São Paulo has a convenient public transportation system, and many of its tourist-oriented neighborhoods are compact enough for a stroll. However, at night it’s safest to take a taxi to and from your destination.
The Bilhete Unico is a smartcard that can be used on the city’s public transportation. You can load up the cards with money and just debit it as you travel. Transfers are sometimes free, depending on mode of transportation, but fares are generally reasonable.
The Metrô is the easiest way to get around São Paulo. There are three lines: the North-South line, East-West line, and the line that travels underneath the Avenida Paulista. The two main lines converge at Sé station, the busiest station of all. These two lines run daily from 5am until midnight. The line under Avenida Paulista meets the North-South line at Paraiso and Ana Rosa stations and runs daily from 6am to 10pm. It is usually a lot quicker to take the Metrô as close as possible to your destination — even if it means a bit more of a walk or a short taxi ride — than taking the bus all the way.
Good as Sao Paulo’s Metrô is, there are some places you can only get to by bus. São Paulo buses are plentiful and frequent, but the city’s sprawling layout and lack of landmarks can make the system hard to navigate. The routing information on the front and sides of the buses works the same as in Rio. A few useful routes are listed below (more are given with particular attractions and restaurants), but there will be many others running along similar routes. Bus drivers generally won’t stop unless you wave your hand to flag them down.
Taxis are a great way to get around São Paulo, and an absolute must late at night. You can hail one anywhere on the street, and taxi stands are usually found on main intersections, next to malls, squares, and parks. To order a taxi at a specific time, call a radio taxi. Rádio Táxi Vermelho e Branco (the name means “red-and-white”) can be reached at tel. 11-3146-4000. Cost depends on traffic, so the following prices are only guidelines: From Centro to Avenida Paulista, R$15 (US$6.25); from Avenida Paulista to Vila Olímpia, R$20 to R$28 (US$8.40-US$12); from Avenida Paulista to Higienópolis, R$16 (US$6.65).
Though São Paulo itself is huge, many of the neighborhoods that make up the city are compact enough to be easily explored on foot. This is especially true of the more pleasant neighborhoods such as Centro, Higienópolis, Jardins, Vila Madalena, and Ibirapuera. During the day the city is quite safe; in the evening the safest neighborhoods are Jardins, Higienópolis, and the residential areas of the city. Best avoided are the quiet side streets of Centro, particularly the empty shopping streets around Praça Sé, Bexiga, and around Luz station.