Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio_de_janeiro-tourist-scamsRio de Janeiro is one of the most popular cities of Brazil for tourists. The number one tourist attraction is Corcovado Mountain, which features a huge statue of Christ with outstretched arms looking over the city. The concrete statue was created by the French sculptor Landowski and stands at an altitude of 700 meters. The train ride up the hill is beautiful in itself, the route goes through the woods of the Tijuca National Park, giving you a perfect view over Rio at the top. What is striking about Rio de Janeiro is the clear the social inequality: ultramodern skyscrapers and expensive residential neighborhoods border cluttered slums, called favelas .

tourist-scams-Rio_de_janeiroBut one week every year, Rio turns in to one large party and dancing scene. The traditional Carnival is the highlight of the year for most Brazilians . The whole country comes to a standstill during Carnival and you will find intense festivities everywhere, day and night. These celebrations are accompanied by large parade wagons, beautifully dressed people, colorful dancers and lots of music. And Rio de Janeiro is the Brazilian capital of Carnival. The parades are held In the Sambódrome, where big floats and dressed up dancers roll through this 700 meter long purposely built stadium. The spectators watching in the stands enjoy a magnificent spectacle which various samba schools from the favelas compete with each other. Nowadays, there are more than 100, and the groups are getting bigger and bigger.

Over 2 million tourists visit the Rio De Janeiro carnival every year. But what most of them don’t know is that this world famous festival is subsidized by the Brazilian Mafia and these beautifully dressed up dancers of the samba schools that battle for the first prize in the famous samba parade are paid millions by powerful and extremely wealthy criminals. The world’s best known party is one big play to lure millions of tourists into the arms of local scammers, ready to rip off the unsuspecting party people from all over the world.

Rio de Janeiro tourist scams

As in every tourist hotspot, tourists need to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the “all is well” holiday atmosphere which causes the traveler to be off guard when it comes to being tricked or scammed, especially when they are facing an enormous crowd of partying and dancing locals. The differences in culture and habits can be a bit confusing, even to the experienced traveler, and that gives those with dishonest intentions an advantage, especially with travelers who have just arrived after a long and exhausting flight.

  • Criminal organizations buy up the bulk of the tickets to the samba parade in order to create a shortage of supply and push up the prices for the tickets. These are then sold through legitimate travel agencies, for asking prices tenfold of the original price.
  • Before the 2014 soccer/football world cup, the Brazilian government has swept a couple of the favelas clean and tourist are offered guided tours to see the “real” Rio de Janeiro.  But what most tourists don’t know is that half of the ticket price for these tours is paid to the gangs in those favelas to guarantee the tourists’ safety.
  • Men looking for some fun in Rio’s red light district Vila Mimosa need to beware of the infamous Cinderella Goodnight Girls, who are known to secretly slip a drug in their victim’s drink to knock him out before they rob him and take all his valuables.

Rio_de_janeiro-tourist-rip_offsMost of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a handful of Reals, but they could still make you feel like an idiot as soon as you realize you’ve been tricked.

Be on guard for these known scams and variations to them. If you happen to run into a new kind of scam, or if you have a story about how the swindlers work, make sure you tell us about it. That’s the best way to warn other travelers and to prevent them from falling into the same traps.

And most importantly: just enjoy your vacation. Don’t be discouraged by these stories, they don’t happen to everyone, and they don’t mean Rio is unsafe. On the contrary, 99.9 percent of the people are incredibly friendly, sincere and honest, and Brazil is one of the most beautiful, but also one of the safest places to spend your holiday.



  1. Thanks for sharing! If I may share, some other common scams to look out for:
    – pickpockets, theft
    – assaults, car robberies
    – taxis not using meters, demanding upfront fee, taking longer routes.

    Still many to look out for so please do your own research before going!

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