Visit São Paulo
About São Paulo
Visit the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere and you’ll find world-class restaurants, over 150 museums, 15,000 bars, art-house cinemas, endless cutting-edge theatres and round the clock clubbing.
The city was founded by Jesuit missionaries way back in 1554, and later served as a base for slave-trading groups known as Bandeirantes. The coffee culture in the 19th century was responsible for its initial prosperity, then a boom in the industrial sector attracted a huge number of migrants. That’s left it with a heady mix of all-comers from everywhere, giving it a multicultural atmosphere that’s hard to match.
You’ll need to master the metro underground trains to avoid endless traffic jams. It’s a vast system, but pretty simple. Get a Bilhete Único transport smartcard at an underground station to pay for all your bus, metro and train rides.
For the best weather visit in Spring, from September to November, or in Autumn, from March to May. Summer from December to February can be unpleasantly hot and sticky.
Brazil runs on BRT Brazilia Time, which is GMT -3. Summer sees the clocks go forward an hour in mid-October and back an hour for Winter in mid-February.
The currency is the Brazilian Real. ATMs are everywhere and the Bradesco, HSBC and Banco do Brasil versions are foreign-friendly and feeless. Use ATMs inside the bank to avoid the risk of cloning. Access to most ATMs is closed from 10pm to 6am for security reasons.
São Paulo can get very hot and sticky in the Summer months from December to February, when sudden rains can cause flooding because of poor drainage. Even so, Christmas and New Year are the high season when everything gets more crowded. Autumn (from March to May) and Spring (from September to November) also have pleasanter weather. For winter, pack sweaters and a light coat.
Brazil has a unique plug with three round pins in a slight arc, which was introduced in 2009. You can fit European plugs with two round pins into those sockets. The voltage varies between 127/220 V.
São Paulo’s communication systems improved in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, with free wifi installed in hundreds of locations across the city.
São Paulo is enormous and congested so getting round can take time, but it’s do-able because the public transport system works well. Bus routes cover the entire city and the bus stops are marked with route maps. Clean and efficient metro trains run on five lines covering this mega-city. There are surface trains in the touristy too. Bilhete Único, a contactless card system, covers bus and train travel on one ticket.
Peak traffic is 6-9am and 4-8pm, but since the roads are so close to full capacity, any little incident can cause major delays. The best way to get around is by metro, but these also crowded during peaks and lugging luggage with you is tricky and risky. For taxis, you can hail a white cab in the street or book a radio taxi by phone or online. Taxi fares are quite pricey though.
Airport to City Center
SAA flights land at Guarulhos International Airport, 30km from São Paulo. The taxi co-operative Guarucoop has a monopoly on cabs at the airport. Credit card users can pay in advance at the booth outside the arrival terminal. The ride should take around 45 minutes, but note that it can take up to two hours during peak times.
Cheaper options are buses which run to numerous places around the city. The airport bus service called EMTU/SP provides nicer executive buses as well as ordinary buses and serves areas including: Praça da República (downtown), the Paulista/Jardins region, Barra Funda bus station and Tietê bus station. It’s a big oversight, but there’s no metro station at the airport. The nearest metro stations are Tietê, Barra Funda, República and Tatuapé, where you can catch a bus to complete the journey.