Increased accessibility is not exactly São Paulo's forte. Problems that travelers with disabilities are likely to encounter include mangled pavements, crowded public transport (seats on buses and trains reserved for those with disabilities are marked 'Assento para deficientes') and restaurants with entrance steps. The good news is that most large hotels will have at least one room equipped for special needs travelers, São Paulo buses are wheelchair accessible and many metro stations have entrance ramps and elevators (find a list here: www.metro.sp.gov.br/pdf/acessibilidade/elevadores-metro-formas-acesso.pdf).
São Paulo city hall's Comissão Permanente de Acessibilidade (Permanent Commission for Accessibility; CPA) offers a Selo de Acessibilidade (Accessibility Seal) to city facilities that have met stringent accessibility requirements. At time of research, there were over 500 schools, religious temples, restaurants, banks, hotels and cultural centers that have received the seal.
A Cultural Accessibility Guide (www.acessibilidadecultural.com.br), a project of Instituto Mara Gabrilli, breaks down the accessibility of most of São Paulo's relevant cultural and tourism attractions.
For wheelchair-accessible taxi services, call the government's Central de Atendimento do Táxi Acessível (3740-5544).
Turismo Adaptado (www.turismoadaptado.com.br) is a São Paulo–based travel agent specializing in accessible tours and itineraries.
Dangers & Annoyances
Crime is an issue in São Paulo, though the majority is limited to the city's periphery and tourists aren’t often targeted unless they’re the unlucky victim of an arrastão, when armed bandits rob an entire restaurant of patrons in the blink of an eye. General rules of thumb include being especially careful in the center and elsewhere at night (use taxis and ride-shares) and on weekends (when fewer people are about) and watching out for pickpockets on buses, around Praça da Sé and on Linhas 1 (blue) and 3 (red) of the metro. Otherwise, maintain the same common-sense vigilance you would in any developing-world metropolis.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Brazil's Country Code||55|
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Polícia Federal Visa extensions.
Wi-fi is common among São Paulo's hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes. Look for Wifi Livre SP signs for public wi-fi spots maintained by the government; and Otima Wi-Fi Grátis (www.otima.com) at 120 bus stops around the city. Cybercafes are here and there but most definitely are a dying breed.
Latin America’s largest and most visible gay community supports a dizzying array of options, day and night. There are not only gay bars and discos but also restaurants, cafes and even a shopping center – Shopping Frei Caneca, known as ‘Shopping Gay Caneca,’ which has a largely gay clientele.
Rio is often touted as Brazil’s gay capital, yet you almost never see overt displays of affection in the streets. In São Paulo, PDA (public display of affection) is rather commonplace, at least in certain neighborhoods. These include the area just north of Praça da República, which tends to be more working class; Rua Frei Caneca just north of Av Paulista, which attracts an alternative crowd; and Rua da Consolaçao in Jardins, largely the domain of Sampa’s upscale LGBT community.
In 1997, São Paulo’s first Gay Pride parade drew a meager 3000 people. In less than a decade, it has grown into the world’s largest pride event, attracting nearly three million. That growth is a testament to the profound change in cultural attitudes toward homosexuality in Brazil, but also Sampa’s long tradition of tolerance. Indeed, most of the crowd are simpatizantes – LGBT-friendly straights.
During Pride week, the city’s gay and lesbian venues are packed to the gills in the lead-up to the big parade, which traditionally takes place on a Sunday, usually in mid-June. There are also political meetings, street fairs, concerts and other special events.
For nights out, don’t miss the bars surrounding Feira Benedito Calixto in Pinheiros on Saturday afternoons after the street fair; the corner of Frei Caneca and Peixoto Gomide in Baixo Augusta, where the early-evening pre-party at the otherwise nondescript lanchonete (snack bar) Bar da Lôca spills into the streets; and Bella Paulista, the 24-hour restaurant where everyone ends up after the clubs close. Hot bars and clubs include Club Jerome, Barouche and the perennial mixed superclub, D-Edge. For roaming parties, try Lunatica (www.facebook.com/festalunatica).
Important country-wide resources include:
- ABGLT (Associação Brasileira de Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Travestis, Transexuais e Intersexos; www.abglt.org) The Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Transexuals and Intersexuals.
- ACAPA (Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais; www.disponivel.uol.com.br/acapa) The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transexuals.
- Mix Brasil (www.mixbrasil.org.br) The largest Brazilian LGBT site.
ATMs are widely available throughout the city. Bradesco and Banco do Brasil are feeless and the most foreign-friendly. Note that most are closed from 10pm to 6am for security reasons. Always use ATMs inside banks to avoid cloning.
Banks 9am–3pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants noon–2.30pm and 6–10:30pm
Nightclubs 10pm–4am Thursday to Saturday
Shops 9am–6pm Monday to Friday and 9am–1pm Saturday
São Paulo Turismo (aka SPTuris) is the official São Paulo tourist board, which offers a trilingual website (in Portuguese, Spanish and English; www.cidadedesaopaulo.com) in coordination with city hall. It also runs several tourist information booths known as Central de Informação Turística (C.I.Ts) strategically placed around the city. Also look out for its mobile vans and Segways, known as C.I.T.s Móveis, which park at Parque Trianon on Av Paulista, and near Portão 10 at Parque Ibirapuera, among other locations, on various days and hours.
In Portuguese, you can pick up a Guia da Folha at any newsstand for reviews of the city’s dining, entertainment and nightlife options (also available at www1.folha.uol.com.br/guia). The weekly magazine Veja São Paulo (www.vejasp.abril.com.br) also has listings in Portuguese and is the best for up-to-date restaurant reviews. Time Out no longer publishes but does have a bilingual website with past databased listings (www.timeout.com.br/sao-paulo/en).
Travel with Children
It would be daft to remotely suggest São Paulo is a stroller-friendly city; the pavements and sidewalks are often uneven, unmatching, broken up or in otherwise unfriendly conditions even without the added navigational challenge of a baby on wheels. Expect to do a lot of lifting over ruts and obstacles.
A new law passed in 2017 requires shopping malls, and other buildings in the city with a large influx of people, to install both male- and female-accessible diaper-changing rooms (fraldários) or face a R$10,000 fine. GRU Airport has 56 diaper-changing rooms.
Children are a well-integrated part of Brazilian a society and lugging them along to all but the most fancy cafes and restaurants is very common. The city's sprawling Parque Ibirapuera makes a great place for kids to run off their excess energy. Those without a fear of snakes will be fascinated by Instituto Butantan (www.butantan.gov.br); and the large zoo, the Jardim Zoológico (www.zoologico.com.br), is a definite kid-pleaser.
Kid-friendly restaurants include Capim Santo in Jardins and Santinho inside Museu da Casa Brasileira in Pinheiros. Other spots around town with kid spaces and/or kid-specific programming include Praça São Lourenço (www.pracasaolourenco.com.br); Bravo! Pizza Bar (www.bravopizzabar.com.br); Bar Brahma Aeroclube (www.barbrahmaaeroclube.com); Angélica Grill (www.angelicagrill.com); Chácara Turma da Mônica (www.chacaraturmadamonica.com.br); JazzB (www.jazzb.net), which offers live jazz for children on Saturday afternoons; and the Moema and Morumbi locations of Pizzaria Camelo (www.pizzariacamelo.com.br).