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Country Reports

Brazil Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Brazil (population 207.4 million) remains a regional power and Latin America's largest economy despite several economic, political, and social issues of which travelers to the country should be aware.

CRIME

First and foremost, visitors should be aware of the violence and high crime rates that plague the country's cities, which affect locals as well as foreigners. Notably, crime rates tend to rise in December and January.

Urban areas, particularly cities in the north and the northeast (e.g. Maceio, Recife) have some of the highest murder rates in the world. Roughly 59,000 homicides were reported in Brazil in 2015 (29.1 per 100,000 residents), with similar rates reported in 2016 and 2017. No neighborhoods in major cities are crime-free.

Spikes in violence have been observed in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, particularly in the cities' favelas (slums), in recent months; these neighborhoods are often controlled by crime groups and regularly witness shootouts between criminals and security forces. A rise in violence has also been observed in recent years in the north of the country.

Express kidnappings (in which victims are abducted for up to 48 hours and forced to withdraw cash from various ATMs) most frequently target Brazilians, but remain a general security concern for all in cities. To reduce the risk of express kidnapping or another crime, it is advised to adhere to the following security recommendations:

  • Only use licensed taxis (called in advance or picked up at taxi stands) or Uber; avoid hailing taxis on the street
  • Never accept food, drinks, or cigarettes from a stranger due to the risk of drugging
  • Vary your daily schedule
  • Contact the police in the event of any suspicious behavior
  • Avoid isolated areas, particularly at night

Generally speaking, foreigners are advised to avoid taking municipal buses, refrain from visiting beaches at night, and avoid the many favelas that are scattered throughout cities due to the presence of gangs and often-violent police operations. At all times, maintain a low profile and keep all valuable objects (jewelry, cameras, smartphones) concealed.

If you are confronted by a would-be criminal, never offer resistance and follow all instructions, as assailants are often armed. It is advisable to keep some cash on your person at all times as even a small amount could be enough to appease an assailant. Avoid carrying large sums and consider dividing up cash and credit cards in various pockets or bags to minimize potential losses in the event of theft.

Travelers should be aware that carjacking and other assaults are often committed against those in cars stuck in traffic jams (which are notorious in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) or stopped at traffic lights; when traveling by car, keep windows rolled up, doors locked, and personal items hidden from sight and allow some room for maneuvering between you and the car ahead of you.

Finally, credit card fraud is a concern. Never let your credit card out of your sight when making a purchase and only use ATMs associated with a bank, ideally one located within the bank itself and not on the street.

AREAS TO AVOID

Some governments advise their citizens against nonessential travel to areas along the border with neighboring French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia due to the presence of drug trafficking operations.

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Brazilians have frequently taken to the streets in large numbers over the past several years to protest declared poor governance, abuses by the ruling class (corruption), poorly allocated development funds, insufficient social services, austerity measures, poor economic conditions, insecurity, and a general sense of distrust toward the federal government.

Political turmoil rocked Brazil when President Dilma Rousseff, accused of illegally manipulating finances, was forced out of office in August 2016; Michel Temer was sworn in as the new president. Temer will likely serve out the remainder of his term, which runs through 2018. However, Temer and his administration have been hit by massive corruption scandals - many linked to the national conglomerates Petrobras and Odebrecht - and his grip on power is tenuous.

Both presidential and legislative elections are currently scheduled to take place in October 2018, with a first round on October 7 and a likely second round on October 28. Political violence - both violent protests and assassinations - can occur during electoral periods, including during municipal elections.

TRANSPORTATION

Brazil has high rates of road accidents (22.5 road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year) due to aggressive driving habits and poor maintenance of some roads. The quality of road conditions varies considerably from one area to another, but nearly 60 percent of Brazilian highways reportedly need repair.

Rates of petty and violent crime are high on public transportation in cities. The Rio and São Paulo metros are relatively safe but often overcrowded, leaving riders vulnerable to pickpocketing and unwanted sexual contact. Crime committed against car and bus passengers on the road remains a problem for both visitors and local residents, especially during evening travel and traffic jams (see CRIME section).

For safety reasons, only licensed taxis or chauffeured cars (e.g. Uber) should be used (see SECURITY section).

It is advisable to travel by air for any long trips; no Brazilian airlines are featured on the European Union's "blacklist" of airlines banned from EU airspace due to substandard security practices.

NATURAL RISKS

Much of the country is vulnerable to torrential rains and consequent flooding and landslides, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The rainy season in the south and southeast of the country runs from November until March, and from April to July in the northeast.

LEGAL

When arriving in the country, make sure your passport is stamped and that you receive an immigration landing card. You will need to show such items upon departure, or else face a fine.

HEALTH

All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

As in other tropical countries, a number of mosquito-borne diseases are present in Brazil. Case numbers of the following diseases often rise during the rainy seasons.

  • Dengue fever is the most serious health risk for travelers to Brazil. Nearly 1.5 million cases - resulting in 630 fatalities - were reported in 2016. The disease is found mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.
  • Brazil was hit by a major yellow fever outbreak between December 2016 and June 2017, with the disease spreading to areas previous thought to be risk-free (e.g. the country's southeast). As of late 2017, the risk of contracting the disease remains in the Amazon region.
  • Chikungunya, which has been sweeping across the Americas since late 2013, arrived in Brazil at the beginning of 2015. In 2016, some 412,000 confirmed or suspected cases of the disease were reported, resulting in 159 deaths. Case rates remain high in 2017, notably in the states of Minas Gerais, Ceará, and Piauí.
  • Generally speaking, outside the Amazon region, the risk of malaria transmission is negligible or nonexistent. However, localized outbreaks outside this area are occasionally observed. The Amazon region consists of all or parts of the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão (west), Mato Grosso (north), Pará (except the city of Belém), Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins (west).
  • In mid-May 2017, the Brazilian Ministry of Health lifted the state of emergency previously declared in response to the Zika virus epidemic. Officials made the decision after a 95 percent drop in the number of reported cases. The disease nonetheless remains present in the country. While the virus is usually relatively benign (and asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases), links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects, as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), have been established. The disease is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.

In Brazil, digestive issues are common among tourists. To reduce the risk of contracting a food- or water-borne disease, do not drink tap water or beverages with ice. Avoid any undercooked dishes, especially meats and seafood, and any other foods that cannot be thoroughly cooked, peeled, or disinfected (e.g. ice cream, berries, etc.). Wash your hands thoroughly before meals.

Climate

Given the vast size of the Brazilian territory, it is not surprising the climate varies throughout the county. Generally speaking, the months of December, January, and February are the hottest months (between 30°C and 40°C) with high levels of humidity and brief but frequent rain showers, particularly in the southeast (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro). Winters in this region are mild and nights are often cool, particularly in Sao Paulo.

In the north of the country (Amazonia), the climate is tropical - hot and humid - with a rainy season (January to May) and a relatively dry season (June to October). In the Northeast Region the climate is temperate throughout the year (22°C to 28°C) with frequent rain showers from December to March. Inland climates are hot and very dry. The southern coast (Porto Alegre) enjoys a Mediterranean climate (hot summers, mild to cool winters). The highlands experience a cold winter with occasional snowfall.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +55 Police: 147 Fire Dept.: 193

Electricity

Voltage: 110/220 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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