São Paulo picture from: http://arqfuturo.com.br/


São Paulo is the biggest city of Brazil, this can be both an attraction or a matter of concern. We have prepared some useful information about the city and the daily routine in here, so that you can better prepare for your trip and have a enjoyable experience.
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Plan your trip - Things you should know before coming



The native language of Brazil is Portuguese.


In SPSAS-Ocean activities, in the Campus and in the Hotel it is unlikely that there will be any communication trouble. Nevertheless, in other places (eg. markets, buses, taxi, pharmacies) they may occur, although many people in São Paulo speak English. Thus, some knowledge of basic Portuguese will certainly make your stay in Brazil easier! 

Of course, it is not necessary to spend several months studying Portuguese before you come to Brazil. You will be able to survive with no Portuguese at all. If you know Spanish you are halfway there: there are obvious similarities in the grammar and vocabulary, so you should be able to make yourself understood if you speak slowly, and reading won’t present you with too many problems. However, Portuguese pronunciation is utterly different and much less straightforward than Spanish. So, it is highly possible that Spanish speakers won’t have a clue what Brazilians are talking about. And contrary to what you might expect, very few Brazilians speak Spanish.

If you have the time and interest to learn some portugues, there are many phrasebooks that provide the most usual sentences and expressions you might be willing to use in Brazil. They also present the way of pronouncing the words. It is not too difficult to learn how to say “Thank you” (obrigado), “Good morning” (bom dia) and other similar phrase. It is possible to acquire this basic knowledge of Portuguese studying a few hours, before your trip. We suggest phrasebooks such as these:


  • Larousse Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook,

  • Berlitz Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book & Dictionary,

  • Lonely Planet Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary,

  • Say It in Portuguese (Brazilian usage)

Technology may also help you in learning some Portugues. There are many apps that can be used, test the ones avilable to your operational system and have fun.

You will find that Brazilians will greatly appreciate even your most rudimentary efforts, and every small improvement in your Portuguese will make your stay in Brazil ten times more enjoyable. The same rule works in any country, of course.



The local currency used in Brazil is Real (plural: Reais). It is divided in cents (“centavos”) and represented as R$XX,YY. Notice that cents are separated from reais by a comma. Its value vis-à-vis foreign currency suffers large fluctuations. Currently, the exchange rate is about US$1 = R$3,85 and 1 Euro = R$4,48. According to the Big Mac Index, the effective exchange rate is US$1 = R$3,07 (www.economist.com/content/big-mac-index).

Credit cards are usually accepted in Brazil, without any additional charge. It’s a good idea to inform your credit-card issuer about your trip before you leave so that the card isn’t stopped for uncharacteristic use. Most used credit-cards in Brazil are Visa and Mastercard. Nevertheless, it is always useful to carry some cash if you need to purchase small items or if you want to buy local handicrafts in the street markets. Most payments, in Brazil, should be made with Brazilian money. However, you do not need to bring Brazilian cash with you. It is easy to exchange Euros, American Dollars and British Pounds  at the airport, banks or in local currency exchange markets.

Banks are the best place to exchange money! Brazilian airport money exchanges usually have a bad exchange rate and they charge a fee to exchange money.  For amounts less than US$100, this fee might be 10% of the amount you are exchanging.  For larger amounts of money (say over US$500), this fee will only be a fairly small percentage of the amount exchanged. The only time you might want to consider using an airport money exchange in Brazil is if you do not have an ATM card, and you need money for a taxi or bus. If you do desperately need to exchange money at a Brazilian airport, ask the help desk where you can find “Banco do Brasil” (a public Brazilian bank).






Alternatively, you can withdraw Brazilian money from cash machines (ATMs) using your international bank card. Never use ATMs on the streets: use those inside banks, shops or shopping malls, for safety reasons. One important thing to note is that for security reasons most bank ATMs stop dispensing cash after 8pm, although Banco 24 Horas in large supermarkets will dispense until 10pm. Airport ATMs are the only ones that dispense cash all hours.

There are many currency exchanges markets, and the internet can help you find the one closer to you by searching for "Casa de Câmbio". In São Paulo and elsewhere in Brazil you may use a special smartphone application that will show the nearest bureaus of change and their exchange rates.

