is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Consulate General in São Paulo. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Brazil’s
largest city. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Brazil country page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Brazil
at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime.
Do not travel to any areas within 150 km/100 miles of Brazil’s land borders
with Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and
Paraguay due to crime. (Note: This does not apply to the Foz do Iguacu National
Park or Pantanal National Park.) Do not travel to informal housing developments
(commonly referred to in Brazil as favelas, vilas, comunidades,
and/or conglomerados) at any time of day due to crime. Review OSAC’s
report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime &
U.S. Department of State has assessed São Paulo as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official
U.S. government interests. Crime continues to be a significant concern for
visitors to São Paulo. Similar to most densely populated megacities throughout
the world, São Paulo experiences a high volume of crime ranging from petty
theft to homicide.
Financially-motivated crime such as armed robbery, pickpocketing,
purse snatching and smash-and-grab thefts occur with the greatest frequency.
Criminals engaged in this activity are often armed and will target their
victims indiscriminately, with a preference for persons projecting affluence
and a lack of awareness of their surroundings. Targeted items include
wallets/purses, jewelry, and electronics; cell phones are of particular
interest. Store electronics in the trunk
of a vehicle when traveling to and from the airport, and limit the number of
possessions carried on your person when out and about in the city. Review
OSAC’s report, All That You Should
neighborhoods in São Paulo are susceptible to crime, including affluent
residential sections where government and business leaders reside. Public
transportation hubs, hotel sectors, and tourist areas have the highest rates of
robbery and theft. The Secretary of
Public Security publishes comprehensive
crime statistics. According to São Paulo’s
Secretaria de Segurança, there were 128,746 robberies and 209,619 thefts in
general (excluding vehicles) between January and November 2019 in São Paulo
crime is an ever-present problem, especially in the evenings and late at night.
Pay particular caution when traveling at night through rural areas and
satellite cities, due to the significant potential for roadside robberies.
Armed robberies are prevalent throughout São Paulo. In many of these instances,
multiple armed criminals on foot or in vehicles (typically motorcycles)
identify an isolated victim, or take advantage of traffic jams to rob a series
of gridlocked vehicles. The criminals stop in front of or alongside their
victim’s vehicle, present a firearm, and subsequently demand all of the
victim’s valuables, then depart the area. In the majority of these incidents,
compliant victims are unharmed.
extreme caution in São Paulo nightclubs, which have swindled patrons into
purchasing bottles of alcohol without disclosing the actual price of the
drinks, at times running up to US$1,000/bottle. Security personnel have
physically harassed patrons who refuse to pay, and have taken their credit
cards. Do not accept drinks from strangers,
and always watch your drink. Nefarious actors may add scopolamine or a similar
drug to your drink. Victims have awoken robbed of possessions and/or sexually
assaulted after accepting open drinks. Review OSAC’s
reports, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, and Scopolamine Incidents on the Rise in Colombia.
Residential burglaries also pose a constant threat and concern.
According to police, mobile street gangs often target residential areas in the
city with more affluence. Criminals from the surrounding satellite cities
travel by metro, bus, or car into these neighborhoods looking for targets of
opportunity. Family members and household employees should not allow anyone to
enter the residential grounds without proper identification and prearranged
appointments. Local security companies that monitor security alarm systems tend
to be the primary responders; local police response can be delayed for hours.
Some neighborhoods employ static guard posts to monitor activity on the streets
adjacent to homes. Larger properties and commercial sites generally employ 24/7
security guard services. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
crime exists on a large scale. The largest Brazilian criminal organization, Primeiro
Comando da Capital (First Capital Command, or PCC), is based in São Paulo.
