Sao Paulo Travel Guide

Sao Paulo Travel Guide: Everything you need to know about Sao Paulo

Whether you are a fan of architecture or art, parties or early morning coffee breaks, skyscrapers or historical sceneries, Sao Paulo has it all for you. This city, located in the southeastern part of Brazil, is considered as the financial capital, most populous and most multicultural city, not just in Brazil, but in the entire South America continent.  Why multicultural? Since the 19th century, a huge number of immigrants with Italian, Portuguese, African, Arab, Greek, Bolivian, Chinese and Japanese descents migrated in the city. This multiculturalism is evident in the city’s gastronomy, religion, beliefs and practices.

Sao Paulo Travel Guide
Liberdade district of Sao Paulo – the biggest Japanese town outside Japan

Getting in the city

The city has two airports namely Guarulhos International Airport and Congonhas Airport.

Guarulhos Airport services both international and some domestic flights. It is located 18 miles away from downtown Sao Paulo. There is an exclusive fleet of taxis operating in the airport known as Guarucoop. It will costs around BRL 340. If you do not have extra budget for this but still want to get a private ride to your hotel/hostels, Uber would be the best choice and it’ll cost you around BRL 180. You just have to walk for 5 mins because they are not allowed to get inside the airport premises. There is also a specialized airport bus service which connects to major hotels in the city that costs around BRL 49. If you are a budget traveller and can’t afford the prices mentioned above, you can use a combination of bus and metro which will cost you only BRL 8.95.

Congonhas Airport is dealing with almost all domestic flights to and from Sao Paulo. This airport is located just 5 miles away from the city. There are taxis outside the arrival area and single ride will costs BRL 50 – BRL 135, depending on the traffic. For a cheaper ride, you can head to the bus terminal in Av. Washington Luiz, just a 5-minute walking distance away from the airport. Single ride will cost you BRL 3.80.

Getting around the city

It is not that hard to get around the city of Sao Paulo since there are numerous transportation options you can take depending on your budget. These options are outlined below for you:

Metro:

Sao Paulo Travel Guide
Trianon-MASP Station

The subway network has 5 color-coded lines: Line 1 (Blue), Line 2 (Green), Line 3 (Red), Line 4 (yellow) and Line 5 (Lilac). It serves many top attractions that tourists are interested in visiting. Single ride costs BRL 3.80 regardless of distance travel. The metro runs from 4:40 AM to around 12:00 AM. This is the most convenient and fastest way to get around the city.

For more details about the metro, you can visit this website: http://www.metro.sp.gov.br

Train:

If you plan to reach the metropolitan areas of Sao Paulo which are located up to 50 km away from the city centre, embarking into Sao Paulo’s train is the most efficient way for you. The railway system has six lines managed by CPTM: Line 7 (Ruby), Line 8 (Diamond), Line 9 (Emerald), Line 10 (Turquoise), Line 11 (Coral) and Line 12 (Sapphire). Single ride also costs 3.80.

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Map of Sao Paulo’s subway

Bus:

The bus system in Sao Paulo is run and supervised by SPTrans. Buses are the best alternative when getting to certain areas which are not in close proximity from the metro stations or railroads. The fare is BRL 3.80, same as the metro and the train.

The cons about buses is that it can get very crowded especially during peak hours and some drivers tend to be reckless. They often drive around at full speed and step on the brakes abruptly so you have to grab onto something all the time.

Taxi:

Taxis are the advisable mode of transportation for late night travel and in getting to areas which are not easily accessible by bus or metro. They can be found at almost all corners (ponto de taxi) in the neighborhood. Most taxi drivers, however, do not speak other languages aside from Portuguese so it is advisable to write down the name of your destination in a piece of paper to avoid confusion. It is typical for some drivers to double their price when they notice that they are transporting foreigners so it is recommended to use Uber or Easy Taxi when booking for a ride because prices are already calculated for you beforehand.

Private Car:

There are a number of car rental in Sao Paulo. Prices vary depending on the type of car. However, this is not advisable to tourist since road signs can be confusing and parking fee is expensive.

Bicycle:

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Avenida Paulista is closed down for cars on Sundays

Short trips can be done by using bikes. There are already a number of bike paths in operation in the city since 2016, including an excellent one in Avenida Paulista. Most hostels offer bike rentals.

On Foot:

There are a couple of tourist attractions which are navigable by feet. Many of the top attractions located in the city centre are about a walking distance only from each other. It is pretty safe to walk during daytime but extreme caution should be exercised when walking at night especially in some areas in the city centre where there are a couple of pickpockets and muggings experienced by tourists.

Quick tip: Just type in your current location and desired destination in google maps and it will give you transit directions and the number of the bus or metro line you need to take.

Purchasing tickets for public transport

Metro/Train: Tickets for the metro/train can be bought in the counters inside the subway stations. A Bilhete Unitário costs BRL 3.80 and is valid for one ride only. You can also purchase the Bilhete Único for BRL 6.80, a reloadable card which allows you up to four trips, one by metro and three by bus, within 3 hours at the cost of only one fare.

