10 Tips When Visiting São Paulo, Brazil

I've been fortunate enough to visit São Paulo, Brazil for a business trip. It's not a very common travel destination among Filipinos as it is quite far and the plane tickets can be very expensive. While some Pinoys might think that Brazil is like any developing country, the cost of living in São Paulo is actually quite high. Commodity prices are comparable to that of the United States or other first world countries. Just a trivia, the city of São Paulo is the most populous and wealthiest in Brazil. It is the 11th most populous city and the largest Portuguese-speaking city in the world.

If you are planning to visit São Paulo for the first time, then you've come to the right place! If you are a Filipino or from Southeast Asia, then much better. As there are several things that you can do and there are many places that you can go to when visiting this beautiful city, I have with me some valuable tips that you should bear in mind.

Tip 1: Bring enough money or better yet use your credit card
Their currency in Brazil is called a real or reais (plural). R$1 is approximately about US$0.30 or PHP14.80. There are money changers in the airport, banks, malls, and some hotels but they are hard to find elsewhere. Moreover, they are normally closed on weekends. Safest bet would be to bring your internationally accredited credit card, preferably a VISA or MasterCard. Almost all establishments accept it.

Tip 2: Convenience stores are not very common, get everything from the nearest supermarket
If you are not the "prepper" type of person then you would have a hard time looking for a convenience store to buy water, toiletries, or some snacks. There's not a lot of them around, especially the 24/7 ones. Supermarkets would be your sole option, and they too close really early. There are some local stores and thrift stores but there's not much to choose from their merchandise.

Tip 3: Bring and apply mosquito repellent
Being a tropical city, mosquitoes are everywhere. And they are quite big, ready to spread dengue or zika virus. As a safety precaution, applying mosquito repellent to your skin is advisable. No one wants to ruin their vacation by getting admitted to a hospital. 

Tip 4: Wear comfortable clothes (for walking or working out)
Being in a city with tropical climate has its advantages, it's not cold but it's not very hot either, at least in São Paulo. You are free to wear anything comfortable - shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, and rubber shoes. I noticed that many Paulistas have an active lifestyle, many of them hit the gym or do cross-fit. These articles of clothing are perfect for this kind of lifestyle.

Tip 5: Souvenirs are relatively harder to find
If you're a Filipino, you can't go on a vacation and then go back empty-handed. There should be "pasalubong" for family and friends. And if you plan to look for fridge magnets, keychains or souvenir shirts, then you're in trouble. São Paulo is not Rio de Janeiro, where tourists would usually flock. Unless you settle for stuff that can be bought in local supermarkets and specialty stores, then you have to do some research. I actually went to Shopping Ibirapuera and looked for a store that sold Brasil Mania merchandise. There, you can find magnets, caps, shirts, keychains, stickers, wood carvings, and everything that can be considered as "pasalubong" back home. There are souvenirs available in the airport too but they are insanely expensive.

Tip 6: They don't use spoons as much as we do, bring one
Spoon and fork are normally the utensils we, Filipinos, use for eating. Sometimes, we use knives for steaks or chopsticks for noodles. But when you go to São Paulo, you are almost always given a fork and a knife. While it's not an unusual combination, it could be a chore for people who are not used to it. It would be hard to scoop rice and grains so I suggest you bring a spoon with you.

Tip 7: Downloaded Google Translate or any language translating app
Once you step out of the airport, then you'd realize that you just cannot talk to anyone like you used to back home. Not everyone in São Paulo speaks English, not even in hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, pharmacies, or banks. In this situation, a Google Translate app would come handy. Make sure you've downloaded the needed language packs so you can use the app without Internet connection. Believe me, having this app in your phone could be a lifesaver. Another tip would be to take it to the next level by learning some Portuguese words. It's fun!

Tip 8: Download the Uber app for transportation
Like the Google Translate app, the Uber app can also be very helpful. Cabs can get really expensive in São Paulo and not every destination is accessible by train. Buses are great if you know how to speak Portuguese. So the Uber app is necessary as it is practical and you don't need to spend cash.

Tip 9: Buy some Havaianas, they're pretty cheap
While everything is literally more expensive in São Paulo, from food to fares to alcoholic drinks to clothing, the only thing cheap there is Havaianas. The cheapest pair costs about R$14 or PHP210 or US$4.15. The cost of a pair of plain Havaianas in Manila is about three times more. So be sure to visit a Havaianas store in São Paulo for some flip-flops shopping and loving.

Tip 10: No need for Internet roaming unless you can't live without it
Almost every hotel, mall, and restaurant in São Paulo offer free WiFi. The speed is good enough for uploading photos on Facebook and streaming YouTube videos. Unless you also have to work on the go (i.e. answering emails) or broadcasting live on Facebook to show everyone you are having fun, then there's no need for Internet roaming, which can get really pricey.

So there you have it! I've shared with you some useful and practical tips to make the most of your São Paulo vacation without breaking the bank. Have fun everyone!

Til then...

xoxo Nash


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