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mvan1

Visiting Brazil - are we crazy? Brazil has changed!

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I just received an e-mail from the American Citizens Services Office U.S. Consulate in Brazil - State Department. 

I have never had dealings with that agency.  The e-mail arrived in my mail box unsolicited. 

I read through the e-mail.  The e-mail discusses the rampant crime throughout Brazil and what Americans should do if they become a target of a criminal. 

The e-mail discusses certain places to avoid which I never thought to be dangerous.  For example, ordinary places in Sao Paulo and Rio I visit frequently are on the list to avoid. 

The e-mail also discusses robberies between the airport and town during heavy traffic when cars are not moving fast.  Robbers jump out of their car and point a gun at a traveler and demand money and property.  You name it, the criminals have already thought of it.  

One thing stressed in the e-mail is to not resist if you become a victim of a robbery.  

I copied phone numbers from the e-mail in case anyone might need to contact the police.  

The phone number for most Americans or English speaking tourists is -  

Military Police of São Paulo (Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo)

190 (Portuguese) or 911 (English)

Whoever sent the e-mail appears to know that I spend a lot of time in Sao Paulo considering that much of the e-mail discusses Sao Paulo but other areas are also discussed as being crime ridden, like Rio de Janeiro.   I assume my information came from the frequent arrivals I make back to the U.S. when we must answer which city and country we visited and from which city we are arriving back to the U.S. 

When I think of how often I do the very things warned against in the e-mail, I think I must be lucky or have a screw loose to continue to visit Brazil as often as I do.  Considering that the notice came from the U.S. State Department, I guess I have some heavy-duty decisions to make or ignore.  

If anyone is interested in reading the e-mail I received, most of it is shown below with my identifying address removed,  I suspect other frequent travelers to Brazil received a similar e-mail - - the e-mail arrived today:

Brazil Travel Advisory: Level 2: Exercise increased caution, February 6, 2019

 
 
Inbox
x
 
STEP Notifications <STEP-Notifications@state.gov> 
   
Exercise increased caution in Brazil due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:
 
  • Any areas within 150 km of Brazil's land borders with Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Paraguay due to crime. (Note: This does not apply to the Foz do Iguacu National Park or Pantanal National Park.)
  • Do not use public buses in and around Recife due to crime (see additional information below).
  • Informal housing developments (commonly referred to in Brazil as favelas, vilas, communidades, and/or conglomerados), at any time of day due to crime (see additional information below).
  • Brasilia's administrative regions (commonly known as "satellite cities") of Ceilandia, Santa Maria, Sao Sebastiao, and Paranoa during non-daylight hours due to crime (see additional information below).
  • Recife's Pina Beach from Dona Benvinda de Farias Street to the Brasilia Teimosa neighborhood after dark due to crime (see additional information below).
Violent crime, such as murder, armed robbery, and carjacking, is common in urban areas, day and night. Gang activity and organized crime is widespread. Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Brazil:
 
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially when traveling to tourist locations and in crowded public venues.
  • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
  • Use caution when walking or driving at night.
  • Avoid walking on beaches after dark.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Avoid using an ATM in low-light or remote locations. Never let someone "shoulder surf" or assist you. Be aware that criminals often target ATMs and businesses in the early morning hours. If you use an ATM, select those located inside of secure facilities, such as an airport, hospital, bank, or government building.
  • Use caution at, or going to, major transportation centers or on public transportation, especially at night. Crime statistics indicate that passengers face an elevated risk of robbery or assault using public, municipal bus transportation throughout Brazil. Consider avoiding the use of public, municipal buses, at any time of day, and especially at night.
  • Use increased caution when hiking in isolated areas, and in particular around the city of Rio de Janeiro's Corcovado Mountain trails. Multiple violent robberies have occurred on the hiking trails leading to and from Cristo Redentor on Corcovado Mountain, which are not regularly patrolled by Brazilian law enforcement.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Brazil.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler's Checklist.
International Borders

