Like the tale of two cities, parallels have been drawn between Sao Paulo and its rival Brazilian city, Rio de Janeiro. As the state capital, Sao Paulo is equally a city of enormous proportions, deriving its energy from the diverse mix of immigrants, cosmopolitan lifestyle, and powerful business wealth.
The sheer cultural and gastronomic array available in the city could easily overwhelm and intimidate any tourist. Complete with delicious fusion cuisine, vivacious nightlife, and fashionable shopping, Sao Paulo is a great city to explore. Not to mention the world-class museums and galleries that exhibit the finest and rarest antiquities.
Sao Paulo is served by three major, international airports. Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport often called Cumbica and located 30km northeast of Sao Paulo, is the largest international airport in the city. The second, Viracopos in Campinas serves both international and domestic flights. Last but not the least, is Aeroporto Congonhas, a domestic airport from where you can get a transfer flight to other cities in Brazil. Located south of Centro, it takes about a 30-minute drive to reach the airport, depending on traffic.
Shuttle service between Guarulhos and Congonhas Airports is operated by EMTU blue buses, every 30-minutes. They are found near private bus and cab stalls near the arrivals terminals.
Blue and white Guarucoop radio taxis will transport you from the airport to your destination and the fare is pre-decided based on your drop-off address.
Sao Paulo has three main bus terminals, all of which are connected to the metro. Rodoviário do Tietê, the second-largest bus terminal in the world is located on the Tietê Metrô stop. It links the cities throughout Brazil in addition to serving neighboring countries of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. Cumbica shuttle services also arrive and depart at this terminal.
Rodoviário da Barra Funda, located near the Barra Funda Metrô connects the western cities of Sao Paulo state with Mato Grosso, Foz do Iguaçu, and west Paraná cities. Similar to Rodoviário do Tietê, it operates shuttle service buses for the international airport.
Rodoviário de Jabaquara terminal, near the Jabaquara metro station serves cities on the south coast of the state, which includes Guarujá, Santos, and Bertioga.
The complex, urban transport system of Sao Paulo makes it difficult for tourists to navigate the chaotic streets. Travellers prefer to use public means of transport rather than self-drive a car in the impatient, frenzied traffic. Since most of Sao Paulo’s attractions are located between the Avenida Paulista and the historic centre, they are nearby enough to be easily be explored on foot. For long distances, subway/metro, trains, taxis, and trolleybuses offer hassle-free options for navigating. For those who wish to travel outside of Sao Paulo; bus transport is sometimes the only available option.
Sao Paulo has a convenient public transport system that makes travelling safe and comfortable. The city is served by many bus routes, covering the entire of Sao Paulo. However, traffic and congested road conditions can sometimes lead to slow travel. Bus stops are clearly marked making it easy for travellers to find bus routes. Sao Paulo buses run between 4:00am and midnight. To travel by bus, board at a designated bus stop, pay the cobrador (conductor) the required fare, and alight from the rear. Bilhete Único, the city's contactless card system for fare control, allows combined bus and travel on one ticket. Choose from four bus rides in a three hour period or three bus rides and a rapid transit or train ride. The cards can be bought at lottery shops, metro stations, and bus terminals.
By Metro ( Visit )
One of the finest rail transportation systems in the Americas, Sao Paulo Metro comprises of five lines. The sixth line is a planned extension of the Metro. Along with another company, Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos, the Metro covers the entire urban area of Sao Paulo city and the 39 municipalities that make up the São Paulo Metropolitan Region.
Operating daily from 4:40am to midnight (1:00am on Saturdays), the metro system consists of five colour coded lines - Line 1 (Blue), Line 2 (Green), Line 3 (Red), Line 4 (Yellow) and Line 5 (Lilac). If a passenger uses the "Bilhete Único" card, he can take up to 4 buses and 1 metro or suburban train in a 2 hour period. Otherwise he can buy a ticket for 1 metro or suburban train in a 3 hour period.
There are three types of taxis in Sao Paulo – radio taxis, street cabs, and deluxe cabs. Unless it is a radio taxi, cabs are white in colour with a glowing green "TAXI" sign on the rooftop. Check out for colour of the taxi, sticker having the driver's photo and name, and red license plate. These street cabs can be hailed at city squares and large venues. The other, which is a radio taxi, is to be ordered on a telephone or booked online. Taxi fare in Sao Paulo is comparatively pricier than in other big cities and there is a chance of being robbed if you are a foreigner.
Driving a car is an intrinsic part of Sao Paulo’s lifestyle. Every ‘paulistano’ needs a car for commuting to and from work. There are some places located far off from the city that is reachable only by car. People living in Sao Paulo are used to driving in the chaotic, crazy traffic of the city, being stuck for hours on end. But tourists will find driving and parking in Sao Paulo a nightmare, especially if they are not used to the windy streets. Nevertheless, driving a car is sometimes convenient if you wish to access the remote areas of town.