Legal exchange smartphone application (Câmbio legal - Banco Central do Brasil)

Tipping rules: at some places – especially restaurants – a 10% tip is a rule. The restaurant bill will usually include this tip. Keep in mind two things: firstly, you are expected to pay this and if you don’t it may cause enormous offence; secondly, you are not expected to pay any more than this.

Brazilian people seldom give tips to hotel personnel, but foreign travelers are sometimes expected to do so. You might be willing to give a R$10 to R$20 tip to hotel people who carry your luggage or who do some other special service. Taxi drivers do not usually expect tips, and the price is shown at the taximeter. However, it is usual to round off the value (for instance: you could pay R$20 if the taximeter indicates R$18). In the case of other services, such as hairdresser, cosmetology, manicures and pedicures, a 10% tip to employees (not to the owner!) will be fine.



Winter time in the Southern Hemisphere runs from June 21 to September 23. The Brazilian winter, at São Paulo is similar to spring or autumn in many parts of the United States or Europe. You should check the weather forecast and plan your baggage content accordingly. The temperature range in August is between 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). Although it is not too cold, be aware that Brazilian buildings do not have temperature control.

São Paulo is known for its rapidly changing weather. Locals say that all four seasons can be experienced in one day. In the morning, when winds blow from the ocean, the weather can be cool or sometimes even cold. When the sun hits its peak, the weather can be extremely dry and hot. When the sun sets, the cold wind comes back bringing cool temperatures. This phenomenon happens usually in the winter. August is considered the driest of the year with an average rainfall of 40mm, but it is possible that you will experience some rain. Although most of the activities for the São Paulo School are indoors, it is recommend to always carry an umbrella or raincoat.

You can check the weather forecast for São Paulo, and most Brazilian cities, using international weather sites, such as these:



Things You Cannot Bring Into Brazil

Generally, Brazil follows pretty much the same rules followed by the U.S.A. Especially, you should make sure not to bring in the following items:

  • Drugs of any kind (normally, this does not apply to prescription drugs)

  • Weapons, guns, or ammunitio

  • Agricultural products (but processed foods are usually accepted)


If you will be bringing in any of the above, make sure you are following the Brazilian rules, and that you have previously filed the proper declarations. Consult more details at the web page on Arrival.


Hints for your things when you enter Brazil

  • Computers – You are allowed to bring a personal computer that you will be taking with you when you leave, we recommend that you only bring one.  If you have two, they might think you will be leaving one in Brazil.  If you are traveling with others, have another person carry your 2nd computer. 

  • Tablets / iPads / cell phones – same as computers.

  • Cameras, & other electronics – same as computers.

  • Clothes – you should not have any issues here; however, if your clothes are new, remove any price tags.


Customs form

Most tourists entering Brazil do not have to complete a customs form. Specific reasons you will be required to complete a customs for are:

  • You are bringing goods worth more than $500.00 US on an airline flight, or an ocean cruise ($300.00 on an entry via land, lake, or river) that you will be selling or leaving in Brazil – of course, this value does not apply to personal clothes and belongings.

  • You are carrying more than R$5,000.00 (about US$2,000) in currency, negotiable instruments, or equivalents when you entry Brazil – of course, this does not apply to credit cards.


More detailed information about Brazilian customs can be found at this web site:


Cell phone

You need a GSM cell phone in Brazil. There are two ways you can use your GSM cell phone in Brazil:

  • If you have international roaming with your cell phone provider, you can used your GSM phone in Brazil.  However, international roaming can be quite expensive.  You need to check with your carrier if this is what you are going to do.

  • You can arrange with a Brazilian carrier to use your unlocked GSM phone in Brazil by getting a new SIM contract. Chances are you will only be able to get a prepaid ("pré-pago" in Portuguese) since you do not live in Brazil.


There are four major GSM cell phone providers in Brazil: Claro, Oi, Vivo, and TIM. To buy a SIM and a prepaid plan, you should show your passport. The best place to buy it is at the airport, depending on the specific shop, they might refuse to sell you the SIM because you do not have a CPF (a Brazilian taxpayer number) – I’m sorry, but that does occur.


So you can use a cell phone when you go to Brazil, but again, you need to remember these basic points:

  • An unlocked cell phone (those accepting any new SIM) is required (inexpensive unlocked cell phones are easy to find at Amazon).

  • Some carriers / shops many ask your CPF number (and you don’t have one), or if your account was not set up correctly, your service may be interrupted because a CPF number was not entered during the account setup.

