What You Should Know About Using Public Transportation in Sao Paulo

city street in Sao Paolo, Brazil
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As the largest city in Brazil, and also the business capital of the country, Sao Paulo is a huge metropolis. Getting around by public transport is actually far easier than driving in this busy city. For visitors, avoiding rush hour where possible is a good idea because the transport network will be at its busiest. 

Here's what you should know about the various methods of public transportation in Sao Paolo.

Sao Paulo's Train And Subway Network

There is a good network of subway and suburban railway lines in Sao Paulo that are best for traveling longer distances around the city, or moving across the city effectively, with nine lines in total that are color coded. The suburban trains are also useful for getting out into surrounding towns in the greater Sao Paulo area.

Lines 1, 2 and 3 (blue, green and red respectively) are the original core of the metro network in Sao Paulo, and are among the cleanest and most modern trains because of the tourist traffic, as well as the fact that they take in much of the business center and key attractions of the city.

Getting Around Sao Paulo by Bus

While the metro system is the best way of crossing the city, for shorter journeys or those in areas where the train and subways haven't yet been developed, buses are another good way to get around.

If you have luggage then it is worth avoiding bus travel in rush hour, otherwise you'll struggle to get around, and will get a fair few glances from those that you are having to push through to get on and off with your bags.

Each bus will have a conductor near the turnstile who will sell you a ticket.

How to Get the Best Deal on Transportation

Like many cities, Sao Paulo has a unified system known as the Bilhete Unico card which can be used instead of buying tickets, which is usually a better option if you are going to be in Sao Paulo for more than a day or two.

Fares on the subway and buses are 3 reals per journey, although another benefit of using the card is that you can get free transfers on to different lines on the subway or on to different buses without paying for the second fare.

Bicycling in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo has over 400 kilometers of bicycle routes around the city, although it is usually worth avoiding cycling on the roads themselves, as you will find drivers give cyclists next to no space and can be downright dangerous. However, there are some great cycle paths, with the Ciclovia Rio Pinheiros being a twenty-kilometer route that follows the river and is a fantastic ride as well as being a useful way of crossing the city. There is a bicycle rental scheme called Bike Sampa, which has stands in many parts of the city, and you also get the first hour's rental for free.

Sao Paolo Airport Transporation

The main international airport in Sao Paulo is Guarulhos, which is around 40 kilometers outside the city, while there are also the smaller domestic airports at Congonhas and Viracopos. There is a bus that runs from Guarulhos every fifteen minutes or so into the city center and connects to the metro system at the Tatuape Metro Station, which is on line 3 of the metro.

Taxis into the center will usually take between 45 minutes and two hours, and can cost up to 150 reals.

Congonhas is much closer to the city, around 15 kilometers outside the center, and has direct buses to the center, or you can take the shorter bus to the Sao Judas subway station and take the metro, with the connecting bus being route 875.

Getting to Interlagos

The Interlagos race circuit is home to the Brazil Grand Prix, and also hosts racing events throughout the year, but it is a good distance to the south of the city, so if you are traveling for a race, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get out to the circuit.

On most event days there are buses running from the Jardins area of the city out towards Interlagos, operated by SP Trans buses, and these are generally the best option.

You can share taxi fares towards the circuit, although on race days it will often be difficult to get a taxi when everyone is trying to get to and from the track.