São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil , with a city population of about 11 million and almost 20 million in its metropolitan region. It is the capital of the Southeastern state of São Paulo, and also a beehive of activity that offers a jovial nightlife and an intense cultural experience. São Paulo is one of the richest cities in the southern hemisphere, though inequality between the classes typically observed in Brazil is blatant. Historically attractive to immigrants as well as (somewhat later) Brazilians from other states, it's one of the most diverse cities in the world.
São Paulo, or Sampa as it is also often called, is also probably one of the most underrated cities tourism-wise, often shaded by other places in the Brazilian sun & beach circuit such as Rio de Janeiro and Salvador . It is in fact a great city to explore, with its own idiosyncrasies, the exquisite way of living of its inhabitants, not to mention the world-class restaurants and diverse regional and international cuisine available to all tastes. If there is a major attraction to this city, it is the excellent quality of its restaurants and the variety of cultural activities on display.
A large sprawling city can present numerous challenges to sensibilities. São Paulo is no exception. Although the first impression might be that of a grey concrete jungle, soon it becomes apparent that the city has a great number of pockets of beauty. The population and environment of São Paulo is diverse, and districts within it range from extremely luxurious areas to hovels housing the poor and destitute, located usually in suburbia far from the so-called "expanded center".
São Paulo, together with Rio de Janeiro , is the spot where most visitors from abroad land in Brazil. While a complete experience of the city would take a few weeks (since the lifestyle of paulistanos and every-day routine in the city are huge attractions in themselves), it's possible to visit all major sites within three days.
Staying a little longer than that is always a nice idea. As the financial and cultural center of the country, the city is a sea of possibilities.
Native American Chief Tibirica' and the Spanish Jesuit priests José de Anchieta and Manuel de Nóbrega founded the village of São Paulo de Piratininga on 25 January 1554 -- Feast of the Conversion of Paul the Apostle. Along with their entourage, the priests established a mission named Colégio de São Paulo de Piratininga aimed at converting the Tupi-Guarani Native Brazilians to the Catholic religion. Anchieta has been referred to the Holy See in Rome to become a saint & has received the title of "blessed," but intellectuals and human rights groups oppose his canonization for he would have killed or ordered the killing of a "disobedient" Native American.
São Paulo officially became a city in 1711. In the 19th century, it experienced a flourishing economic prosperity, brought about chiefly through coffee exports, which were shipped abroad from the port of neighbouring city Santos. After 1881, waves of immigrants from Italy and other European countries, Japan and Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria and Lebanon immigrated to São Paulo State due to the coffee production boom. Enslavement of Africans was coming to an end, due to British pressure, as the British Empire wished to introduce its machinery and industrialized products to Brazil. The government was also concerned with the fact that the population of Blacks was greater than that of Europeans, and, in an effort to "bleach the race," gave incentives to European nationals of countries such as Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, Portugal, and Spain to immigrate. Thus, after Emancipation, with the influx of European labor and failure on the part of the racist system to include African-Brazilians, Blacks became unemployed and many begged to be re-enslaved by their former "owners." By the beginning of the 20th century, the coffee cycle had already plummeted due to, among other factors, a sharp decline in international coffee prices. The local entrepreneurs then started investing in the industrial development of São Paulo, attracting new contingents of overseas immigrants to the city. Many of those entrepreneurs had Italian, Portuguese, German, and Syro-Lebanese Christian descent such as the Matarazzo, Diniz, and Maluf.
However, due to competition with many other Brazilian cities, which sometimes offer tax advantages for companies to build manufacturing plants in situ, Sao Paulo's main economic activities have gradually left its industrial profile in favour of the services industry over the late 20th century. The city is home to a large number of local and international banking offices, law firms, multinational companies and consumer services.
All major Brazilian companies have offices in São Paulo, and its stock exchange is the main South American indicator. After merging with the Future Markets Exchange, Bovespa, the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange has become the largest in the world (Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper 2008).
Don't be surprised at the diversity of paulistanos. For example, São Paulo is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. It is not uncommon to see businesses and churches being conducted by Chinese and Korean-Brazilians in the Bairro Oriental, which was originally Italian, then Japanese and which is heavily populated by other East Asians today. The city's Italian influence is also very strong, and Sao Paulo is said to be the second Italian city in the world. The large Christian Arab and Jewish communities are also well represented in all levels of society, from art to real estate businesses, and notably in politics.
The citizens of São Paulo have a reputation as hard-working and industrious, or alternately, shallow money-grubbers. Common word is that the people in São Paulo work while the rest of Brazil relaxes; even though many say this is plainly wrong. It is a fact,nonetheless, that the city of Sao Paulo alone actually contributes with 15 percent of the country's gross national product (45 percent if the entire São Paulo state is taken into account).
