Getting Around in Sao Paulo

Congested metro in Sao PauloGetting around in Sao Paulo isn't always straightforward, but there are a number of options including taxis, trains, buses and bicycles. With an expanding population and a growing demand for affordable and accessible transport, however, public commutes are often congested and delayed.

As with so much else in the country, Brazil’s gaping wealth disparity affects the way people get around Sao Paulo. For safety reasons, expats shouldn’t openly display valuables and electronics when commuting.

Despite the disadvantages, millions of commuters traverse the city every day as the government continues its attempts to improve public transport across the metropolis.

Public transport in Sao Paulo  


The city has four major stations which link to the interior, nearby coastal regions and suburbs surrounding the city. The city’s railway network is managed by CPTM and is 260km long.


The Sao Paulo Metro is generally efficient but not extensive enough to meet the demands of the city’s population. It is much smaller than in major European and North American cities but it is, nevertheless, one of the largest in South America and remains one of the best ways to travel around the centre of Sao Paulo.



To compensate for the metro's shortcomings, there has been a lot of investment in expanding the city’s public bus network. While public buses in Sao Paulo travel further and are more available than the metro, they are caught in traffic jams and sometimes run late despite the fact that there are several exclusive bus lanes in the Greater Sao Paulo area.

Navigating Sao Paulo’s bus network can be a complicated experience for novice commuters, especially if they don’t speak Portuguese. Researching routes ahead of time is crucial since routes are rarely displayed at stops, and the majority of people in the city don’t speak English.


Sao Paulo is said to have more taxis than any other Brazilian city, so hailing a cab shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Most taxis are white cars with a sign on the roof. Sao Paulo taxis are often comfortable and convenient, although they may be more expensive than what some expats are used to. Some of the city’s foreign residents, who would rather avoid navigating its notorious traffic themselves, even use taxis as their primary means of transport.

Very few taxi drivers will speak English, however, and expats are advised to have the address of their intended destination, including the suburb, written down in Portuguese.

Driving in Sao Paulo

The majority of people seem to prefer driving in Sao Paulo. The rate of vehicle ownership in the city has soared in recent decades, contributing to a growing congestion problem. As a result, the average work commute can be painfully long. Driving a car in Sao Paulo is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. The city is infamous for its long traffic jams and reckless, impatient drivers, many of whom do not take much stock in Brazilian traffic laws.

Cycling in Sao Paulo

Despite its hills and unwieldy traffic, cycling in Sao Paulo is becoming more popular, and there are several operators that rent out bicycles to commuters for hourly fees. Among these is Bike Sampa, which has over a hundred stations at strategic points around the city.

Ther city has more than 50km of bicycle paths and at certain times of the day, bicycles can be taken on the metro.

Walking in Sao Paulo

As with every large city, walking in some parts of Sao Paulo is less advisable than in others. Crime is a large concern and, even in its safer areas, residents exercise a degree of caution and vigilance. Expats that prefer getting around on foot should also be warned that the lack of consideration many drivers display towards each other extends to pedestrians, so extra care should be taken when crossing busy roads and, where possible, it is preferable to use foot-bridges or viaducts.

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