U.S. government personnel are not permitted to travel to areas within 150 km of the international land borders with Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Paraguay without advance approval from security officials due to crime. Travel to the Foz do Iguacu National Park and Pantanal National Park is permitted.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Public Transportation

Crime statistics and trends indicate that persons face an elevated risk of robbery or assault using public bus systems throughout Brazil. Consider avoiding the use of public, municipal buses in Brazil at any time of day, and especially at night. The U.S. Government recommends against personnel using public, municipal buses in all parts of Brazil, and prohibits personnel from using public buses in and around Recife.

Informal Housing Developments (commonly known as "Favelas")

Do not travel to informal housing developments (commonly referred to in Brazil as favelas, vilas, communidades, and/or conglomerados), even on a guided tour. Neither the tour companies nor the police can guarantee your safety when entering these communities. Even in these communities that the police or local governments deem safe, the situation can change quickly and without notice. In addition, exercise caution in areas surrounding these communities, as occasionally, inter-gang fighting and confrontations with police move beyond the confines of these communities. Except under limited circumstances and with advance approval, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to enter any informal housing developments in Brazil. Read the Safety and Security Section on the country information page for further information regarding favelas.

Visit our website for Travel High-Risk Areas.

Brasilia's Administrative Regions (formerly known as "Satellite Cities")

Without advance approval from security officials, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to travel to Brasilia's Administrative Regions of Ceilandia, Santa Maria, Sao Sebastiao, and Paranoa between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. (non-daylight hours) due to crime.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Recife's Pina Beach

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from walking after dark on Pina Beach, located in the northern part of Boa Viagem, due to crime. This restriction covers the sandy areas of Pina Beach starting at Dona Benvinda de Farias Street and ending at Brasilia Teimosa neighborhood.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Last Update: Reissued after periodic review with updates to information about U.S. government restrictions on personnel and Rio de Janeiro's Corcovado Mountain trails.

Visitors should inform the American Citizen Services Office of the U.S. Consulate if they encounter problems while traveling in São Paulo, including detainment/arrest by the police.

Crime Victim Assistance

National Emergency Services

Tel

Military Police of São Paulo (Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo)

190 (Portuguese) or 911 (English)

Fire Service (Corpo de Bombeiros)

193

National Civil Police (Polícia Civil)

197

Medical Emergency (Ambulância)

192

Federal Police (Polícia Federal)

(11) 3538 5000

Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo)

(21) 2104 6119

 

Edited by mvan1

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I just received the same or similar email. Mine is from the STEP program of the US Department of State, which I signed up for in every country I visit semi-regularly a few years ago. Perhaps you did too, but forgot?

I have received STEP advisory warnings and notices about Brazil before, but they are usually due to a military issue or political demonstration that US citizens need to avoid. This is the most extreme and detailed one I’ve ever gotten in 10 years. It was mostly a stern and specific warning about crime and violence in very specified areas of Brazil.

 

 

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1 hour ago, SolaceSoul said:

I just received the same or similar email. Mine is from the STEP program of the US Department of State, which I signed up for in every country I visit semi-regularly a few years ago. Perhaps you did too, but forgot?

 

I think you are correct about the message I received being related to the State Department STEP program.  Or, it was an offshoot of that program.  

I looked on the STEP site and much of the same information I received in my e-mail is in their site notice. 

Perhaps the State Department wants to be sure that travelers to Brazil are aware of the increased dangers. 

Like you, I also noticed that the prior year STEP notices did not go into much detail as did the current notice.  

No doubt, things in Brazil are not like they used to be.

I will probably continue to travel to Brazil as I have done going on sixteen years with many trips during different parts of each year and to different Brazilian cities.  

Lately, walking around in Sao Paulo and in Rio, I noticed a major difference in many garotos.  Many appear to be on some sort of drug and many appear to be "street people."   Often I smell marijuana coming from a crowd of garotos.  I have also seen some garotos using cocaine.  These things likely are a major cause of the increase in street crime.  

