Yeah it's great, you can drive on the beaches around Fortaleza legally... but please don't take your small Fiat or Volkswagen on the beach!! You will see other people driving on the beaches with ordinary street cars, but they do get stuck very often, and many of them have experience driving the beaches. If you get stuck, the tide can come in very quickly, and you will fell pretty stupid explaining to the rental company why you came back with the bus.
Use common sense, even if others don't...
If you are renting a car in Brazil, always have your passport, drivers lisence AND a document that translates your driving license. The last documentation is very important and needs to be issued from a goverment agency in your country, ie driving school or similar.
The police very often have random checks of your papers and can get you into serious trouble if you don't have your papers in order.
I was stopped in Fortaleza without my passport or my translation id, luckily my portuguese was good enough to convince him that my passport and license was at my hotell, but it still cost me 50 Real... wich probably went straight into the officers pocket.
This is important..Fortaleza it´s a large city..with a lot of different people .
You can avoid be steal at beachs " calçadão":
- leave your jewels at hotel room
- Walk there without much money
-Be aware of surrounding people
- if you rent a car, don´t do big city "explorations"...you can find a local Favela and..you know
- go to the beaches with people who know to get there...hotels can give you information about this...
There isn't much of a warning here. Brazil is a huge country and the problems of the south ( Rio and Sao Paolo ) do not exist here. Like any major city there is always a need to take a little care not to show off and that applies to Fortaleza too, but no more so than in London, Paris or New York. Some areas have Favellas ( shanty towns ). These are relatively benign certainly in comparison with South Brazil. Be a little cautious as you would back home but overall relax, enjoy Cearenses want you to feel welcome
If your out and about at night doing the old pub-crawl make sure that you keep drink in sight at all times. Do not leave your drink on the table while you go to the bathroom, and I am not just talking about the ladies either, this goes for you matcho men too!
The junk they put in drinks is not what you would call medicinal... and there have been a few reports that the people never woke up from the stuff.
Most of the time the people that are getting knocked out with this junk is the dumb-ass gringos that are walking around with a "lady of the night" holding hands like they are in love or something. These girls have nothing to loose!
If you rent a car be prepared to drive like a maniac just to keep up. Most people do not stop at intersections and they speed and cut you off like idiots.
If you are driving at night use extra caution because drunks rule the road and fly (I mean 80-100 miles per hour 100-120 km per hour) through red lights. They know hwere the cops are and you do not.
Also keep your seatbelt on at all times. The transit police here can give you a ticket for seat belt if they see you and they often set up road blocks to check.
This was my second trip to Brazil, and I had been previously warned about what to watch for and what not to wear to attract attention to myself. Needless to say, I wore my watch, my ring, and even a gold chain in Fortaleza, and I encountered no problems from the locals whatsoever. Now, I wouldn't advise anyone else try this, but i'm a nice sized guy, and would NEVER try to fight off a would be thief, I would never wear anything that I could not afford to just hand over in a robbery attempt.
That being said, Fortaleza was 100% safe for me.
Fortaleza is a very modern city, but once outside the city things change rapidly. If you decide to do some traveling by car outside of the city be very careful. We rented a car and wendt along the highways to the beaches south of Fortaleza. The beaches are beautiful, but the highway about 70 km outside of Fortaleza becomes a graded road with many obstacles in it and then a pothole-ridden road. The potholes are often 1-3 m wide...I'm not kidding. If you take the more direct highway that doesn't travel along the coast it's even worse. And the joints at the bridges near the city will get you if the potholes don't
So use extreme caution and a heavy foot on the brake if your going this route. And travel during the day. We were very lucky to break down near the house of some very nice people who got us to a small town where some other nice people helped us back to Fortaleza. If you run into a problem, at least you can feel confident that Brazilians are unbelievably kind.
It may be advisable to stay away from the dirty, run down and VERY poor neighbourhoods. Unsighly graffiti "decorates" even the nicest buildings, a shame really but probably hard to keep under control. Seeing the electric wires or metal / broken glas spikes that grace the top of the walls of MANY properties do not require any explanation.
DON'T carry valuables that are obvious!
I spend 2 weeks in Fortaleza and surroundings, and had never any problem but that may be due to the intimate knowledge of my brasilian travel companion.
First thing people told me there is.. Never leave your drink alone, even for 2 seconds.. never accept drinks for another people.. Cause they put some drugs into.. after a while they rob you...
Unfortunately, Fortaleza is dangerous at night. Avoid walking by dark and desert streets, there are usually some suspicious guys lurking in such places. And you might see many teenage girls on the streets offering their "services".
Most of the important beaches have private armed security.. Cause there are many people selling on the beach and for sure many thiefs.. You can stay on the beach relaxed with no problem.
Any place except the busy market areas in Fortaleza should be very safe. I did not have any problem the 2-3 times I stayed in town.