Friday, June 6, 2014

I like to move it, move it - São Paulo

As São Paulo enters its second day of a metro strike, I feel compelled to give further recommendations for transportation for visitors. We have three lines right now with only partial (as in very limited service), two operating normally and two, I have no idea. I am pretty sure that the metro will not be striking during the World Cup as I imagine the court system will order them back to work on Sunday.

In any case, let's look at transportation options:


I have to tell you I love the bus system in Rio de Janeiro. I found it extremely easy to get around, and I think we took taxis only twice.  You can get change for the trip on board: in São Paulo, you get on in the front of the bus, and the ticket taker/change maker is about a third of the way back on the bus. You get off at the back of the bus. In Rio, the bus driver can also be the fare taker. You also get on in the front, and off in the back.

If you are elderly (here that's over 60--no judgement!), or a small child, you may have special treatment or are free of charge. My seven year olds pay in São Paulo but are free in Rio de Janeiro. Ask. If you are a student, make sure you carry ID. Discounts may be based more on if you are a student than if you are under 18.

The main reason I find bus service easy is the use of Moovit, an application for your smartphone that tells you the best bus to take, how far you are from the stop, and when the bus will arrive. You can also follow your journey while on the bus and know exactly when to get off and how far you have to walk on the far side to get to your destination. It also gives you metro options. And if there is a transportation strike. Love it. If you don't have Moovit, be prepared to ask various people at each stop where the bus is going and which bus might be best. At least in São Paulo. Rio de Janeiro had some better signage but I wouldn't rely on it.

According to its site, Moovit is available in the following cities in Brazil at this time: Bauru (SP), Belo Horizonte, Campinas (SP), Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Goiânia, Itajaí (SC), João Pessoa, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and São Paulo. 

If you have an Android or iphone, use it. If you don't, get one.


I find Rio and São Paulo's metro systems to be pretty good. Limited but good. Check out multiple trip passes for value. Each city feels differently about bus-metro interlink pricing so you're on your own there. Keep an eye on strike conditions--your hotel or host will know more. 


While I rely heavily on local taxi stands, I am a local resident so I know the number to call and they know me. And my kids who like to spill yogurt on their back seats. Anyway, be prepared to be surprised by taxis in São Paulo (not so surprised by taxis in Rio who are nutty drivers and not particularly friendly). Taxi drivers in São Paulo are buttoned-up (button-down shirts, slacks not jeans), knowledgeable and many are quite friendly and helpful about recommendations for places. There are exceptions to every rule.

When you get in a taxi, you may be asked "qual caminho voce prefere?" (which route do you prefer?). Apparently, all taxi drivers are trained to do this in the taxi course. That way, if the traffic is terrible on a route the client chose, they are not to blame. If you don't know the route (though I suggest a printout of your google-maps), you can leave it up to them. They know the best routes--and even if it seems they are taking you on a long ride (and some will, no doubt about it), it may be to avoid a tangle that the drivers know about, and you do not. Don't be too suspicious.

I've talked before about the pros and cons of Guarucoop and the airport taxis. The good news: set price. Bad news: people know you are coming from the international airport. Do what you want with that info. 

Since I've already told you to carry that smartphone, make sure you also download 99Taxi, Tajijá or any of the other taxi service applications for your intended city. Here in São Paulo, I prefer 99Taxi because it is the only service that does not charge the driver for the use. 


Yeah, why not? Ignore the holes in the pavement, the lack of politeness to pedestrians (run!) and the endless names on the street signs. I love walking. Enjoy! 

Driving yourself

There's always a few that want to rent a car. I wouldn't do it here if I were visiting, but if you have, you'll want to install waze on that smartphone and make sure you map out how you are getting somewhere. Waze will not warn you if you are going through an iffy side of town though so I suggest getting locals' recommendations of how to get somewhere. 


These are my main recommendations for getting around, particularly in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sorry, Americans visiting Natal, Manaus and Recife. I just don't know enough!  Have fun! 

For a little more about security in public transportation, take a look here, from a prior blog.

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