But when paulistanos are not working, they are clubbing. The city nightlife is as intense as it gets, which makes going to a club a total must-do. Everything is possible in a city that doesn't dare to blink.
São Paulo's basic spot for orientation should be Avenida Paulista. From there, it's pretty easy to reach every single spot in town, be it by bus or underground transport. It is located between the neighborhoods of Bela Vista and Jardim Paulista. Av. Paulista is also within walking distance to Centro and Ibirapuera Park, which makes it the perfect place to start a walking tour.
However, keep in mind that central Sao Paulo actually comprises a very large area, and travelling from one spot to another may require that you take a cab or public transport.
Most of the main attractions are located in the city's "expanded center", the area limited by the Tietê river on the North, the Pinheiros river on the West, Avenida dos Bandeirantes on the South and Avenida Salim Farah Maluf on the East. Outside the circle of the expanded center there are 8 areas, some of which you'll probably never go. To find out where you are, see the street signs, as it is colour-coded:
All other areas have blue street plates, and a bottom stripe on the following colours:
Although not at all a tourist city, its cosmopolitan inhabitants (i.e. of the middle and upper classes) probably speak better English, Spanish and Italian than anywhere else in Brazil. English is generally spoken at main hotels and those in contact with tourists, though in most bars and restaurants it may be difficult to find a menu in English. Several schools teach Portuguese for foreigners. Locals are very friendly, and will try to help you, but for many there will be a language barrier, it's a good idea to print out some key phrases from Google Translator.
São Paulo has three major airports: Guarulhos International (GRU) and Viracopos (CPQ) for international and some domestic arrivals, and Congonhas (CGH) for most medium and short haul domestic flights.
If flying into São Paulo from abroad, you'll mostly likely land at Guarulhos International Airport , also known as Cumbica. Located 40 km from the city centre, the airport has two terminals that are served by Brazilian airlines Varig , TAM , Gol and by international United, Delta, American, Continental, Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, TACA, TAP, Iberia, Alitalia, KLM, JAL, Korean Air (via Los Angeles), South African and many others.
Non-airline shuttle buses are available from Guarulhos to Congonhas Airport, Praça da República (Downtown), Paulista/Jardins region, Barra Funda bus station and Tietê bus station(fastest access to the subway). All lines except Congonhas connect to the Metrô. R$28 one-way. There is also a regular urban bus every 20-30 min (timetables ), which costs only R$3,80 and goes to and from Tatuapé Metro station (30-45 min, via Ayrton Senna, the other is slower) (line 3, red ). Exit Terminal 1 Arrivals and head for the middle island. Look for buses 257 or 297. Less comfy than the shuttles, but can prove faster way to Paulista (and elsewhere) on days with dense traffic, as it goes for the closest Metro station. Be aware that you might be denied access with luggage that won´t fit on your lap.
TAM and Gol, the two main Brazilian airlines, offer free shuttle buses for their passengers with flights to/from Guarulhos International Airport and Congonhas Domestic Airport. Check the schedules for TAM and Gol .
A taxi co-operative, Guarucoop (tel: +55 11 2440-7070), has a monopoly on cabs leaving Guarulhos. They are plentiful and the queue is outside the arrival terminal. Credit-card users can pay for their journey in advance at the booth. Expect to pay about R$75-110 (depending upon your destination) for the 25 km journey into the city. Passengers can ask to see the tabela, which shows the fares for each neighbourhood. A taxi ride into the city can take up to two hours during peak times; 30 min late at night or early in the morning.
The Congonhas Airport is in a very central region, 15 km (9 mi) from downtown. This airport handles most of the domestic flights, inluding the São Paulo - Rio (Santos Dumont) hop, nicknamed Ponte Aérea. As it was built in the 30s, its simple but glamorous architecture is worth seeing.
The easiest (and cheapest) way to get to Congonhas is by taking any of the "Aeroporto" regular line buses that run along Avenida Paulista. After some 40-60 min in modest traffic you'll be dropped right in front of the airport and the fare is the regular R$2,70 (Bilhete Único accepted). It is mostly faster to take the metro to the São Judas or Conceição subway stations, and then the bus from there (10 min).
Cab drives from downtown or Paulista should be used after checking how is the out of control São Paulo traffic. Check the CET website (only in Portuguese), which is the traffic administration department of the city.
Located near the city of Campinas, around 99 km (62 mi) from downtown São Paulo, Viracopos International is the second biggest airport in Brazil but is mainly used for air cargo transport; however, domestic and international flights also arrive there and it can be used when weather conditions prevent landing in Cumbica. The new (Jan 2009) Brazilian airline Azul serves important cities throughout the country from this airport. Beggining in July 2010, TAP Air Portugal will start flights from Lisbon to Viracopos.
