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Among Brazil´s main big cities, São Paulo is considered one of the safest for tourists. São Paulo is historically an immigrant town and it is the most multi-ethnic city in Brazil. Visitors to São Paulo are treated very much the same as anyone else, and if you learn a little Portuguese chances are locals may think you are a local too. Like in any big city in the world, some personal safety precautions must be observed to ensure a trouble-free visit.


In Brazil criminality is rising. Naïve outdated laws and a slow judiciary system restrain police action and penalties are mild. One of the most problematic aspects of Brazil´s legal system are the under 18 year-old protective laws (the controversial Código do Menor e do Adolescente), by which youths (so-called menores) cannot be criminally sued or convicted as an adult even if he or she kills someone. Because of these laws groups of criminals use kids and teens for their most violent actions – from drug dealing to murder. According to the law, police cannot take any action against a youth until he or she effectively commits a crime.

Poor kids and teens are also used as “olheiros” (“observers”, informants who mingle themselves in the crowds looking for potential robbery victims) by adult criminals. They usually walk or ride on bicycles and motorcycles, wandering among people without a clear direction or place to go. They eventually try to get closer the victim, pretending to ask an information or to ask for little money. BE ALERT, AND WALK AS IF YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO. AVOID TALKING OR GIVING ANYTHING TO STRANGERS, KIDS OR TEENS ON THE STREETS. If they insist, go into a shop or restaurant and wait inside until they give up (managers usually tell them to go away if they try to follow customers inside the store).


Be careful when talking on the cell phone on the streets – criminals preferably snatch cell phones from their owners´ hands when they are distracted using them on the street. Carry electronics like cameras and notebooks in backpacks. Don´t use your notebook at visible places from the street, like coffee shops’ or restaurants’ windows – prefer a more discreet indoors place. Never leave your belongings unattended, mainly at coffee shops and at the airport.

Imported famous brands accessories and electronic devices are even more expensive in Brazil because of heavy taxation and criminals steal these items to sell them on Internet as “personal used item”.

Avoid carry and exchange large amounts of currency, mainly at exchange counters at airports. Travellers checks are a safer option. In São Paulo you can use credit cards to pay for almost everything, so you will not need much cash for daily bills. Refuse help from strangers when using ATMs. 

DON´T CARRY YOUR WALLET IN YOUR TROUSERS´ BACK POCKETS – it´s too easy for snatchers. Keep your wallet in an inconspicious place and have enough change handy for bus, subway and taxi fares. NEVER COUNT YOUR MONEY ON THE STREET.

For ladies the best handbag models are the ones with shoulder straps, with the bag under the arm, or the longer strap across the body ones, with the bag in front of you against your belly. For the same reason you will see locals carrying their backpacks in front of the body. When walking or jogging on parks and streets use belly pockets.


CLOSE THE DOOR SECURELY whenever you are in your room and use all locking devices provided.

DON´T ANSWER THE DOOR IN A HOTEL ROOM WITHOUT VERIFYING WHO IT IS. If a person claims to be an employee, call the front desk and ask if someone from their staff is supposed to have access to your room, and for what purpose.

AVOID LEAVING ANY VALUABLE OBJECT, PERSONAL DOCUMENTS, DESIGNER PERFUMES OR ELECTRONIC DEVICES ON TABLES, ON THE BED OR ON THE DRESSER. Before leaving your room store money, documents, jewelry, expensive watches or sunglasses in the room´s or the hotel´s safe box. Keep electronic devices (cell phones, cameras, i-pods, notebooks, etc.) in a drawer when not carrying them with you.


Some criminals observe hotel´s entrances and lobbies looking for distracted tourists. IF YOU SEE ANY SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY, REPORT YOUR OBSERVATIONS TO THE MANAGEMENT. If you are alone in town, tell your concierge where you intend to go and at what time you intend to come back. Some areas in São Paulo are safe at daylight but not at night – ask your concierge for safe routes and follow his or her advice.


If by misfortune a criminal points you a gun, DON´T REACT. Try to remain calm and don´t make sudden movements. Brazilian common criminals do not act alone – they are usually in groups of 3 persons or more. They are ignorant and don´t even speak good Portuguese; speaking fast in a foreign language can make them nervous.

EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBERS - call from any public phone (coins or cards not required):
190 – Military Police
193 – Fire Department and Paramedics

If you had your CREDIT CARD STOLEN or LOST it, call your credit card operator as soon as possible.
American Express
USA - dial 00 + 21 (Embratel) or 15 (Telefonica) + 1 (336) 393-1111
Other Countries see - click Global Sites
Global Card Assistance Services in Brazil – dial (0800) 891-3680
More info see
USA - dial 00 + 21 (Embratel) or 15 (Telefonica) + 1 (636) 722-7111
Other Countries see - click Emergency Contacts
Customer Services in Brazil – dial 4001-4444 + 0 after menu options in Portuguese
USA - dial 00 + 21 (Embratel) or 15 (Telefonica) + 1 (800) 234-6377 or (702) 797-5532
Other Countries or more info see
USA New York Branch - dial 00 + 21 (Embratel) or 15 (Telefonica) + 1 (212) 651-8001
Japan Tokyo Service Plaza - dial 00 + 21 (Embratel) or 15 (Telefonica) + 81 (3) 5778-8379
More info see

To REGISTER A ROBBERY at the police, you will need to go to the nearest Civil Police Station (Delegacia) within 24 hours after the robbery. A robbery report registration is called “Boletim de Ocorrência” in Portuguese. That official document is used in insurance and traveller checks refunds. São Paulo has 107 Police Stations. Six of these Police Stations are specialized in crimes against women (Delegacia da Mulher).

Civil Police Station adresses and telephones in São Paulo, see

If you had your PASSPORT STOLEN or LOST it, contact your Consulate as soon as possible. There are 50 General Consulates plus 35 Honorary Consulates in the city. Consulates’ adresses and telephones in São Paulo, see - click Consulados

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