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The Perfect Trip to Sao Paulo in Brazil

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Are you ready to book the perfect trip to Sao Paulo in Brazil? The country's financial capital is one of the biggest in South America, and can be pretty overwhelming for someone who has not been yet! So what exactly is there to do in Sao Paulo? Where is the best area to stay? And what are the best ways to get around the city? Well, those are just some of the things we are going to help you with.


We have visited Sao Paulo in Brazil several times, and have a bunch of friends that have showed us the ins and outs of this busy city. We're going to share with you everything we have learned, so that you too can have a great tip! Let's dive right in.

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Where is Sao Paulo in Brazil?

Sao Paulo is the biggest city in the country, and is the capital of the state of Sao Paulo. It is located just above the southern states of Brazil, south west of Rio de Janeiro. It is located just 25 miles inland from the Atlantic coast, with the closest beach about an hour away.

Where is Sao Paulo in Brazil

Sao Paulo is located right about the south of Brazil.


How to Get to Sao Paulo in Brazil

As the largest city in the country, Sao Paulo is one of the easiest and well-connected cities to reach in all of South America. It has direct flights to countries all around the world, and some of the most budget-friendly flights on the Southern Hemisphere.


How Many Airports Are in Sao Paulo, Brazil?

Sao Paulo actually has three different airports surrounding it, so it's important to make sure you keep this in mind while booking. The three main airports that serve Sao Paulo are Congonhas (CGH), Campinas (VCP), and Guarulhos (GRU).


What is the Closest Airport to Sao Paulo, Brazil?

The closest airport to Sao Paulo is Congonhas, which is just 10 km away from the city center, and can be reached in under a half hour depending on traffic. 


The next closest airport (which is where you'll most likely be flying to if you are coming from abroad) is Guarulhos. This is the biggest airport, and is located 20 km away. Due to heavy traffic, bus or private transportation times can vary from 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes.


The airport that is furthest away is Campinas, which is a little under 100 km away, and takes an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours in transportation between the airport and the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil.


Which is the Best Airport to Fly to In Sao Paulo?

The best airport to fly to in Sao Paulo really depends on where you are coming from. If you are coming from North America or Europe, chances are you will be flying into Guarulhos. If you are planning on flying from somewhere else in Brazil or in surrounding countries, then you will probably have the option. A few times we found extremely cheap flights from Campinas, so we flew into there to save money. While it wasn't the most convenient, it made sense for our budget at the time.


If flight prices are similar in all of the airports, we would definitely choose Congonhas, as it is a small and well-located airport.

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can use the calendar option to see which are the cheapest dates to get to Sao Paulo! We have found flights from the US for as little as $150!

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How Far is Sao Paulo Airport From the City?

  • Guarulhos Airport (GRU): 20 km - 45 min- 1 hour
  • Congonhas Airport (CGH): 10 km - approx. 30 min
  • Campinas Airport (VCP): 95 km - 1 hr 15-30 min


Other Ways to Get to Sao Paulo

Another way to get to Sao Paulo from other areas of Brazil is by taking a bus. Here are some of the most popular routes that you can book:

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Entry Requirements for Brazil

Whenever traveling to a new country, it's important to know the entry requirements before going. Here are a few things you need token in mind for visiting Sao Paulo in Brazil.


Visa Entry Requirements for Brazil

US citizens previously were required to obtain a visa in order to visit Brazil. However, now it is no longer necessary, and the only things you need to enter is your passport. 


Other nationalities which are exempt from having to obtain a tourist visa for Brazil include AndorraArgentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Canada, ChileColombiaCosta RicaDenmarkEcuador, Finland, France, GermanyGreece, Japan, Iceland, IrelandItaly, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, The Netherlands, Norway, ParaguayPeru, Philippines, Portugal, San Marino, South Africa, SpainSuriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, United KingdomUruguay, and Venezuela.