There are three main bus terminals in São Paulo, all of them served by the Metrô (Subway) network.
Transport in São Paulo can be anything from complicated to hellish. Peak hours are normally roughly 6AM-9AM and 4PM-8PM, but since city roads are constantly on the edge of their capacity, any little incident can cause major queues and delays. The solution for tourist is to use subway (metrô), train (CPTM) and trolleybuses (EMTU) as far as possible. Even these means of transport can be uncomfortably crowded during peaks, and only a very limited carry-on is recommended. You can check the SPTrans website, which is the city's transport administration department. There you can get itineraries using all the city's public transportation options.
The Bilhete Único is a contact-less smart card that can be used for paying the fares in buses, subways and trains. In essence, a single billing of the card grants a person up to four trips in São Paulo's public transportation system. You can get the card at no cost at many underground stations; charge them with the minimum amount required in newspaper stands, state-owned betting shops (known as "lotéricas"), supermarkets and other establishments - look for the red, round "Bilhete Único" logo. You can use the card to pay for your trips in the public transportation system as follows:
São Paulo's subway system, known as the Metrô , is the method of transportation a tourist is likely to use the most while visiting São Paulo. It is modern, safe, clean and efficient. It has four lines in operation and one under construction. In several stations, Metrô connects to São Paulo's extensive suburban trains network, called CPTM(Downloadable map (PDF) ).
If you don't have a Bilhete Único smart card (see above), the Metrô uses a simple fixed-price ticketing scheme - you can get only one-trip tickets, which cost R$2,55. The single tickets can be bought at the counters or automatic machines, found in every station. Buying multiple ticket will not save you money but will save time locating a vending machine or waiting time which can both be bothersome. Metrô tickets are valid for inter-line changes on the Metrô system.
The Metrô's operating hours are Su-F 4:30AM-midnight (or 1AM Sa), depending on the station, up to 12:40AM. Connections on the Metrô network are guaranteed only for boardings before midnight (1AM Sa), regardless of the station.
There are 6 commuter train lines to suburban areas and nearby cities like Jundiaí and Mogi das Cruzes, with free transfer to Metro at Brás, Luz, Barra Funda and Santo Amaro stations. The one-way ticket costs R$2,55. "Bilhete Único" is accepted. Info toll-free 0800-055-0121. The CPTM is usually the cheapest way of going to remote areas and nearby cities, but unlikely the subway, the quality of commuter train transport greatly varies; some lines have modern and comfortable trains, while others have trains in very poor conditions. Some trains and train stations also lack security and should be avoided unless they are substantially crowded. It's a good idea to check with the person you are visiting if it's recommended to go by train.
Daily use of public transport may be quite stressful to paulistanos; many take more than 2 hours to get to work or school! As consequence, education is often left aside on trains and buses, and on peak hours, pushes are common. When boarding, walk as far as possible into the train after the door opens, and if you wish to wait for the next train, step outside of the boarding area immediately. Otherwise, you may end up being forcefully pushed into the train. Fortunately, some subway stations have supervised "boarding operations" on peak hours to avoid this behavior.
Buses are the most popular way to get around the city. Even though drivers really step on it through the bumpy streets of São Paulo, buses are not the fastest way to get around. In addition, they can get really crowded. However, unlike the Metro lines, they do reach every neighbourhood.
Tickets are R$2,70 one way. You can pay for the ride inside the bus, or use a Bilhete Unico card topped up with credits before boarding. If paying for the ticket on the bus, simply hand over the money to the teller sitting by the turnstile, and he or she will let you pass through. Note that children under 5 years old are allowed by law to slip under the turnstile for free! If you have the Bilhete Unico magnetic card, then a single fare payment allows you to take other buses for free for the next 3 hours after touching in the card. Simply scan the card in front of the card reader, and the turnstile will be released.
If you are carrying large suitcases, try to avoid rush-hour traffic as buses can become incredibly packed. It is not always wise to take the bus late at night, especially if you find yourself all alone waiting at the bus stop - consider calling a cab instead, or asking someone you know for a lift.
Taxi ranks in São Paulo are white, with a distinctive luminous green "TAXI" sign on the roof top. Check out for the white color of the taxi rank (unless it's a radio taxi), the official license sticker with the driver's name and photo on the passenger side of the control panel, and the red license plate.
There are two kinds of cabs: cheaper street-hail and radio taxi. White taxis are often found at stands near city squares and big venues. Radio taxis can be ordered by telephone; ask reception at your hotel for help to call a radio cab, or just call a company. Taxis in São Paulo are relatively expensive compared to other large cities worldwide.
