Expectations and Realizations of Safety in Brazil

Sao Paulo Travel Blog

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Safety was a major concern of both my family and my friends after hearing that I would be spending a month and a half in Brazil. Crime and safety in Brazil is in a way part of their culture. Several of the cities in Brazil carry a negative connotation simply because they have high crime rates.  Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are notorious worldwide for their crime and corruption. . Crime is a serious problem for the entire nation of Brazil and it has come to affect the economy of Brazil. Many people are turned off from doing business in Brazil due to the large crime rates and corruption issues.

Florianopolis was a beach town, and I viewed it as a transition from the more comfortable and safer Argentina to the harsh Brazil.  It was away for us to slowly adjust to the crime in Brazil. But we learned very quickly that you cannot let your guard down, after fours students were mugged while inside their rooms.  I think everyone was astonished just because it was thought of as one of the safest places we would visit in Brazil. Therefore if a mugging like that can happen here, it will happen anywhere. I think it was a very good lesson for the entire group, just because no one was hurt, but we all learned a very quick lesson.

Iguaçu Falls is somewhat of a touristy area, and I did fell completely safe there.  However, I may have been naïve. On our way home to the hotel one night, we were walking along the street in a fair sized group of both girls and guys when one of the locals stopped us and told us that we “should probably be in a cab- it is safer.” You know that if a local is telling you that you should not be walking around at night, then it is probably a good idea to catch a cab home. So from then on we did.

Sao Paulo, the forth largest city in the world, obviously has a large crime rate. Any city in the world with that size population is bound to have issues with crime, it is almost unavoidable. I was warned before I arrived in Sao Paulo about the safety issues.  In an email I was given a list of things to avoid and things to be mindful of.  And so I was respectful of these issues.  However I will say that if I knew nothing about the safely issues of Sao Paulo and I just arrived in the city oblivious I would have never known or thought that it had a exponentially higher crime rate than any other city in the world.  I would have thought that my actions in Sao Paulo could have been the exact same as Buenos Aires.

Rio de Janeiro also has crime issues just like the rest of the country. And one local told me that at night he would never stop at a stop sign unless absolutely necessary. He told me to always keep moving in a vehicle.  But the entire weekend I was there I never felt in anyway threatened or nervous about being out alone.  But I guess maybe I can be a bit naïve sometimes. And obviously there are certain areas of town that you would not travel to.

I feel like everyone’s experiences with safety were different in Brazil. Some felt safe in cities where others were nervous and cautious.  I remember the Argentines warning me about how careful I should be. On a number of different occasions I was told to “be careful” and “watch your stuff” by the Argentines.  However, overall I can say that my experiences in Brazil have been safe and pleasant, and I knew that I was right when I told my parents the day I departed that I would be fine and there was no need to worry.   I have defiantly been scared more times in Atlanta in a two month period than I ever was in Argentina or Brazil for the past two months. Which I have honestly been surprised about. Everyone expects these cities in Brazil to be so dangerous, but really they aren’t, you just need to keep your wits about you.  I have learned that the trick is to be mindful and most importantly aware of your surroundings but never scared. Maybe I was just lucky or maybe these cities in Brazil are in fact great cities and are not as “hazardous” as everyone around the world perceives them to be.  

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First I would like to say that to travel through Argentina and Brazil and participate in some of the things that we had the opportunity to do was an incredible experience and I am most appreciative.


Time and Places

The first thing that comes to mind and I guess sort of the basic layout of the program is the time that is spent in each city/town.  I loved Buenos Aires and I like the fact that we spent an extended amount of time there.  But instead of having 4 weeks there, I would shorten it to 3 weeks. I loved spending 10 days in Florianopolis and it could maybe be lengthened to 12-15 days with more Portuguese classes.  Iguazu Falls was amazing to see and the amount of time spent there was perfect. I think that the amount of time in Curitiba could be shortened to 7 days and that would be plenty. The trip to Sao Paulo was the perfect length in my opinion. I would also take the basic study abroad group to experience Rio de Janeiro, just because it is in my opinion a Brazil experience. You would only need to spend a couple of days there at the end of the study abroad. 


It is nice to have a couple of free days in each place (except Iguazu Falls, since all we did there is site see anyway) just so that you can explore the city for yourself and see the things that you are interested in.  I liked having “tours” of the city the first or second day we arrived in each town because then we had some idea of what we could do and what we wanted to do the rest of our stay there.

Class Structure

Class in Buenos Aires I felt was short compared to the amount of time that we spent in class/lectures/site visits later in the trip in Brazil.  The only thing I could complain about is having breaks at a 1 and a 1/2  intervals instead of 2 hours, I know that seems a little picky, but it makes the world of a difference when you need to stand up and stretch or use the restroom. 

Class on wheels was one of my favorite things. Gabriel is incredibly interesting and he has a certain style about him that makes learning the history fascinating. I would have more than 3 class on wheels days.

The entire process, learning through lecture, through site visits and videos was a great combination that really was conducive to learning.  You really felt like you walked away with a understanding of what was going on in the country. But the combination was essential to helping me figure everything out.

For the most part the lectures were great. My favorite lecture was definitely Jeff Casen, in Florianopolis. Some of the lectures were obviously a little boring since they were telling us things that we already knew.  The site visits were interesting and there are few that I would not want to do again. A couple of my favorites were the MST camp and the favellas.


I liked having the blogs as opposed to a final project/paper.  The personal blogs made me think each week about what I had experienced and overall what was going on in the culture around me. Although they could get a bit time consuming and therefore the only thing I would change is to have 2 per week as opposed to 4 personal blogs. The group blogs were also a good way to discuss the issues etc. and sometimes they were hard to finish due to the fact that it was hard to find time for all the group members to sit down and work, but that comes with any group assignment.

The finals arrangements seemed extremely fair and I thought they were given at a great time in the trip. Everyone hates pop quizzes, but it in the long run I really do appreciate them because I know that they make me keep up with the readings.

Housing Arrangements

I thought all the housing arrangements were comfortable. I enjoyed living in the dorms in Buenos Aires with all the other students, it was a great way to talk to locals and we also were able to come and go as we pleased, plus having our meals included was very convenient.  I thought all the other hotels/pousadas were perfect for large sized groups, they were comfortable and safe without being stuffy. The only thing I would change is to have internet access either in the hotel or convenient on the street since we needed it constantly to finish our assignments. Sometimes it just wasn’t safe to walk alone at night to the internet café etc. and it became harder and harder to get work done.


I would either require students next year to bring their computers or I would make sure the living arrangement always included internet.  Sometimes it became too hard to get our work done without the internet, since research was necessary to complete some of our requirements. 

Strongly encourage everyone to get their visas before leaving the US.

I felt that we had a great deal of our meals paid for on the trip and I liked the fact that we always had a free breakfast.

I also enjoyed having the Argentines with us we traveled through Brazil, I think they brought a lot to the group and had a lot to share with us.  I think just sitting down and talking to them helped us learn a lot.

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photo by: joesu