Having experienced life in Rio de Janeiro as a frequent traveler, a businessman and a property owner with a great safety record, Dan Babush, president of Rent in Rio, feels confident about sharing an insider's recommendations.
Here, he talks about his finds for family travel - a growing trend in Rio de Janeiro vacation rentals - and lets you in on the tips which help his clients enjoy a safe stay.
Recommendations for Families
"For families with young kids, I recommend the Morada do Sol condominium on the border between Botafogo and Copacabana, one of the most secure places in Rio, above the Rio Sul shopping center," says Dan. "At Morada do Sol, there are tropical gardens with little monkeys, there's a swimming pool and kids can safely play in the street. And you have taxis waiting for you downstairs at all hours. You just pick up the intercom phone and say 'Taxi' and one is waiting as you come out of the elevator. The prices are reasonable and the apartments are comfortable with great views.
"Once I went to see a family off in Morada do Sol and there was a huge group of residents to see them off. The kids had made friends and they were all there to tell them goodbye, it was really great to watch as they followed the limo as far as they could. There were a lot of tears in their eyes, and, to tell the truth, in mine too.
"For families with children 15 to 20, I'd feel comfortable with apartments in Leblon or Ipanema. In Copacabana, parents are going to worry more. It's not that it is more dangerous but it's more exotic so parents equate that with danger."
Dan's Safety Tips for Rio de Janeiro Travel
"Safety in Rio is an odds game and the odds are quite favorable, but there's a lot you can do to further improve those odds," says Dan. These are some of his tips for tourists:>
1. Pass up the taxis when you first arrive at the airport
"I don't think it's a good idea to take a Táxi Comum when you first arrive in Rio. Not because taking a taxi in Rio is not fine – it is. But in our case, we have a limo service. The reason you don't want to take a Táxi Comum from the airport is, well, if you'd just stolen a taxi, what's the first place you'd go to pick up tourists loaded with passports and foreign cash, cameras, Iphones etc.?
"Also, there's a lot of confusion at the airport that can be overwhelming, especially for older travelers – there are more older travelers coming to Rio these days. You have to go through a sort of corral – always watching your suitcases, that's true everywhere (I once lost all of my documents and credit cards at the Rome airport) – and when you get to the end of that corral, you're on your own. But the limo guy can be right there, waiting for you."
2. Work up your Rio street smarts
"I've never had a tourist who's been physically harmed in Rio. But I give them a big lecture. You don't take much when you go out in Rio. Take a cheap plastic digital watch. Women should be conscious of their pocketbook, as it may be cut from below.
"If you're confronted, even if you're twice the size of the person confronting you, don't try to fight – hand your hopefully few belongings over. It's your responsibility to do the best you can do to get out of the situation safely. Don't take much…hand it over."
3. Consider the risks of bringing visitors to your apartment
"I always say to guests: you're not going to encounter any danger inside your apartment, unless you bring it in. Some buildings will not allow you to bring anyone back home with you. But some will. Think about the risk involved."
4. Know your neighborhood
"Sometimes people think they're getting a good deal on an apartment, but maybe they're in a high-crime zone," says Dan. "For example, the Cantagalo favela has an entrance to Rua Teixeira de Melo. Someone who has an apartment there knows that tourists don't know the difference in safety between Teixeira de Melo and Vieira Souto. Those are tips only an insider with an interest in your safety can provide."