Cars are an important tool in the life of every paulistano. By commuting to and from work, one can spend several hours a day inside a car, stuck in the traffic. Some places can only be reached by car, and if you have to travel long distances in town, it is usually the most convenient means of transport. It is also part of the Sao Paulo's own urban culture. Some years ago, it used to be common for some middle- and upper-class young people to receive a car from their families if they passed the entrance exams for university.
However, as it is the case in many big cities, getting around by car is borderline crazy if you're not used to São Paulo. Traffic can be chaotic, parking is a nightmare, and the definition of a lane often is "wherever I can fit a car." It is also not so straightforward to find your way in certain neighbourhoods where streets can get windy. So be warned that visitors to Sao Paulo don't really need a car.
If you're comfortable enough to adventure yourself and feel more like a paulistano, feel free to explore the city from behind a steering-wheel. There is some information about driving in town that you should know beforehand:
Rotating transit policy: In order to reduce the congestion and the air pollution in Sao Paulo, the city council has adopted a mandatory rotating transit policy: cars whose license plate number ends in 1 and 2 cannot circulate on Mondays; if it ends on 3 or 4, Tuesday is off; 5 or 6, stay home or take a cab on Wednesdays; 7 or 8, Thursday is the unlucky day; 9 or 0, on Fridays you can walk. The prohibition is valid only on the so-called Expanded Center (blue street plates with grey bottom stripe), and for peak hours: 7AM-10AM and 5PM-8PM. During the remaining hours, cars are allowed to circulate freely.
Provisory driving licence: Being able to drive around the city is a great advantage for visitors staying in town for a longer period of time. You'll need a Brazilian provisory driving licence, valid for 6 months and renewable, that can be obtained at Detran (State Transit Department), on Ave Pedro Alvares Cabral, 1301, 04094-901, near Ibirapuera Park. If you have a International Driving Licence, you'll still have to go to Detran and register it. Submit the following documents to “Setor de Atendimento ao Estrangeiro” (4th floor of the main building, also called prédio principal):
Parking fees: The city council charges a parking fee of R$2 for one-hour parking in some of the main streets in the central area, so be careful not to be fined for not paying the charge. Check for signs in the sidewalk and yellow lines on the pavement. There are plenty of authorised shops and transit guards selling parking tickets (Zona Azul) in the streets, which have to be filled in with the car plaque number, the date and the hour of the parking and placed inside the car, on the frontal window pane. These tickets are valid for one hour only, but they can be renewed if you plan to stay longer. Only two one-hour tickets can be placed at one time, which means that you'll have to check on you car every two hours to renew them. The fee is charged M-Sa 7AM-7PM.
Driving at night: Buses stop at 1AM and the metro around midnight, so it can be tricky to get to many of the famous bars and night clubs unless you take a taxi, or... drive. If you go out at night by car, expect to pay a small fee to unofficial "car keepers" in order to park your car along the streets. This is a common use in many busy outing hubs around town, which may seem unfair given that parking your car in the streets is free of charge after 7PM, but they occasionally may check your car against stereo robbers. If the neighbourhood seems a bit dodgy or deserted, try to find a parking lot rather than parking in the streets.
Valet services: Most bars and restaurants offer non-compulsory parking and valet services to customers, for which you will be charged a small fee. These services are often covered by insurance, nevertheless, whenever using valet services, do not leave valuables such as handbags, wallets, electronics and sunglasses in the car, as these items are usually not covered by the insurance policies in parking spaces.
Fuel: At petrol filling stations, you'll notice that ethanol is as common as traditional fuels in the pumps. That is because, after the oil shocks in the 1970s, the Brazilian government incentivised car makers to develop and improve the existent ethanol-fueled engines. This policy, applied over the years, has resulted in a large number of people choosing to buy this type of car. Ethanol tends to be cheaper than petrol, but the consumption in litres is around 30 percent higher. Many flex-power cars can now be fueled with either ethanol or gas, or a mixture of both in any proportion. Staff in petrol stations will fill in the tank for you, so you don't even need to step out of the car, unless if you're paying by credit card, in which case you will need go to the cashier to swipe it.
Bikers: You will quickly note that bikers in São Paulo (particularly motoboys) usually ride between cars (which is not legally allowed) and sometimes at dangerous speeds. If you are not careful, you may easilly cause an accident with a biker. Be aware that motoboys often ride in groups (called motoboy gangs by drivers) which will surely confront you if you hit one of them, even if the accident was really caused by the biker. If this very unfortunate event happens, try to excuse yourself and show sincere effort on helping the accidented biker, no matter who is right and who is wrong.
It is best to cycle on the weekends, when the number of pedestrians and cars in the streets are much lower than on weekdays. Don't ride your bicycle on the pavement, and follow the direction of traffic at all times. Watch out for car doors opening without warning.