Furthermore, I noticed more aggressive beggars who follow and harangue until they get money or something of value from whom they are harassing.  

I am a bit puzzled about the warnings to avoid public transportation.  I have used Brazilian public transportation many times and have gone to various saunas over many years via metro and/or bus and never had a problem.  Apparently, some visitors to Brazil had problems if there is a notification advising visitors to avoid public transportation.   

Walking the short distance to and from Club 117 in Rio to the metro is now apparently a "no no"  as is the longer walk to Lagoa from the metro in Sao Paulo.  I never had a problem walking those distances but I can see how one could be a victim between the sauna and the metro.  

I am not clear of the danger in taking a metro except for walking to the metro.  I can understand the danger in the use of a bus.  A mugger could enter a bus and rob people then exit without a problem. 

The danger between the two (metro vs bus) is not explained in the notice.  The warning merely says to avoid public transportation.  Bus or Metro = public transportation.  

With Bolsonaro now in charge, maybe he can reduce the increase in crime in Brazil.  Now, wouldn't that be nice if he did that? 

Edited by mvan1

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1 hour ago, TotallyOz said:

In this data (2016) USA is above Brazil in intentional homicides.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

The warning I presented, that I received from the State Department, did not center its discussion on intentional homicides.  

The warnings were of recent - 2018 - robberies, muggings, attacks and of course, some homicides -  - - - - in Brazil.  

The State Department alert I received confirmed for visitors to Brazil that violence, robberies and worse have increased over the past few years and that incidents are increasing.  The notice advised visitors to Brazil to act accordingly by following the recommendations listed on the warning.  

Those who travel to Brazil once a year or less would not be able to compare the changes that occur during the year particularly if they are traveling for a specific event.  A short visit for an event is not the same as a stay of several weeks each visit.  

I travel to Brazil eight or nine times each year and started visiting Brazil in 2003.  I can see for my own eyes that there is more danger on the streets now and elsewhere in Brazil. 

The police in Brazil would have no reason to fabricate reported crimes.  That could harm tourism. 

Furthermore, the inhabitants and tourists who get mugged in Brazil would have no reason to fabricate the incidents.  

I don't think anyone here can logically dispute actual statistics of Brazilian police agencies concerning reported crimes in Brazil.  

I enjoy Brazil a lot.  I wish the reports were false, but they are not.  

As a further form of evidence, the new president of Brazil - Bolsonaro - campaigned on going after street crime and that campaign promise is credited for a major element of his success in winning the election. 

Clearly, street crime spills over to affect tourists.  

 

Edited by mvan1

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6 hours ago, BenjaminNicholas said:

To me, Rio is no more or less safe than it's always been

I use my head and I've always been fine.  I don't put much stock into US Consulate messages.  They fear-monger and make it easier for networks like Fox News to keep The Kettles in their tiny, airless bubble.  A part of world travel is learning to be a bit intrepid.

That said, I'll be back in Rio in March for my 13th Carnaval.  I can't wait :)

I agree with almost everything you said — especially the part about tubes and Fox News.

However, to be fair, if one is only going to Rio during Carnaval every year, that is a time of the year like no other (except Reveillon), where the police presence is all over the streets, especially in the well-traveled tourist areas. Gauging the safety of Rio in totality by comparing annual visits to Carnaval misses the point of OP’s post. 

Also, Brazil is much more than just Rio. The STEP warning I received was unusually thorough and detailed about particular areas in the country, including but not limited to Rio.

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5 hours ago, mvan1 said:

I think you are correct about the message I received being related to the State Department STEP program.  Or, it was an offshoot of that program.  

I looked on the STEP site and much of the same information I received in my e-mail is in their site notice. 

Perhaps the State Department wants to be sure that travelers to Brazil are aware of the increased dangers. 