PCC is a violent prison gang that controls the majority of illegal contraband
and drugs coming into/out of the prisons in São Paulo, and remains an
organization of great interest to the government of Brazil and the police.
are noticeable nationwide increases in reported crime each December and
January, likely attributable to Brazil’s liberal system of prison furloughs
that allows for leave during the holidays, a higher percentage of police
officers on annual leave during the Christmas season, diversion of police
resources to patrol popular coastal areas, and the receipt of a “13th
month” salary bonus in December that leaves many Brazilians with extra
disposable income. Burglars also frequently target vacant homes and apartments
during these two months, while owners and tenants are traveling.
Brazil, low-income informal urban areas known as favelas (sometimes called Communidades)
are common and easily recognizable. These areas ruled by drug lords host
regular shoot-outs between traffickers and police, as well as other assorted
illegal activity, with high frequency. These areas are off-limits to
Embassy/Consulate personnel; avoid them.
and recreational areas have experienced severe crimes, mostly at night, to
include theft and sexual assault. Depart from these public areas before
sundown. Although assault and theft are also common during the day, higher
rates of crime have been reported at night.
border areas of Brazil – particularly the Tri-Border Area (TBA) where the
countries of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet – are havens for drug
smuggling and human trafficking. Exercise extreme caution when traveling to
these areas. Visitors to Foz de Iguazu should limit activities to the national
park’s resort areas, and not venture beyond well-guarded tourist sites.
A growing area of concern is the rise in cybercrime.
Cybercriminals with significant capabilities regularly target U.S. businesses
in Brazil. Brazilian cybercriminals are sophisticated and regularly employ
malware, and steal billions of dollars annually despite government efforts to
stop malicious online activity. Some debit/credit card thefts have been
attributed to hacking; close monitoring of banking account information should
automatically follow any sales transactions to ensure credit/debit cards and personal
information is not compromised. Withdrawing money from ATMs not inside hotels,
banks, airports, or other locations with supplementary security measures poses
serious risks. Maintain awareness of popular schemes to avoid becoming a
cybercrime victim. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, Taking Credit,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
conditions outside the main cities vary greatly. The surface conditions of
roads in cities are generally poor, with numerous potholes, some of which can
cause significant damage to a vehicle’s suspension system. Flooding happens
often during the rainy season, and can leave the operator with little time to
get to higher ground. Brazil uses automatic photo-ticketing systems to
discourage speeding; the owner of a ticketed vehicle receives the infraction by
Paulo suffers from extreme traffic congestion. It is very common for criminals
to take advantage of peak traffic hours to victimize motorists that are
stationary in traffic. In this manner, criminals are able to target a string of
vehicles, rather than a single victim. Inquire what the current peak transit
times are and, to the extent possible, plan commutes around those times.
Carjacking and victimization while commuting is particularly concerning, so
much so that affluent Brazilians commonly choose to armor and heavily tint the
windows of their personal vehicles. The city is inundated with motorcyclists,
many of whom are responsible for snatching items from open vehicle windows.
Personal mapping applications and GPS occasionally routes drivers through
favelas and other high crime areas.
U.S. companies use armored vehicles, sometimes including bodyguards, to
transport senior executives who may be targets due to their high profile or
OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
Paulo has an extensive bus and metro system, as well as taxi services. While
none are off-limits for U.S. government employees, exercise caution, as each
mode of transportation has its own unique security concerns. Buses are
plentiful and generally keep a steady schedule. However, protests and
demonstrations target the bus and mass transit systems; protestors sometimes
burn and/or rob buses in transit. The metro system is often over crowded. There
are daily reports of pickpockets or robberies, and individuals groping/touching
female riders inappropriately.
official taxis or a legitimate ride-hailing service (e.g. Uber, 99 Taxi) while
in São Paulo. Residents and visitors alike use these transportation
applications frequently, with very few reports of security issues. Refrain from
getting in a vehicle with other passengers, and object to picking up other
individuals along your route. Review OSAC’s report, Safety and Security in the Share Economy.
