Guest Post: Staying Safe in São Paulo

For more insights into Sao Paulo, see American Exbrat in São Paulo.

There are a lot of great things that are coming up in Brazil in the upcoming years. World Cup. Olympics. There are also still a great many untapped business opportunities, especially considering the change that will inevitably happen here thanks to social unrest. That means that many of you are considering a trip or a move to Brazil, maybe even São Paulo. 

However, keep in mind, every city has its dangers. 

I’ve lived in a lot of different cities. Each came with its own set of land mines. But for the most part, if you knew how to stay safe in one, you could keep out of trouble in another. It took awhile and a couple scary incidents to realize that Brazil has a different set of rules. 

Today, my guest poster is security expert, as well as fellow blogger, Kristin of Brazil in My Eyes. We have decided to collaborate, both in business and in blogging, on establishing a foreigner’s guide to safety in Brazil, with specific for São Paulo.

This post will be the first in a series of guides to staying safe as a business traveler, a tourist or a resident in São Paulo and Brazil.




São Paulo is not for the faint of heart in terms of security issues. If visiting a safe big city is on your list, you might want to skip over to some of the European or American metro areas. On a recent visit, Anthony Bourdain, acid-tongued celebrity chef, said “Try to have a friend in Sao Paulo before you come here. I don’t know how you’re going to do that…You want someone looking after you here. If you’re at the mercy of a concierge, you’re in a bad place.”

Since most of us visitors and residents do not have the luxury of a concierge (although we would really seriously like one now), we can provide much advice about protecting yourself, your family and your stuff. This is not tourism advice—please see Insider Guide: Best of São Paulo for some of the best places to see around town.

Over the past year we have attended a number of security presentations, and befriended a military police captain and attended neighborhood security committee meetings. We have had visitors robbed on buses and experienced the frustration of trying to report the crime at the local police. This information is based on these learnings, and is not comprehensive nor is it going to keep you out of all possible criminal situations. The idea is to make you, the visitor or resident of São Paulo or other locations in Brazil, safer and less likely to have a bad experience.

The fact is that there are people for whom robbing and stealing are the only choices they believe they have to survive in Brazil. We don’t have enough time or space to go through the hopelessness and poverty of some of these people’s lives. Lack of access to education and libraries and public health are all factors.

For these criminals, theft is their job. Full-time, every day. As expert as you get in avoiding crime, you have to remember that these folks spend every waking moment figuring out how to get money. They live it. But here’s the good news: the vast majority of the bad guys want your money or your stuff (as a way to get money) for drugs. They do not want YOU as a person. They do not want your kids. They don’t want to hurt you. They want money. Most of the crimes against individuals are crimes of the moment—they haven’t targeted you because you are blonde, or speaking English or carrying Hilfiger, or your husband works for a major European company. They are targeting you because you are distracted looking on your ipad, chatting on your cell phone, driving with your purse on the front seat, or leaving a bank, where there is some kind of probability that you are withdrawing large sums of money.

Starting this week, we (Born Again Brazil and Brazil in My Eyes) are starting a series of posts about personal security and what you can do to be safe here in Brazil. Some of the advice is even pertinent to traveling anywhere outside your home country.

We are going to split up the posts into the following major subject headings:

  1. Street smarts
  2. Car smarts
  3. School smarts
  4. Home smarts
  5. Security in specific places–foreigners
    1. Soccer games
    2. Shopping centers
    3. Feiras
    4. Rodoviaria/airport
    5. Parking
    6. Restaurants –arrastoes
  6. Cool and scary stuff (tattoos, stats)
  7. Kid smarts
  8. Internet smarts
  9. Elsewhere in Brazil, and other information

Ten years ago, São Paulo was the fourth most violent city in Brazil. As of April this year, it was the second LEAST violent city (source: Policia Militar). There are many cities of the northeast and coast that are more dangerous, and the reasons for this will come in our summary.

This is important information. If you are moving to, visiting or have family or friends visiting the country, please pass on these tips. We both are married to Brazilians and we want everyone to have a wonderful and safe sojourn in Brazil. Next post, we’ll take a look at street smarts.

Until then…. stay safe.





This entry was posted in Culture Conflicts, Expatriate Info & Advice, Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo, Safe in Sao Paulo, Tourist Info and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Guest Post: Staying Safe in São Paulo

  1. Roger says:

    Look forward to the next posts.

    • Archie Paice says:

      I have lived in São Paulo, Summertime only (5) months each year for the past Eight years. I have roamed the streets, shops, parks, many times. In fact every day at some point. Mostly in the Hygienopolis area of the City. I have also Wales around in St. Efigiena looking at the various Shops and Arcades. I have never in all those times felt the least bit intimidated.

  2. Pingback: Safe in São Paulo: Car Smarts | born again brazilian

  3. Pingback: Safe in São Paulo: Taxis and Public Transportation | born again brazilian

  4. charles phillips says:

    I am a retired law enforcement officer in the U.S. i want to move to Brazil what is the safest areas to consider purchasing a home outside of Rio?

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