Like you, I also noticed that the prior year STEP notices did not go into much detail as did the current notice.  

No doubt, things in Brazil are not like they used to be.

I will probably continue to travel to Brazil as I have done going on sixteen years with many trips during different parts of each year and to different Brazilian cities.  

Lately, walking around in Sao Paulo and in Rio, I noticed a major difference in many garotos.  Many appear to be on some sort of drug and many appear to be "street people."   Often I smell marijuana coming from a crowd of garotos.  I have also seen some garotos using cocaine.  These things likely are a major cause of the increase in street crime.  

Furthermore, I noticed more aggressive beggars who follow and harangue until they get money or something of value from whom they are harassing.  

I am a bit puzzled about the warnings to avoid public transportation.  I have used Brazilian public transportation many times and have gone to various saunas over many years via metro and/or bus and never had a problem.  Apparently, some visitors to Brazil had problems if there is a notification advising visitors to avoid public transportation.   

Walking the short distance to and from Club 117 in Rio to the metro is now apparently a "no no"  as is the longer walk to Lagoa from the metro in Sao Paulo.  I never had a problem walking those distances but I can see how one could be a victim between the sauna and the metro.  

I am not clear of the danger in taking a metro except for walking to the metro.  I can understand the danger in the use of a bus.  A mugger could enter a bus and rob people then exit without a problem. 

The danger between the two (metro vs bus) is not explained in the notice.  The warning merely says to avoid public transportation.  Bus or Metro = public transportation.  

With Bolsonaro now in charge, maybe he can reduce the increase in crime in Brazil.  Now, wouldn't that be nice if he did that? 

The STEP notification I received did not discuss Metro subways at all. Although it used “public transportation” as a general heading, the main body of the warning focused on public buses in Brazil, and especially singled out the dangers of buses in Recife.

Public Transportation

Crime statistics and trends indicate that persons face an elevated risk of robbery or assault using public bus systems throughout Brazil. Consider avoiding the use of public, municipal buses in Brazil at any time of day, and especially at night. The U.S. Government recommends against personnel using public, municipal buses in all parts of Brazil, and prohibits personnel from using public buses in and around Recife.

It also specifically warned of walking or hiking the mountainous trail of Corcovado (Christ statue) — which just recently had a very high-profile crime / mass robbery incident involving large groups of international tourists. 

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4 hours ago, TotallyOz said:

I agree with Ben. I have always been on guard when I travel. I always get taxis and never use public transportation in Brazil. I felt safer that way.  On one of my first visits in 2002, there was crime all over and I remember one guy coming to my hotel with blood on his shirt from a shooting that took place on his bus to get to me. He was not even affected by it and just asked to clean up. 

I have been in Thailand with military coups and in Saudia Arabia when they encouraged people to kill Westerns. I always take precautions. Perhaps it is my NYC in the late 80's and early 90's that made me be more cautious or leery but I always keep my guard up. I never felt unsafe or in danger.  I have felt watched before but I think it was because I am so handsome and not because I am obviously American or a tourist (although it could be the latter). 

Have fun at Carnival Ben.  It is my favorite time of the year to be there.

I was very recently living and working in Rio and São Paulo for 3 months last year. I have been going to 5 major cities in Brazil semi-regularly for the past decade. During my last stay, every person that I knew well in Brazil — locals, expats, clients, employees, store owners, waitresses, garotos. sauna employees, gogo boys, escorts — almost to a person warned me about exercising extreme caution due to recent marked increased crime and violence. Many of these people are those whose opinions I value and trust there, and some of them (especially the garotos) are not exactly delicate flowers who are sheltered in the tony upscale neighborhoods of Leblon or Ipanema. So, caution should not exactly be thrown to the wind.

The STEP notifications seems to be culled from recent events and reports. Corcovado trails, Recife public buses. ATM machines, favela areas and favela-like comunidades, and border areas are all singled out in the notice. 

