This is Favela da Rocinha, the largest slum in Brazil.
Here’s the thing about favelas: They’re both wildly dangerous and perfectly safe at the same time.
In fact, guided tours of the slums are offered, but the idea of comparatively wealthy outsiders going on a people watching trip in an impoverished community, well, we found that concept offensive to the residents. Not our thing.
On the other hand, touring a favela is good for the local economy, and tourists are certainly welcome here.
Bottom line, if you’re going to visit a slum, do it for the right reasons. Do it to learn something about the culture, not just to gawk like it’s some kind of human aquarium.
The drug lords are serious about having no violence within the community, especially towards tourists. It’s bad for business. You’re going to be just fine. Probably. Just don’t fall into the open sewer.
However, bullets do occasionally fly. These places are governed by the mafia, so if you see a group of machine-gun wielding Rio police in riot gear moving in … maybe take a rain check that day.