A sprawling jungle of concrete and gridlocked traffic, São Paulo may not boast the looks of sexy sis Rio, but scratch beneath her drab veneer and you’ll find an unsung wonder humming with cutting-edge cuisine, nonstop nightlife, diverse cultural influence, and street art like nowhere else. Just go now before the rest of the world rains down on the City of Drizzle. Vamos lá!
At Sampa’s heart sits Centro, an at times dangerous and sadly crumbling echo of its colonial past. Perched in the hilly west are artsy Pinheiros and Vila Madalena. To the southwest, fanning out below iconic finance strip Avenida Paulista, is top-drawer shopping and dining desti Jardins, with lush Ibirapuera park further south still.
Winter (Jun-Aug) is dry n’ nippy; summer (Jan-Mar) is pleasantly warm, but beware apocalyptic downpours Guarulhos Airport to Av Paulista: 45mins (traffic dependent) / R$120 by pre-paid cab. When flying domestic opt for Congonhas – it’s much closer On a budget? Don’t expect the dirt cheap LatAm of yore – Sampa is an affluent doll, with prices to match Events. Carnaval: Feb/Mar, the city empties; SP Arte: Apr, smart art fest; Virada Cultural: May, theatre, music, et al; Gay Pride: Apr/May, throngs n’ thongs English is rarely spoken, though many restaurants have Eng menus. Keep your concierge on speed-dial Transport. Taxis are well-priced, many accept cards + have GPS. The metro is clean and efficient, but avoid chokka rush hour like you would a date with Dilma Local currency is the real. ATMs are plentiful, but not compatible with all cards (check ahead) and close after 10pm. Some petrol stations offer Banco24Horas Etiquette: ladies, don’t put your handbag on the floor; Havaianas are a big no – you’re not in Rio anymore, Dorothy; one peck on the cheek will suffice; avoid putting paper in the loo (or risk clogging shame) Service. An optional 10% is usually added, ta! Stores close Sun, while many restos open for lunch only. Museums close Mon, as do some galleries Many bars/clubs provide each guest with a card to tally up drinks + cover charge – pay when you leave Coffee: ‘puro’ is an espresso; ‘carioca’ is supposedly weaker; ‘pingado’ is the closest you’ll get to a latte Carry a photocopy of your passport at all times as entry into some buildings requires it The int’l dialling code is +55, landlines start with 11, neither need be dialled locally, mobiles start with 9 Tourist police 3120 4417 – for crimes, not directions
The following Portuguese phrases will come in handy…
Oi, tudo bem? : Hullo, how’s tricks? Obrigado (for boys) / obrigada (girls) : Ta, ever so Olha só essa gringa de chinelos! : Eugh, check out the flip-flops on that hapless foreign bird
...’kay, let’s festa