First Stop, Rio de Janeiro – Brasil

Well, the time is approaching when I fly to South America for four months. Next week in fact. Yep, four months… not too long a time, not too short a time. No real plans of yet … I stay in rio for a few days and head north. Loooking forward to it!!

Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redentor), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Taken from Google Maps and Wikimapia

Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redentor) is a large Art Deco-style statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue stands 38 m (125 feet) tall and is located at the peak of the 710-m (2330-foot) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, overlooking the city.

As well as being a potent symbol of Christianity, the statue has become an icon of the city, its open arms seen by many as a testament to the warmth of the Brazilian people.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Brazil is not as dauting as I have been to Brazil before so I know what to expect .. fear. When I first landed, I spend the first 24 hours looking over my shoulder, keeping a grip on my bags etc but it passed. I stayed in a hostel called Jucati which was fine. They organised some cool tours to pre carnival gigs. Yet, by 9.00pm, every traveller was back at the hostel, drank on the steps and only left in groups of 5-10 people when heading out to hit the nightlife.

I wasnt robbed / mugged during my stay but alot of travellers were. Alot of it waspetty crime. Many had their watches, baseball hats and sunglasses stolen by kids, others had their gear stolen on the beach. There was no violence involved. Anyway, the hostel were paying off to local cops to park outside our hostel most of the day. They also hired off duty cops to join in on any tours to football games etc.

I hate associating Rio with crime but its on travellers minds. A local story by Associated Press may explain why!

Crimes spark tourism concerns in Brazil

By MICHAEL ASTOR, Associated Press WriterSat Aug 19, 3:32 AM ET

The murder of a 19-year-old Portuguese student on Copacabana beach and a rash of robberies have rekindled concerns about security in Brazil’s top tourist city, where authorities have tried several initiatives to make streets safer for visitors.

Andres Costa Ramos Bordalo was stabbed to death Monday by an assailant who stole his knapsack. Although police stepped up patrols, at least 22 tourists were robbed this week, police said Friday.

Bordalo’s daytime murder shocked many in Rio. The city has one of the world’s highest homicide rates, but violence rarely spill out of shantytowns. On Thursday morning, two knife-wielding men stole a video camera from a group of Chinese tourists. One of the men was punched in the face as he challenged the attackers, police said. The previous evening, six men on three motorcycles intercepted a tour van carrying 14 tourists from various nations. Two men armed with pistols boarded the van and drove the tourists around for 10 minutes, stealing their money, cameras and watches, police said.

“Rio is beautiful … but I’m never coming back here,” Ioland Jobert, 25, a South African who was aboard the van told the O Globo newspaper.Ricardo Anderoli, the chief of police for tourists, said he believed the van robbery was carried out by a gang specializing in car theft that has recently targeted tourists. Rio has an annual homicide rate of around 50 per 100,000 inhabitants. But officials say the crime rate in upscale neighborhoods is no worse than in other large cities like London or Rome.

One notable exception is the Copacabana beach district, the heart of Rio’s tourist district where some 40 percent of crimes against tourists occur, mostly holdups and purse snatchings. This week, three Colombian tourists were robbed at knifepoint on Copacabana. In recent years, state officials have beefed up police patrols, created a special tourist police department and deployed cameras along the beachfront in an attempt to reduce crime, but success has been limited. Last year, 2,737 tourists reported being robbed in the state.

On Wednesday, Rio de Janeiro state police chief Hudson de Aguiar Miranda offered to provide police escorts for tourist buses from the airport to downtown hotels, a drive that passes through some of the city’s most notorious shantytowns. But most tour operators reportedly turned the offer down, concerned that police escorts would only further frighten tourists.

Earlier this year, 33 British tourists were robbed at gunpoint after their bus was stopped on a highway from the airport to downtown Rio, but since then no similar incidents have been reported.

I have book my first three nights at a hostel called POUSADA FAVELINHA which is open around a year.

I like the idea thats its away from Copa and centro (the danger spots). The way I see it, theiefs are attracted to the places where tourists congregate .. mainly Copa.. and so a lot of tourist crime occures there. This hostel is somewhat ‘out of the way’ and only has room for 14 guests.

I read about the “Little Slum Inn” in Reuters during March.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) – Breathtaking views high above Rio de Janeiro’s beaches and mountains can be yours for just a few dollars a day — if you skip pricey hotels and sleep in a slum.

Rio’s slums, or favelas, are infamous for drug and gang violence. But a new hostel called “The Little Slum Inn” is attracting adventurous tourists, mainly from Germany, France and the United States, who dare to live amid the grit and poverty.

“This place isn’t for wimps. If you are uptight, you can go stay at the Copacabana Palace,” said co-owner and shantytown dweller Andreia Martins, 31, referring to the luxury beachfront hotel where the Rolling Stones stayed last month when they played a free concert for more than 1 million people.

You can only get to the jungle-covered hillside slum of Pereira da Silva on foot. Most of its 1,900 residents live in unpainted brick hovels they built themselves on irregular lots.

But the hostel owners say staying in the slum is safe. It has buried its violent past and gained a reputation as one of Rio’s calmest favelas since police killed a neighbourhood drug lord in a shootout seven years ago. A police squad also trains there, so gangs avoid the slum.

Residents of most of Rio’s 600 shantytowns are not so lucky. Thugs employed by drug traffickers walk narrow streets with AK-47 assault rifles on their shoulders. Bloody clashes with police and rival gangs are common. Slum dwellers who work long hours for low pay as maids or gas station attendants then have to come home to a slum where they risk getting caught in gunfights.

Martins’ clients at the Pousada Favelinha, as it is called in Portuguese, are tourists who pride themselves on avoiding glitzy tourist haunts and travelling off the beaten path to remote places like Laos and Cambodia.

Each room in the white, three-story inn has expansive terraces overlooking Rio’s bay and cosy furnishings.

A room with a double bed costs about $35 a night. It costs $15 a head to sleep in a large room for single backpackers.

Her neighbours like the inn because it brings money into the community. Martins is working with the community association to set up a free health clinic staffed by visiting foreign doctors. She employs two residents from the slum to run errands and clean and refers guests who like lots of beer to bars at the base of the hillside community. Martins says she is making decent money but complains of long hours.