I just spend 8 weeks cycling through Brazil and the most common question I get is whether it was dangerous to go cycling through Brazil, so I thought I would talk a bit about it here.
I have been cycling through Brazil 3 times over the past 6 years and cycled more than 6000 kilometers through the country. I have never been robbed or attacked on my trips and I have not had any serious accidents either. This does not mean that it can not happen of course, but I make a few precautions on my trips, which I think makes my trip safer and i will explain a bit about them here.
Do not cycle at night in Brazil.
People often warn me about robberies on the roads of Brazil when I am cycling there, but they happen mostly at night. If you are cycling during daytime hours, your chances of betting attacked are minimal, unless you go cycling through a favela area, which you should try not to either. When I am cycling on roads in rural Brazil I have always felt perfectly safe. I say hello to everyone that I pass and often stop and talk to them and I have never had any aggressive attitude. If these people really wanted to rob me it would be so easy for them. Many of them carry machetes. They do that because they need them when working in the fields. But I have never had any Brazilian using his machete against me when cycling through Brazil.
Also do not forget that rich and poor Brazilians almost never mix. Rich Brazilians are mostly very scared of poor Brazilians. But as a visiting foreigner you are mostly very safe among regular Brazilians. Poor Brazilians are not keen on rich Brazilians and vice versa. But you are not viewed as a rich Brazilian and it’s not rich people as such they are against, but rich people who treat them badly and with no respect. Rich Brazilians are quite notorious for behaving very disrespectful towards poor Brazilians. But poor Brazilians are totally nice and a friendly when treated with respect and they are aware that europeans like me have a different attitude towards people with little money and I have never felt under threat when dealing with the lower economic levels of Brazil, as long as I stay away from areas that are controlled by criminal gangs. And when talking criminal gangs then we are talking about big city slum areas.
Be careful when cycling in and out of big cities in Brazil.
The most dangerous part of cycling through Brazil is when you are leaving and entering big cities. The traffic tends to be very congested and busy and you do not ant to end up in a sandwich between two cars. Because of that, I have often resorted to taking the bus in and out of the big cities when cycling through Brazil. The favelas, where you can sometimes have a lot of crime are also mostly located in the outskirts of the big cities. So it’s wise to stay clear of them too, but don’t forget that it’s still the traffic that poses the biggest danger here. I have had my scariest moments in Brazil, when going in or out of a big city was combined with road works.
Rural Brazil is surprisingly safe.
I have been cycling in some very rural places in Brazil, including the northeast, which is the poorest part of Brazil. In these parts of the country you have a lot of horse and donkey traffic and because of that the roads have large shoulders for soft traffic. So do not cycle in the middle of the road, but take the shoulder which is mostly nicely paved and ride alongside with the horses and the cycling Brazilians. Cycling is growing a lot in Brazil these years by the way. it’s both becoming a hipster thing and it’s also becoming a popular way to commute to and from work. Your main concern when cycling in rural Brazil, is that you should make sure that you can find a place to sleep by the end of the day. The big gas stations often rent our rooms in rural Brazil and I have stayed there many times. These rooms are mostly meant for truck drivers, but you are welcome there as a cyclist too. I do not wild camp by the way, so you will need to ask other people about that if you plan to sleep that way.
It’s not people who are dangerous, it’s cars.