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Moving to Sao Paulo

Expats moving to the sprawling, crowded and extremely cosmopolitan city of São Paulo may initially find settling in a challenge. At first, the sheer enormity and seeming chaos can be overwhelming. That said, most expats find that the city's diversity of ethnicities and cultures helps to ease their transition into life in Brazil.

Living in São Paulo as an expat

As an important commercial and industrial centre, the city is home to almost every major Brazilian industry. Job opportunities in São Paulo have attracted immigrants and expats from all around the globe. The city, therefore, has a distinct international feel to it. Japanese, Arab, European and American immigrants have all added their unique flavours to the cultural melting pot in this Brazilian city and have contributed to the welcoming environment it offers expats.

Cost of living in São Paulo

The cost of living in the city is high by local standards. Expats relocating to São Paulo need to ensure that their salary is sufficient, particularly if earning in the local currency. Accommodation and schooling will likely be an expat’s biggest expenses. Earning in a foreign currency, such as the US Dollar, will allow more purchasing power.

Expat families and children

The majority of expats choose to send their children to one of the many exclusive international schools scattered around the city. These schools are often located in expensive areas, so expats will have to plan their accommodation accordingly. Although there is a lack of adequate government healthcare, those with private health insurance can enjoy the excellent level of care offered by the city’s many private healthcare centres.

Expats living in São Paulo will be perfectly situated to enjoy the best that life in Brazil has to offer. Just outside the city lie mountains and rainforests that are perfect for hiking and weekend getaways, while the magnificent beaches and picturesque seaside towns of the coast are only a few hours’ drive away. The city also boasts an excellent nightlife scene, with restaurants, clubs and bars dotting its streets and plenty of recreational and social activities to choose from.

Climate in São Paulo

Classified as a humid subtropical region, São Paulo's climate is enjoyably mild. Summers are long and humid though still pleasant, while winters are short and cool with partial cloud cover. Rainfall occurs throughout the year.

Pros and Cons of Moving to São Paulo

Brazil’s economic and financial heart, São Paulo is a heaving and bustling megacity – the fourth biggest in the world, in fact. Many huge multinational corporations have set up branches here in a variety of industries, the city's countless skyscrapers a testament to the fact. 

Life here can be pretty crazy, with the city's legendary traffic jams and sheer volume of people sometimes intimidating newcomers. While lacking the festival atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo remains an attractive prospect because of lucrative job offers, especially in the fields of technology, services and international finance. Of course, it does have its downsides too.

Check out our list of pros and cons below.


Lifestyle in São Paulo

+ PRO: Amazing nightlife

There are lots of party districts in the city, with exciting bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Options are varied, from traditional samba to megaclubs with more modern playlists. But Paulistas aren’t ones to start the party in a hurry, with most revellers only venturing out late at the night. Some venues might have dress codes, so remember to look sharp.

+PRO: Parque Ibirapuera

An icon of the city, this massive urban park is comparable to New York’s famous Central Park. It’s a great place to spend some downtime, offering everything from jogging tracks, basketball courts and lakeside picnic spaces, to museums and skateparks. It also plays host to São Paulo Fashion Week.

+ PRO: Great museums

With a rich and interesting history, the city has plenty of attractions in the form of museums and art galleries for new arrivals to enjoy. The Pinacoteca and Modern Art Museum are good first stops, while the São Paulo Art Museum is a must, owning pieces by Renoir, Gauguin and Gainsborough. Ibirapuera Park is home to the Museum of Modern Art and the University of São Paulo’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

– CON: Not quite a Rio paradise

Expats shouldn't expect the shimmering beaches and carnival atmosphere of Rio in São Paulo, even though the coast is just a couple hours away. The city does retain the rich, lively and diverse Brazilian culture and lifestyle, but the idea of a tropical paradise is replaced by a busy hub of industry and corporate economy.


Working in São Paulo

+ PRO: Brazil’s business hub

São Paulo is the main business hub of the country, and has the largest GDP in the Southern Hemisphere. It's also where large multinational companies tend to set up their Brazilian headquarters, with giants across numerous industries such as Shell, Google, HSBC, Nokia and Unilever all present. This also means ample job opportunities, and expats often get transferred to São Paulo through these companies.

