Road to Rio: 13 Tips to Stay Safe and Healthy While in Brazil for the Olympics

With the Rio Summer Olympics just days away, travellers to the area are encouraged to take precautions to stay safe and healthy.

You've got your flight lined up. You've made sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, and you've packed your passport and travel insurance. But, before stepping on the plane, and taking your seat at Maracanã Stadium, travellers are encouraged to take precautions, before, during, and after their Olympic-sized visit to Rio, Brazil.

Before leaving

1. Consider signing up to the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service. ROCA is free and allows the Government of Canada to notify you in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home.

2. Travel with cyber safety in mind. Make sure all your devices have the latest security software and are protected with strong passcodes.

3. Pack a basic care kit including prescriptions; bug repellant; sunscreen; condoms; diarrhea/upset stomach medication; antibiotic ointment; a pain reliever like aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen; allergy medication; bandages; antacids; and motion sickness medication.

4. If pregnant, you may want to reconsider your travel plans due to the Zika virus. It’s generally recommended that pregnant travellers avoid countries where there has been a Zika outbreak; and Brazil is one of these countries. If you have a trip cancellation policy, call your travel insurance provider to see if you’ll be covered should you decide to cancel your trip. If you're unable to cancel your trip, make sure you take strict precautions to avoid infection of the Zika virus.

Once you’ve landed

5. Minimize the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes. The Olympic Games are occurring in Brazil’s winter, when mosquito-borne diseases—like the Zika virus—are less common. However, you should still:

  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing that covers as much as the body as possible.
  • Wear shoes, not sandals.
  • Try to stay in accommodations that have air conditioning or screens on the doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Use bed nets when sleeping.

The Zika virus can also be sexually-transmitted if a partner is infected; condoms can reduce this risk.

6. Be cautious of what you eat and drink. The Government of Canada says, “Boil it, cook it, peel it or leave it!” Don’t eat any food unless it has been cooked thoroughly and is still hot when served and be leery of uncooked foods as well as foods from street vendors. Also, stick to bottled water or water that has been filtered.

7. Wash your hands often. Simple soap and water is the most effective solution to protect yourself from any germs, especially before eating. If you find yourself out-and-about with no access to a sink, carry a mini bottle of hand sanitizer as a back-up.

8. Know how to get help. In Brazil, dial 193 for the fire department; dial 190 for the police; and dial 192 for an ambulance. And, if you need consular assistance, you can find the addresses and phone numbers for Canada’s embassy and consulates here (you can even print off a wallet-sized version to take with you before you go).

9. Choose your mode of transportation carefully. According to the Travel Advice and Advisories for Brazil, the subway system in Rio is generally safe during the day. But at night, it’s best to take a licensed taxi that has been ordered by telephone. It is also strongly recommended that you do not use public vans, as bus accidents are common.

Renting a car and driving yourself is also not encouraged as, “Driving is hazardous in Brazil. Aggressive driving habits, reckless passing, excessive speeds and poorly maintained roads have resulted in Brazil having one of the highest road accident rates in the world.”

10. Minimize the risk of theft. Like all top travel destinations, tourists are often a target for theft. Leave expensive jewelry, watches, clothing and bags at home and only carry small amounts of cash. Keep cameras and your devices, like cellphones, laptops and tablets, hidden from plain view.
Pick your tourist activities wisely.
11. Pick your tourist activities wisely. Visits to favelas, including favela tours, are not recommended.

Once you’re home

12. Put off trying to conceive. Due to the risk of the Zika virus, the Government of Canada recommends that women wait at least two months before trying to conceive after returning home. And, because the Zika virus can survive a long time in semen, they recommend that men use condoms for six months after returning.

13. Visit a doctor if you feel ill in any way and let them know where you’ve travelled. Even though the symptoms of the Zika virus are usually mild and the treatment typically requires plenty of rest, lots of fluids, and common medicines for pain and fever, a visit to the doctor should be in order just in case.