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To close out my posts on São Paulo, I decided to do one last piece giving tips and insider info on what to do in this amazingly chaotic city.

(I also will quickly announce that I decided to move my blog in a slightly different direction about a month ago, and after some time thinking about rebranding, naming, and where I eventually want my blog to go, I will be transferring to a new domain name this Thursday!  I am very excited to move on to the next level, and I will publish details in my next post!)

Tourists sometimes overlook São Paulo in favor of its flashier sister city, Rio de Janeiro; however, the Brazilian megacity has a lot to offer travelers of all types, including great nightlife, culture, dining, art, and history.

Some travelers have safety concerns after hearing a lot of rumors about crime in Brazil, but with some common sense and insider safety tips for São Paulo, there’s no reason to be alarmed.

The huge scale of the city and relatively high prices (for South America) might intimidate some tourists, but skipping a visit to São Paulo means missing out on one of the most exciting, diverse cities in the world.  With just a little planning ahead in picking neighborhoods, and the following tips and tricks, you can save money in São Paulo and blend in with the locals at the same time.

Book Pousadas Instead of Hotels

Pousadas are a little known type of accommodation in Brazil that fall somewhere between a bed & breakfast and a hotel.  There is a lot of variation between the different pousadas in terms of their comfort level and the services they offer, but they are some of the cheapest hotels in São Paulo.  With just a little research you can easily find a low-priced, comfortable pousada in a good location, such as the Pousada Perdizes.

Eat at Por Kilo Restaurants and Never Go Hungry Again

Photo by Rodolfo Veludo via

São Paulo has amazing, top-rated restaurants, but some of the fine dining on Avenida Paulista is a little pricey.  Definitely check out one of the por kilo restaurants in the city – they are almost on every corner – where you pick from a self-service buffet and pay based on the weight of your plate.  Even if you stack up food on your plate until nothing else will fit, the price of a meal at these restaurants is still pretty low.

Also, don’t think you’re getting buffet-level flavors.  You have to try pretty hard to find bad food in São Paulo, and these places are no exception – the meals are absolutely delicious.  Just remember to never use your hands when eating in Brazil, even with pizzas and sandwiches; Brazilians always use a fork and knife.

The Bus & Metro System Will Get You Almost Anywhere

Photo by Ricardo Russo via

For such a sprawling city, it’s amazing how easy I found it to get around on public transportation.  Buy a Bilhete Unico card, and you can switch up to four buses and one metro train in two hours.  The metro runs from 4:40 AM to midnight (a little later on Saturdays), so whether you decide to head home early or stay out all night, you can still catch a train back to your São Paulo hotel.  Just try to avoid the few hours in between service.

Spend One Wild Night Out in Vila Madalena

Photo by Gabriel Silveira via

You can’t visit São Paulo without enjoying at least one all-night party out on the town.  There is definitely a “go hard or home” attitude in the city when it comes to bar hopping.  Vila Madalena is one of the most well-known neighborhoods for São Paulo nightlife, but it has some of the cheapest drinks and hotels in São Paulo.  The samba clubs and bars serve many different draft beers, as well as delicious and cheap local cocktails like caipirinhas and the caldo de cana cocktail.

Just one last warning before you head out: Brazilians have a much more relaxed concept of personal space and public affection, so don’t be surprised if you feel that everyone is just a little too close.  Relax and enjoy it, you’re in Brazil now!

Thanks again to Hipmunk for giving me cheap hotel links for the Hipmunk City Love Project!

What advice would you give someone visiting São Paulo?  What helped you get around the city?