Before you rent a car in Sau Paulo, make sure, you have all the papers in places such as vehicle license papers, road tax documents, and driving license. Be careful while driving at night as carjacking and robberies are common in big cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Also, to reduce the traffic on the road and control air pollution, cars with a license plate ending in a certain number are not allowed on the street for one day a week. Yet, traversing through the busy lanes of Sao Paulo in a rented car is always an adventurous activity.
Sao Paulo has an excellent network of fixed-line communication operated by Telefônica and Embratel. Travellers can make local, long-distance domestic and international calls from/to Brazil. Both telephone companies offer internet and cable TV-related services. The city has an extensive network of public pay booths that work with phone cards found at newsstands, bars, shops, etc.
The mobile sector in Sao Paulo is a fiercely competitive market. Rival operators in a bid to gain the lead over each other try to lure customers with different offers and promotions. Primarily, there are pay-as-you-go or pay monthly packages, but operators may offer new packages to attract customers. Check for current promotions to find a package that suits your requirements. The major mobile telephone companies operating in Sao Paulo are TIM, Claro, Vivo, and Oi.
The Correios postal service in Brazil has several post offices across the country including Sao Paulo. Post offices are open from Monday to Friday, 9:00am - 5:00pm, although shopping malls, post offices may have their own opening and closing hours.
Sao Paulo offers internet access mostly through dial-up, which involves dialling the fixed telephone line. Users pay at a per-minute rate or at a flat monthly rate or a combination of both. High-speed broadband and ASDL internet access is gaining popularity across Sao Paulo. The main internet service providers in Sao Paulo are Brasil Telecom, Terra, POP, UOL, NET, and GVT. There are not many internet cafes in Sao Paulo, but the ones present offer reasonable speeds at hourly rates.
Tipping in Brazil is nearly non-existent and is given only if the service is beyond excellence. However, tipping is appreciated, if you are a tourist who can afford to be generous.
Restaurants include a 10% service fee in their bills, which is not compulsory. But most customers do pay it unless you have a good reason to not do so, say bad service.
People tip taxi drivers by rounding off the amount to the next whole number. If the trip fare comes to say, R$14.20, then pay R$15.00, so that you do not have to struggle with coins and the tip is paid as well.
In hotels, tip the bell hop a small amount of around R$5 to R$10 and the chamber maid about R$5 per day for good service. At beaches, tip the person who helps you rent a chair and umbrella and arranges for the food and drink.
Like any other big city, Sao Paulo has its fair share of crime rate. Once, one of the most crime infested cities in Brazil, Sao Paulo has tried reshaping its violent image. Today, it is Brazil's safest capital city, in terms of homicide rate. However, that does not mean you should relax, because Sao Paulo is an enormous city with significant variations in socioeconomic status.
Tourists in Sao Paulo are prone to violent muggers and pickpockets, but it is possible to safeguard yourself, if you use some common sense. Avoid walking on deserted roads on night or least take someone with you. Travelling in buses is safe, but waiting alone on bus stops is not. Trains that travel to the suburbs can be unsafe late at night. Use ATMs located in shopping malls, cinemas, gas stations rather those in dark, uninhabited areas.
Be on guard while driving as it can be risky, if you are alone and in upscale clubbing areas like Vila Madalena or Vila Olímpia. Keep the doors locked and windows closed during the night. If you're returning back to the hotel late at night, possibly hire a taxi or hitch a ride with a group of friends.
Favelas and areas populated by the poor and drug addicts are dangerous even during the day. Drug addicts are harmless most of the times, but some may become violent to buy drugs.
Leave important documents, flashy jewellery and all valuables at the hotel room. Dress down or more conservatively to avoid being a target.
Sao Paulo usually enjoys a sufficiently pleasant weather all year round, but since the seasons are not well marked, it becomes difficult to predict the weather.
Travelling in summers (December – February) can be a horrendous experience when it gets very hot and sticky in the capital. Further, sudden spate of rains marked by poor drainage frequently causes flooding in Sao Paulo. Despite all of this, summer is the tourist month of Sao Paulo because of Christmas, New Year and Carnival. Flights and hotels are the most expensive during these months.
In the winter months (June – August), when the schools are closed, Paulistanos (Sao Paulo inhabitants) take a winter break and ride their way out of the city to nearby beach resorts. During these days, Sao Paulo literally becomes a "ghost town", meaning the resort towns become crowded and advanced booking is a must.
For budget travellers and also in general, fall (March – May) and spring (September – November) is just the right time to visit Sao Paulo. The weather is pleasant and there are a lot of cultural events held at this time of the year. Prices for flights and accommodations are also relatively low.
Pack in some long sleeve coats, scarves, swimming costumes, and comfortable, light clothing if travelling in fall and spring. In summers, it is the usual – sun blocks, summery dresses and swimming costumes. For winters, sweater, light trench coats, jeans and scarves should suffice.
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