+ PRO: Variety of career opportunities

There’s a broad array of industries for expats to explore, ranging from engineering, telecommunications and finance, to pharmaceuticals, IT and the service industry. There’s even a chance for younger travellers to get some work as an English teacher – although the pay might not be great for these positions, it's certainly an exciting adventure to undertake.

– CON: Knowledge of the language is vital

The language barrier is a constant in working life, with at least a basic grasp of Portuguese considered essential. While large corporations may have large English contingents, learning at least basic Portuguese is likely to become a necessity.

– CON: Tough job market

The job market is extremely competitive. There aren’t many employment options for foreign workers going in blind, especially those who aren’t arriving in the highly skilled labour bracket. Most expats working in São Paulo have been transferred there through their respective companies.


Accommodation in São Paulo

+ PRO: The housing market is ideal for expats

The city’s real-estate agents and property developers have decided to cash in on the accommodation needs of the growing international community, with more modern buildings in São Paulo tending to come fully furnished with high standards of maintenance – perfect for expats.

+ PRO: City centre options

Unlike many big cities, there are realistic options in the city centre. Apartment blocks here called prédios are becoming a big hit, with fantastic facilities and security.

+ PRO: Family options

If moving with the kids and spouse, condominiums might be best suited. Found mostly in middle- and upper-class neighbourhoods, these usually boast gyms, pools and outdoor areas that are ideal for growing families. Houses and bigger spaces are predictably found further out in wealthier suburbs.


Getting around in São Paulo

+ PRO: Decent public transport

While infamous for traffic jams, the city’s subway is known as both an efficient and generally safe way to get around town. The overland rails are mostly used for long distance trips rather than getting around the city. There are also an extensive bus network that services the city.

+ PRO: Cycling is an option

Two-wheeled transport is becoming an increasingly convenient mode of traversing São Paulo, whether by bike or motorcycle. Bicycle paths wind their way through the city, with the much loved Cicloia Rio Pinheiros skirting the edge of the river. Bike rental stations charge hourly fees, with companies such as Bike Sampa boasting some 100 stations in strategic spots.

– CON: Constant traffic jams

Traffic in the megacity of São Paulo can feel like it never ends. Aside from all-too-frequent congestion, fellow drivers can be aggressive and impatient. Some expats hire drivers to avoid the pain of these jams. But taxis are plentiful and are at least safe.


Cost of living in São Paulo

– CON: High prices for utilities

The cost of living in São Paulo can be fairly high. While groceries are decently priced, utilities such as electricity, water, gas and rent can be pricey.

+ PRO: Cost of living beginning to drop

Though São Paulo is by no means cheap, especially if one is earning a local salary, prices have slowly begun to drop, making life in the city more affordable than it has been in the past.


Weather in São Paulo

– CON: The heat

Because of its location on the southern coast, temperatures are a lot more moderate than in the rest of the country. But summers can be uncomfortable, with the mercury continually hovering between 77°F (25°C) and 85°F (30°C). Rain is also common, so expats shouldn't forget to pack their raincoats and umbrellas.

Working in Sao Paulo

Expats planning to work in São Paulo should prepare for tough competition in the workplace. Increasing numbers of young and highly educated professionals are looking to Brazil for promising new job opportunities. Established multinational businesses are also seeing investment opportunities in São Paulo, which is well placed when it comes to serving the South American markets. Expats looking for a job in the city will need to have sought-after skills and experience to make them stand out from other applicants.


Job market in São Paulo

The most important requirement for finding a job in São Paulo is having a working knowledge of Portuguese. Jobs that do not require some level of Portuguese knowledge are rare. So having a knowledge of the language will automatically improve an expat's chances of finding employment.

The majority of people working in São Paulo are employed in the service, finance and technology sectors. Multinational companies with branches or headquarters in São Paulo include Volkswagen, Carrefour, Nestlé and Google. Many expats working at these multinational companies are transferred to São Paulo from their home countries. 


Finding a job in São Paulo

Increasing numbers of expats are lured to São Paulo because of its diverse economy and exciting job opportunities. However, unless expats are highly skilled or are transferred to São Paulo from their company’s offices abroad, job opportunities for foreigners are not always easy to come by.

Expats with sought-after skills in fields such as engineering, IT and finance are the most likely to be successful in finding a job in São Paulo. A working knowledge of the local language will certainly improve an expat's chances of being hired. As such, learning Portuguese should be a priority for any expat moving to São Paulo for work.