If you are a part of the Mercosur region, you do not need to bring your passport to visit Brazil, and will just need to bring your ID card with you. The countries that are included in the Mercosur Region other than Brazil are ArgentinaUruguay, and Paraguay.


Covid Entry Requirements for Brazil

Brazil is one of the few countries in the Americas that still have Covid-related entry requirements. In order to travel to Sao Paulo in Brazil you need to either be fully vaccinated, or to bring a negative Covid-19 test result with you before boarding. 


Masks are also still required while going through security, and for some reason only asked to be worn there (not any other parts of the airport or during the flight). Make sure to carry a mask with you while traveling, because if not, you'll need to purchase one inside the airport before going through security. Other than that, masks are not required to be worn anywhere else.


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Local Adjustments for Sao Paulo in Brazil

Whenever traveling to a new destination, there are things that you may need to adjust to such as the language, currency, outlets, or tipping culture. Here are a few things to keep in mind while visiting Sao Paulo in Brazil.


What Language Do They Speak in Sao Paulo?

In Sao Paulo, as well as the rest of Brazil, the local language is Portuguese.


Can I Speak English in Sao Paulo?

Out of anywhere in the country, we found that more people in Sao Paulo speak English than the rest of the country. This is because it is a city that is focused on business, so it draws a bigger international crowd. 


Not everyone speaks English though, so we definitely suggest trying to pick up some of the basics before visiting, or having Google Translate downloaded on your phone just in case.


Which Currency Does Sao Paulo Use?

The currency used in Sao Paulo is the Brazilian Real. Currently (June 2023) the exchange rate is about 5 Brazilian Real for every 1 USD. Most establishments such as hotels and restaurants accept credit card, but we suggest taking some local money out of the ATM for street vendors, public transportation, and tipping.


Which Outlets Do They Have in Sao Paulo?

Brazil actually has the same outlets as Europe, and in some cases outlets that are suitable for both American and European plugs. Brazil operates on a 127/220 V supply voltage and 60 Hz. We suggest getting a European travel adapter for your electronics, in case you don't happen to find the international electrical outlets.


Is the Water in Sao Paulo Drinkable?

The water in Sao Paulo and most areas of Brazil is not suitable to drink from the tap. We suggest buying large jugs of water from the supermarket, and then refilling a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.


Do People Tip in Sao Paulo?

The tipping culture in Sao Paulo is similar to many other South American cities, which is a standard 10%. Some restaurants will automatically include gratuity, so make sure to keep an eye out for this on your bill.

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Things to Do in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Now that you know all of the basics of visiting Sao Paulo in Brazil, here are the best things to do in and around the city.


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Sao Paulo in Brazil pin

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #1: Walk Along Paulista Avenue

Paulista Avenue is the main strip that runs through the heart of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Here you can find tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and street vendor.. this busy street will make you understand just how big Sao Paulo really is, and will give you those chaotic city vibes that you rarely find elsewhere in South America.


Many of the highlights of the city of Sao Paulo are scattered along this avenue such as churches, malls, and other points of interest. We suggest grabbing a tour to appreciate this part of the city, and its history.


Here are a few city tours you can choose from to learn more about the highlights of the city:

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #2: Enjoy the Art at Beco Do Batman

If you only have time to do one thing in Sao Paulo, then let Beco do Batman be it. This incredibly colorful street and the area around it is full of stunning murals and pieces of art from local artists, and brings a lot of vibrancy to the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil.


Apart from just checking out the street art, you'll be able to experience music, shopping, and an overall great vibe, making Beco do Batman a must visit on your trip.


Beco do Batman, Sao Paulo in Brazil
Beco do Batman, Sao Paulo in Brazil
Beco do Batman, Sao Paulo in Brazil
Beco do Batman, Sao Paulo in Brazil

One of the most fun things to do in Paraty is to visit a Cachacaria.