  • Outgoing call are charged, and incoming calls are free.

  • Calls to other cell phone providers, and land lines will be charged at a higher rate than calls with your cell phone carrier.

  • Prepaid GSM chips expire after a certain period (a few months) if no new credits have been purchased. 


More information about the use of cell phones in Brazil:



Brazilian electric outlets in São Paulo usually provide 110 volt. The plug used in Brazil is quite unique, as shown in the figure, so your plugs probably will not fit into the Brazilian standard sockets. These sockets have been installed in the last years. New buildings have this new socket. Old ones can have either the new outlet socket, or older types. And yes, this may be a problem since you should be prepared for both situations.

The best solution is buying a two-pin adapter plug, such as shown in the second image. This will fit both the new and old Brazilian electric outlets. We DO NOT recommend a three-pin adapter plug, because it will not fit older Brazilian electric socket. You might think that the three-pin adapter could be better, because it includes a neutral ground connection. However, most Brazilian electric outlets do not really have a working neutral ground connection.


You should try to buy the adapter plug before you travel to Brazil, since you will use it from your very arrival. Of course, it is possible to buy an adapter at the Brazilian airport, but it will be more expensive; and they will probably sell you the three-pin adapter that only fits in the new sockets. The Hotel has a few adapters, but it is highly recommended that you bring your own in case they run out of adapters or you need one out of the hotel.




São Paulo has more than twelve thousand restaurants, with more than fifty types of cuisine from all over the world. Special ethnic foods and restaurants that are frequently found in Brazil include Arab cuisine (Lebanese and Syrian), local variations of Chinese cuisine, Italian cuisine, and Japanese cuisine (sushi bars are a constant in major metropolises).

There is not an exact single "national Brazilian cuisine", but there is an assortment of various regional traditions and typical dishes. This diversity is linked to the origins of the people inhabiting each region. Brazilian cuisine has European, African and Amerindian influences. The basis of Brazilian daily cuisine is a combination of starch (most often a cereal), protein and vegetable combination. There is a differentiation between vegetables of the “verduras” group, or greens, and the “legumes” group (no relation to the botanic concept), or non-green vegetables. Salads, grilled chicken or bovine meat, rice and beans are common in everyday Brazilian meals. Due to Italian and Japanese influence, Brazilians usually eat pasta (including spaghetti, lasagne, yakisoba, and bīfun). Pizza is also extremely popular. At restaurants, it is usually made in a wood-fire oven with a thin, flexible crust, little or very little sauce, and a number of interesting toppings.

Although many traditional dishes are prepared with meat or fish, it is not difficult to live on vegetarian food as well, at least in the mid-sized and larger cities of Brazil. There is a rich supply of all kinds of fruits and vegetables and products made of soy.

In the 2000s, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have gained several vegetarian and vegan restaurants.


Some typical dishes are “feijoada” (a black bean and meat stew rooted), considered the country's national dish; and regional foods such as vatapá, moqueca and acarajé. In São Paulo, a typical dish is “virado à paulista”, made with rice, “tutu de feijão” (black bean paste), sauteed kale, and pork. São Paulo is also the home of “pastel”, a food consisting of thin pastry envelopes wrapped around assorted fillings, then deep fried in vegetable oil.

Brazil has a variety of candies such as brigadeiros (chocolate fudge balls), cocada (a coconut sweet), beijinhos (coconut truffles and clove) and romeu e julieta (cheese with a guava jam known as goiabada). Peanuts are used to make several candies called paçoca, rapadura and pé-de-moleque. Local common fruits like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, cocoa, cashew, guava, orange, passionfruit, pineapple, and hog plum are turned in juices and used to make jams, chocolates, popsicles and ice cream ("sorvete").


The national beverage is coffee. It is usually taken during breakfast, after meals or at any other occasion – frequently several times a day. Brazilian coffee is usually strong.

Cachaça is Brazil's native liquor. Cachaça is distilled from sugar cane and is the main ingredient in the national cocktail, caipirinha (cachaça, lemon juice and sugar). Common cachaça is transparent like vodka and equally strong. It is also called aguardente (‘fire water’). Aged cachaça is infinitely more palatable and practically a different drink: it’s rich, golden and reminiscent of a fine brandy.


