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Safety in São Paulo
Twenty million people live in greater São Paulo making it the largest city in South America and one of the largest in the world. São Paulo’s economy is the richest in Brazil, but for decades, there was a huge divide between its rich and poor. While inequalities have reduced greatly in recent years, São Paulo’s (and Brazil's) reputation lingers. It’s not undeserved, but it's sometimes exaggerated. Still, you'll want to take the precautions below.
· At the airport, be wary of well-dressed, official-looking men who identify themselves as policemen while flashing a card. Even if their English is impeccable, they’re most likely trying to take you for all you’ve got. Real policemen usually leave tourists alone.
· Don’t carry valuables in a pouch around your neck; use a money belt or conceal them in an internal pocket instead.
· Don’t carry a lot of money, but do carry some. The average assaltante won’t believe a gringo who says he/she has none and might get rough.
· Avoid displaying your smartphone and other electronics in public like on a crowded bus, for instance. And don’t flash cash and jewellery either.
· Most assaltos (or holdups) take place at night in backstreets with few people so exercise common sense. Higienópolis and the Jardins areas are the safest.
· Travelling by taxi is strongly recommended at night; don't rely on public transport.
· When driving (and in a taxi), keep the windows up, lock the doors and stay alert at stop signs and during traffic jams; red-light robberies and car-jackings are not uncommon. São Paulo even supposedly passed legislation allowing drivers to just slow down at red lights at night. If there’s no traffic, continue without stopping. And watch out for motorcycle drivers, especially if there are two people on one bike; some are couriers, others are robbers.
Unfortunately, if you get robbed, going to the police might be a waste of time. Except for theft from a hotel room, they’re unlikely to be able to do anything, and reporting a robbery can take hours.
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