Paulo’s three major airports are Congonhas (CGH, domestic), Guarulhos, (GRU,
international), and Viracopos/Campinas (VCP, international). They are generally
safe, particularly within their secure areas. Reports of crime against
travelers along the road to the airport occur frequently; criminals exploit
congested traffic conditions and look to identify potential targets of wealth
and affluence as they arrive and depart. In 2019, there were several media
reports of baggage theft while checking in or waiting for taxis upon exiting
the airport. Be wary of strangers who strike up conversation because it could
be one of a two-man team, one leading your attention away from your bag or
suitcase, and the other making off with it. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed São Paulo as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Brazil
is a non-aligned country with no significant enemies, and is not a target of
any known international radical groups. Though there are no known indigenous
terrorist groups operating in Brazil, a number of al-Qa’ida members or
sympathizers operate in the country. Concerns exist regarding the facilitation
of transfers of money and people for terrorist organizations.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed São Paulo as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political
violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Protests
and strikes occur frequently throughout Brazil, especially in major cities. Due
to Brazil’s issues related to public corruption, economic downturn, and recent
political transition, there has been an increase in civil unrest. São Paulo
hosts public demonstrations periodically. The vast majority of these are
peaceful, but some develop into violence, resulting in disturbances, property
damage, and confrontation between protestors and opposing groups and/or police.
The majority of protests in São Paulo occur on Avenida Paulista (near MASP) or
in or around Praça da Sé (See Square). Exercise caution when approaching
crowds, and avoid areas where protests occur. In the past several years, Brazilians,
political parties, and social organizations have used major international and
national events as a platform to voice discontent with the Brazilian
government. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Paulo and a large portion of Brazil also deal with protestors using black bloc
tactics. Their mission is to infiltrate otherwise peaceful demonstrations to
cause chaos and violence between police forces and protestors. Their tactics
involve total face coverage.
calls for strikes remain a constant concern. In 2019, Sao Paulo continued to
see threats of strikes originating from the public transportation, petroleum,
mail carriers and education industries throughout the year.
Brazilians regard U.S. nationals in a positive manner, and are friendly to
is a nationwide problem that has plagued São Paulo state and many other parts
of the country. Over the last several years, severe rainstorms have occurred regularly,
flooded parts of São Paulo, killing people, and destroying homes and transport
infrastructure. Intense rain also causes severe gridlock.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Brazilian army is responsible for defending critical cyber infrastructure.
Brazil’s Computer Emergency Response Team monitors and addresses general cyber
security incidents. Given Brazil’s highly networked economy and the fact
that authorities still are developing cyber doctrine and capabilities, analysts
note continued critical infrastructure risks.
the economic/commercial center of the country, São Paulo is the main transport
hub for not only Brazil, but for South America. This level of activity has
unfortunately included several industrial and transportation incidents
throughout the past several years. Vehicle accidents carrying hazardous
chemicals occur on the major highways, shutting roadways for significant
periods until the area is clear and sanitized. The city’s underground rail
system has also experienced mishaps, including electrical outages and train
Cargo theft remains a major
security issue on the roads throughout Brazil. As a result, many companies
employ countermeasures, including armed security escorts for high value loads
and the use of satellites to track truck movements. Review OSAC’s Report, In-Transit Cargo Theft in Brazil.
The risk of economic espionage is
not particularly high in Brazil, but other intellectual property rights (IPR)
issues continue to challenge U.S. companies. Concerns also persist with
respect to Brazil’s inadequate protection against unfair commercial use of
undisclosed test and other data generated to obtain marketing approval for
Many firms have raised concerns
about intellectual property rights enforcement, including counterfeit goods and
a deteriorating situation in São Paulo since 2012, serving as the primary
gateway to the country’s other markets. Brazil’s software industry consistently
sees licensing compliance under 50%. In
2018, authorities seized 880 tons of goods from the Shopping 25 de Marco market
in São Paulo, and the city placed the market on probation. Avoid street vendors selling knock-off designer products; by
buying them you may face a large fine.
