Sao Paulo, or Sampa as called by locals, is the largest city in Brazil with a population of more than 20 million people. At the heart of Brazil’s economy, it is often forgotten by tourists who prefer the beaches of Salvador de Bahia or Rio de Janeiro. However, Sao Paulo is surely Brazil’s most vibrant city, with its captivating museums, delicious restaurants or exciting nightlife.
As explained in the safety review of Brazil, the country has some unsolved issues with crime; however Sao Paulo’s crime rate has been decreasing steadily since the 1980’s and hit an all-time low in 2011. Still, some areas are very dangerous for travelers at all times of the day, while central areas tend to be safe during the day and much more dangerous at night.
SafeAround has compiled information from numerous sources make sure you have a safe trip while in Sao Paulo, and be aware of all potential dangers.
The area around Praça de Sé is the old city center, with the Neo-Byzantine Catedral de Sé, the nearby Municipal Market and the Lebanese shops street of 25 de Março. During the day, this area is safe – though be aggressive homeless people and pickpockets, but there is a police presence. There is an area called “Crackland” near the Parque de la Luz that is to be completely avoided by tourists (see the map) because of a high number of drug addicts, prostitutes and criminals.
The West side of Sao Paulo is home to the State Government and is a center of business, nightlife, education (it is where the University of Sao Paulo is located). The area is one of the city’s richest, and its skyscrapers hosts c. 30% of the city’s workforce. The area is safer than other parts, although the wealthiness attracts criminals know for “express kidnappings” : prefer taking cabs than expensive cars. There have been reports of muggings around the University of Sao Paulo.
Warnings & Dangers
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
Sao Paulo is an averagely safe city – some parts should be avoided, and the risk is much higher at night. With a rating of 51% Brazil, is ranked 81th out of 162 on the ranking of the safest and most dangerous countries.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
There is some pickpocket-related risk in Sao Paulo. Be careful around Praca de Sé, Lines 1 and 3 of the metro and bus/train terminals. A few common sense precautions will minimize your chances of being pickpocketed.
MUGGING RISK: HIGH
Sao Paulo is a dangerous city regarding risks of mugging and kidnapping, central urban areas are better avoided late at night, and it is recommended to travel in private cars.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
As in any touristic place, there may be people trying to scam you in Sao Paulo. Be extremely cautious around ATMs – particularly at night. Be also aware of “gold ring” tricks, fake petitions, groups of teenagers acting strangely or trying to distract you; and people offering help with your luggage.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM
There might be some risk while taking public transport in Sao Paulo. The metro and buses are generally safe, but many buses stops are dangerous at night.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
There can be some occasional natural hazards in Sao Paulo (see the page about Brazil for more advice)
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
Sao Paulo is a very safe city in respect to terrorist threats. There can be some protests in city center.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Sao Paulo is generally safe for women travelers.
Avoid Being A Victim! 10 Tips for Your Personal Safety
It is best to carry a small bag across your shoulder or wear a concealed pouch rather than a back pack
Carry as little cash as you can
Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket
Beware of individuals who act strangely and who try to divert your attention in order to steal your belongings.
Pay special attention while seating on restaurants and café terraces, when you are withdrawing money from ATMs or near tourist attractions
Never keep your mobile phone or wallet on the table of a café or restaurant.
Don’t wear expensive jewellery in an ostentatious way
If an attacker tries to snatch your bag, don’t try to stop them as you will risk being injured
Thieves commonly work near tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beaches, trains, train stations, airports, subways and target vehicles with non-local license plates.
Most but not all of pickpockets work in groups, often as teenagers
Brazil has a reciprocity standard for its visas : whatever restriction or visa prices applied to Brazilians going abroad are applied to foreigners of this country (eg: US citizens need to pay a 160$ fee).
This means that many countries (including EU and MercoSur) do not require visas for stays under 90 days. www.doyouneedvisa.com is a useful website that can help you know if you need a visa or not based on your nationality and the country you’re visiting.