British Government Warns: Brazil’s Varig Airline Is on the Brink of Collapse

The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is warning the British population about Varig Brazilian Airline’s imminent risk of stopping its flights.

In the Brazilian section of Travel Advice by country of its website, the FCO informs that international and domestic flights by Varig were late or simply cancelled in the last few weeks.

The official word from the UK: "The Brazilian airline, Varig, is in serious financial difficulty.  Several flights, international and internal, have been cancelled or delayed in recent weeks. 

Varig is a private sector company, and the Brazilian government has said that it will not bail it out; there is therefore an imminent risk of collapse.  You should take this into account when booking air travel, and consider the alternative options."

The site has much more information about traveling to Brazil:

Travel by bus or tram within the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Salvador is not safe.  Avoid these methods of transport in those places.  In São Paulo buses are considered less dangerous in the daytime but should be avoided at night. 

Taxis or the metro are a safer option.  However, bus travel between and within other cities is relatively safe, although there have been incidents of hijacking of tour buses, including in major urban areas.

On arrival you should use registered airport taxis.  The various taxi offices in airport arrival halls sell pre-paid tickets for these.  You can pick up taxis from the many recognised taxi ranks around Brazilian cities.

In major cities there have been reports of incidents involving taxis with blacked-out windows and there are also reports that they are being used for criminal activities.  We therefore recommend against travelling in taxis with blacked-out windows.

If using a roving taxi check before getting in that it displays an obligatory photographic licence.  Beware of unlicensed taxis quoting low prices, but who later overcharge, threatening those who protest.

Road Safety

The Brazilian style of driving and standards are very different from the United Kingdom.  Be prepared to stop unexpectedly, and beware of potholes, slow moving vehicles, vehicles changing lane without indicating and going through red lights, and people/animals on the road.  Avoid driving outside of towns at night as vehicles without lights and other hazards can make it dangerous.

Sea Safety

Strong currents and sharks can be a problem off some beaches.  You should take local advice before swimming.

There have been cases of both armed and unarmed attacks on merchant vessels, including British flag vessels off the Brazilian coast and in some Brazilian ports, including AmapΓ‘, Rio Grande, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Santos.

Air Safety

Air travel in Brazil is well regulated and generally reliable and safe.  A small commercial aircraft operated by the regional company, Team, crashed between Macaé and Rio de Janeiro on 31 March 2006, killing all 19 passengers and crew.  The causes of this accident, the first in several years involving a commercial aircraft, are being investigated.


Paedophilia and child prostitution, often associated with organised "sex tourism" is an increasing problem.  Do not become involved.
Drug trafficking and use is a growing problem, with severe penalties in Brazil.  Do not become involved.  Pack your own luggage and do not carry items that do not belong to you.
Driving Licence Requirements
Foreigners are allowed to drive in Brazil provided they have their original driving licence, their original identification document (passport) and an authorised Portuguese translation of their driving licence.


Levels of crime, including muggings, and often involving firearms, are high.  You should be very vigilant, particularly in major cities.  Street robberies can occur anywhere.  You should carry only small sums of money on your person in relatively accessible places so some cash can be handed over without delay if you are threatened. 

You should avoid wearing jewelry, rings and expensive watches.  Dress down, and keep cameras concealed if you must carry them.  Under no account attempt to resist muggers or other attackers as they often carry firearms or other weapons.  It is wisest to deposit all valuables and documents in hotel safes.

Slums exist in all major Brazilian cities; they are characterised by poverty and extremely high violent crime levels.  There are some respected guided tours of certain slums in Rio de Janeiro, and these are considered safe. 

Your hotel should be able to give you further advice.  However, under no other circumstances should you attempt to venture into a slum at any other time.  After dark, you should avoid entering very quiet streets except under reliable local advice.

Thefts from cars are common.  There is an increasing problem of cars being temporarily hijacked, and the driver or passengers being forced to use their bank cards to extract money from ATMs, often around midnight (because the card’s daily limit can be withdrawn twice, just before and just after midnight).  When in a car you should keep the doors locked and the windows closed, and take particular care at traffic lights.

The threat of personal attack is lower outside the main population centers.  However, incidents do occur, even in holiday destinations that appear relatively secure.  A number of sexual offences have been reported in coastal tourist areas.  Unaccompanied women, in particular, should avoid walking alone and should never accept lifts from strangers or passing acquaintances.

Credit card fraud is common.  You should always ensure you retain your copy of the transaction slip, along with the carbon paper.  UK cash cards are not always accepted by Brazilian cash machines.  It is wise to take sufficient funds in cash/travellers’ cheques (preferably US dollars) to exchange.  Travellers’ cheques are not widely accepted so some cash should also be taken.