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #3: Browse the Weekend Markets

Another thing that we love about Beco do Batman is their great weekend market, where you can find various stalls of locals selling their art, handicrafts, and even handmade clothing. Beco do Batman's market is our favorite one, but there are also various others that you can check out if you happen to be visiting during the weekend.

Markets in Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo market

If you get to visit on the weekend don't miss out on the great markets in Sao Paulo.

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #4: Explore Ibirapuera Park

Ibirapuera Park is the equivalent to New York's Central Park. It is the largest green area in the city, and the perfect place to escape the chaos of Sao Paulo. There is no shortage of things to do in Ibirapuera park, from its museums and planetarium, to its statues and pieces of art. Two of the parks most iconic spots include the Monumento às Bandeiras and the Obelisk. There is so much to see though, that it is definitely worth getting a full tour by a local to experience al it has to offer.

the carnival in Brazil- Sao Paulo

One of the best parties for Sao Paulo's carnival is in Ibapuera Park.

Here are a couple of tours that you can take to Ibirapuera Park:

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #5: Take in the Views From Edificio Copan

One of the great thing about visiting big financial cities is that you can usually get some pretty awesome views from their skyscrapers. One of the best buildings to do this at is Edificio Copan, where you can go up to the 38th floor and get views of the entire downtown area of Sao Paulo.


Things to Do in Sao Paulo #6: Get an Instagrammable Shot at Sampa Sky

If you're looking for some great views and cute pictures, then you'll definitely want to add Sampa Sky to your Sao Paulo bucket list.


Located on the 42nd floor of a high rise, Sampa Sky is known for its glass platforms that jut out and give people those "Instagrammable shots". It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and is closed on Mondays. From Tuesday to Friday the opening hours are from 11 am to 6 pm, Saturdays are open from 9 am to 6 pm, and Sundays are open from 9 am to 4 pm.


Reservations are required in advance, so make sure to book a few days before! There is also a cafe at the top, so plan on giving yourself at least an hour to enjoy the place and wait in line for photos.


Sampa Sky, Sao Paulo in Brazil
Sampa Sky, Sao Paulo in Brazil
Sampa Sky, Sao Paulo in Brazil

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #7: Visit the Sao Paulo Cathedral

Unlike most cities throughout South America, there aren't a ton of historical buildings to check out in Sao Paulo. However, one of the top historical sites in the city is Sao Paulo Cathedral, which is the biggest cathedral in the city.


Things to Do in Sao Paulo #8: Take a Paulista Cooking Class

One of our favorite things to do while traveling is to experience local cuisine, and what better way to do it than by taking a cooking class! Paulista cooking classes allow you to learn Brazilian dishes with a local, so that you can not only try the food, but bring back the recipes home with you.

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #9: Dive Into Sao Paulo's Nightlife

While Sao Paulo may not be as charming as Rio de Janeiro, or as colorful as Salvador, Sao Paulo definitely comes in a the top when it comes to nightlife.


Sao Paulo in Brazil has something for everyone. Whether you want to bar hop, dance samba, go to a drag show, or party all night at an electronic nightclub, you're sure to have a fun night out in this crazy city!


Want to meet some new friends during your travels? Here are some fun bar crawls you can sign up for! 

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #10: Learn Samba

Samba is the national dance of Brazil, and it's seriously impressive how Brazilians can move. Take a dance class to see what this fun style of dance is about. You'll meet new friends, and go back home being able to show your friends and family some new moves.

Things to Do in Sao Paulo #11: Experience Brazilian Carnival

Hands down one of the top things to do in Brazil is to experience the incredible Brazilian Carnival celebrations.


While most people flock to Rio de Janeiro, we actually found that some of our favorite carnival moments were in Sao Paulo!


10 years ago Sao Paulo didn't have much when it came to celebrations for carnival, but within the past few years the government has really pushed to make Sao Paulo's carnival what it is today. You can find giant street parties during the day, and epic parties through the whole night. Also, unlike other cities, Sao Paulo actually has a ton of pre-parties so you can experience some of the celebrations as early as a month before!

carnival in Sao Paulo, Brazil
carnival in Sao Paulo, Brazil
carnival in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo has one of the most fun carnival celebrations in Brazil.