There are public bicycle parking lots in Guilhermina-Esperança and Pinheiros metro stations (6AM-9PM daily). Parking lots (mainly the ones designed for cars) may not accept your bicycle, so if you are to chain yours to a pole, use a good chain with a strong lock.
The Metro underground system accepts cyclists with bicycles on weekends and holidays.
São Paulo has built 23 km of the 300 km planned cycle routes. Many are underutilised, such as the one that connects the Largo da Batata to Ave Pedroso de Morais, in the district of Pinheiros. You can also ride your bicycle in public parks such as Ibirapuera Park and Cidade Universitaria, which are cyclist-friendly.
Although required by the national transit law, pedestrians are definitely not the priority in Sao Paulo, where cars dominate the streets and roads, and have become an extension of people's bodies. Take care whenever crossing the streets, watching out for cars that may come unexpectedly, even if the pedestrian lights are green. Do not try to cross large roads with a high volumes of car traffic: usually there will be a pedestrian viaduct or bridge at some point in the sidewalk.
Despite the aggressiveness found in the transit, one can still have peaceful walks across town. The historical Centro neighbourhood is definitely one place to explore on foot.
The Jardins are also great to explore by strolling around the Rua Oscar Freire, Rua Haddock Lobo and Alameda Santos. More on this area can be found below on the "Buy" section of this guide and on the region section.
The Paulista Avenue (Avenida Paulista) is constantly shown on São Paulo postcards as the symbol of the city, and it's not without reason, as it's one of the largest business centers, and probably the largest cultural center of the city. If you never been on a metropolis, this is a must see.
The avenue and its surroundings (like Rua Augusta and Alameda Santos) contain inumerous shop galleries, art galleries, theatres, movie theaters, pubs, coffe shops, book shops and restaurants. It's also one of the few places in São Paulo that it's pretty safe to walk at night (at least until 23:00, and that does not apply to the neighboring streets). Check the Paulista and Jardins district section for more information on what can be found there.
To get to Avenida Paulista, you may take the subway and stop on Brigadeiro, Trianon-Masp or Consolação stations. The Paulista station is actually on the nearby Rua da Consolação and not on Avenida Paulista. You may also get there by car, but be aware that traffic is usually intense and parking lots are expensive.
As the art center of the country, São Paulo offers museums in a variety of subjects. Check each region section of this guide for a list of museums.
São Paulo is a beautiful city seen from above, so spare some time to go to one of the few points where you´ll be able to see how far this city extends to, specially at sunset.
São Paulo has a great number of theaters, most of which carry plays in Portuguese. Specific places, such as the British Cultural Centre, Goethe Institut, Instituto Cervantes and Alliance Française occasionally carry plays in English, German, Spanish and French, respectively.
Check each region of the city for list of theaters.
For more parks, check a city region section.
It also has frequent free music presentations by national and international artists. Ibirapuera was inaugurated in 1954, during the celebrations for the city’s fourth centennial. Oscar Niemeyer, renowned Brazilian architect, designed several of the buildings. Watch joggers, dog-walkers and all kinds of street vendors, and sit down on a patch of grass and listen to the birds singing. One of the few places in São Paulo where you can do just that. If you feel like it you can even enjoy a Caipirinha from one of the cardbord-box bars you will find close to the entrances. Also buy the sweet and tasty coconut/nougat-sweets that are sold by many vendors in the park. Nearest Metro is "Vila Mariana" and then a short taxi ride, a bus or a 20 minutes walk down the Rua Sena Madureira. You also can walk for around 20 minutes through Brigadeiro Luiz Antonio Avenue, from "Brigadeiro" Station (Green Line), in Paulista Avenue. You also can take a bus from the station, until the park.
Whether taking a tour by bus, walking in specific neighborhoods or admiring a great view of the city on top of Edifício Itália, São Paulo has many options for sightseeing and exploring. Stroll around Vila Nova Conceiçao, one of the most expensive property areas in town. Drive along Pinheiros neighborhood which contains some of the most famous and popular night clubs in the city. The crossing from Av. Faria Lima and Av. Juscelino Kubitschek is a good place to start. Driving along the Faria Lima and surroundings, visitors will be rejoiced by a wide selection of bars and clubs.
The Zoo . Tu-Su, 9AM-4:30PM. Always a good option to get to know a little bit more about the varied fauna of Sao Paulo. It is also a nice entertainment option for families with children in town. From Metro Jabaquara station, there is a shuttle bus that takes you straight there.
According to the São Paulo Convention & Visitors Bureau, São Paulo hosts 90,000 events a year, from meetings and conferences to sports and cultural events.
The arts Biennial takes place every two years (even ended) in the Biennial Pavillon, inside the Ibirapuera Park. It is an art show that displays the works of both renown artists and fresh talents.