Mobile telephone cloning can occur.  If your telephone is cloned your bill will show calls, often expensive, made using your telephone number.

There have been reports of "date rape" and robberies after the victim has been drugged.  Do not accept drinks from strangers or drink from your glass if it has been out of your sight.

It is a legal requirement in Brazil to carry evidence of identity at all times.  A photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport is acceptable.  Because of the risk of mugging, we would advise you to carry a photocopy and not the original document, which you should lock away in a safe place.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office –


  • Show Comments (13)

  • Sophie Howard

    I was wondering if anyone knew your rights on entering Brasil again once you have been deported?!

  • Guest

    Stuff Happens All Over
    I wish someone warned me about Varig. They were my favorite airline. I hadn’t traveled to Rio since 2000, and I had no idea Latin America’s largest and finest airline was in trouble. It pays to Google. I bought tickets in April for travel in August. Today, July 20, it appears Varig was bought cheap, and all leased airplanes are being repossessed. So much for the international routes. Rio and Sao Paulo can be dangerous. I’ve spent years in Rio, and never a day in Sao Paulo. However, I do live in the U.S., and everyday I see stories involving trafficking in humans, armed robberies, and corrupt governmental officials (I believe we’ve finally corned the market on this one!). We also enjoy the most ignorant population on this earth! I need to leave once in a while to get a proper perspective. Unfortunately, Varig has made it very difficult for me. Looks like I have lost my tickets, hotel, and other prepaid expenses.

  • Guest

    tim American
    over “booked: sorry

  • Guest

    tim american
    My wife has been stuck there for an extra week because of Varig. She showed up ready to get on the flight that we paid for and they told her it was overdue. Come back in a week!

  • Guest

    RE: Embratur comments
    Have you been to Manaus? Fortaleza? You will see child prostitution there πŸ™

    As for the driving.. I have seen some pretty crazy driving in Sao Paulo that would fit within that description

    But guess what comes up when you enter embratur in google:

    Heh, funny that…

    There are bad things there, but plenty of good things too!

  • Guest

    Whereas in the UK. or abroad, do avoid British football fans, although they may represent the genuine Royal Society, they can also be harmful to your health.
    “If you’re not a Mank, you’re a Wank.”

  • Guest

    Be Warned!
    If you have dark hair and run to catch a tube in London, you may risk have your body pumped with lead bullets!!!

  • Guest


  • Guest

    HEAR, HEAR!! You have to love those that when they hear criticisms of brazil shoot back, “well, in the U.S…..ah,um, well, jeesh, in the U.K, ah, um well, ya know”

    BULLSHIT!!! Unfortunately I’ve been living in this god-forsaken corrupt and crime ridden country for 10 years, and YOU CAN NOT COMPARE BRAZIL WITH THE U.K. OR THE U.S.!!!! THEY’RE NOT IN THE SAME REALITIES!!!

    Brazil is a VIOLENT ass country that is FULL of people looking to “enrolar” or steal from any human they can. And as soon as they spot you’re a foreigner, they just begin to grin!!!

  • Guest

    I agree with the above post which is spot on and true.

    Brazilians have this dreadful habit of comparing this country to others when they are NOT in the same league. E.g comparing America and Brazil. This is like comparing a ‘Rolls Royce and a Mini’.’ They are both cars but the quality is vastly different and are definately NOT in the same league in any way shape or form.

  • Guest

    There are always these β€œblack and white” perspectives on this site which leads me to believe, we’re dealing with a not so well informed group here. Yes, there is fraud in the UK, and yes, there are your occasional shootings, but to compare these with what happens in Brazil is sheer lunacy.

    Ya know, there are a lot of Chinese people around the world, but if you want to find the greatest concentration of them, look to China. Duh!

    The UK government has a duty to inform travelers coming to Brasil, not only about the impending demise of Varig (which is a shame) but also with the various problems one may encounter. I looked over the info, and it seems pretty spot-on for Brazil. It basically says β€œkeep your wits about you”. Nothing more nothing less. And shouldn’t you when traveling in Brasil?

  • Guest

    Like anywhere majoe cities in the UK have problems, possibly not as ‘upfront’.

    The FO has a duty to warn people before they travel.

  • Guest

    The point about Varig might be true but the rest is just hysteria, written by people who have never gone there. Anyone been to London lately ?? There isn’t any credit card fraud, child prostitution, people trafficking or rival gangs engaging in shoot outs is there ???? er….. Plus terrorism. God save the queen.

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