Bus: Bus fares can be paid by cash upon embarking. There is a collector sitting just right at the turnstile. If you have the Bilhete Único, you have to scan the card against the yellow reader located in front of the collector, then you can pass on to the turnstile.

Currency

The Brazilian currency is the Real (BRL). Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks or cambios. If you are arriving on a Sunday, you must have some money exchanged at the airport because most banks and cambios are closed during that day.

Language

The language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese. Most people you will encounter does not speak English at all so get yourself familiar with some of the basic words in case you don’t find anyone who speaks English.

Eat

Sao Paulo’s cuisine is greatly influenced by its European, Asian and Arab immigrants so it is no wonder that you will find the typical dishes from all over the world served in most restaurants in Sao Paulo.

Most restaurants will include a service charge on your bill. Although it looks mandatory, the customer can actually refuse to pay this when you feel you received a bad service.

Pizza is the most eaten food in Sao Paulo. About a million of pizzas are produced daily by pizzerias.

Nightlife

Sao Paulo has a very rich night life. As what one local told us, Brazilians work hard but play harder. When the sun goes down, you will start seeing people coming out from their offices heading down to the nearest bars or clubs. There are plenty of places to choose from, whether it be traditional, country, acoustic, electro-pop or rock music.

Vila Madalena is a great place to visit if you want to experience Sao Paulo’s vibrant night life.

Shop

Paulistanos really do love to spend on style. Sao Paulo has a number of shopping places where you can buy native Brazilian brands and imported goods so take your wallets for some shopping spree in this hottest shopping place in Latin America.

A stroll along Rua Oscar Freire (middle photo below), the most luxurious street in Sao Paulo, is a must. The street is packed not only with elegant restaurants but also with high-end fashion and jewelry boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Versace, Bulgari, Vivari, Diesel and more.

There are also a number of indoor shopping malls which will give you a one-stop luxury experience.

However, if you are on a tight budget and looking for some cheap bargains, Rua 25 de Marco is the right place. You can find everything here from household items, clothing apparels, electronics, gardening tools and a lot more. The streets, however, can get chaotic with vendors trying to approach every people passing and from buyers rushing their way through. You need to keep an eye on your belongings as pickpockets are common in this area.

See

Paulista Avenue

IMG_1456On a Sunday, Paulista Avenue is closed down for cars. The place is transformed into a recreational place where performers can exhibit their talents. There are also runners, cyclists and skaters everywhere. Street markets also open in front of Trianon Park and under MASP building.

Historic Center

Sao Paulo’s historic center should not be missed out as this is where you will really see the famous constructions and landmarks built during the glorious moments of the city. However, the place is sometimes avoided by most tourist and even Paulistanos give some warnings when visiting there since it can be a bit dodgy especially at night. Even  then, it is still recommended to visit this for a complete cultural experience.

Parks

There are a number of public parks in the city. One of the most popular of them is Parque do Ibirapuera located in Vila Mariana. It is a great place for jogging, walking and leisure. Buildings designed by the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer are also found inside the park. The park covers an area of 158 hectares. Admission is free and it is open from 5 AM until midnight.

Museums

For people who love art, there are plenty of museums you can visit in the city like Instituto Tomie Ohtake, Casa das Rosas, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo, Museu de Arte Contemporânea and Museu da Imagem e do Som de São Paulo.

You can check the schedule of exhibits in each museums here:

Weather  

There are four seasons in Sao Paulo. Summer spans from December to February with temperatures ranging from 68 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. A few downpours are mostly common during this time of the year. During fall (March through May) and spring (October through November) temperatures are hovering from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter, which occurs from June until September, temperature ranges from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

7 Comments

  1. I haven’t been to Sao Paulo yet but am looking forward to it someday. Great tips on transportation. I’ll def take public transport over renting a car.

  2. I haven’t been to Sao Paulo. It seems a great place to visit. Thanks for detailed information and great tips.

  3. This is super-useful, especially all the great information about how to get around. And so funny that the most-commonly-eaten food is pizza! I think it’s the same everywhere in the world.

    1. Author

      Thanks Carrie. Sao Paulo is one of the underrated tourist destinations. Did not find complete guide myself so decided to help out others by writing this. And this just proves everyone really loves pizza :D.

  4. You should include the free walking tours too! Great japanese eats to be found in Sao Paolo. And I particularly love vila magdalena!! (:

  5. You should add in the free walking tours too! They’re great! Nice round up btw! I am missing the coxinhas so bad now! Sao Paolo does have some pretty good japanese food too! (:

    1. Author

      I actually wrote about the free food tour but was not able to attend the walking tour. So bad. I went to Liberdade for Japanese foods. It was such a great place. I felt transported to the land of the rising sun :). I love all the food in SP that I actually wrote a blog only about my excellent eating experience here: https://dawntheexplorer.com/sao-paulo-food-guide/

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