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Travel Insurance Claims - True Stories Just some of the weird and wonderful things that happen to World Nomads travellers while on the road

True Travel Tales - Pay Up or Get Knifed in Rio

BRAZIL | Thursday, 21 April 2011 | Views [5268] | Comments [1]

What happened? Tell us your tale.

I almost had to pay up for not being cautious enough. Coming from Buenos Aires, and having lived in Mozambique, and travelled solo non-stop for the past 3 years I am always careful and alert. But the sunrise in Copacabana (Rio de Janeiro) after partying all night, and seeing people going for a morning jog, fooled me into a fake sense of security.

I was with an American friend and instead of heading back to the hostel; we sat by the water on the beach. Copacabana beach is wide as! At that point it was about 100 meters from the road where the sand began to the water.

The beach was all but crowded, few people jogged by. 2 men, in their 20ies, casually asked for the time as they were jogging by, - MISTAKE NUMBER 2 (mistake number 1 was 2 gringo-looking people going to the beach in Copacabana at 6 am) instead of realizing what was going to happen (which was pretty obvious) I took out my crappy beat up cell phone and told them the time (I’m still angry at myself for falling into the trap like that). I looked down to put my cell phone back in my handbag and as I looked back up again both men were sitting in front of us. 

I sensed something was not right but as it was the first time I was getting mugged I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  They where blabbing something to us in a threatening tone (I later came to realize they were trying to speak English and where saying something like “gimme money, gimme cell phone, gimme camera, gimme everything”). By this time was certain we were getting mugged, but I’m still not sure why I played dumb, and while I asked “What? What?” I got on my knees thinking ‘if I run for it I’m never going to make it’. Apparently my getting on my knees was something totally unexpected for them, and they lost it. The one closest to me got out a knife, and threatened me, “knife knife” while he stabbed the air in front of me. SH*T! I was so scared! And so angry with myself.

I couldn’t play dumb anymore without risking our lives. I knew we weren’t going to get killed in public, and I knew they didn't have a gun or else they would have shown it to us as it's a lot more menacing than a knife, but we might have ended with a couple of stabs. Plus I wasn’t sure how much my friend was understanding of the whole situation. That, together with making it to the road safe, where my main concerns.

“Ohhhh!!! Knife!!!” I exclaimed loudly trying to sound like I was just realizing what was going on “Money, yes. Cell phone, yes. Here, here” And that is where I made a mental note to thank my sister and get her presents (yes, stupid thing to go through my head at that precise moment).

It was now or never. I pretended to rummage through my purse and get my wallet, instead I got a good grip on my sister’s pepper spray, placed the finger where it should go, and as the guy closest to me reached out for the ‘money’ I was about to hand to him, I sprayed him full on the face.

Things were a rush from then on, the 1st guy was thrown backwards in surprise with his face full of the brown sticky liquid from the pepper spray, I emptied the remaining contents on the 2nd guy as he was trying to get up while understanding what was going on, and at the same time I started screaming to my friend “RUN, RUN, RUN!” and we ran like hell, I had never run so fast on sand in my life.

And the thieves ran as well, in the other direction, blinded, trying to pretend nothing had happened, washing their faces occasionally. What waited if they got caught was way worse than bearing the pain from the pepper spray.

Of course, no cops around, and my nose and mouth started hurting, as I must have touched my face with the hand sprayed them with.

What was the outcome of the event?

An end full of adrenalin, and my friend hugging me telling me I was f**king crazy.

We were both safe and unharmed with all our belongings, which after all turned to be 10 Brazilian Reais on his end and about 80 on mine plus a beat up cell phone. And my credit cards. Hardly worth the risk when I come to think of it.

What advice would you give to other travellers to avoid or survive the situation?

I DON’T recommend anyone doing this, I did something stupid and I solved it instinctively and because I was lucky to have remembered to take the pepper spray. I never imagined I would react like this, although I guess that helped me even more, because the thieves were caught totally off-guard.

Trying to keep your head clear is very important.

After that, I don't go around with my credit cards or more money than I need. I still keep the battered old cell phone.

I don't take pepper spray with me anymore unless I will be walking on my own at night (which I tend to do a lot as Buenos Aires at night is beautiful).

Just wanted to share my scary travel story. I guess that was the scariest thing that ever happened to me whilst traveling.

Travel Safety Advice From World Nomads

The biggest question you need to ask when being confronted by someone who wants your possessions or cash is this.

"How much is my well being actually worth?"

If you have any sense of self worth, you'll probably place it at a thousand times what you have in your pockets. So it really is a no brainer. Don't act dumb, or pretend you don't understand. You are just staving off the inevitable. You are in the situation, so just comply. A couple of hundred dollars is not worth debilitating physical injury, or even worse, death. You don't know who you are dealing with or what they are capable of. Putting up a fight will only enrage your assailant further.

We are not encouraging you to be lily-livered, or be weak - being a person who can stand ground is a massive part of adventure travel. But you have to have your wits about you. If you are being robbed, you are being robbed. It's as simple as that. If you fight back, chances are you'll find yourself with a fat lip, a cut head, or a stabbed back. Which, if you need to go to hospital, will cost you even MORE. (Of course, if you have travel insurance, that may ease your financial woes if it comes to that)

The best thing you can do, like you say, is minimize what can be taken off you if the situation arises. If you take only what you need for the day, you'll lose marginally less than if you are unwise about your funds.

Important Travel Insurance Information

World Nomads travel insurance policies (as with most travel insurance policies) would require you, in the event you are injured while travelling, to please:

•contact your emergency assistance team as soon as possible

•attend the nearest medical facility as soon as possible and/or;

If you are robbed while you are travelling, you will need to provide:

•an official report (police) confirming the incident took place

•proof of ownership of the items that have been lost or stolen (receipts of purchase, boxes, instruction manuals).

If you are unsure that the documents you have are enough to support you claim, please contact your emergency assistance team or insurer emergency assistance team for further advice.

Please note that how you were looking after your items at the time of an incident occurring is also considered by any claims team.

Related Articles:

How to Travel Safely Around Brazil

Staying Safe in Rio

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Tags: brasil, brazil, buenos aires, knifed, rio de janeiro, robbery, scammed, south america, travel tales, true travel



Warning to other travellers to Brazil - don't ever try what this guy did - I live here & children dressed in school uniforms mug people who resist & get shot - yes, by school children. One guy refusing to give camera, another not giving about U$10 - it's not worth it, Crack and worse are in Brazil and NEVER, EVER resist, just give the cash. Most Brazilians carry at least R$30 in their pockets for muggers - yep, they prepare mugger money before leaving home. Beware of Copcabana which is where all foreigners go and there are more gun/knife/beatings there than anywhere in the South of Rio. Prepare R$30 in your pockets as "mugger money" and give it up, period.
I've had friends car-jacked, shot at and other people killed because they hesitated to give over watch or something.
Hope this helps.

  Jenna Sep 24, 2011 8:50 PM

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