Brazil remained on the U.S. Trade
Representative’s Special 301 Watch List in 2019 due to high levels of
counterfeiting and piracy, including online piracy. Illicit goods enter
Brazil over its extensive land and sea borders, with the tri-border area with
Paraguay and Argentina a particular concern.
Personal Identity Concerns
The law prohibits racial discrimination,
specifically the denial of public or private facilities, employment, or
housing, to anyone based on race. It also prohibits the incitement of racial
discrimination or prejudice and the dissemination of racially offensive symbols
and epithets and stipulates prison terms for such acts. The 2010 census
reported that, for the first time, more than 50% of the population identified
themselves as belonging to categories other than white. Despite laws and a high
representation within the general population, darker-skinned citizens,
particularly Afro-Brazilians, frequently encounter discrimination and are
underrepresented in national government positions. Some U.S. citizens have reported
being the target of comments/actions, and even violence, because of their
nationality, race, or sexual orientation.
Brazil’s federal law now prohibits
discrimination based on sexual orientation. Enforcement, however, is weak, and
violence against LGBTI+ persons still occurs regularly, particularly against
the transgender community. According to the 2019 Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices, violence against LGBTI
individuals remains a serious concern nationwide. There were 141 killings of
LGBTI individuals in the first 135 days of 2019. Transgender individuals were
particularly at risk; there were 163 killings of transgender persons nationwide
in 2018, and police arrested suspects in only 9% of the cases. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
The law also prohibits
discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in
employment, transportation, education, and access to health care; the federal
government generally enforces these standards. It is common for the elderly,
pregnant women, and disabled individuals to receive priority treatment at
public and private establishments. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for travelers with disabilities.
large proportion of crimes have a nexus to narcotics. São Paulo experiences the
harmful effects of illicit drug trafficking. Drug use contributes to criminal
activity (e.g. street assaults, robberies) to support addictions. Several
Brazilian cities are transshipment points for illicit drugs, especially
cocaine. Brazil is the number two consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the
United States. Crack cocaine use is increasing in São Paulo. Brazil is the world’s largest consumer of crack cocaine.
times, armed robbers take victims at gunpoint to several ATMs to withdraw cash.
While the victims are most often Brazilian, foreigners are also susceptible.
The general guidance is to park vehicles in garages and other well
lighted/guarded areas, since criminals will often confront victims upon entry
into their vehicles. Limit the amount of bank/credit cards in your wallet to
limit the potential loss and duration of the incident.
kidnapping” scams also occur with some frequency, particularly targeting
business leaders. These incidents often involve allegations that the business
leader’s family member has been kidnapped, and demand a ransom. Usually these
incidents involve smaller amounts, with demands for expediency (before it is
discovered that the alleged kidnapping victim is not actually kidnapped.)
for ransom involving U.S. citizens is rare. Regardless, U.S. businesses often
take security precautions for senior executives resident in São Paulo,
arranging significant security measures for high-level visits. For more
information, review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
Brazilian customs authorities may
enforce strict regulations concerning temporarily importing or exporting items
such as firearms, antiquities, mineral samples, tropical plants, wildlife,
medications, and business and communication equipment. Read the State
Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
emergency line is 197 for Civil Police, and 911
for Military Police. In relation to its population, São Paulo enjoys some of the lowest
crime rates in Brazil. However, the sheer volume of crime committed in São
Paulo makes it very difficult for authorities to respond to all security calls
in a timely fashion. Police officials frequently cite a lack of resources,
staffing shortages, lack of basic equipment, traffic conditions, and morale as
reasons for widely varying response times and unsolved crime. When police do
respond, victims must go to the police station to file a report and complete
other investigative formalities. Public confidence in police is low due to
perception of heavy handedness, ineffectiveness, and corruption.
Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro have their own formations, rules,
and uniforms, and are responsible for maintaining public order across the
state. Polícia Militar is the
country’s military police and is not associated with the Brazilian Armed
Forces; they are the Brazilian equivalent of U.S. uniformed state police
officers. Deployed solely to respond to or act as a deterrent against the
commission of crime, these units do not conduct criminal investigations.
The Civil Police
(Polícia Civil) acts as the state bureau of investigation. Each
state has its own Civil Police Department to undertake detective work,
forensics, prosecutions, and internal investigation, while the Military
Police performs preventive police duties.
The Federal Police (Polícia Federal or DPF) are responsible
for crimes against federal institutions, to include international drug
trafficking, terrorism, cyber-crime, organized crime, public corruption,
white-collar crime, money laundering, immigration, border control, airport
security, and maritime policing. DPF is subordinate to the federal Justice
The medical emergency line is 192.
For fire emergencies or sea rescue, call 193.
Medical care is adequate at
private clinics, where you need to pay cash in advance for medical care. Public
hospitals provide a lower standard of care and are often overcrowded and
understaffed, but they generally do not require pre-payment and are experienced
at dealing with medical emergencies, including trauma injuries. Find
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the Consulate’s Medical
Bring prescription medicine
sufficient for the length of your stay, be aware that Brazil's humid climate
may affect some medicines. Some prescription medicines (mainly generic)
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage
Brazil is experiencing
an ongoing threat of mosquito borne illnesses, and has indicated that it will
continue to work toward mitigating the threat in 2020. For information on mosquito
mitigation, review OSAC’s report, What’s Bugging Your Staff:
Mosquito-borne Diseases - Mitigation Tactics.
infection is a significant health risk throughout Brazil. Such infections
include chikungunya, dengue fever, yellow fever, malaria, and Zika. While
chikungunya and dengue fever have become endemic countrywide, yellow fever and
malaria are more prevalent in the non-urban areas. There are no prophylactic
therapies for dengue and chikungunya. The most prudent strategy is to prevent
mosquito bites through repellants, treated bed nets, window screens and
All U.S. government
personnel obtain yellow fever vaccination prior to travel to Brazil. Travelers
should carry a documented yellow fever card.
The CDC has issued a Level
2 travel alert for countries affected by the Zika virus. Zika is a
mosquito-borne virus that causes flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, headache, joint
pain, rash) for two to seven days. Because of concerns about an association of
Zika virus infection during pregnancy with microcephaly, a congenital brain
deformity, pregnant women and those who may become pregnant may want to avoid
unnecessary travel to the region or special precautions.
Incidences of water-borne
diseases increase during periods of flooding. Only consume bottled or purified
water, and take special precautions when eating fruits and vegetables,
especially during the rainy seasons.
Leptospirosis, while not
common, is a bacterial infection spread via rodent droppings and waste. Given
the limitations of the sanitation system in non-urban areas of Brazil, exercise
caution including vigilant hand washing after outdoor contact, and vaccinate
pets that may contract the disease from food bowls and other exposed surfaces
rodents may traverse. Early manifestations of the disease present a flu-like
special attention to HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition to elevated infection
rates among high-risk populations such as commercial sex workers and mobile
populations such as miners or loggers, World Health Organization data shows
that Brazil has among the highest prevalence HIV rates in Latin America and the
Caribbean. WHO recommends preventive sexual practices to include of use of
Several U.S. citizens have
died while seeking medical care from non-traditional “healers” and
practitioners. Ensure you have access to proper medical care if seeking such
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Brazil.
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Medication, I’m Drinking What in My
Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for
Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council
Country Council in São Paulo is active, meeting on a monthly basis. U.S.
private-sector security managers should contact the RSO in São Paulo for
specific inquiries concerning the local security situation. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin America team with any questions or to
U.S. Consulate Contact
Rua Thomas Deloney 381, Chacara Santo Antonio, São
Emergencies and calls after
business hours +55 (11) 3250-5373.
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Brazil
you travel, consider the following resources: