When planning a trip to Brazil, one of the first questions travelers often ask is, “Is Belo Horizonte safe for tourists?” Found within the mountainous landscapes of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, also known as BH, is a vibrant city with a rich culture, highlighting Brazil’s architectural and colonial history. As a local, I’m here to provide an honest assessment of the city’s safety, as well as some essential tips to ensure a memorable and secure visit.
Is Belo Horizonte Safe for Tourists?
Belo Horizonte is generally safe for tourists, with typical precautions advised. Like any city, it has safer and riskier areas. Stay alert, follow local guidance, and you’ll likely have a positive experience. Belo Horizonte is actually one of the safest cities in Brazil and is an area that attracts many digital nomads & businesspeople.
As someone who grew up and lives in Belo Horizonte (BH), I can offer a personal perspective on the city’s safety for tourists and locals. The collective consensus is that BH, like many urban areas around the world, has its safe zones and areas that one might want to avoid, especially after dark.
During my years in BH, I’ve always felt safe walking around during the day in specific neighborhoods like:
Like most locals, I avoid taking late-night strolls, even in these neighborhoods, especially by myself. A walk to a nearby restaurant, especially with company, is more than okay, but getting an Uber or taxi to further places at night is always the safer option. Also, it’s essential to remain vigilant and avoid flaunting valuables.
Many of my friends from BH and other parts of the world also emphasized the importance of being cautious in less-traveled neighborhoods and being wary of pickpockets in crowded areas.
Many tourists praise BH for its hospitality, gastronomy, and architectural beauty. A lot of people on Reddit consider Belo Horizonte to be very safe, however, some report instances of petty thefts, especially in crowded events or near tourist landmarks. A common thread among these reviews is the advice to use common sense, much like when visiting any other major city.
While no city can be deemed 100% safe, Belo Horizonte offers a generally secure environment for tourists who stay aware and heed local advice. It’s all about blending in, being respectful, and keeping your wits about you.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil – Interactive Safety Map
Crime Rate, Crimes, & Dangers To Be Aware of in Belo Horizonte
Here are the dangers you should be weary of traveling Belo Horizonte:
- Street Scams
- “Fake” Traffic Police
- Night Safety
- Street Parties & Festivals
- Spiked Drinks
- Overpriced Goods & Services
- Jewelry & Flashy Items
- Communication Barriers
The crime rate in Belo Horizonte is quite high, with an index of 75.27/100. In my personal experience this isn’t a fair representation and the data is from a small group of 187 people. There are areas to avoid and areas to miss. Take the right precautions and try to avoid walking in unlit areas at night and you will be fine in Belo Horizonte.
Like many tourist destinations worldwide, BH has its share of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas or major events. Always keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings. It is common in crowded areas and during major events.
How to Minimize Risk: Use anti-theft bags, wear money belts, and avoid publicly displaying large sums of money. Don’t keep your phone and other belongings somewhere exposed, and don’t walk with them on your hands in the avenue.
Be cautious of individuals approaching you with ‘too-good-to-be-true’ deals or sob stories designed to take your money. It happens occasionally, even with locals, and particularly in areas frequented by tourists. You can avoid these interactions by sitting indoors at restaurants or simply ignoring street approaches.
How to Minimize Risk: Politely decline offers from street vendors or individuals with sob stories. Stay skeptical of ‘too-good-to-be-true’ deals.
“Fake” Traffic Police
Some impostors might pose as traffic officials to extract bribes from unsuspecting tourists. Always ask for identification and avoid paying any ‘fines’ on the spot. It is infrequent but reported in some areas and can be intimidating if encountered.
How to Minimize Risk: Ask for proper identification and never pay fines directly to an officer. If in doubt, offer to follow them to a police station.
Night Safety in Brazil
Certain neighborhoods can become risky after dark. Always research beforehand and, when in doubt, stick to well-lit, populated areas. The occurrence is moderate, as it highly depends on the neighborhood.
How to Minimize Risk: Stick to well-lit areas, avoid isolated spots, and always inform someone of your whereabouts. Avoid walking alone at night, especially if you’re a woman.
Street Parties & Festivals
While these events can be fun, they also attract opportunistic criminals. Keep your valuables at your hotel, and be wary of accepting drinks from strangers. The frequency of theft at street parties and festivals is high during large events but limited to specific areas.
