition, Melanie Fish, HomeAway's spokesperson, suggests getting the name and number of an on-site contact or property manager who can help you in case of an emergency or if any issues arise.
Make sure to pay online.
This is absolutely the safest way to make a transaction. On HomeAway.com, use the filter “Accepts Credit Cards on HomeAway” to find owners that accept online payments through HomeAway’s payment platform. If an owner asks you to wire money, consider it a red flag and move on to a different property.
Get acquainted with the area: where is the nearest hospital? How can you call emergency services if needed? How can you contact the homeowner, and are there neighbors nearby? Let your friends and/or family know exactly where you will be staying in case someone needs to find you. And look into getting travel insurance.
While there, follow common sense travel safety tips for Rio de Janeiro. Avoid going out at night alone, take taxis at night when possible, avoid secluded areas or beaches at night, and don't flaunt valuables such as expensive cameras or flashy jewelry.