Large numbers of expats who struggle to find work in their original field opt for teaching English as a way of earning money. As salaries for English teachers in São Paulo are low, these types of jobs are best suited for younger expats who are travelling through South America or spending their gap year in Brazil, rather than those looking to establish a career or settle down in the long term.


Work culture in São Paulo

The business culture in São Paulo is considerably more formal than in many other Brazilian cities. Locals will expect expats to present themselves well and dress in appropriate business attire. 

Despite the formality of the city’s business culture, São Paulo locals tend to be relationship-focused. Expats should focus on networking and building relationships with their colleagues if they hope to have a positive experience of working in Brazil. Making an effort to learn the local language will also go a long way with Brazilian colleagues.

Accommodation in Sao Paulo

For those facing the exciting prospect of moving to São Paulo, one of the biggest and most daunting challenges will be finding accommodation. Regardless of whether expats intend on renting or buying property in São Paulo, it is definitely worth becoming familiar with the property market in the city. Expats are likely to find that there are considerable differences to what they are used to in their home country. 


Types of accommodation in São Paulo

Most expats moving to São Paulo choose to rent rather than buy accommodation. While the majority of rental accommodation in São Paulo is unfurnished, the demand for safe, comfortable and fully furnished accommodation has increased in recent years and real-estate agents have started catering to the needs of the international community. In general, the standard of accommodation in São Paulo is high, especially in newly built properties. There are several types of accommodation options that are popular among expats in São Paulo.

One option for expats who prefer to live near the city centre is known as a prédio. These are 10- to 30-storey buildings which are found in central areas of São Paulo and are full of furnished apartments. Space is limited, but these complexes have good facilities and security. Prédios are particularly popular among young professionals who are looking for comfortable accommodation that is centrally located.

Another accommodation option available to expats is to live in one of the city's many condomínios. These are fenced-off housing blocks that come equipped with shared facilities such as a communal swimming pool, gym and outdoor area. They are usually found in upper- and middle-class parts of São Paulo and are popular with expat families who prioritise safety and space for their children.

Expats can also look for standalone family homes, but these are a rarity in central São Paulo and can usually only be found in the suburbs. These houses often have their own swimming pool and barbeque area. They tend to be popular with expats who have decided to settle in Brazil on a more long-term basis and buy property.


Finding accommodation in São Paulo

The cost of living in São Paulo is high and expats often struggle to find suitable accommodation at a reasonable price. Some companies arrange housing for their workers, which makes the relocation process far more straightforward. São Paulo has a good supply of holiday and short-term rental properties, which is useful as temporary accommodation while expats look for more permanent accommodation.

Expats relocating to São Paulo can use the internet to familiarise themselves with the type of accommodation available and the city’s neighbourhoods, but should be aware that rental prices on English sites are likely to be higher than a similar listing would be on a Portuguese site. The classified sections of local newspapers can also be a good source of information. Expats often find that their best bet is usually to work with a real estate agent to find the ideal home.

Estate agents in São Paulo usually have extensive knowledge about the areas and suburbs of the city and are better placed to source suitable housing. Real-estate agents often also have knowledge about potential properties before they even make it onto the market. It may also be worthwhile to ask around at work or among acquaintances, as many of the best deals travel by word of mouth. 


Renting accommodation in São Paulo

Documentation

To rent property in São Paulo expats will need to provide a number of certified documents including proof of income and copies of their passport and work permit. Those without a formal or sufficient income, such as retirees or students, will need to find someone to act as a guarantor or fiador.

Deposit

A deposit equivalent to one to three months’ rent is normally expected. By law, landlords should put the deposit into a separate savings account. Any interest earned on the deposit is the renter’s to keep once the contract has been terminated.

Utilities

Unless renting a fully furnished and serviced apartment in São Paulo, it is likely that the tenant will be responsible for contacting utility suppliers to have their services connected. Expats who have enlisted the help of a real estate agent will find that they usually have the expertise to assist with this. In some cases, the administration department of a particular apartment building or housing complex will help new tenants get connected.

Areas and suburbs in Sao Paulo

The best places to live in Sao Paulo

Finding a home in a new country is never easy. In a city the size of São Paulo, the challenge becomes even harder. For newly arrived expats, choosing the right property in the right area or suburb of São Paulo will be essential to having a pleasant experience in Brazil.

