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 Amapá, 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.

LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Paedophilia and child prostitution, often associated with organised "sex tourism" is an increasing problem.  Do not become involved.
 
Drugs
 
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.

Crime

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 – www.fco.gov.uk

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