How to Minimize Risk: Travel in groups, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and keep an eye on your belongings, always storing them in a safe space. Men usually hide their phones inside their underwear, and women wear bags with hidden pockets or complex zippers (and remember to always keep them closed).
Always watch your drink, and never accept beverages from unknown individuals. There are occasional reports in bars and nightclubs, as in any other city around the world. The likelihood of this happening to you is low, but it is always best to be cautious.
How to Minimize Risk: Always watch your drink, cover the top of your glass while holding it down, avoid leaving it unattended, and don’t accept drinks from strangers.
Overpriced Goods & Services
You might be quoted inflated prices as a tourist. Always do a bit of research or ask locals about fair prices before making purchases. This is common in touristy areas, especially if you appear unfamiliar with local prices.
How to Minimize Risk: Research beforehand, ask locals for advice and be prepared to haggle in some cases.
Jewelry & Flashy Items
Flaunting expensive jewelry or electronics can make you a target. It’s best to leave such items in a safe or avoid bringing them altogether. Opportunistic crimes occur, especially targeting those displaying wealth.
How to Minimize Risk: Limit the valuable items you carry, avoid flaunting expensive gadgets, and consider wearing costume jewelry.
Not everyone speaks English, and misunderstandings can arise. This happens more around non-tourist-centric areas, where locals are not accustomed to foreigners and might misinterpret you. Having a translation app or phrasebook handy can prevent potential issues.
Minimize Risk: Learn basic Portuguese phrases, use translation apps, and always carry a map or address of your accommodation.
Safest Areas in Belo Horizonte | Stay Safe in Belo Horizonte
Here are the safest areas to stay in Belo Horizonte:
Most of my friends and I live in the Lourdes neighborhood, which might be the safest in the city. Here, I have no problem walking a few blocks by myself at night, and the number of restaurants on the street always keeps it lit and busy. The region feels upscale and is well-patrolled, so you can be safe. Popular attractions like the Minas Tenis Clube and the Liberdade Square make this a safe and interesting neighborhood to stay and explore.
Tourists also often rave about Lourdes, pointing out its safety, even after dark, and its proximity to various attractions.
Savassi is the heartbeat of BH’s nightlife and culture, always filled with life and lights, no matter when. I’ve spent countless evenings there, enjoying its energy without feeling threatened. However, many people walk the streets asking for money, and although it doesn’t feel dangerous, it can be uncomfortable to say no.
Because there are so many bars and restaurants on Savassi’s streets, the neighborhood is almost never empty, and there are many people walking around and bar hopping at night. There is also a large number of hotels and connectivity. Savassi as a must-visit, not just for its attractions but also for its reputation as a safe base.
Belvedere is one of the newer, more affluent areas of BH. Its well-planned streets and modern buildings always gave me a sense of safety and order. I usually run there at night, on the streets around the Lagoa Seca park. Many of my friends live there, and there is a growth in the number of stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and commercial centers opening around the houses, which adds to the sense of safety.
It is a neighborhood known for its cleanliness, organization, and the presence of security personnel. Expats and tourists often regard it as a safe haven, especially for those looking for more upscale accommodations.
Pampulha, with its iconic architectural landmarks and the beautiful lagoon, has always been a favorite among tourists. Its more residential nature gives it a calm aura, and areas around the lagoon and popular buildings are usually pretty safe. Many Brazilians practice sports and take night strolls with their pets around the neighborhood, and the number of bars and restaurants open until late at night gives a sense of safety to the place. Tourists often appreciate Pampulha’s scenic beauty, and many have found it a secure spot, especially near the main attractions.
Funcionários holds a special place in my heart as one of BH’s traditional neighborhoods. It is close to Lourdes and Savassi, and I have many friends living there. Its parks and squares give out a safety aura, especially when they’re packed with people walking their dogs and exercising at night. There are plenty of cafeterias and restaurants in Funcionários, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. Visitors frequently mention Funcionários as a convenient and safe area, appreciating its mix of old and new.
Dangerous Places in Belo Horizonte | How Dangerous is Belo Horizonte?