If you're in São Paulo during the annual Carnival, a national bank holiday between the end of February and March, you should definitely get tickets to parade in the Sambodromo, near Armenia and Tiete Metro stations (Avenida Olavo Fontoura, 1209, Santana. Tel. +55(11) 6226-0510). This is where the typical Carnival parade takes place, with dancers dressed up in costumes and musicians play samba songs on the top of fancy cars.
If you can afford it, get tickets closest to the "pista" (standing area, close to the parade itself). This will give you a premium view of the parade, and the possibility of comfortably sitting down on benches. Waiters pass to and fro selling chocolate, chips, beer, soft drinks and booze.
Another option is to visit one of the various samba school in town, where you can see the rehearsal concerts of musicians and dancers. You can even have the opportunity to join the parade at the time of Carnival holidays by acquiring the costume from a samba school and getting in touch with the people organising the event in one of the schools.
Every year, during Corpus Christi holidays (usually between May and June), around 3 million people take part in the largest Gay Pride parade in the world. It takes place on a Sunday, and Avenida Paulista is the spot to head to. Floats bustling with eletronic music parade from MASP to República, while every type imaginable marches along. The drinks are plenty and the rave party feel keeps the paraders dancing way pass sunset.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
São Paulo has a superb diversity of restaurants, and the prices can be relatively low compared to European and American standards. When eating out, a tip of 10 percent on the value of the bill is usually included. Some restaurants don't include service charges (occasion when you may come across the message "Serviço não incluso" at the end of the bill), but unless the staff are upsettingly rude, do pay the standard 10 percent service fee as it is usually part of their wages.
It is not common to leave handbags on the floor; local superstition says your money can go away (specially in open air bars). The waiters may even offer an extra chair for you to leave your belongings whilst you have your meal.
If you want a snack to enjoy with your beer and don't know what to order in a Brazilian bar, look up for Mandioca (Portuguese for manioc or cassava root) on the menu. Most likely they'll have it, deep-fried and sprinkled with salt (great alternative to chips!), or cooked and seasoned with melted butter. Other great snacks are Pastéizinhos (literally "little pastéis, thin, deep-fried, and crunchy salted pastries), or "Bolinhos de carne-seca" (a portion of delicious fried "dry-meat" rolls). If you are up to a more conservative choice, french fries are spelled batata frita in Brazilian Portuguese.
You will have no trouble finding bars in São Paulo, where you can enjoy an ice cold beer, a shot of cachaça or a caipirinha - or anything else for that matter. A chopp (a 300 ml glass of draught beer) will set you back between R$2-10 (in extreme cases), depending on the bar, but anything around R$3,10 is fine.
There are two ways of serving beer in bars: draft or bottled. Draft lager beer is called chope or chopp ('SHOH-pee'), and is commonly served with one inch of foam, but you can always ask for it "sem colarinho" (without foam) if you prefer. In bars, the waiter will usually collect the empty glasses and bottles on a table and replace them with full ones, until you ask him to stop, in a "tap" charging system. In the case of bottled beer, bottles (600 ml) are shared among everyone in the table and poured into small glasses, rather than drank straight from the bottle. Brazilians like their beer nearly ice-cold - hence, to keep the temperature down, the bottles are often kept in an insulated polystyrene container on the table.
Vila Madalena and Itaim have a very high concentration of bars, and are great spots for an all-nighter. For some suggestions of bars, check the district section.
This city has an unbelievably rich and diverse night life, and is able to provide entertainment for all tastes, from traditional samba-rock live music to electro-pop night clubs. It is worth planning at least one night out while you're in town. On the other hand, São Paulo's nightlife can be quite expensive; most clubs charge an entrance fee. Usually, entrance hovers around R$25, but they can be over R$250 (US$145) in some upscale places.
The most touristic areas are the Centro Histórico and the districts within the Expanded Center.
You'll find practically anything in São Paulo. Imported goods can be expensive, but look out for Brazilian-made bargains in all categories. Spend some time in one of the many "shoppings" (as Brazilians call the shopping malls) and also look out for areas with shops catering for specific interests.
There's not one single main shopping area in São Paulo, but many specialized streets, such as Rua Teodoro Sampaio (Metrô Clínicas) for furniture and musical instruments, Rua Oscar Freire (Metrô Consolação) for designer clothing such as Versace and Dior and jewelry shops, Rua José Paulino (Metrô Tiradentes) for bargain and wholesale clothing, and Rua Santa Ifigênia for electronic equipment. Every region of the city (Central, South, North, East and West) has several shopping areas.
Street shops usually operate 10AM-6PM, including Saturdays, but closed on Sundays. The countless shopping centres, operating M-Sa 10AM-10PM and Su 10AM-8PM.
