A very unlucky welcome experience at Sao Paulo


We flew from Suriname and had a stop over at Belem. It started to be little bit rough once we arrived at the latter because most people do not speak English at all. We went to order food for our breakfast at the airport but they do not understand a single word we are speaking so we had to really do a lot of hand signals/gestures to make them understand what we were trying to say but thankfully we were still able to get the right meal we ordered.

We thought that the misery would end there but then while waiting at the boarding area we notice that the passengers sitting around us before suddenly went gone and we saw some people running to a different gate. Honestly, there were some announcements being done but we weren’t paying attention because it was in Portuguese and we were really expecting that there would be an English translation after that because that’s how it should be but then there wasn’t. We immediately stood up and look for an airport crew who could at least tell us what is happening. We found one but she was kinda horrified when we started speaking to her. We showed her our boarding pass but she did not say anything and just pointed somewhere. We just followed the direction she is pointing to and looked where there were people lining up. We joined them too while at the same time chanting some silent prayers in our mind that we were in the right gate.

The flight from Belem to Sao Paulo took about 4 hours. We arrived at Cogonhas Airport at around 4:10 pm. We took a taxi from the airport to our accommodation located in Paulista Avenue and that costs us R$50. The traffic was already very heavy during that hour that was why the taxi cost went so high and we got lost too because we were trying our best to say the hostel address in Portuguese and that didn’t do good because the driver understood it differently. Pfft. So it is really better to have the address written in a paper and just show it to the driver. That is the safest way, I guess, than trying hard to not appear as a non-Portuguese speaker like what we did.

Some hotels offer airport transfers for a fixed price (our hotel offers for R$150) but if the distance is not so far, I suggest you take the taxi or the bus shuttles located just outside the airport exit. They are registered taxis so you don’t have to worry about safety.

When we arrived at the hostel we found out that they actually did not charge anything in our credit card. So basically, the whole stay wasn’t paid yet. That was not actually a problem because we have brought extra money also, but the thing is, it was in US dollar. We exchanged some of our money to Reais at Belem but we spent already most of it and we were left only with R$20. We thought we can change our money at the hotel because it was indicated in their website that they are also doing currency exchange but it turned out they don’t do that anymore. There were also no open money exchanges anymore during that time because it was already a bit late.

Since we do not have any Reais for a taxi or a metro, we had to cancel our reservation at Terraco Italia and decided to eat at Rascal. We opted to walk only since it was not that far but we were really unlucky since we got lost along the way. Thankfully, the streets were really safe and we were still able to find the place. We went inside the restaurant and a lady approached us and directed us to a vacant seat (of course, still speaking Portuguese only!). We asked her if they are accepting US dollar as payment but she only shook her head so then we went out. We went to Burger King and saw that our R$20 bill is just enough to order one combo meal so we started queuing. When we reached the cashier, we started ordering and handed over the R$20 bill to him. However, he started speaking something in Portuguese. We understood one word he said which was “dinheiro” and that means cash in english. So we assumed that he was saying they do not accept cash. We stayed a few seconds and observed how other people were paying and we saw they pay in card. We headed to Subway which is just  few blocks away. They have a sandwich which costs only R$8. So we decided to order 2 of it. However, even if we are already pointing out the picture and doing a hand signal of two pieces they still gave us one piece of sandwich which costs R$12. We decided to just go home and share the small sandwich for dinner rather than argue with them that it was not what we wanted. We decided to just wrap it up and call it a day.

So far, I could still say the whole trip went fine despite having a bad day. Sao Paulo is a very big country and there are a lot more places to see and explore.

See my 8-day Sao Paulo itinerary post for more details.

Are you planning a trip to Sao Paulo? Let me know in the comments below!


Leave a Reply