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I’ve recently begun to follow some new blogs written by other people living here in Brazil, in Sao Paulo specifically. Today, I read a post on the bornagainbrazilian blog, one in a series about how to stay safe in Sao Paulo.

It was an excellent post, for several reasons. First and foremost, it verified that I have not become paranoid. The danger here is real. When Woody visited, we didn’t go out much at night, and we avoided places in town we had hoped to visit. My concern was that we would be two obvious foreigners wandering downtown…with huge targets painted on our backs.

During her visit, Woody carried only her iPhone for a camera, leaving her nice new SLR camera in our apartment on all but one jaunt. Camera means tourist, and nice camera means money.

The blog author lists several things to do to stay safe from criminals here. Especially as the dollar gains value against the real, currently R$2.41 and rising, foreigners are likely to be increasingly targeted as conveyors of large sums.

In her blog, she suggests ways to avoid being a victim…don’t eat out past 10 p.m. (as Brazilians do), so that you aren’t locked into a restaurant and robbed; don’t eat in restaurants on deserted side streets, where escape is quick and police will take a while to arrive; don’t wear bling (despite the fact that Brazilian women wear lots of bling, but a foreigner should not); and don’t flash your electronics (phones, computers, GPS).

Given that the majority of street crime is committed by young men from age 15 to 23, it’s best to assume that they need money for drugs, and they don’t care how they get it. The author echoes the U.S. Consulate guidelines for visitors to Brazil: if you are accosted, give up everything without a fight. Don’t look them in the eye, and had over everything you have. Your life isn’t worth anything to these guys, so don’t give them any reason to end it.

Drug users smoke crack in the part of Sao Paulo's Luz neighborhood known as Crackland
(Fernando Donasci /Reuters)

That’s the terrifying reality here now. A year ago, there were few shootings. We were told that the thieves had no intention of hurting us; they just want what we have. Now, they are so twitchy and violent that you can’t assume they’ll simply walk away, leaving your poorer but unharmed. The key to staying alive is: Keep your eyes down, tell them you’ll give them everything, move slowly as you hand over your belongings, and don’t move when they run or ride away. The terrifying reality.

I don’t see the situation improving significantly in the next year. In fact, I’m sure robberies will increase and intensify as all the foreigners come here for World Cup. Again, reality.

Eat at home, get your money from a secure bank and not an ATM, wear no jewelry you aren’t willing to lose, carry a minimum of R$200 cash on yourself at all times so as not to disappoint the thieves, and be an acquiescent victim.

That’s how you stay alive in Sao Paulo. So, who’s coming for the World Cup?