São Paulo, once one of the most violent cities of Brazil, has managed to drastically reduce crime during the 2000s. According to the Sangari Institute, São Paulo was the safest capital city of Brazil in 2011, in terms of homicide rate.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that a visitor can really relax about safety, because São Paulo is simply too large and diverse to be described by average statistics. In fact, two of the most visited areas, Downtown and the Pinheiros subprefecture (in the West), have respectively 150% and 50% more violent crime than the city average (according to ). Check the individual district listings for safety advice in each area of the city. The general advice is as follows:
Visitors should avoid walking in deserted areas at night, or at least avoid walking alone. Buses are reasonably safe, but waiting alone at a bus stop at night is not. The metro is always safe, but commuter trains that go to peripheral areas can be dangerous late at night. Be extremely careful when using ATMs at night (or better, do not use them if they are in deserted and dark places. If you really need one, try searching in places like shopping malls, theaters and cinemas and gas stations).
Driving can sometimes also be risky, especially when you are alone and/or in an upscale bars/clubbing area, like Vila Madalena or Vila Olímpia. If you are driving at night, when stopping for whatever reason (even at a traffic light), check your surroundings. Keep your doors locked and windows closed during the night. If possible, when going back late to the hotel, take a cab or ride with a group of friends. During the day, keep valuable objects away from the window (even if you are using a taxi).
Some areas can be dangerous even during the day. These includes run-down areas, like favelas and areas populated by drug addicts. The last can be easily recognized by the presence of poorly maintained buildings, bad odor, and dirty streets - there are many of those in the Historic Center. Most drug addicts are harmless, but a few may resort to violence to get money to buy their drugs.
Contrary to popular belief, nowadays poor neighbourhoods in São Paulo aren't usually dangerous, at least not more dangerous than an ordinary neighborhood. Still, some of them can be dangerous, so if you are in doubt, don't go or have the company of a local.
And naturally, every safety recommendation that applies to big cities in general also applies to São Paulo:
Familiarize yourself with the location of the police stations specializing in tourist service and protection. These stations offer information on public safety and are staffed with qualified professionals to meet your needs.
Largo De Sao Bento
Rua Alvares Penteado 112
Praca Julio Prestes, 16
Praca Da Luz 2
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