All eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro this August when the 2016 Summer Olympic Games kick off. Those planning to attend the Olympics can enjoy one of the world's most beautiful and bustling cities, but visitors should follow some tips to stay safe and connect with locals. Here are 7 things travelers should NOT do while in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics:
Not using extra caution at night
It's important to exercise caution in Rio de Janeiro at night. Some common sense travel guidelines will help. Take taxis instead public transportation as they are safer after dark. Walk with a purpose and try to blend in with the locals. Don't go into areas that you don't know. If you are at a bar, never leave your drink unattended.
Flashing the "OK" symbol
Gestures vary from culture to culture, and Brazilians have a wide range of gestures that are used on a regular basis. While the average traveler may have difficulty understanding some of the gestures that Brazilians use, there is one gesture that visitors should avoid using in Brazil: the "OK" gesture.
This symbol, made by linking the tip of the thumb and index finger to form a circle, may seem like a universal gesture for "okay," but in Brazil it's considered offensive. Instead of using this gesture, opt for a "thumbs-up," the preferred way to express "OK" in Brazilian culture.
Entering into political arguments based on headlines
One thing that Brazil has become known for lately is its explosive political crisis. Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, is facing impeachment proceedings, and Michel Temer is currently acting as interim president. The atmosphere in Brazil is one of anxiety--Brazilians are angry, and the country is in the midst of an ugly political scandal as well as a deep economic crisis.
Like political discussions in the U.S., this topic elicits emotional responses on both sides. Despite the headlines about Dilma's unpopularity and her wrongdoings, this issue is not black and white. Many Brazilians are eager to see corruption being punished through Dilma's impeachment, while others feel members of congress are trying to deflect attention from their own scandals. In fact, the interim president currently faces criticism after a transcript of one of his ministers was released--in the transcript, he suggests that impeachment proceedings should go forward to divert attention away from the corruption investigation of many government members.
Photo credit: Agência Brasil
Falling for scams
The most common scam in Rio de Janeiro is using distraction to throw potential victims off long enough to steal their wallet or valuables. If someone spills something on you, don't let them help you clean it up. Never buy currency on the street.
If a police officer asks you for a tip "caixinha" (or a "cafezinho", a coffee), simply refuse, and never offer a bribe to a police officer.
Not using common sense on Rio's beaches
Robberies and assaults can occur on the famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro, but it is unlikely travelers will become victims if they use common sense while on the beach.
Stay in a group, don't bring valuables, and never leave valuables behind while going in the water. If someone wants to sell you something, including something as simple as food or drink, verify the price before taking the item. Stay away from the beach after dark, but if you choose to visit a beach later in the day, choose one with a security presence.
Photo credit: Sandeepa and Chetan on Flickr
Being careless with money and valuables
Like many cities in South America, Rio de Janeiro has a high rate of crime, and one of the most common is theft. It is imperative that travelers realize the heightened chance of theft in Rio and take appropriate precautions to avoid becoming a victim.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and showing valuables such as expensive cameras. If you carry a camera, keep it stashed away as much as possible, and while it's out, wear it in the cross-body style.
Never leave your items unattended even for a second, and keep a tight hold on your bags at all times while out and about. Use caution while getting money at an ATM or during transactions on the street or in cafes and bars.
Resisting or fighting back
Unfortunately, when a visitor finds him/herself the victim of a robbery, the safest option is generally to comply. Brazilian authorities have already announced safety precautions which include not resisting if under attack. There have been cases of victims chasing their assailants and being killed as a result. While it's unlikely that you'll be robbed or assaulted in Rio, it's important to know that the safest course of action is to quickly hand over everything you can.