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14 hours ago, mvan1 said:

I have never had dealings with that agency.  The e-mail arrived in my mail box unsolicited. 

Maybe is from all the time watching you in the Quiet Skies program, they got your back, lol

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Pro-rated to percentage of population, mass shootings in the US probably claim more victims than all the petty crimes in Brazil combined and yet we do not get any travel advisory from any other government about that.  If we include suicide among returning troops and drug overdose death, the US is probably the riskiest place to live or travel in and yet any of these do not warrant any warning at all.

 

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Guys shit can happen everywhere. But living here since the beginning of the last year, I can tell you that lately things are getting worse...I have never seen so much news about crime here in Rio during the years. 

"To me, Rio is no more or less safe than it's always been

I use my head and I've always been fine.  I don't put much stock into US Consulate messages.  They fear-monger and make it easier for networks like Fox News to keep The Kettles in their tiny, airless bubble.  A part of world travel is learning to be a bit intrepid.

That said, I'll be back in Rio in March for my 13thCarnaval.  I can't wait :)"

I am glad that for you Rio hasn't changed, but forgive me if I tell you that this is a totally wrong feeling that must not be transmitted to other readers, and new users potentially interested to visit this magnificent city, so that if they get shot cause they do a mistake or cause of misfortune, they won't say it's the forum's fault. 

Yesterday there was huge shooting in Avenida Brasil between the police and drug dealers... 5 people injured. To be clear it is the road that connects Galeão international airport to the Zona Sul. It was crazy, there were people standing down keeping the heads down inside buses, behind cars... Check the video in there. 

https://g1.globo.com/rj/rio-de-janeiro/noticia/2019/02/06/imagens-mostram-pessoas-se-protegendo-de-tiroteio-na-avenida-brasil.ghtml

The day before in Tijuca (if i remember) there was another shooting following a robbery... One of the thieves pretended to be dead, and as soon as the police approached him to see if he was dead, he shot a policeman right in the head. 

The day before 3 people died in various robberies, a couple died and the thieves run away with nothing. They've also injured their infant child. 

If you know how to stay in a 3rd world huge city like this one, probably nothing will happen to you. Probably not certainly. You must accept the implied risks. 

But as I said, shit can happen, and it looks like that there's a lot more shit around here. It cannot compare to other cities right now. There are things occurring here which can only compare to countries where there's war. 

That does not mean that I am leaving Rio :D

PS: Be VEERY CARFUL DURING THE CARNAVAL. 

During the 2 months before the Carnival in Rio last year there was a surge of crime which ended up with so many problems during the festival that the government was forced to bring in the army to join the police for the following months 

Edited by likeohmygod

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8 hours ago, SolaceSoul said:

I agree with almost everything you said — especially the part about tubes and Fox News.

However, to be fair, if one is only going to Rio during Carnaval every year, that is a time of the year like no other (except Reveillon), where the police presence is all over the streets, especially in the well-traveled tourist areas. Gauging the safety of Rio in totality by comparing annual visits to Carnaval misses the point of OP’s post. 

Also, Brazil is much more than just Rio. The STEP warning I received was unusually thorough and detailed about particular areas in the country, including but not limited to Rio.

I just mentioned the Rio gig as it was a yearly thing and really more about my love of the event/city/people/culture-  Otherwise, I visit Brazil, several parts, multiple times a year.

My main point was not buying into fear, using one's head as an experienced traveler and if it feels wrong, turn around and leave immediately.  I'm not encouraging people to take insane risks, but frankly, most Americans sit on their couch and grandstand about these kinds of things, never having actually traveled a day in their lives.

If I let the media or government tell me where to go based on red-banner warnings, I'd never have seen some incredible places :)

Edited by BenjaminNicholas

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3 hours ago, trencherman said:

Pro-rated to percentage of population, mass shootings in the US probably claim more victims than all the petty crimes in Brazil combined and yet we do not get any travel advisory from any other government about that.  If we include suicide among returning troops and drug overdose death, the US is probably the riskiest place to live or travel in and yet any of these do not warrant any warning at all.