Brazilian beer tends to be much lighter and sweeter than the European counterparts and it is always served ice cold. Brazilian wines are not world famous, but you may be willing to try those produced in Rio Grande do Sul or in São Francisco valley.


Yes, you can find coca-cola, pepsi-cola, soda and other common soft drinks in Brazil; but only here you can find “guarana”, a fizzy beverage made from the berry of the same name and which varies from state to state.

Brazil has a great selection of fruit juices. Coconut water, which is incredibly healthy and a great hangover cure, is also very popular. At beaches you can usually find fresh coconut water, that you drink from the coconut itself, using a straw; at other places, you can find the industrial version – tasty, but not so healthy.


All major fast-food international chains can be found in São Paulo. There are also many “lanchonetes”, where you have a choice of snacks. In São Paulo, the best snack is served in “padarias” (bakeries).


The regular Brazilian restaurant where there is a specific price for each meal is called "restaurante à la carte". A simple and usually inexpensive Brazilian restaurant option, which is also advisable for vegetarians, is “comida por quilo” (literally "food by kilo value"), a self-service buffet where food is paid for by weight.


Rodízio is a common style of service, in which a prix fixe is paid, and servers circulate with food. This is common in churrascarias (barbecue restaurants) and pizzerias, resulting in an all-you-can-eat meat barbecue and pizzas of varied flavours.

For those who received support for meals from the SPSAS-Ocean, lunch will be served at the Campus Student's restaurante and dinner at the hotel restaurante. For those who are self supported, there are many restaurants in Campus and around the hotel. Our  team will be happy to provide you with information and you can also find some good tips on line.

On the "Folha-uol" website (in Portuguese) it is possible to search by area of the city, price, type of cuisine, opening times and amount of stars: http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/o-melhor-de-sao-paulo/restaurantes-bares-e-cozinha/ 

Check also the assessments made by Veja São Paulo (in Portuguese): http://vejasp.abril.com.br/restaurantes

A quick research website for restaurants by region, price etc., is Timeout (in English): http://www.timeout.com.br/sao-paulo/en

For some guidance on where to eat in São Paulo, visit our "Enjoy São Paulo" page.




Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Brazil every year without incident. But obviously you need to be careful. Here are some safety tips for first-timers in Brazil.

The most common forms of crime affecting tourists are pickpockets and street muggings. It has to be said that much of the crime that occurs is opportunistic crime, meaning that criminals focus more on those they think are easy or high-value targets. For example, the elderly, someone walking alone at night, or someone wearing lots of jewelry.

Your security depends very much on yourself... A simple rule: be discrete and try to blend in as much as possible in the locals. Don’t use identifiable “tourist clothes”. Also try to appear that you know where you are and what’s going on, rather than gawping at a map and looking lost. Familiarizing yourself with the area you are visiting and acting confident as you walk through the streets will help prevent thieves from deciding you are a good target. Stare at everyone, everywhere, as everyone will stare at everyone else in Brazil. It’s polite to do so and you will always be aware of your surroundings.

Leave the passport and other credit cards in the safe at the hotel. Make a copy of the biographic page of your passport and carry this with you, in case you are asked to show some ID. Leave the original together with your driver's license in your safety box (unless you're driving, of course).

Don't show fancy cameras, state-of-the-art smartphones, golden chains and other jewelry, expensive watches... Your invaluable valuables belong in the safety box of your hotel room. In short DO NOT SHOW you have things that are worth a lot of money. 

Do not carry a lot of cash around. Carry around only enough for your expected purchases and a credit card (none if you don't expect to use it). Take extra care when taking out money from an automatic teller machine. Beware of suspicious characters lurking nearby. It is best to use the machines located inside banks, buildings and shopping centers. Do not count your money in front of everybody when you take fresh cash out of the ATM, etc.


You should take special care of handbags, purses, daypacks, backpacks and other bags where you have anything valuable. Hold them firmly in front of you. Never leave your goods out of sight. Even in Campus no valuable should be left unattended.

Be careful about public transportation at night. Take a taxi and not a bus at night. Late at night, consider booking a radio taxi or calling for a regular taxi. Many people prefer calling a taxi company rather than picking one randomly in the street.


Be aware of your surroundings and others when walking on the street, especially at night. If you see a group of young kids that look suspicious walking towards you, cross the street. Avoid dark/enclosed areas. Try to move around in a group, preferably with local friends. At night, avoid walking on the streets alone.

