São Paulo Travel Guide

Brazil  
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Courtesy of (c) Conrado Tramontini/Getty Images

Getting Around São Paulo

The best way to get around São Paulo is on foot or via metro. If you plan out your itinerary in advance and group visiting popular attractions, you should be able to traverse between them on your own two feet. The metro is also a fast, clean, relatively safe and efficient option, and connects travelers to many of the city's beloved sights. At night, taxis or Ubers are the best way to get around and likely the best way to get from São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) into the city center, which is about 15 miles southwest (but always factor extra time for the city's notorious traffic). Congonhas Airport (CGH) also services the city with domestic flights; it's located around 5 miles south of the downtown area and will likely be the airport you use to travel to and from Rio de Janeiro (the majority of its flights are to Rio).

On foot or By bike

The best way to explore the city's diverse neighborhoods is on foot. Many top attractions can be found in the city center (Centro) and along Avenida Paulista, and you'll be able to walk between the sights. When you get tired or need to get to a different part of town, hop on the metro.

There is also a bike-sharing system, Bike Sampa, that operates more than 250 solar-powered stations across the city. For 8 reals (less than $2), you can enjoy unlimited 60-minute rides for a day. Passes are also available for single trips and three days. If you plan to bike, exercise extra caution in the city center; Sao Paulo's drivers are known to leave little space between their cars and cyclists. The Ciclovia Rio Pinheiros is a nice alternative that follows the banks of the Pinheiros River for nearly 15 miles.

Metro

The city's metro serves many of the top attractions. The São Paulo Metrô operates six color-coded lines throughout the city that are also numbered. The routes typically move north and south, and east and west. The metro runs from 4:40 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Friday and 4:40 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturdays.

There are several types of tickets available for purchase. A bilhete unitário (which is a single ride) costs 4 reals (about $1). You could also choose to purchase a bilhete único (a single ticket) card, similar to the reloadable cards in other major metro areas, for 6.96 reals (around $1.70), and continue to reload your card with money. The bilhete único allows you to transfer from the metro to bus for up to three hours for free. You can buy tickets at kiosks in the metro stations. Be aware of your surroundings when pulling money out of your wallet to pay for the tickets, stay alert on the trains and keep an eye on your belongings.

Bus

The bus system operates several routes throughout São Paulo but they can be confusing and the system can be difficult to navigate. The buses can get particularly crowded during weekday rush hour as well. The buses run from 4:40 a.m. to midnight, and the same tickets and fares on the metro apply.

Taxi

Taxis in the city are usually white in color and can be found at taxi stations (ponto de taxi) at many main intersections, or you can hail a cab off the street. (Some taxi drivers may speak English, but it's good practice to write down the address and/or name of your destination, and learn some basic phrases to assist you in getting around.) Taxis are the advised method of transportation in the evenings in the city and are helpful to get to harder-to-reach tourist spots. There are several reputable taxi companies you can also call ahead to order one. Taxi fares typically start at a fixed rate (around $1 and increase depending on mileage, however rates can vary depending on the time of day and distance traveled.) Ride-hailing apps, such as Uber and Easy Taxi, are also available to order rides around town.

Car

Driving in São Paulo as a tourist is not a great idea. The streets and highways are often crowded, parking is expensive and road signs can be confusing. If you do need to rent a car, you can do so at the airport and a few spots downtown. It's not required to obtain an international driving permit prior to your arrival, but it is recommended.

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