In this ever-expanding city, every expat is sure to find a neighbourhood and accommodation that meet their budget and requirements. Below are a few areas and suburbs of São Paulo that are particularly popular among expats. 


Areas for families in São Paulo

Sao Paulo

Chácara Flora

Chácara Flora is an exclusive area in Santo Amaro, one of São Paulo’s largest suburbs. This is a family-friendly area with secure housing options and ample green space. Like Morumbi, Chácara Flora is home to many good international schools, which accounts for its popularity amongst expat families.

Residents have easy access to supermarkets, restaurants and retail facilities. Public transport links are abundant. Chácara Flora is close to Congonhas Airport in neighbouring Campo Belo, which makes it a convenient area for executives needing to take domestic flights for work.

Morumbi

One of the major draws of Morumbi is that it is a lot less polluted than areas close to the city centre. It is also home to several lovely green areas such as Alfredo Volpi Park and Burle Marx Park, making it a great location for expats with children. The area is popular with expat families as it is home to many reputable international schools. Morumbi has plenty of facilities such as shops and cafes. It is also close to one of São Paulo’s top medical facilities, Albert Einstein Hospital.

Alphaville

Located about 12 miles (20km) outside São Paulo, Alphaville has a small-town atmosphere. The type of housing available here is varied. Everything from luxury apartments to functional single-family homes can be found in the area. Many properties come with a swimming pool and large outdoor areas.

While Alphaville is a safe and pleasant place to live, residents are somewhat isolated. Public transport links in Alphaville are limited. Even commuting by car to São Paulo can be frustrating due to the traffic on the highway. 


Areas in São Paulo for young expats

Sao Paulo

Brooklin Novo

Brooklin Novo is popular with younger expats looking to have a more authentic Brazilian experience, rather than living in one of the more isolated and exclusive expat neighbourhoods.

Most of the area is residential. Retail facilities mainly consist of small, local shops rather than big chain stores. There are a number of parks and green spaces, which make it an attractive area for expats with pets.

Santa Cecília

Expats looking for cheaper property in an area known for its historic charm should consider living in Santa Cecília. This neighbourhood, close to the centre of São Paulo, is home to many old-style churches and buildings. Santa Cecília has traditionally been popular among São Paulo’s artistic community, but it is now becoming popular with young expats who have moved to the city to teach English or do volunteer work. There are downsides to living in the area, such as the high levels of noise and pollution. But most residents are willing to overlook these factors because of the neighbourhood's bohemian atmosphere and low accommodation costs.

There are many lively bars and restaurants in the area. Its central location also gives expats easy access to facilities within São Paulo.

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena is São Paulo’s most bohemian neighbourhood and home to many of the city’s artists and musicians. It is popular with young expats and international students and hosts a sizeable selection of bars and clubs. The area can get noisy, especially in the evenings and on weekends. As such, it may not be particularly suitable for expats with children. Vila Madalena is well connected to other parts of São Paulo by public transport. Any expats looking to own a car should note that traffic congestion in this part of the city can be a problem during peak hours. 

Healthcare in Sao Paulo

Significant progress has been made in the last two decades to improve the overall standard of healthcare in São Paulo. That said, the inequalities that mark most of Brazilian society are also present in the city’s healthcare system, and there is a disparity between what is available to most of the local population and what is accessed by the city's wealthier residents.

São Paulo has a two-tier health system consisting of public and private hospitals. Brazilians have access to free healthcare at government hospitals.

Hospitals in São Paulo tend to be concentrated in the upper-income areas that expats are likely to live in, meaning they will be easily accessible. Given that its healthcare system has to serve millions of residents, there is a wide selection of hospitals, pharmacies and private practices available to expats living in the city.

Since Brazil is a Portuguese-speaking country, expats may experience some language barriers, but most doctors tend to have some basic knowledge of English or Spanish. This is especially true for doctors working in the private sector.

Expats in São Paulo will have access to highly-skilled doctors and medical staff, the latest technology and a variety of world-class options when it comes to private care. This does, of course, come at a price, and it's therefore important that expats invest in good health insurance.