If the worse happens and you are approached by some criminal element, try and keep calm. Never fight back. They may have guns, be on drugs, could react violently. You certainly have more to lose than they do. Report to the special tourist police if you are a victim of any crime.



There are many peculiarities of behavior and etiquette in Brazil. Here we present a few of them, that may help you to understand (and possibly accept) those different customs.

In many countries, physical contact is carefully avoided. In Brazil, this is not the case. In crowds, Brazilians maintain much less physical distance than North Americans normally find comfortable. In conversation, they also tend to stand close to each other.  Usually one to two feet apart is normal. Physical contact does not mean sexual interest, in general. Both men and women might frequently touch you when talking, either patting your shoulder or placing their hand on your hand or arm to make a point. Light touching and close proximity are construed as signs of general friendship (as opposed to romantic intimacy). Of course, if you do not feel comfortable with this kind of behavior towards yourself, you may ask her/him to stop it.


Men shake hands when greeting one another (often for a long time), while maintaining steady eye contact. Women generally exchange kisses by placing their cheeks together and kissing the air – sometimes only one face (in São Paulo) or both sides of the face (in Rio de Janeiro).


Kissing is also common between women and men, if they are friends. Observe that while doing this, you should not kiss on the cheeks (like in Russia) but actually only touch cheeks and make a kissing sound while kissing the air. Placing your lips on a strangers cheek is a clear sign of sexual interest. Kissing is suitable for informal occasions, used to introduce yourself or being acquainted, especially to young people. Hand shaking is more appropriate for formal occasions or between women and men when no form of intimacy is intended. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude.

Hugging is a common greeting among Brazilian friends, independently of gender. Backslapping is common among men. These greetings are not only used between good friends and family members but are also quite common between business acquaintances.


Brazilians favor direct eye contact over indirect. However, service people such as maids, delivery people, repair people, etc., will often avoid eye contact when dealing with people they are serving or working for. During conversations sustained eye contact is commonplace rather than intermittent. They associate a steady gaze with sincerity. Brazilians tend to look at each other often in public places/situations (on a bus, in the elevator, etc.).

Smoking (cigarettes, pipe, cigars, etc.) is forbidden, in Brazil, in public places. Hotels may have special rooms for people who smoke. You definitely cannot smoke in banks, restaurants, hotel lobbies, university rooms. It is impolite to smoke without due permission when you are visiting someone. Even the presence of an ashtray is no guarantee that you can smoke.

Be aware that racism is a very serious offense in Brazil. Most Brazilians frown upon racism, and even if you are only joking or you think you know your company, it is still wise to refrain from anything that can be perceived as racism. According to the Brazilian constitution of 1988, racism is a crime for which bail is not available. This is taken very seriously. 

Brazilians communicate easily even with strangers and try to be nice and will help strangers if approached on the street. Communication is often informal and does not rely on strict rules of protocol. First names used often, but titles are important. Anyone who feels they have something to say will generally add their opinion. Brazilians tend to be direct in most situations. Brazilians speak their minds freely and it is normal to be interrupted. Interrupting others during discussions is considered a sign of enthusiasm. If they say little it is likely because they are not interested in the subject or because they feel uncomfortable. Brazilians are sometimes viewed as being very forward and aggressive. This can hold true to both men and women. However, angry faces and loud speaking is regarded as rude.

Brazilians tend to dress casual, even in the universities, where you rarely find someone wearing formal suit. Formal dress is required only in corporate environments.


Brazilians tend to be very open and talk freely about the problems of their country, especially about political corruption and other problems. But don't imitate them, as they are likely to feel offended if you criticize their country or customs.


Brazilians are extremely casual about time. Being ten to fifteen minutes late in business is “normal”, and twenty to thirty minutes late is not unusual. Be on time for a formal meeting, but prepare to wait for your Brazilian colleagues. If you are invited to someone’s home, in Brazil, it is expected that you’ll arrive 15, 20 or even 30 minutes later. But don’t worry about it during the SPSAS-Ocean. In São Paulo we have tradition of being on time in academic meetings and we will use our better efforts to follow the program.

© 2018 por SPSAS Oceean. Created with Wix.com

Photo credits: Marina Correa, Natalia Grilli, Maíra Pombo and USP database*

* @ http://www.imagens.usp.br/

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