Observations on City Life in Brazil, by P.R.

I recently vacationed in Brazil. Whenever I’m abroad, I always keep my eyes out for things that may be of interest to you fellow preppers. Brazil presented a lot of opportunities for this.  I do like theoretical discussions, but I really like to see how people in the real world cope with problems and issues that we may have in the future.  Looking at these real world examples can greatly help out own plans and preparedness.

Although a fairly developed country, Brazil does have a larger economic disparity than the US, especially in the larger cities like Rio de Janiero and São Paulo. There are a lot of homeless folks visible in the larger cities, especially compared to the larger places that I’ve lived In the US, such as Chicago. There are areas that are basically shanty towns, rife with the poor, crime, and where the drug dealers operate out of.

Because of high unemployment rates, many of the Brazilians have turned into finding resourceful ways to make money. I spotted very few beggars, but instead saw many people selling things at stoplights (water, candy, or towels – mostly buying wholesale and selling retail) or selling objects from blankets near high traffic areas such as outdoor markets, tourist attractions, or beaches. Others turned to running parking schemes in crowded areas, such as monuments or beaches, where they would manipulate parking spaces on the city streets and charge you for making the space to park.


Improvised Home Security

Near areas of high crime or where lots of homeless people gather, homeowners have taken extensive precautions. This often includes some sort of a wall or tall fence around the perimeter of the property. These walls or fences are often approximately six to ten feet tall and topped with razor wire, motion sensors, electric fencing, nails, or broken glass cemented to the top.  In addition to this, some residences have grates or security bars covering windows or patios on the ground floor and sometimes up to the second or third stories.  Looking at the prevalence and location of graffiti on residences and public structures, this is a necessary precaution for security.

Many of these walls include a security system with either a numeric code pad, a wireless camera doorbell, or a doorman for larger apartments.  It was usually supervised by the number of doormen for the apartments versus a coded keypad for entry.  Keypads were more numerous vs. the doormen in other cities that I visited.

For areas that were closer to sketchy areas or to the shanty towns, security was tighter.  Not only were there doormen, but also armed (rifle, knives, and pistol), bulletproof vest-wearing security operatives.  In Rio de Janiero, I was led to believe that there were three levels of police operating there, due to the high level of crime.  There were local police, state police, and a national force, due to large number of violent incidents.  Many citizens also turned in their firearms.

Water Issues

Water from the tap throughout Brazil is not purified. Most houses have one water filter in the house. This lack of purified tap water extends to restaurants too, with people needing to purchase bottled water at restaurants while out. There were only a few drinking fountains that I spotted, mostly at the airports.

Water issues are prevalent, especially in the smaller cities. Hot water isn’t always available, especially in the mornings. Cabo Frio, for example, is a vacation resort. When the population swells due to a holiday like Carnival or New Years, water from the tap is scarce and isn’t always available.  Possibly compounding this was a trucking strike earlier in the year, I’m not sure what type of shipments are were delayed, but that seems like a bad combination to me.  In order to counteract the periodic water shortages, some people have purchased additional reservoirs for water and place them on the top of their homes. Some people also choose to divert rainwater for gardening or other plants.


Traffic and parking situations were tight, especially in the big cities. In order to cope, many people took to scooters, motorcycles, or bikes, in addition to walking. The bikes would ride between the lanes of traffic, honking constantly.  Scooters and motorcycles were able to weave through the congested traffic at a much greater speed, leaving the busses and cars far behind. This gave them a lot more convenience and mobility.

Overall, it was really an eye-opening to travel to somewhere else where there was a little more social disorder and see how people coped, but kept on living their lives.


  1. I have seen many similar things when in Asia. Bars on the windows everywhere with some places having bars past the 15th floors. Having glass shards on top of walls were seen on older places. Newer places mostly have a barred fence with spikes on too. The spikes are more decorative than practical. Individual residences usually do not have security personnel while the apartment blocks have gate guards with key pad or key card entry. The water MUST be boiled in order to be drinkable. The front door to residences usually have heavy steel doors with only a peep hole. No windows on doors.

  2. Good stuff. It’s nice to hear from someone with their eyes open while about. Most of my soldiers couldn’t tell you this much after returning and immediately fell back into “the dream” bliss.

