The countdown to Rio 2016 has officially begun and it’s definitely an exciting time for travellers headed to Brazil for the summer Olympics. Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city and a captivating mix of beaches, mountains, carnivals and nightlife. Going by the exchange rate, it’s also one of the value destinations for Canadians looking to travel internationally on a low loonie. What’s more is if you’re a Canadian passport holder; you’re even exempt from the tourist visa requirement between June 1 and September 18, 2016, for a stay up to 90 days.

But while travellers are excited about their trip to the summer Olympics, there are also concerns about the safety in Rio de Janeiro due to reports about Zika and the increasing crime rate in the city. Wondering if it’s safe to travel to Rio for the Olympics? Here are a few things you need to know:

If you’ve already booked your trip to the Rio Olympics, don’t let Zika or other reports about Rio ruin your trip. Stay informed and prepared about the precautions you need to take to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are our top 5 safety tips for travel to Rio de Janeiro.

Get your vaccinations for Brazil

If you’re travelling soon, now is a good time to schedule a vaccination appointment with your doctor or medical clinic. Apart from routine vaccines for flu and chicken pox, check in with your health care provider about vaccines needed  for hepatitis A,B, measles, yellow fever and rabies. If you’re travelling with children, check if any vaccines need to be scheduled outside of the regular routine.

Currently, there is a shortage of yellow fever vaccine in Canada, so travellers will need to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre to get the specific vaccine. For extra precaution, carry a copy of your and your family’s immunization records with you.

Prevent mosquito bites

Zika is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito; therefore it’s very important to take every possible precaution against mosquito bites.

  • While it may be tempting to wear shorts on a beach in Rio, wear long pants and sleeves as much as possible.
  • Use an insect repellent on exposed skin. Look for active ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, OLEm or PMD. Remember to follow instructions on the label and apply sunscreen first, when both are used together.
  • Avoid areas with stagnant water, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Insist on air-conditioned rooms or a mosquito net at your accommodation in Rio.
zika precautions advice by CDC
Follow these four basic steps to protect yourself and your family from Zika

Watch out for petty crime in Rio de Janeiro

Crime in Rio de Janeiro ranges from pickpocketing and purse or bag snatching to mass mob or flash mob robberies on Rio’s beaches and crowded tourist areas. While it’s easy to get anxious about travelling around the city, there are a few things you can do to travel more confidently :

  • Avoid showing signs that you might be carrying money by wearing minimal clothes, jewellery and handbags.
  • Consider keeping your high-end phones at home and carry a cheap back-up version for practical use. Also try and keep expensive gadgets such as cameras and laptops inside your hand bag when walking around the city.
  • Try not to travel alone and avoid walking on isolated streets or beaches, especially at night.
  • Carry small amounts of cash (only enough for a day) and keep the rest of it along with other valuable documents in the hotel safe. If you’re withdrawing cash, try to use machines in secured zones like shopping centres as opposed to ATMs on the streets.
  • Credit card fraud is also common in Rio. Think about carrying multiple prepaid cards instead of your regular credit or debit cards.

Plan your transport within the city

Local transport within Rio de Janeiro ranges from public options like the metro and city bus to premium ones like taxis, vans and executive buses, also known as Frescão. While car rentals are easily available, driving around is usually painful due to crowded, chaotic streets and relaxed driving regulations in the city.

transportation in rio de janeiro Ipanema beach
Getting around Rio de Janeiro is easy with a lot of local transport options

Transport in Rio de Janeiro is clean and safe, but also very irregular. Follow these transport tips for getting around in Rio:

  • Pre-book your airport transfer via the hotel. This will save you the time and effort of speaking and bargaining with private taxi owners as soon as you land.
  • You can also access your Uber app in Rio for reliable and cashless ride options.
  • If you do decide to use public transportation, visit the Rio de Janeiro municipal government’s website, Cidade Olimpica for detailed fare information, timetables and competition venues. The government has also partnered with Moovit (just like Google Maps) to track your route on the local map.
  • Don’t use public transportation during late evenings or at night. Instead, rely on taxis or hotel pick-ups for safety.

Travel Insurance for Canadians Visiting Rio de Janeiro

Before you hop on the plane to cheer for your favourite team/athlete at Rio 2016, don’t forget to purchase comprehensive travel insurance coverage or check the details of existing coverage.

adventure travel insurance in Rio de Janeiro
Planning a bucket list adventure in Rio de Janeiro? Make sure you have the right travel insurance for it.

Here are some things you should look for to ensure adequate travel insurance coverage in Rio de Janeiro:

  • Get luggage insurance that covers loss and theft of your belongings and cash/currency.
  • Look for medical coverage that includes hospital confinement and treatment including Dr.’s services, ambulance services, x-rays and other diagnostic laboratory tests, prescription drugs, emergency dental services, and emergency air transportation for which you must be pre-approved.
  • If you plan to participate in adventure sports such as paragliding, surfing, parasailing, snorkeling or scuba in Rio, look for travel insurance that will cover adventure and extreme sports activities.

Have you travelled to Rio de Janeiro or are you prepping to go there for the summer Olympics? Share your own safety tips with us in the comments section.

Safe travels,

Shweta