Check each city region section for shopping options.
The Brazilian currency is the real (plural reais), abbreviated BRL or R$ (as used in this guide). It is the legal tender, and no other currency can be used within the country for everyday uses, such as shopping, taking a cab or paying for a meal. One real is divided into 100 centavos. There are two families of coins, the first one with all silver coins, and the second one as follows: R$0.01 and R$0.05 (copper), $0.10 and $0.25 (golden), $0.50 (silver) and $1 (silver with a golden halo), plus bills of $1 (green), $2 (dark blue), $5 (purple), $10 (red, paper and polymer), $20 (yellow), $50 (golden) and $100 (blue). As of December 2009, one pound sterling is worth about R$2.84, one US dollar is worth about R$1.75, and one Euro is worth about R$2.56.
São Paulo has one of the highest living costs in Latin America. Even so, costs are usually lower than in Western Europe or North America, and it is possible to enjoy the city's attractions while spending low cash in both accommodation and food. For example, a set-meal, drinks included, in a not-so-bad place is around R$ 12. Ask locals for tips how to make the best out of your money if you're in a tight budget.
People from Sao Paulo kiss on the right cheek once when they say hello, goodbye and nice to meet you. Some will kiss twice, once on each cheek, a kiss in the air. Men kiss women on the cheek and women kiss women as well, but two men won't give the kiss out unless they're gay or with intimate long-time friend or family. If you feel the occasion is a bit formal, especially on business occasions or if you don't know the person too well, a hand shake will do the job. However, if a paulistano takes the initiative to kiss, make sure you turn your face to the left side to avoid embarrassment.
Although paulistanos are relatively tolerant to homosexuality, and São Paulo is the host of the Gay Pride parade, public displays of affection between people of same sex are uncommon and likely to attract attention, with exception of cultural centers like Avenida Paulista and Ibirapuera Park, and at some bars, coffe shops, night clubs and shopping centers. Such displays of affection should be completely avoided on poorer neighborhoods and on public transport, where prejudice is likely to be openly manifested.
São Paulo, like any big city in South America, has its crime problems. However, with due caution and common sense, the likelihood of being a victim is small for the average tourist. The good news is that, since São Paulo is a highly multi-ethnical city, you will hardly be noticed as a tourist unless you want to, so you won't be targeted more than an average citizen. The bad news is that even "average citizens" deal with risk in their everyday lives.
Visitors should avoid walking in deserted areas at night, or at least avoid walking alone. Buses are reasonably safe, but waiting alone in a bus stop at night is not. The subway is always safe, but commuter trains can be dangerous late at night, when they are almost empty. Leave your jewelry and excess cash in the hotel's safe. Wearing extravagant or expensive-looking clothing will make you stand out if you're traveling by foot or public transportation.
A good tip is to take a money belt and a wallet, put some old credit cards and a little money in the wallet, then if you are pickpocketed or mugged you don't lose credit cards or any significant amount of cash. Note that you want some money in the wallet so that the mugger will leave after taking it. Also if you are mugged local advice is to just keep calm and hand over your wallet.
Pay close attention during check-in and when claiming baggage. Always remain alert at airport terminals and observe the following tips:
When asking for information or assistance, always look for a duly identified police officer or an employee of the company with which you are traveling. There is a DEATUR police station at all São Paulo airports, staffed by professionals specially trained to provide assistance to travelers.
Never handle large quantities of cash in public.
If you must use an ATM, make sure no one is watching when you type your security code. If the machine malfunctions, only request assistance from duly identified employees.
Never agree to carry packages for people who you don't know.
When using taxis or renting cars, choose only registered professionals and companies. When entering the vehicle, ask that all of your belongings be placed in the trunk. If the driver refuses, look for another taxi.
When using your mobile phone inside the taxi, keep it away from the window.
In slow traffic, do not handle large quantities of cash inside the vehicle.
During meals, your attention is focused on the table, which could compromise your safety. Put into practice the following advice to avoid problems:
Events and public places where there are a lot of people with bags and other belongings are attractive targets for thieves. Take the following precautions to avoid any unpleasant occurrences:
Familiarize yourself with the location of the police stations specializing in tourist service and protection. These stations offer information on public safety and are staffed with qualified professionals to meet your needs.
Possessing a car is a sign of wealth in São Paulo; as such, one must not expect to be much safer in a car than on foot. Drivers are often subject to armed robbery and express kidnappings. Some simple tips, however, will greatly reduce the likelihood of being a victim:
Following São Paulo's extraordinary growth during the 20th century, most of the old city buildings have given way to contemporary architecture. This means that most tourists sights are concentrated around the historical center, where 17th-century churches stand in the shadows of skyscrapers. The traditional ethnic neighborhoods are also fairly close to the center. Shopping and dining, though, are spread throughout the city.
