How to stay safe in Joao Pessoa

How to stay safe in Joao Pessoa
During the evening you can walk along the coast of Cabo Branco safely, but avoid dark places and make sure there are people around you. If you need to go home, get a taxi.
Although Joao Pessoa maybe considered a safe place to visit, especially in the coast bit, even in the most wealthy places (including Cabo Branco, Manaira, Tambau, Altiplano Cabo Branco, Aeroclube, Bessa, Intermares, Jardim Luna) you should not carry ostensively expensive watches, camcorders, iPods/iPads, fancy mobiles, etc because you could get robbed even during day time. The Brazilian government advises tourists and locals not to resist, to avoid violence.

If you go by feet even in a short distance off the coast (to the centre) it's very dangerous, especially if there is no one else in the road.

Tourists should avoid using the bus. It's not safe because it's the favourite transport to thugs, muggers and thieves and they consider tourists "easy" targets and can easily recognise someone from abroad. Many buses are robbed every month in Joao Pessoa. Usually the bad guy enters the bus like anyone else and when nobody expects, he announces the assault. The robber go one by one collecting their belongings and them leaves the bus. When the police arrives it's even more dangerous because passangers can become hostages so the mugger can leave the bus without being caught.

Don't walk around with lots of money in your pocket. Cash machines or ATMs are everywhere (prefer the ones inside shopping centres) and credit/debit cards are widely accepted. But don't walk around without any money: you may need something to give to the bad guys in case you are mugged. Not having money to give a mugger can be dangerous as they may get angry and resort to violence. An excellent idea is to buy a small frontal unisex pouch locally called a "capanga" (which literally means "bodyguard"), normally used to carry your wallet, checks, money and car keys.

If you hire/rent a car, park it in the coast. Avoid parking off the coast area and don't leave anything in the car, including the front part of your stereo. Carry it with you if you can or at least hide it inside the glove compartment. Also, before parking your car, always check to see if there is any unusual behavior (maybe in a motorbike staring at you or changing his way unexpectedly to follow you or hiding close to the dustbin/dumpster). If there is, go somewhere else and come back again in a few minutes so you can make sure it's safer.

Do not go to the Shopping Manaira by foot. The safest way is by taxi so you can go straight to the main gate. It's only safe to go by car during day time and if there is no queuing at the car park entrance. If you must go by car, go through the car park entry in front of Pague Menos Chemist/Pharmacy/Drugstore (closest entry to Retao de Manaira). In March/April 2011 muggers attacked a group of cars in a queue to the Shopping Manaira's car park and stole everything they had in the car (purses, wallets, jewels, watches, money). They also asked some of the victim's to leave and got their cars. In 2010, a male from Campina Grande, whilst leaving the car park in late night (around 2:00 am) with his friends was shot by muggers. One of his friends took control of the car and drove up to the hospital, but he didn't resist and died in the hospital.

Should you find yourself being mugged, the normal advice applies:

Don't resist or do anything to aggravate the muggers. Try not to stare in their faces as they might think you are memorising their appearance. Eyes to the ground is probably your best bet. Let them take anything they want (keep your arms limp). Afterwards, leave the scene quickly but calmly (don't run in panic screaming for the police). If possible, and not more dangerous, don't leave in the same direction that the muggers went.
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