Belo Horizonte, like any metropolis, has its areas of concern. Here are some of the neighborhoods to avoid:
- Favelas, in general
While the city center (Centro) has many attractions and bustling commerce during the day, it can take on a different vibe at night. I’ve often been advised to be cautious when walking through its streets, even during the day. Many friends prefer not to stay in Centro after business hours, citing occasional encounters with unsavory characters or witnessing petty crimes. Some tourists have also reported incidents of theft or feeling unsafe in the area, especially during nighttime.
Lagoinha, once a vibrant entertainment district, now has a reputation for being a bit dodgy. I usually avoid the area, especially after dark. Friends who’ve ventured into Lagoinha have mentioned feeling uneasy and have encountered occasional disturbances. Travelers on forums often advise newcomers to be cautious in Lagoinha, especially if they’re not accompanied by locals.
Located to the south of Belo Horizonte, Cabana is another area I’ve barely been to in life. The general sentiment is to be cautious, especially after sunset. Those more familiar with the city’s southern parts have expressed reservations about venturing into Cabana without specific reasons or knowing the locale well. Tourists rarely speak of Cabana, but local forums occasionally highlight safety concerns, especially after dark.
Like Rio, Belo Horizonte also has its fare share of favelas, or slums in English. Although it may sound tempting to visit one of them for cultural purposes, these are pretty dangerous zones, and I recommend staying away from them, especially after dark. No friend of mine has even ventured inside a favela in BH, and it is not a spot recommended for tourists.
Is Uber Safe in Belo Horizonte?
Uber in Belo Horizonte is generally considered safe and widely used by locals and tourists. Ensure the driver and vehicle match the app’s details before boarding. Always share your trip details with someone you trust.
I constantly use Uber in Belo Horizonte, and I’ve never had a problem with it or felt unsafe. However, it is necessary to follow some precautions, like anywhere else in the world:
- Check for the vehicle’s plate and ensure it matches the one on your app.
- Wait for them to say your name, and never ask it yourself. For example, say, “Who is the ride for?” instead of saying, “Is it for Camila?”
- Let someone know you’re boarding the Uber, and also notify them once you arrive at your destination.
- Try to wait for your ride indoors instead of standing on the street at night, especially if it’s quiet and empty outside.
Is Belo Horizonte Safe for Solo Female Travel?
Belo Horizonte is relatively safe for solo female travelers, but taking standard precautions is essential, especially at night. Staying in well-lit areas and being aware of your surroundings can enhance safety.
Navigating Belo Horizonte as a solo female traveler is much like navigating any other large city in the world – it’s about awareness, preparation, and intuition.
As someone who has walked the streets of Belo Horizonte, I’ve found that the city exudes a warm and welcoming ambiance during daylight hours. However, just like many other cities, certain areas can feel more intimidating after dark. I’ve always preferred to stick to well-known areas at night, avoid isolated spots, and rely on trusted transportation methods.
Several female friends who’ve traveled or lived in BH shared their experiences with me. The consensus is generally positive, with most of them feeling safe, especially in tourist-friendly neighborhoods. However, they did emphasize the importance of not displaying wealth conspicuously and being cautious in crowded settings to avoid unwanted attention.
Numerous female travelers on forums have cited Belo Horizonte as a great destination, mentioning friendly locals and a vibrant cultural scene. Yet, as in many urban settings worldwide, they often advise fellow travelers to be wary of catcalling or unsolicited attention, suggesting it’s beneficial to understand a bit of Portuguese to navigate such situations better.
Specific advice for women traveling in Belo Horizonte is:
- Dress modestly: While BH is modern, dressing less conspicuously can help reduce unwanted attention.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption: Being alert and aware of your surroundings is essential, especially if you’re out alone.
- Trust your intuition: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t hesitate to remove yourself from uncomfortable situations.
While Belo Horizonte does not present any significant dangers unique to women, staying vigilant, informed, and prepared is crucial.
Is It Safe to Live in Belo Horizonte? (Why It’s One of The Safest Cities in Brazil)
Like any major city, Belo Horizonte has its safe and challenging areas. Many residents enjoy a good quality of life, with a rich culture and amenities. It’s vital to research neighborhoods and stay informed for enhanced safety. If you do all of this living in Belo Horiztone can be safe. It is a popular destination for expats & digital nomads.
