Time Out São Paulo

SP visitors' guide: Essential information

Read up on all the basics on visiting São Paulo, from getting cash to staying safe, making phone calls and dealing with emergencies.

EmergenciesHealthMoney | Safety & securityTelephones



  • Fire and medical emergencies 193 
  • Military Police 190
  • DEATUR (specialised tourist police) Rua da Consolação 247, Centro (3151 4167/ 3259 2202)


For emergency medical needs, head to one of the public hospitals, though be prepared to wait. It's worth noting that the public hospitals are not required to treat existing conditions. See our list below, or for a more complete list of hospitals (in Portuguese) visit saude.sp.gov.br.

Travellers are strongly advised to sign up for health insurance before arriving in the country. Of the private hospitals, Hospital Nove de Julho is close to Avenida Paulista and accepts walk-in patients; more expensive and one of the country’s top hospitals, the Hospital Sírio Libanês is also nearby.

Vaccinations are not required for entry into Brazil except for travellers arriving from yellow fever infected areas in the Americas and Africa. Once inside Brazil, those travelling to remote areas in Mato Grosso and the Amazon regions will need a yellow fever vaccine (which takes two weeks to take effect) and anti-malaria medication.

It is safe to drink tap water in São Paulo, though many locals avoid doing so, drinking filtered water instead.

Public Hospitals
  • Hospital das Clinicas Avenida Doutor Enéas de Carvalho Aguiar 255, Cerqueira César (2661 0000hcnet.usp.br)
  • Hospital São Paulo Rua Napoleão de Barros 715, Vila Clementino (5576 4522unifesp.br)
  • Santa Casa de Misericórdia de São Paulo Rua Doutor Cesário Mota Jr. 112, Vila Buarque (2176 7000santacasasp.org.br).
Private Hospitals


The following dental surgeries can provide English-speaking dentists upon request.

  • Centro Odontológico Avenida Angélica 1007, Higienopolis (3822 1008cohigienopolis.com.br)
  • Instituto Bibancos de Odontologia Rua Maurício Francisco Klabin 401, Vila Mariana (5579 5453/ 5573 2288bibancos.com.br)  
  • Odontomax – Pronto Socorro Dentário Avenida Dom Pedro I 697, Ipiranga (2273 7959/2274 6668)


The Brazilian currency is the real (plural reais). It’s always advisable to carry a supply of coins and small-denomination notes because it can be difficult to change larger bills when paying on buses or purchasing from street vendors.
Most shops and restaurants accept major credit cards such as Visa (V), MasterCard (MC), and American Express (AmEx). Diners Club (DC) is also usually accepted. 

Banks & ATMs

Banks and ATMs are easy to find throughout the city, though not all will accept foreign ATM cards – travellers tend to have the most success with CitiBank, HSBC and Banco do Brasil. Look for ATM machines with a Visa or Cirrus logo. 

Banks open from 10am-4pm Mon-Fri. Some ATMs can be accessed after 4pm, though for security reasons, most will only dispense R$100 after 10pm.

Lost & stolen cards
  • American Express 0800 721 1188
  • Diners Club 4001 4444/ 0800 728 4444
  • Mastercard 0800 891 3294
  • Visa 0800 891 3680

Safety & security


It’s customary for Brazilians to carry identification, often required to access office buildings. For security reasons, it’s best not to carry an original passport around, but it’s easy enough for foreign visitors to get a copy of a passport certified at the offices of a notary public (cartório). A student ID is also handy, as it frequently allows for discounted prices. 


As in any large metropolis, crime is a serious issue in São Paulo. Be careful with personal belongings at all times, especially at night and in the city centre. Be particularly cautious if carrying a laptop or a tablet, and avoid sitting near a window if using your laptop in a café. Avoid wearing expensive looking jewellery, and take the measure of your surroundings before pulling out an expensive camera or mobile phone. 

Most places in São Paulo are safe to walk in during the day, but at night it’s best to avoid dark streets where there are few people. High-risk areas for crime and pick-pocketing include Praça da Sé, Praça da República, and the area around Estação da Luz. Be especially wary of motorcycles with passengers riding pillion, as drive-by armed thefts have become increasingly common.

Do no argue with muggers – just hand over your possessions calmly and try not to look at them directly. Chances are they will be carrying a weapon. 

If you are driving a car, be aware that car-jacking is common in São Paulo. As a result, drivers sometimes ignore traffic lights and stop signs, particularly at night. Proceed cautiously when approaching an intersection, paying close attention to both oncoming traffic and pedestrians, and make sure car doors are locked at all times.


Mobile phones

Usually European phones will work. If you have a GSM phone from the USA it may work, but you will probably need to call your provider and have international restrictions removed.  Some Brazilian operators reportedly permit foreigners to register a pre-paid local SIM card using a passport number, but in practice, most insist on a valid CPF (Brazilian social security number). Mobile phone providers include Claro (claro.com.br), Tim (tim.com.br), Nextel (queronextel.com.br) and Vivo (vivo.com.br).

Dialling & codes

Brazil's international country code is 55. All cities have a two-digit city code followed by an eight-digit telephone number. Mobiles in São Paulo have nine digits (always commencing with a 9), except those operated by Nextel. The city code for São Paulo is 11, though you don't need to include 11 when making a local call from within São Paulo.

When making a national call in Brazil you must first dial 0, then a telephone provider code (15 or 21 will usually work), followed by the two-digit city code, then the eight/nine-digit number. You also need the telephone provider code when making international calls. In this case it would be 00 + telecom provider code + country code + area code + number. (Skype tends to save money and a lot of the headache.)

By Time Out São Paulo editors


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