Hospitals in São Paulo

Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein

Website: www.einstein.br
Address: Avenida Albert Einstein, 627, Jardim Leonor

Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz

Websitewww.hospitalalemao.org.br
Address: Rua Treze de Maio, 1815, Bela Vista, São Paulo

Hospital das Clinicas da Universidade de São Paulo

Websitewww.hospitalalemao.org.br
Address: Avenida Doutor Enéas Carvalho Aguiar, 255, Cerqueira César

Hospital Sírio-Libanês

Websitewww.hospitalsiriolibanes.org.br
Address: Rua Dona Adma Jafet, 91, Bela Vista

Education and Schools in Sao Paulo

Expats will find that there are many different options when it comes to education and schools in São Paulo. As a multicultural melting pot, the city has a variety of schools catering to a multitude of nationalities and education levels. 


Public schools in São Paulo

Public schooling in São Paulo is free to all permanent residents. Schooling is mandatory for children between the ages of six and 14. These compulsory years of education are known as Ensino Fundamental

The standard of education at public schools in São Paulo varies. It often depends on the socio-economic environment within which a particular school is located. Children attending public schools will attend the school closest to their place of residence. Parents wishing to enrol their child in a public school need to visit the school in person to start the registration process.

Due to the demand for space, and in order to accommodate the high number of students, schools in São Paulo often run three separate school sessions per day. Children attend one session per day.

Classes at public schools in São Paulo are taught in Portuguese, so parents wanting to enrol their child in a public school will need to consider this option carefully. 


Private schools in São Paulo

São Paulo’s private schools generally follow the Brazilian national curriculum. Some private schools have a Christian foundation and many offer bilingual instruction. Some expats prefer to send their children to these schools due to the higher level of education compared to public schools and lower fees compared to international schools. As classes may be predominantly taught in Portuguese, children should have at least some proficiency in the language. 


International schools in São Paulo

International schools in São Paulo follow a variety of international curricula, including British, American, Japanese, French, German and Italian. They are usually sponsored in some way by their home governments. Some international schools in São Paulo are locally run and offer the Brazilian curriculum. Many of these schools also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. As the demand for a place at international schools is high, parents are advised to begin the application process as soon as possible.

Fees at some of the best international schools in São Paulo can be exorbitant. Added to the already high cost of living in the city, it can stretch an expat’s budget to the limit. It is therefore vital that anyone moving to São Paulo with school-aged children ensure they factor this in when negotiating their relocation contract. On top of the high fees, other expenses may include textbooks and stationery, extra-curricular activities, uniforms and school lunches. Most private schools contract private bus companies to transport children to and from school, which is an additional expense that parents will have to contribute to. 

As can be expected in such a densely populated and sprawling city, heavy traffic congestion can affect commute times to and from school. Expats should therefore carefully consider their proximity to their child’s school when deciding where to live in São Paulo. The better schools tend to be in the more affluent areas, where housing will be expensive. Other factors to consider include the language of instruction, general academic standards, tuition costs, and the quality of the school’s facilities and extra-curricular programmes offered. It is a good idea to visit the school in person to request a tour and have a meeting with the headteacher to have any questions answered. 


Special-needs education in São Paulo

In São Paulo, as in Brazil as a whole, state-supplied resources for children with special needs are very limited, and any support that does exist is offered in Portuguese. Such services are easier to find, and often in English, at international schools. The level of support and cost involved do vary from school to school. Parents are advised to research options thoroughly to ensure their children will be well catered for.


Tutors in Brazil

Bustling São Paulo is replete with tutors and tutor companies to choose from. Expats and locals alike can benefit in many ways from hiring a tutor. For example, even those who have some knowledge of European Portuguese may not find it as easy to pick up Brazilian Portuguese as they expected. In these cases, a tutor is an ideal way to bridge the gap.

For students, tutors can help prepare for big exams, adjust to their new curriculum, tackle a problem subject, learn Portuguese, or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.

International Schools in Sao Paulo

There are several international schools in São Paulo that offer a diverse range of curricula. The majority of these schools offer a combination of a foreign curriculum and the Brazilian national curriculum, and many also teach the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. 

Below are a few recommended international schools in São Paulo.