  3. Excellent observations of a somewhat declining society. Lots of issues to discuss, water , home security, creating income , etc. etc. Are these conditions coming our way, time will tell? Thanks P. R. for your insight.

  4. Our family stayed at a nice all-inclusive resort in Cabo a few years back. It’s all fun with the pool and the good food. It’s so easy to get lost in a carefree world. However it drives my wife crazy that I can’t fully relax in these places. When I notice that the workers get patted down when they arrive and leave from the resort shuttle bus it makes me a bit uneasy. Or the random gunshot from a mile away, or the two armed guards, one toting a shotgun, that hussle in the lobby and disappear rather quickly, or the feeling of vulnerability in a crowded street market when you realize that the some of vendors in different parts of the venue are communicating amongs themeselves about your “bottom line” price. On the other hand, my 72-year old, tiny mother-in-law visits a village in Guatemala, nearly every year on her own and she’s never had a problem. So due to this, my wife and I don’t quite agree on the “threat levels” when we travel.

  5. My experience on mission trips to a Nicaraguan orphanage was basically the same. Everyone that could afford any type of wall around their property had a wall or heavy duty fence. The water situation and the locals resistance to bacteria in the water was interesting. They routinely drank out of the tap while I was there without getting sick. If any of our mission group accidentally drank anything but bottled water it was instant GI issues and worse. I loved the people but as we all know the government there is very corrupt. Its been several years since I’ve been there. I’ve heard its not safe to go there now.

  6. Good article as usual from this site. We live in a small town in north/central Florida. The church we attend just had to spend $40K on security doors due to threats/crime in the area while an armed guard stands watch during worship service on Sunday. My point is there is no “safe space” anymore.

  7. P.R.,
    Having lived right on the border (within sight) of Mexico for 14 years and having traveled and visited there extensively and lived in a border town and having doctors and dentists in Mexico plus going to the pharmacia there. Life is different to say the least outside America, but most folks don’t realize its different in a Mexico sort of way on the US side of the border also. Yes you must secure your domicile and stuff because it will be ripped off. You need a high fence complete around your property. You need bars on windows and heavy solid metal doors to the outside. You can’t park vehicles on the street because they will be broken into or stolen or just vandalized. In Mexico, the police are not your protector, In fact you need to avoid them because they supplement their meager income in extortion. My wife and I would duck into the nearest door and fake shopping until the police were out of sight. Shopping at the markets it is not like you have experience in the US. Everything is negotiable and haggled. This is a way of life and if they perceive you are not enjoying the process you will pay more. Your going to be there for a while whether you like it or not if you want the purchase. The people are very resourceful and make money in very ingenious ways such as when you stop at a stop sign someone will appear out of nowhere and start washing your windshield and if you hesitate all of your windows will be and hold out their hand for payment with brash confrontation for services rendered. You become street smart fast, or eaten. Recently I read a book that naive America needs to read now because this world is coming fast whether we like it or not. These lessons had to be learned fast in Mexico the hard way. The book is called “Left of Bang”, by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley. Had I read this book earlier I and my wife wouldn’t have driven straight into a rolling automatic weapons gun battle between rival drug cartels on the city streets of a city I won’t mention here. The signs were there if one had the inkling.

  8. I forgot to mention about the city streets gun battle in Mexico by the drug cartels that we drove into. GUNS ARE ILLEGAL TO ALL IN MEXICO. Great big huge signs as you enter Mexico Guns are illegal in Mexico. Don’t those proposed gun bans by the democrats make you feel safe folks?

