I have traveled to Sao Paulo many times for business in 2000. I went on a fun work trip in 2009 to Sao Paulo and took a quick trip to see Rio. I would not recommend going to Sao Paolo unless you have to for work, but Rio is a blast.
Top 5 Hotels
- Copacabana Palace – Classic, graceful hotel in Rio right on the beach. Refined and has seen many stars from Grace Kelly to Suri Cruise. I'm being sarcastic. A great, central spot.
- The Emiliano – Definitely do this if you are staying in Sao Paolo. Amazing service. Great restaurant perfect to start your day with a coffee that transforms into a fun bar/dinner spot at night.
- Apartments in Sao Paolo – When on work I often stayed in nice serviced apartments in the Jardins area.
- Fasano – I’ve had friends stay here in SP and say it is a very hip design hotel. Word says to avoid the overpriced dinners.
- La Suite - This is supposed to be a nice one in Rio.
- Figuaro – Amazing outside restaurant in the Jardins area surrounding the biggest fig tree you can imagine. Upscale. Good fish and meat.
- Cafe - Who couldn't party hard with all this delicious, strong coffee?
- Carlota - A tiny little neighborhood spot in Rio in a happening area. Darling atmosphere with an Asian influence.
- Acase – Drink the superfood smoothies and eat the fruit whenever you can.
- Emiliano brunch - Yes, it is a hotel, but their Sunday brunch is a sure way to stay inside all day.
Top Things to Do
- Hit the Beach – We drove about 3 hours from Sao Paolo to some lovely isolated beaches. The water is perfect for swimming.
- People Watch in Rio – Again, hit the beach. Hot bods everywhere.
- See Rio from Jesus’ View - The city is breathtaking from up high. I’ve seen it from helicopter and from Corcovada. It is definitely worth the trip up. You can take a train, but we just got a driver and did the stairs at the top.
- Shopping – The shopping in the Jardins area is too opulent for my taste, but there are some markets and malls in SP that are still high fashion.
- Walk the Neighborhoods – You have to be really careful where you go, but some neighborhoods are fine for a stroll.
Top 5 Tips
- Visa – You need to get your Visa by going into a local consulate at least 10 days in advance.
- Learn a touch of Portuguese – I expected it to be more like Spanish and couldn’t really understand much.
- Get a driver – The city is crazy with traffic and you can get a driver for cheap. Book before you get there to avoid scams.
- Stay in the right neighborhood – Make sure to check out the neighborhoods in advance. There are only a few that you will feel safe in, like Jardins.
- Check out the eclectic cultures – Brazil has the most Japanese outside of Japan. The Italian, Spanish and Jewish communities are strong here.
Top 5 Misses
- Traffic – It can take hours to get through the city. And the exhaust fumes are ridiculous.
- Crime – The crime in both cities is horrible and doesn’t make for a relaxing vacation. Serious white-collar kidnapping in SP and low-level, but frequent muggings in Rio.
- No middle class – SP is a lotta Compton and a little Beverly Hills. Nothing in between.
- Language barrier – Unlike many huge world cities, most people don’t speak English, so bring your Portugese guidebook.
- Daytime fun – The Brazilians work hard and party hard, but there isn’t a lot of culture or natural wonders to check out during the day.