São Paulo can be divided in 7 main regions:
The most cosmopolitan city in Brazil could only have a central area that is equally cosmopolitan. A universe of diverse people moves through the center of São Paulo; there are business people rushing to get to the stock market, groups of punks in search of the latest record and a number of university students hovering around the region attending night classes. Put on comfortable walking shoes and sunglasses, and discover hidden secrets that many Paulistanos may not even know about.
During the 20th century, little São Paulo became a giant metropolis and the historic downtown was just too small to hold its title. Since then, districts surrounding downtown in every direction became a circle known as Centro Expandido. The area is the most visited by tourists along with historic downtown, and home to the largest variety of services.
On the South Zone you can go from residential green areas by a lake, middle-class villages with local commerce, to the area that has been called the new downtown, where the skyscraper lovers find themselves at home, together with high profile businessmen.
Home to the University of São Paulo, the State's Palace, and the largest soccer stadium in town, the West side offers a green suburban feeling in contrast with the chaotic megalopolis. The northwest neighborhoods of Rio Pequeno e Jaguaré hold lower class residential and industrial areas respectly.
In the northern area of São Paulo you can find neighborhoods with a small-town feel, such as Freguesia do Ó. Places of importance are Expo Center Norte, one of South America's biggest venues for fairs and exhibitions, Serra da Cantareira State Park and Anhembi Park. This region also hosts the Sambodromo and concentrates the bulk of samba schools of the city, as "Gaviões da Fiel", Unidos do Peruche, Rosas de Ouro and Imperio da Casa Verde.
The east side was the former industrial region of São Paulo and also the home to thousands of immigrants who settled in São Paulo during the early 20th century. It's the region with the largest population in the city, and also with the largest shopping mall (Aricanduva) and the largest urban park (Parque do Carmo). Some neighborhoods of interest are Vila Zelina, with its strong Lithuanian influence, and Mooca, the place that many italians chose as home. Tatuapé/Anália Franco is also worth noting for its "newly-rich" vibe.
The places here are part of Greater Sao Paulo, although each is an independent municipality:
check district sections for located options of learning
|Discounts for Students|
With a valid photo ISIC (International Student Identity Card), you can get half-priced tickets at cinemas, theatre plays, gigs and concerts. Some discount applies to museum entrance fees and to some shops as well - check on the official ISIC website for more information on where student discount applies.
Brazil has exchange programmes with many internationally recognised universities. In order to register at a Brazilian university as an exchange student, you must obtain a student visa at the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate in your home country. After you have arrived in Brazil with a valid student visa, then you must register in the “Departamento da Polícia Federal” (Federal Police Department) within 30 days of your arrival and obtain the RNE (Registro Nacional do Estrangeiro), which is the national ID card for overseas citizens. This is also where you can renew your visa with the Brazilian authorities. It is located at Rua Hugo Dantola, 95, Alto da Lapa, near Ponte do Piqueri (Piqueri Bridge). It is open M-F, 8AM-2PM.
By bus:From Avenida Paulista to the Policia Federal department, you can take the bus line "669-A/10 Terminal Princesa Isabel" in front of Trianon-Masp Metro station (on the same side of MASP museum), get off at the final stop, then take bus "978-J Voith" and get off at Rua Hermano Marchete, 1030. Walk up the street until you see the Policia Federal. To return, take the same bus "978-J" to Terminal Princesa Isabel. Then, take bus "669-A/10 Terminal Sto. Amaro" to return to Avenida Paulista.
By train: From Metro station Barra Funda (red line), take the CPTM light rail train to Lapa station.
There are a number of language schools where you can learn Portuguese, for as short as two weeks or for a longer period of time. These include both private lessons and classes with more students.
|Emergency phone numbers:|
Internet cafés (also called cyber cafés ou lan houses) can be easily found in every neighbourhood.
Provides courier service within Sao Paulo by using professional cyclists. An eco-friendly alternative to car and motorbike deliveries, preventing an increase in air pollution and in your carbon footprint.
The city of São Paulo is only one hour driving from the Paulista Coast, which is a typical Brazilian region full of splendid beaches and great seafood. The young and the old of São Paulo alike head there on the weekends to enjoy the sand, sun and fun. You can take a bus to your chosen destination at the Terminal Rodoviario Tiete Bus Station, Metrô Portuguesa-Tietê station (blue line). Note the telephone code changes from 11 to 12 (northern coast - São Sebastião and remaining cities to the north) or 13 (Bertioga and remaining cities to the south) as you travel from Greater São Paulo to the Paulista Coast.
All coded from 14 to 19 are upstate São Paulo. The rich agricultural state offers winter destinations, upscale retreats and large Rodeos.
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