Cycling through Brazil and meeting with some locals on the road.

Cycling through Brazil and meeting with some locals on the road.

I just spent 8 weeks cycling through Brazil. 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 have cycled more than 6000 kilometers through the country. I have never been robbed or attacked on my trips. 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.

Cycling through rural Brazil.

Cycling through rural Brazil.

Do not cycle at night in Brazil.

People often warn me about robberies on the roads of Brazil when I am cycling there. but highway robberies happen mostly at night in Brazil. If you are cycling during daytime hours, your chances of being attacked are minimal. Unless you go cycling through a favela area.

A little thing about favelas.

You should not visit a favela, unless you are with a local. But if you are in the company of a local who knows the place, then you can visit favelas quite safely. And it’s generally a very nice experience to see how these places often have a lot of community, despite the poverty. But being on your own there, you might get in trouble, as some favelas are controlled by criminal gangs. 

I always felt safe a foreign visitor in smaller towns.

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 generally 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 by most poor folks.

It’s not rich people as such that the poor people are against. It is rich people who treat them badly and with no respect. Rich Brazilians are notorious for behaving very disrespectfully towards poor Brazilians. But poor Brazilians are totally nice and friendly when treated with respect. They are often aware that Europeans like me have a different attitude towards people with little money. 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. When talking about criminal gangs, then we are talking about big city slum areas.

Cycling out of Porto Alegre.

Cycling out of Porto Alegre.

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. You do not want 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.

Cycling in Brazil is great.

Cycling in Brazil is great.

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. Because of that the roads have large shoulders for soft traffic. So do not cycle in the middle of the road. Take the shoulder which is mostly nicely paved and ride alongside the horses and the cycling Brazilians. Cycling is growing a lot in Brazil these years by the way. Cycling is both becoming a hipster thing. 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. Big gas stations often rent our rooms in rural Brazil. 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.

Gas station Brazil

I often sleep at gas stations in Brazil.

It’s not people that are dangerous in rural Brazil. It is the cars.

My bottomline about this has to be that you need to be a lot more careful about the cars than the people wandering the streets. It makes better headlines in the newspapers to write about armed robberies than about drunk and reckless drivers who run over cyclists. But it’s not machete wielding Brazilians you need to worry about when cycling through Brazil. 

And talking about dangerous wild animals. You will most certainly only see them on the road signs in Brazil. Unless you are cycling in the Amazon jungle or the Pantanal, where you have many wild animals. Along the roads, you will see signs warning cars to please not run over wild animals. But they do not pose any danger to you when you are cycling through Brazil.

Road sign warning drivers about snakes crossing the road.

Road sign warning drivers about snakes crossing the road.

So get out there and explore Brazil by bicycle. and remember to be a little careful with the crazy drivers in the big cities. Also remember that it is mostly crappy mainstream journalists who never get out on the roads who tell you how dangerous the ordinary Brazilians are. They usually write these stories when sitting in a hotel bar with a prostitute. Brazil is one of the better countries that I have been cycling through. So get on your bike and get out and explore Brazil.


Happy cycling in Brazil.

Happy cycling in Brazil.


  1. Carlos Benjamin

    “They usually write these stories when sitting in a hotel bar with a prostitute.”

    Hahahahahahaha! Awesome line!

  2. Kristina Williams

    When traveling around the world, is it better to walk or bike? Biking would be quicker but then I have to worry about flights, leaving it somewhere to go hiking, leaving the gear to go grocery shopping. Do you have a pros and cons list?

    • I bring a lock, so I can lock my bike when I go shopping. I am also mostly staying overnight in small hotels and guest houses, where I can lock up the bike, so I have not really had any issues with this. And once you are away from big cities, theft is hardly ever a problem anywhere in the world.

  3. “……. it’s mostly crappy mainstream journalists who never get out on the roads who tell you how dangerous the ordinary Brazilians are. They usually write these stories when sitting in a hotel bar with a prostitute……”

    Truer words were never spoken! 15 minutes later I’m still laughing!

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  5. Nicolas Schwabach

    Cycling through the Tijuca forest to the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio is one of the best traffic free rides I know internationally. And tougher than any Alpine pass!

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