Living in Belo Horizonte provides a unique blend of urban life and Brazilian culture’s charm. I’ve always been captivated by the city’s lively culture, historical architecture, and culinary delights. However, as with any metropolis, there are contrasts. While some neighborhoods are safe and welcoming, pockets of the city can be problematic, especially after dark.
Expats and long-term visitors on forums frequently mention BH’s warmth, both in terms of climate and its residents. The city’s cost of living is typically viewed as more affordable than places like Rio or São Paulo. However, concerns about street crime or safety during nighttime, particularly in certain districts, are also raised.
BH boasts a vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, restaurants, and cultural events. Yet, as night falls, certain parts of the city can feel less secure. It’s advisable to use trusted transportation, avoid isolated areas, and be wary of unsolicited attention.
Some other issues?
Petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur, especially in crowded areas or major events. It’s essential to be vigilant, avoid displaying wealth, and be cautious in lesser-known neighborhoods. While Belo Horizonte is not amongst the world’s most polluted cities, it faces challenges typical of urban areas, such as traffic congestion leading to occasional elevated pollution levels.
Is Belo Horizonte Safe For LGBTQ Travelers?
Belo Horizonte is generally LGBTQ-friendly, with a vibrant community and events. However, like anywhere, discretion is advised in more conservative areas. Always research specific neighborhoods and venues for the most welcoming experience. There are reports of LGBTQ travelers kissing their partner in public and never having a problem.
Belo Horizonte is known for its progressive vibes and an active LGBTQ+ community. The city hosts an annual Pride Parade, which draws large crowds, reflecting its supportive atmosphere. Additionally, numerous LGBTQ+-focused events, bars, and clubs offer locals and tourists vibrant spaces to celebrate and connect, particularly in the city’s downtown areas. These establishments offer entertainment and serve as community hubs for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies.
However, while BH has a significant LGBTQ+ community, and many residents accept it, attitudes can vary. In cosmopolitan and younger areas, LGBTQ+ individuals often report feeling comfortable and welcome. However, in some traditional or conservative neighborhoods, discretion might be advisable. As with any location, it’s essential for LGBTQ+ travelers to be aware of their surroundings. For instance, holding hands or displaying affection in public is generally accepted in BH’s central and progressive areas but might attract unwanted attention in more conservative districts.
Legal Protections: Brazil recognizes same-sex relationships, and discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal. However, it’s crucial to note that while laws are in place, enforcement and public attitudes might vary.
Common Scams in Belo Horizonte
Like many other tourist destinations worldwide, Belo Horizonte has its share of opportunistic individuals looking to take advantage of unsuspecting visitors. While the city is generally safe for tourists, being informed about potential scams can help you stay one step ahead.
Short-Changing at Local Markets: Always be vigilant when receiving change after a purchase, especially in busy markets or street stalls. Some vendors might “mistakenly” give you less change than you’re owed.
Overpriced Taxi Rides: Not exclusive to Belo Horizonte but common in many cities, some taxi drivers might take longer routes or charge higher rates, especially if they sense you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Fake Event Tickets
This scam involves individuals selling fake or invalid concert tickets, football matches, or other events. Always buy tickets from official vendors or trusted online platforms. Avoid buying them from random street sellers, no matter how enticing the deal may seem.
While this isn’t exclusive to Belo Horizonte, it’s worth mentioning. A common tactic involves one person distracting a tourist while another pickpockets them. This could be through an ‘accidental’ spill on your clothes, a street performance, or someone seemingly in distress. Always be aware of your belongings, especially in crowded places.
If you’re looking to rent an apartment or a house for your stay, be cautious of online scams. Some listings might be fake, with scammers taking deposits for non-existent properties. Always verify the legitimacy of a listing, perhaps by checking reviews or using trusted rental platforms.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Camila is a true adventurer, with a love for hiking, exploration, and also the finer, more luxurious things in life. A tacos al pastor enthusiast, and lover of well-thought-out lodgings, hotels, and the Mediterranean Ocean, she has a passion for exploring the uncovered nooks and crannies of this beautiful blue earth – armed with her orange carry-on backpack. You’ll find Camila writing in detail about all things South America here on WHTC. Anything you need to know from hiking the Inca trail to digital nomad-ing around Latin America to uncovering the great, unknown spots in Brazil (and more) – Camila is here to help carve the path and make traveling easier for all.