Local Food & Drink in Sao Paulo

The great thing about Sao Paulo is that you have the opportunity to try traditional Brazilian food, but also to have international options. 


Sao Paulo is full of trendy cafes, fun bars, and cool rooftop restaurants. There is a great mix of high end eateries, to cheap eats on the streets. Here are some local Brazilian specialties to try, as well as some of our favorite places to eat and drink.


Traditional Brazilian Foods to Try

  • Acai: super refreshing frozen treat made from Amazonian berries
  • Coxhina: fried teardrop shaped dough with shredded chicken inside
  • Caipirinha: traditional Brazilian cocktail made with Cachaça, limes, and sugar. 
  • Pao de Queijo: small balls of bread with cheese baked inside
  • Pastel: fried pastries that are similar to empanadas, and great for an on-the-go snack
  • Brigadeiro: small, round, traditional Brazilian desserts with creamy chocolate inside
  • Churrasca: Brazilian Steakhouses are an absolute must! They slice unlimited amounts of meat at the table from large skewers, and also have a great selection of starters on a buffet line.

Favorite Restaurants in Sao Paulo, Brazil

From trendy brunches to iconic dining establishments. here were some of our top picks in the city for eating and drinking.

  • Cora Restaurante: 6th floor rooftop with a retro style
  • Botanikafe Jardins: a great brunch spot covered from top to bottom in greenery
  • HM Food Cafe
  • Rubaiyat Figueira: Upscale restaurant built around a century-old tree, that was featured on the Simpsons
  • D.O.M.: a 2 Michelin star restaurant ranked in the top 10 restaurants in the world!

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Getting Around Sao Paulo in Brazil

Sao Paulo is a huge city! The good thing, is that there are a ton of different ways to get around and explore all that the city has to offer.


Is it Worth it to Rent a Car in Sao Paulo?

While we typically rent cars when we travel, this is one of the few places where we don't necessarily recommend it. While we love the convenience of driving, parking can be difficult inside the city, and the prices for parking can easily add up. If you do have a car like we did, we suggest getting a hotel that has a private parking lot. Do your research to make sure it is one that has walls, so your car is not a target for damage or theft.


Public Transportation in Sao Paulo

The city of Sao Paulo has a metro system, and a great public bus system. We loved using the public transportation, as it is very affordable. If you are taking the bus, make sure to carry some cash on you.


The safest and easiest option is to take Uber or 99 (a local app for rides). Taxis can be flagged down, but Uber and 99 are the most reliable form of getting from point A to point B, and are pretty affordable for their comfort and safety.

If the windows are down during your ride, make sure to hold on tight to your belongings. It is common for people to grab phones and purses straight out of a vehicle if it is stopped at a light or in traffic, and the same goes for buses.


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What is the Best Area to Stay in Sao Paulo as a Tourist?

When choosing a place to stay in Sao Paulo, location is everything! Sao Paulo has some super sketchy areas, and also some really beautiful ones. So it's important to find a place in an area that is close to the highlights, but that is also safe to walk back to at night. 


Our favorite area to stay in Sao Paulo is along Avenida Paulista. This is because it is a long and well-lit boulevard, making it easy to catch public transportation, and safer than some of the other neighborhoods.


Jardins or Jardim Paulista are also beautiful areas where you can find great restaurants, and be located near Ibirapuera park. Also, another area that's great is Consolacao, which has a bunch of great bars, and is conveniently located between Jardim and Avenida Paulista.


Check the map below to get an idea of different hotels to stay in around Sao Paulo:

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Is Sao Paulo Safe for Tourists?