International schools in São Paulo

The British College of Brazil

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18
Websitewww.nordangliaeducation.com

Chapel School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.chapelschool.com

Escola Americana de Campinas

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American, Brazilian and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 2 to 18
Websitewww.eac.com.br

Graded – The American School of São Paulo

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Montessori, American, Brazilian and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.graded.br

Le Pasteur (Lycée Pasteur de São Paulo)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French and Brazilian
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.flp-sp.com.br

Pan American Christian Academy (PACA)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and Brazilian
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.paca.com.br

St Nicholas School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate and Brazilian
Ages: 1.5 to 18
Websitewww.stnicholas.com.br

St Paul's School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate and Brazilian
Ages: 3 to 18
Websitewww.stpauls.br

Lifestyle in Sao Paulo

São Paulo is a cosmopolitan city and a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. Brazilians are known to be friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Expats moving to São Paulo are sure to enjoy a rich cultural experience in this diverse and exciting city.  


Shopping in São Paulo

From international designer labels to local, traditional items, there are plenty of shopping options across São Paulo. 

For an upscale shopping experience, expats can visit Rua Oscar Freire. This tree-lined street is one of the city’s most famous areas for shopping. Shopping Pátio Higienópolis, a mall in the Higienópolis neighbourhood, is another option for those looking for luxurious products.  

Avenida Paulista is home to many shops and restaurants. For American-type malls, expats can try Iguatemi, Cidade Jardim, Shopping Eldorado and Centro Comercial Aricanduva. These are all home to the usual array of shops, restaurants, food courts and cinemas one would expect from any mall. 


Eating out in São Paulo

As a multicultural city, it’s no surprise that São Paulo has a diverse and exciting dining scene. Expats will be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in São Paulo.

There is a multitude of local restaurants offering traditional Brazilian cuisine, including meat and seafood specialities. At these local eateries, expats will be able to sample local dishes such as feijoada, made from pork and black beans, and the popular barbequed meat churrasco. For those wanting a taste of home, there are also many internationally recognised brands of takeaway and chain restaurants.


Nightlife and entertainment in São Paulo

São Paulo has a vibrant nightlife with plenty of stylish bars and clubs, from smaller intimate venues to the massive megaclubs dotted around the city. There are also many options to enjoy traditional samba and see live bands.

Centro and Bela Vista in the city centre are popular nightspots with plenty of clubs and bars to choose from. Rua Augusta has plenty of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Those looking for something a bit more bohemian should head to Vila Madalena, which is home to several local bars and clubs and is also a good place to see live samba bands.


Sports and outdoor activities in São Paulo

Football culture is massive in Brazil, and São Paulo is no exception. Whether it’s attending a live game at one of the city’s four large stadiums or watching in a pub or at someone’s home, Brazilians are passionate about supporting their teams.

There are plenty of outdoor entertainment options for families to enjoy in São Paulo. São Paulo Zoo and Zoo Safári are two such options, where hundreds of indigenous animals can be seen in their natural habitat. There are also plenty of parks dotted across the city to enjoy a family day out.

Ibirapuera Park is one of Latin America's largest parks and is home to many interesting places to visit, including the Modern Art Museum of São Paulo and Ibirapuera Planetarium. The park also has a large area for sporting activities such as walking and running.

Although São Paulo is not located directly on the coast, beach lovers need not despair – beautiful beaches are only a few hours’ drive away and offer a great opportunity for those looking to escape the rat race for a day or weekend getaway.

What's On in Sao Paulo

São Paulo is the cultural capital of Brazil, and the city's action-packed events calendar is reflective of this. It's also a city with a rich sporting heritage and is home to several of Brazil's best-known football teams. The Brazilian Grand Prix is also hosted here.

Aside from the major yearly festivals that the city is known for, it also frequently hosts concerts by the world's best musicians along with film festivals and art exhibitions.


Annual events in São Paulo

Carnival (February/March)

Millions  flock to São Paulo every year to watch and take part in a spectacle that has become an integral part of Brazil’s cultural identity. Options for celebrations are plenty, from troupes of samba dancers parading through the streets, competing for the prestigious championship trophy, to massive street parties known as blocas.

São Paulo Fashion Week (April/August)

Taking place twice a year, São Paulo Fashion Week has continued growing since it was first held in 1995. Featuring local and international models and designers, Brazilian haute couture gets its moment on the catwalk in front of world-famous fashionistas.

São Paulo Gay Pride Parade (May/June)

This event is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the biggest gay pride parades in the world. Over 5 million people flock to the streets to take part in this festive spectacle of colour. The event is well-supported by the local government and is an international tourist attraction in its own right.

