Health and safety in Brazil

Is Brazil a safe travel destination? Find out with our guide to the Zika virus, vaccinations, hospitals, emergency contacts and safety tips.

Staying safe in Brazil

The Brazilian health care system has no reciprocal deals with Australia, which means if you get sick, you'll have to pay your own bills. Public hospitals can be overcrowded with long waiting times and limited facilities. The standard of private hospitals and medical centres in major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, is comparable to services in Australia, but the bills can be high. As with any overseas destination, it's essential that you have travel insurance. Some doctors or hospitals may ask you to pay upfront, or to prove that you have insurance before they'll treat you.

Outside of the major cities, quality health care can be hard to find. The cost of medical evacuation to the closest city could be extremely high, so again: travel insurance is a must.

What side of the road to drive on. When to arrive at parties. How to avoid the Zika virus. - download the Brazil travel guide.

Drinking water

Tap water in the major cities is considered safe to drink, however it can taste pretty bad. The safer and tastier option is bottled water. Boiling the tap water is another way to ensure any nasties are killed off.

Water in rural areas may not be safe to drink. Check with hotel staff. Some hotels filter their tap water.

Zika virus

Brazil is currently experiencing an outbreak of the Zika virus. The illness is often asymptomatic, but in one fifth of cases it causes non-fatal flu-like symptoms that rarely require hospitalisation. It's primarily transmitted through mosquito bites, but there have been a few cases of sexually transmitted Zika.

While most people don't need to worry too much about Zika, the risk to pregnant women, however, is extreme, as the virus can cause children to be born with microcephaly – a seriously underdeveloped head and brain. The Australian government currently recommends that pregnant women, and women who are trying to become pregnant, should reconsider their need to travel to Brazil.

Visitors should try to avoid mosquito bites by covering up in light coloured clothing and wearing repellent containing DEET or Picaridin. It's also a good idea to check whether your hotel has mosquito nets; if not, pack your own.

Check Smart Traveller's Zika Bulletin and the World Health Organization's Zika factsheet for the latest advice and read CHOICE's article about how the Zika virus could affect your travel insurance.

Mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya fever and yellow fever are also a risk in Brazil, so avoiding mosquito bites is a must.


A yellow fever vaccination is strongly recommended for Australians visiting the following states in Brazil: Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Distrito Federal, Goiás, Maranhão, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins. The vaccination is recommended for Bahia, Espírito Santo, Paraná, Piauí, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and São Paulo.

If you're travelling somewhere outside of these areas, a yellow fever vaccination may not be essential, but you should speak to a doctor about your options. Depending on your health, where you're travelling and what you're planning to do, your doctor might recommend vaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis A and typhoid. They may also suggest malaria prevention tablets.

Check The Travel Doctor's Brazil fact sheet and ask a doctor for advice based on your own health and travel plans.

Tip: Some vaccinations need to be given up to eight weeks before departure, so get in early.

No vaccine, no entry

Australian customs officers may take an interest in you if you return home from Brazil without proof of a yellow fever vaccination, but they won't prevent you from re-entering the country. You'll be given an information card and asked to keep an eye out for symptoms over the next few days.

If you're travelling anywhere other than Australia after visiting Brazil, check that country's rules as some will refuse entry to unvaccinated travellers arriving from yellow fever-affected regions.


Civil unrest

Despite spending millions on hosting the 2016 Olympics, Brazil is experiencing its worst recession in a century and many citizens are very unhappy with their government. President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in May 2016 and there have been widespread demonstrations over allegations of government corruption.

While most protests have been relatively peaceful, it's best to steer well clear of any scuffles should they arise.

For the latest advice on health and safety risks including terrorism, conflict, natural disasters and outbreaks of disease visit

For more things to watch out for, check our guide on Brazil laws and culture.

Emergency contacts

Download the complete Brazil travel guide for more information.

If dialling from an Australian mobile phone, use the country code +55.

Police: 190 (some operators speak English and can redirect your call to the necessary service).
Ambulance: 192
Fire: 193
Tourist police (English-speaking)
Rio: 021 3399 7170
Sao Paulo: 011 3214 0209 / 011 3107 5642


Public hospitals are likely to be overcrowded and the standard of care may not be as high as in Australia. Assuming you have travel insurance (which is a necessity) and it's not an emergency, a private hospital is your better bet for quality care.

Rio de Janiero 

Hospital Copa Dór:
Rua Figueiredo de Magalhães: 875
(21) 2545 3600

Hospital Sao Lucas
Travessa Frederico Pamplona 32
(21) 2545 4000

Hospital Quinta Dór
Almirante Baltazar 435
São Cristóvão
(21) 3461 3600

Hospital Barra Dór
Av Ayrton Senna 3079
Barra da Tijuca
(21) 2430 3600

Hospital Samaritano
Rua Bambina 98
(21) 3444 1000 Ambulance (21) 2535 4000

Sao Paulo

Hospital Samaritano
Rua Conselheiro Brotero 1486
(11) 3821 5300
Private ambulance: (11) 3824 5000 or (11) 3824 0022

Hospital do Coracao
Rua Des. Eliseu Guilherme 147
(11) 3053 6611

Albert Einstein Hospital Av Albert Einstein 627
(11) 2151 1233

Hospital Santa Lúcia
716 Conj. C
Setor Hospitalar Sul
(61) 3445 0000

Embassies and consulates

Australian Embassy (Brasilia)
SES Quadra 801
Conjunto K
Lote 7
Brasilia DF CEP 70200-010
+55 61 3226 3111

Australian Consulate (Rio de Janeiro)
Veirano e Advogados Associados
Av Presidente Wilson 231, 23rd Floor
Rio de Janeiro RJ 20030-021
+55 21 3824 4624

Australian Consulate-General (Sao Paulo)
Alameda Santos 700
Ed. Trianon Corporate – 9th floor, unit 92
Cerqueira Cesar
Sao Paulo - SP 01418-100
+55 11 2112 6200

24-hour Australian Consular Emergency Centre
From overseas: +61 2 6261 3305 or
From within Australia: 1300 555 135 or SMS +61 421 269 080

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