 

FYI, several countries have recently placed travel warnings to its citizens regarding the USA. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/travel/vacationing-in-the-united-states-be-warned-some-countries-say.amp.html

Edited by SolaceSoul

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5 hours ago, floridarob said:

Maybe is from all the time watching you in the Quiet Skies program, they got your back, lol

Funny - you never know - 

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Bottom line, safe or not, you hit what I call the shit lottery.  Wherein I've traveled all over the world- sometimes in odd, unsafe nooks and crannies and have never gotten robbed or been in the middle of something life threatening- you unfortunately got picked to become a statistic.

And bottom line, that's just the strange way life works.  It could have as easily happened in Chicago or New Orleans, two US cities known for their violence issues.

Side note: I also realize that at nearly 6'4" and 210 lbs, I'm the guy walking down the street that most people aren't going to choose to fuck with.

 

 

Edited by BenjaminNicholas

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4 hours ago, BenjaminNicholas said:

snip - 

It could have as easily happened in Chicago or New Orleans, two US cities known for their violence issues.

 

What occurred to me in Brazil could not have “easily happened in Chicago or New Orleans, two US cities known for their violence issues” as you wrote. 

Unlike Chicago and New Orleans, in Brazil, there is extreme high unemployment and a major shortage of police.  

High unemployment often puts more people on the street with idle time and little to do.  Furthermore, those unemployed people have little or no other means to purchase food, or housing and other necessities of life.  

There is an old proverb that touches on this subject - 

“An idle mind is the devil's workshop” - Meaning - - People who have nothing worthwhile to think about will usually think of something bad to do.”

Moreover, unlike Chicago and New Orleans, in Brazil, there is open use of drugs on the streets, even in “good areas” and there is an increase in the quantity of “street people” who have nothing to lose by opportunistic attacks against other citizens and tourists.       

As I wrote above, there is an extreme shortage of police in Brazil’s large cities.  

In view of the foregoing facts, the odds of becoming a victim of violence are far greater in Brazil than in any of any other country I visited.

Like you, I have traveled to many parts of the world, many times.  

My incident late last year was the first time I ever encountered any form of violence while traveling.  Clearly, given the changed economy, high unemployment and lack of sufficient quantity of police, Brazil is not what is used to be.  

As I wrote, I will continue visiting Brazil.  However, I will exercise more caution than I ever did over more than fifteen years and many trips to Brazil.  

New travelers to Brazil should be extra careful while there and follow the rules that are written in this forum.  Even then, you could still get mugged or worse.

Caution, caution, and more caution! 

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Brazil is a violent country, no doubt about it. We have some of the most violent cities in the world, by murder rate per capita. But Rio is far from being the the most violent and São Paulo is the safest (the single state capital with murder rates below the epidemic level set by UN/WHO) and Brazil is far safer now then it was 10-15 years ago. Sure, we had increased crime in the last 2-3 years as result of the economic crisis, but it’s getting better, and  some cities are  aproching the lowest crime rates we had in all times.

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On 2/7/2019 at 8:29 AM, BenjaminNicholas said:

My main point was not buying into fear, using one's head as an experienced traveler and if it feels wrong, turn around and leave immediately.  :)

I had just exited an Uber car.  I was walking to a restaurant about 100 feet from where I exited the Uber.  The two guys came out of a doorway.  It was 8:30 at night.   

Will you be so kind as to tell me how you would apply your suggestion of "using one's head as an experienced traveler and if it feels wrong, turn around and leave immediately"?  

Given the facts and circumstances, your suggestion is pretty silly and impractical.    

Does it make you feel good to play troll?

Norwegian Troll, Statue, Holiday

Edited by mvan1

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