Manaus is often known as the gateway to the Amazon Rainforest, it is the Amazon’s largest city, a sprawling, urban metropolis in the heart of the jungle. As one of the major cities in Brazil, it is a bustling hub of activity, offering some incredible history, architecture, and of course, tours into the jungle itself. But is it safe?
Staying safe is likely one of the first things to pop into your mind when thinking of heading to Manaus in Brazil. The city, like many other cities in Brazil, has gained a bit of a reputation for being a little bit rough. The country as a whole has a worryingly high crime rate, and Manaus is no expectation.
Manaus is one of the biggest cities in the Amazon, with over 2 million people living there, and has everything you would expect from a big city. With the rising inequality becoming a big issue, crime and petty theft are a very common occurrence. Although it lacks the fame of coastal cities such as Rio de Janeiro, it still gets its fair share of visitors thanks to its location in the forest. While Manaus definitely does have its dangers, there are precautions you can take to help you get the most out of your trip to the city safely.
Is Manaus Safe for Tourists in 2021?
Violent crime has seen a drastic growth in the last decade, and it now features as one of the most violent capitals of Brazil, making it a relatively unsafe place to travel, especially if you are not aware of the risks. Like most cities, crime seems to be more common in certain areas, which is something that tourists should be aware of when traveling around. There are some parts of the city that should be avoided by tourists day or night, even if traveling in a group.
The city has issues with drugs, as Colombia is easily reachable by boat, and there is minimal border control to stem the flow of drugs. The issue can be found largely in the favelas and is a core cause of violent crime.
Even the most experienced travelers can fall foul to local criminals. In a country where there are huge differences between the rich and the poor, it is hardly surprising that those that are desperate are having to do desperate things in order to survive. The corruption of the Brazilian police does not really help when it comes to safety and crime.
Although crime rates are high in Manaus, the people who do end up in trouble are still the minority. If you use your common sense and take the necessary precautions, always staying aware of your surroundings, you will likely have a good time, without any unnecessary hassle.
Is Manaus safe for solo travelers?
Manaus can be safe for a solo travelers, but it is only recommended if the individual has a lot of experience traveling solo already.
One of the most common forms of crime are pickpockets and street muggings, and solo travelers are automatically more vulnerable. Those committing the crime are more likely to target those that are alone rather than those in a group. If possible, even if traveling solo, when walking around the city try to stay with a group, such as those that you have made friends with on a tour or in your hostel or hotel.
Solo female travelers will need to be on their guard, taking every precaution possible, such as avoiding walking around alone at night and only staying in reputable accommodation. Depending on what type of traveler you are, a hostel may be a good option of where to stay, as you’ll be able to meet like-minded travelers, and will help you book tours and taxis that are safe and certified.
Is Manaus safe for families?
If you take the necessary precautions and plan properly, traveling as a family to Manaus can be safe. Before you travel, ensure that the whole family is up to date when it comes to immunizations and everyone has travel insurance that covers medical expenses. Dengue fever is a risk for both adults and children, so a very good insect repellent is essential.
When it comes to booking tours as a family, it is very important to make sure the tour companies are reputable, as you won’t just have your own safety to look out for. Before you book, check simple things like if the boat you are going on has lifejackets if you are going on a boat tour, and that the tour company is legitimate.
Be extremely vigilant about safety when traveling with children. Manaus can be a safe place to travel as a family, but just have a heightened sense of awareness at all times.
Are taxis safe in Manaus?
Taxis in the city are often safe and are plentiful, however, precautions should still be taken. It is always wise to ask a tour guide or your hotel or hostel staff for an estimate before you head out, as, like most places in the world, there is always a chance that someone is going to try and rip you off. Always book your taxi in advance instead of trying to flag a taxi down in the street and check that it is fully licensed before you get in.
When arriving at the airport, it is advisable to see the pre-paid taxi service, where you can pay for your ticket before you travel and give it to the driver. This way, you cut out the risk of being scammed by taxi drivers. There are also other ways you can get from Manaus airport to the city center.
At night, taking a taxi is more advisable than walking to where you need to go, even if it is a short distance. Although being out at all at night should be avoided if possible.
Is the tap water safe to drink in Manaus?
The tap water in Manaus is not safe to drink, even in your hotel, so be sure to only drink bottled water. Most restaurants in Brazil only serve bottled mineral water and you can pick it up at a reasonable price at most supermarkets and bakeries. The production of mineral water in the country is very well regulated and monitored. As Manaus is in the rainforest, it is different from the tap water in Rio.
Try to avoid ice cubes in drinks in restaurants, markets, or your hotel, as this defeats the object of getting mineral water. Ice cubes are likely to be not as clean as the mineral water itself, and depending on the establishment, may have been frozen from tap water.
It is also advisable to remain vigilant when buying bottled water from a shop, as some of the smaller shops may refill used bottles straight from the tap. Just check that the seal on the bottle is still intact.
A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.
7 Top Safety Tips in Manaus
There are a few things you can do to help prepare for your trip to Manaus that will help you stay that little bit safer when you arrive. Firstly, make some colored photocopies of your most important documents, such as your passport, Brazilian visa, and other travel documents, and place them in different places, such as your wallet, suitcase, and pockets.
You should also scan all of your documents and email them to yourself, therefore if anything happens to your belongings, you can still always print off a replacement from the email you sent. Write down all the important numbers that you could possibly need, such as those on your driving license, phone numbers of emergency contacts, banks, cash cards, and passports, plus anything else you can think of.
Before you arrive, you should have already arranged accommodation for at least your first night, so you know exactly where you’re heading when you arrive, avoiding any unnecessary vulnerability. Make sure you have up-to-date travel insurance to cover medical and your belongings at a minimum and have both printed and a copy on your email.