São Paulo Grand Prix (November)

Although the date can shift from year to year, the city’s enthusiasm for São Paulo Grand Prix does not. The home of driving legends such as Emerson Fittipaldi and Felipe Massa, the event demands the F1 world’s attention. The city occasionally hosts the last race of the season, which adds to the event's magic and magnitude.

Saint Silvester Road Race (December)

Held on 31 December every year, runners from all over the world come to run through the city’s streets in this traditional road race. It's Brazil's oldest street race and boasts thousands of participants each year. Though the track's distance is shorter than a traditional marathon, the heat, along with the hilly terrain, make this a challenging run.

New Year’s Eve (December)

Much like Carnival, Rio De Janeiro might get the credit for hosting the best new year’s celebrations in Brazil. However, São Paulo has a good time of its own to offer. Normally celebrated on Paulista Avenue, around 2 million of the city’s residents dance the year away under fireworks at a concert featuring DJs and musicians.

Getting Around in Sao Paulo

Getting around in São Paulo isn't always straightforward, although there are several options including taxis, trains, buses and bicycles. Public commutes are often congested and delayed due to the city's expanding population and the growing demand for affordable and accessible transport.

As with so much else in the country, Brazil’s gaping wealth disparity affects the way people get around São Paulo. For safety reasons, expats shouldn’t openly display valuables and electronics when commuting.

Despite these issues, millions of commuters traverse the city every day as the government continues its attempts to improve public transport across São Paulo. 


Public transport in São Paulo

Metro

The São Paulo Metro is generally efficient, but it isn't extensive enough to meet the demands of the city’s population and is often crowded. Nevertheless, it's one of the largest metro systems in South America and remains one of the best ways to travel around the centre of São Paulo. Metro services run seven days a week from 4.40am to midnight, with a few exceptions.

Trains

Trains in São Paulo are mostly used for long-distance travel and are operated by Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM). CPTM operates seven lines that connect São Paulo with nearby cities in the Greater São Paulo area.

Buses

To compensate for the metro's shortcomings, there has been a lot of investment into expanding the city’s public bus network. While public buses in São Paulo travel further and are more accessible than the metro, they frequently get caught in traffic.

Navigating São Paulo’s bus network can be a complicated experience for novice commuters, especially if they don’t speak Portuguese. Researching routes ahead of time is crucial, as routes are rarely displayed at stops and expats are unlikely to encounter people who speak English.


Taxis in São Paulo

Most taxis in São Paulo are white with a sign on the roof. These are often comfortable and convenient, though they may be more expensive than what some expats are used to. Very few taxi drivers will speak English, so expats are advised to have the address of their intended destination written down in Portuguese.

Uber is also available in São Paulo. It is generally considered safer than using regular taxis and the fares may be cheaper. Taxis can be hailed via the Uber application for smartphones. 


Driving in São Paulo

The rate of vehicle ownership in São Paulo has increased in recent decades, contributing to a growing congestion problem. As a result, the average work commute can be painfully long. Driving in São Paulo is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. The city is infamous for its long traffic jams and reckless, impatient drivers.

Driving in São Paulo also involves the risk of robbery or theft. Expats who choose to drive are advised to keep their windows rolled up when standing still in traffic or at a traffic light.

Those who do decide to drive will need an International Drivers Permit (IDP) if their home-country licence is not in Portuguese. Once foreigners are legally resident in Brazil, they will need to obtain a local licence. As with many other administrative processes in Brazil, an Individual Taxpayer’s Card (Cadastro de Pessoa Física or CPF) is required to begin this process.


Cycling in São Paulo

Despite its hills and unwieldy traffic, cycling in São Paulo is becoming more popular. There are several operators renting out bicycles to commuters for hourly fees. Among these is Bike Sampa, which has thousands of bicycles spread among more than 200 stations at strategic points around the city. Bicycles can also be taken on the metro at certain times of the day.

Cyclists should avoid cycling on the roads. Road users don’t give cyclists space and it can, therefore, be dangerous. Luckily, the city has a vast network of bicycle paths.


Walking in São Paulo

As with every large city, walking in some parts of São Paulo is less advisable than in others. Crime is a significant concern and residents should always exercise a degree of caution and vigilance. Expats who prefer getting around on foot should take extra care when crossing busy roads. Where possible, it is preferable to use foot-bridges or viaducts.