  9. My last two years before retirement as an airline pilot led me to overnights in Central and South America. Generally, I was saddened by the conditions of the general public. In one overnight, the federal prison was at the airport, and we drove by it on our way to the hotel, about 2 miles away. MS-13 and a rival gang ruled the airport prison according to the taxi driver. He said the guards were not allowed inside and only patrolled the perimeter of the prison. Our hotel was a “name brand” and was nice inside. The hotel was surrounded by a 10 ft x 2 ft thick wall with razor wire on top of that. There were guards greeting the taxi as we entered. Within the walls was a small soccer field. We were “advised” not to leave the safety of the walls, and I agreed with that assessment. I had the worst hot wings ever there.
    Another country, our 4-star hotel was downtown, not on the beach. The hotel was again, surrounded by chainlink fence with razor wire, and guards. The room was fine. There 2 restaurants, well staffed. Hamburger was ok. The Japanese restaurant was the best I’ve ever eaten at. The bill was 65,000 something, which equalled $29 US. My point is, the inflation was crazy. From my 15th floor window, I could see the mountains, and every building downtown was surrounded by 10 ft fences with razor wire. Every one of them. Even the car dealership below the window had 3 buildings within a fortress.
    Finally, I had a few trips into Bogata. We had 24 hour layovers right downtown. Nice city, people were friendly, but the atmosphere was tense. One layover there were 2-4 heavily armed military soldiers and/or police with K-9 on EVERY STREET CORNER downtown. I asked why, and I was told the Dictator in Venezuela had taken his political enemies into a public square and had them shot in front of hundreds of locals and tourists. This caused a mass exodus of the population into Bogata. Those refugees had no money, no food, no shelter, and were living in the parks and streets of Bogata. The military was brought in as a preventive measure anticipating a crime wave. The next week they were gone. Each layover in Bogata we stayed downtown, 5 star terrific hotel. Good food. The odd thing was, every time we entered the hotel, were wanded for weapons and sniffed for drugs (or bombs). Every time. My final flight we suspected we had cocaine being held in the cargo bay, based on package weight discrepancies. DEA met us in Dallas at 0615 am on a Sunday. We had cocaine on board and I decided not to fly to South America again. Part of the decision was having them coming on the plane with bomb sniffers … “a precaution” they said.

    Mexico City downtown layover. Again, a 5-star hotel. Christmas Day. The pilots (me and the other guy) ate at the hotel as most places were closed. At 9PM from my 15th-floor room, I could hear 9mm fire. Again at 0100, there was fully automatic fire 5.56 and I could see the guy in a car firing a burst at every intersection (celebrating). At 0300, fully automatic fire 7.62, I stayed in bed LOL.

    These areas are in dire trouble. Columbia is trying to clean up but is met by rebels and drug cartels left and right. Central America seems to be in deep trouble, and they are moving north towards the USA. Mexico is feeling the problems of drug cartels, and poor needy migrants and in 2017 the homicide rate was the highest ever, 39,000 I think I read. Russia is building a nuclear-capable bomber base in Venezuela and those bombers are capable of reaching the USA in 2 hours at supersonic speeds, or 5 hours and airline speed.

    Seeing all the businesses where we stayed in Central America had tall walls and razor wire on top of them was an eye-opener. That apparently is what it takes to control theft and robbery there, and they are heading our way.

    That was 2017-2018. I retired 104 days ago (but who’s counting). I miss the flying, but not the “S-Hole” places we went to.

  10. We are very trusting people here in the US for the most part. Our homes with no true security fences would make very attractive targets in many of the countries I’ve visited. Most Americans have a way of distancing themselves from the idea they’d ever really need such security. That is, until the day they see violence delivered by complete strangers in an up close and personal fashion.

  11. M-Ray I agree 100%. My wife and I traveled to Europe just 4 years ago and the areas now are “no man’s land”. I am glad we went when we did but never again.

    And I also will not go to States that limit my freedoms. Our once 50 State Union is down 10 States I will never spend one thin dime in any of them.

  12. One more thing about Brazil: the country has a large Christian population, and I have met many Christians from there. They are from large churches, and many classic Christian works have been translated by Brazilians into Portuguese. I hope to visit some day.

  13. Magg, The city of Rome was more like an armed camp than a peaceful city.
    We stayed at a nice hotel and yet at the main cross streets men with fully automatic rifles in uniforms were stationed at the corners.
    Almost all of the buildings had thick bars, not the small stuff in the US.

    The Muslim invasion of France, Spain and Germany has created huge upticks in rape, beatings, and thefts.

    London England has places that are controlled by Muslims.

    There are many places in the US I will not visit due to the rule of law not applying to illegals.

  14. it is false that you said about purified water, most of the Brazilian territory pure water, but drinking water for consumption is normally used water filter in the residence but rarely Brazilians buy gallons of water for consumption in the residence.

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