Brazil has a lot of unsafe areas, and Sao Paulo can definitely be one of them. Like any big city though, Sao Paulo has some really sketchy areas, and some beautiful and safe neighborhoods. The key is to be aware of where to go and where to avoid in Sao Paulo, and to always keep your witts about you. We have visited Sao Paulo several times, and have had some incredible experiences, as well as some that were a bit uncomfortable.


Avoid wearing anything flashy, or drawing attention to yourself. Try to avoid walking alone at night, or walking around in areas that are not well lit or have police around. It's also a smart idea to not speak super loudly in English or a language that is not Portuguese, as you can easily become a target this way.


Many locals use small fanny packs under their pants or dresses to keep their money and valuables when going out, and it's best to avoid bringing big and expensive handbags around with you. If you have a camera, only take it out when you are in touristy areas, and always be aware of your surroundings.

 

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Other Things to Know About Visiting Sao Paulo in Brazil

Now you are almost ready for your trip to Sao Paulo in Brazil! But before going, we have a few more things to share with you.


Weather in Sao Paulo

While most people assume everywhere in Brazil is hot and sunny year-round, this is actually not true when it comes to Sao Paulo. We have visited during various times, and experienced a lot of different weather.


The hottest months of the year in Sao Paulo are in the summer, which are from December to February, and the coolest months are July and August. January is the wettest month, so even though at times it may be hot, the rain can cool it down drastically. When we visited in January, we were actually quite cold, especially at night. Meanwhile, just a few weeks later in February, the weather was blistering hot.


What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Sao Paulo?

We personally think the best time of year to visit Sao Paulo is during the shoulder seasons, which are from March to May, and from September to November. This is when the temperatures are more mild and dry. 


We also think one of the best times to visit Sao Paulo is during Carnival, which is typically around the end of February. In addition, while other places celebrate Carnival for just 4-7 days, Sao Paulo actually has pre-carnival celebrations for an entire month before! So keep this in mind if you'd like to visit in January, or earlier in February.


Finally, June is a really fun time to visit Sao Paulo, as it is pride month, and Sao Paulo has one of the biggest gay communities in the world. The city is so much fun, and during June you can experience South America's largest pride parade along Avenida Paulista.


What Should I Pack For Sao Paulo, Brazil?

  • Sunscreen (the sun is very strong in Brazil)
  • Light jacket or sweater (it can get chilly at night)
  • Power bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are long lasting)
  • Zippered bag or backpack (to secure your belongings)
  • Lock (to secure your belongings in hotels or shared rooms in hostels)
  • Comfortable shoes to explore the city
  • Nicer evening clothing & shoes to go out in (some clubs have dress codes)
  • Money pouch (to hide your money or small valuables)
  • Travel Adapter (we use Tessan travel adapters.)
  • Water Bottle (we use Cafago Water Bottles as they hold the temperature well.)


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Is Sao Paulo Worth Visiting?

Sao Paulo is much different than the rest of Brazil, and it is definitely not the tropical getaway you may be hoping for. That being said, we do love Sao Paulo, and think it is a great place to spend a weekend! It is really fun for nightlife, so we suggest visiting on a Friday or Saturday night, into Sunday (which is when the markets are).


Being connected so well internationally, Sao Paulo makes for an excellent place to start or end your trip in Brazil, and we definitely think it is worth a short visit!


Sao Paulo in Brazil
Sao Paulo in Brazil
art in Sao Paulo in Brazil

Sao Paulo is definitely worth visiting for a weekend.


So are you ready to explore all that Sao Paulo in Brazil has to offer? If you are also planning on visiting other areas of the country, you can check out the other Brazilian travel guides that we have to offer!


Are you looking to plan a big trip to Brazil? How about looking for the cheapest flights for your trip? Scratch Your Mapa offers trip planning from cheap flight and hotel bookings, to custom itineraries. Our guarantee is that we will save you more money than the cost of our work, so it's a win-win! Take a peak at the different packages we offer, and shoot us an email for your free consultation.


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