Schedule a doctor’s appointment before you travel to the country. They may tell you that you need vaccinations or boosters before you travel to prevent you from picking up diseases that can be found in Brazil. Speak to your doctor about the possibility of anti-malaria medication, as mosquitos in the area can spread it. Often, this medication should be taken before, during, and after your trip, so this is not something that should be put off.
Don’t stand out
Be aware of the possibility of pickpocketing. Pickpocketing is relatively common in Manaus and other parts of South America so be sure to always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you are leaving a bank and in a crowded part of the city. Keep your wallet in a hard to reach spot and ensure your bag is always done up tightly. It may be worth investing in an anti-theft bag for added protection. As a foreigner, chances are you are going to stick out, so try and blend in as much as possible. Dress like a local and don’t wear or carry anything that will give you away, such as a water bottle, hiking boots, binoculars. Shiney things including jewelry and watches, even if they are relatively cheap, will also attract unwanted attention. The same goes for flashy electronics.
Speaking a foreign language is also a definite giveaway, so when on the streets, try to keep your voices down and conversation at a minimum. Never read a map or a guidebook in a street, if you have to to check where you are going, duck into somewhere like a cafe to have a look.
Only bring money and other items that you are going to need for the day, so you can leave your bag at your accommodation if possible. If you have to bring a bag, carry it on your chest if you are in a crowded area. Some locals will carry a decoy wallet around with them which contains just a small amount of money which they can hand over if they are mugged.
Public transportation is a common way to get around the city, but when taking a trip to visit some of Manaus’ sights via bus or other transport, some precautions should be taken. Keep your hand luggage near you at all times, especially valuables like your phone, ID, and money.
If you want to avoid using public transport altogether, hiring a car might be a safer option for travel. You just still take precautions when driving, such as always keeping your doors locked, and be on your guard when you stop at a stop sign or a red light to avoid carjacking.
ATM and card fraud
Card fraud is extremely common in Brazil, and not just for tourists. Criminals in parts of South America are known for adding devices and cameras to ATMs to clone your card and pin. Always cover your pin with your hand and stick to well-lit machines that have camera surveillance, as these are much less likely to have been meddled with.
If it can be avoided, don’t use an ATM at all at night. During the day it is much easier to be discreet, and when you have to withdraw money, ensure it is in small amounts so that if it does get taken from you, you will not lose a large chunk in one go. If possible, use an ATM that is located inside banks, building societies, and shopping centers, and be aware of suspicious characters lurking around. The free wi-fi is relatively safe to use in most circumstances, but try not to access your bank account or enter any other personal details while doing so, as it may not be entirely secure.
A Travel Safety Belt is an effective and affordable way of protecting your notes, cards, and cash.
Be aware of safety when booking tours
Be careful about what company you go with that run tours of Manaus and the surrounding areas. There are plenty of tour agencies willing to show you around the jungle and different areas in the city, but only some of the tour companies are reputable. Do your research and go with the tour company that is the most trustworthy. Some of the smaller tour operators may not have an online presence, so you will have to talk to other travelers and local people to find out more.
The first thing to check is if the tour operator has a valid Embratur registry, which is the Brazilian Tourism Board. This will help to give you a sense of if they are ligament or not. Do not book a tour from someone at the airport or on the street. If you lookout for the official tourist information center, they will be able to help you out.
If you are looking for some good tours, we have put together some of the best jungle tours in Manaus to help you get the most out of your stay.
Do not go into the forest alone
The Amazon jungle can be a very dangerous place if you don’t know it. Once you are deep within the Amazon Rainforest, access to any sort of medical service is very limited.
Rio Negro is a great area if you are looking to see some jungle vegetation, and when it comes to safety it is also a part of the jungle that is known for having very few mosquitos due to the acidity of the river. During the dry season, the Amazon Jungle can become incredibly hot, almost unbearable for some, so be sure to have plenty of water and sun protection with you. Long sleeves and long pants are also necessary for protection when traversing the jungle terrain.
Of course, being in a forest, animals are an ever-present threat. Be on your guard for snakes like the boa and the anaconda, as attacks can happen. Also take plenty of mosquito repellent, especially if you are not going to the Rio Negro region. Our guide on can you camp in the Amazon Rainforest has a lot of extra tips on how to stay safe.
Be aware of your surroundings
Walking around at night in Manaus is not recommended. If you really do have to go out at night time on your trip, avoid any isolated and badly lit places. It is not smart to walk through any dark alleyways or isolated place at night, even if it is somewhere that seems safe, like a beach. No matter the time of day, don’t wear any expensive jewelry or clothing, as this will make you a walking target for those that are looking to get a quick buck.
Favelas can be a dangerous place to walk around, so do not walk into them unless you have a tour guide or someone reliable to escort you. Before you venture out onto the street, try to make sure you know where they are located. They are often dotted in all sorts of neighborhoods, so it can be difficult to avoid them if you don’t know their locations. Although it may be tempting to head into a favela to experience some culture, they are one of the most dangerous places in the city. You could always ask those that run your accommodation if there are any areas which should be avoided.
So, is Manaus Safe?
Despite there being more dangers in Manaus than other cities in Brazil, it doesn’t mean you should avoid visiting this gateway to the Amazon Rainforest all together. Millions of tourists visit Brazil, the city and the forest every year and most won’t come across any sort of problem. Take the recommended travel tips, keep your wits about you, and chances are, nothing bad will happen to you. If you are looking to travel around Brazil, take a look at our guides on how to stay safe in Sao Paulo and safety in Curitiba.