living in sao paulo

Living in Sao Paulo – The Ultimate Guide in 2023

São Paulo is a city that divides opinions. Some people love the hustle, vibrance and raw energy of the city whereas others see it as a concrete jungle full of noise, pollution and not much to look at. Both of these are right depending on your perception, and whilst there’s no doubt that Sao Paulo doesn’t have the same obvious allure that Rio does in terms of natural beauty, it is equally captivating in a completely different way. Whilst seeming like nothing special at first glance, it’s a city that seduces you over time, grows on you more and more as each day passes and has always got a surprise up its sleeve. 

Why Live in São Paulo?

  • Big City Lifestyle with an Authentic Brazilian Vibe – If you’re a fan of the big city lifestyle then São Paulo will likely be right up your street. With endless options of things to do for all different tastes, it’s hard for life to get repetitive here, and it still maintains a strong Brazilian feel which makes for a unique and captivating combination. 
  • Incredible Nightlife – When it comes to nightlife, there are few places in the world that can top São Paulo with endless options of clubs and bars for all different tastes. If you’re a night owl, then São Paulo could be your perfect destination. 
  • Welcoming and Highly Educated People – Paulistas are really friendly and welcoming (in my experience more than cariocas) and often very curious about foreigners meaning that you’ll likely be treated very well here. This city also has the best universities and job opportunities in the country and this shows in the population. 
  • Great Food Scene – When it comes to food, São Paulo is up there as one of the best cities in the world, but with a much lower price tag! You can find all cuisines here no matter how obscure. . 
  • Less Foreigners – Despite being well known abroad and having a population of 20 million, foreigners are relatively few and far between, meaning that you’re in luck if you want to immerse yourself fully in Brazilian Culture. The lower number of foreigners also means that locals tend to be very curious when it comes to meeting foreigners due to the lack of people from abroad. 
  • Good Value for Money – Although not cheap by Brazilian Standards, São Paulo is great value for money compared to many North American and European cities, and you can live a very high quality lifestyle at a much lower cost. 
  • Best Job Opportunities in Brazil – If you’re looking to get into the Brazilian Job Market, then Sao Paulo is by far your best bet with plenty of opportunities and higher salaries than other cities in Brazil.

Must Know things before Moving to São Paulo

  • No Beach in the City – Despite common belief, there aren’t actually any beaches in São Paulo, meaning that if you’re wanting to live in Brazil for the beach lifestyle, São Paulo isn’t the best choice. That being said, within an hour and a half you can reach beaches which are just as beautiful as those when living in Rio de Janeiro
  • Lacks in Beauty, but makes up with Atmosphere – Whilst the city lacks nature and beaches, it makes up for it with atmosphere and vibe and is arguably the coolest city in Brazil. With tons of nightlife, eating options and cultural things to do, the vibe of São Paulo is incomparable. 
  • Portuguese is a Must – As in all cities in Brazil, learning Brazilian Portuguese is an absolute must if you want to make the most of your stay. Whilst you might be used to getting by on English in many parts of Europe and places such as South East Asia, you’ll find that this isn’t the case in Brazil, with São Paulo being no exception.
  • Can be Overwhelming at Times – The pulsating and addictive energy of the city has its drawbacks, that it can be overwhelming and draining at times. With constant noise, lots of people and a fast-paced lifestyle it can be overwhelming. Luckily the coast is only an hour and a half away meaning that it’s not that difficult to get out of the city for the day. 
  • Work Hard Play Hard Vibe – Living in São Paulo is the perfect choice if you resonate with the “work hard, play hard” mentality, and has a strong entrepreneurship culture with a strong start up scene. This makes it great for people who are looking to grow their own business or focus on their career whilst still having a fun time

Best Areas to Live in Sao Paulo

Jardins – A nice, upscale and leafy neighborhood located right next to the central hub of Avenida Paulista, Jardins is a great choice for anyone moving to São Paulo and is looking to be right next to where things are happening, whilst not feelings overwhelmed by noise, traffic and chaos. The neighborhood is more residential, so it doesn’t have a big nightlife scene, however, there is a shopping scene on Rua Oscar Freire and plenty of gyms, supermarkets and shops. 

Bela Vista – Similar to Jardins but with an edgier vibe, Bela Vista offers many nice apartments at a lower price than Jardins, and is just on the other side of Avenida Paulista. Often a popular choice amongst São Paulo’s LGBT scene, concentrated near Rua Frei Caneca and Augusta.

Pinheiros – Pinheiros is an up and coming trendy neighborhood and in my opinion is the best place to base yourself in São Paulo if you’re looking for a neighborhood with lots of things happening at day and night, whilst also maintaining a relaxing residential feel. With a great culinary scene and tons of nightlife options, this is great place to base yourself. 

Vila Madalena – Located next to Pinheiros, Vila Madalena is considered as one of São Paulo’s most touristy areas and has a bohemian feel to it. There are fewer apartment buildings and more houses in this area than Pinheiros. Also has a solid eating and nightlife scene. 

Itaim Bibi/Vila Olimpia – An upscale area located around 20 minutes from Avenida Paulista, Itaim is a great place to base yourself with lots of restaurants and a more upscale nightlife scene than Pinheiros. Vila Olimpia, the next neighborhood, has a similar feel but has a more ‘americanized’ vibe with lots of shopping malls, offices and business buildings. 

Vila Mariana/Aclimação – A great area if you’re looking for a more residential and chilled out vibe that’s still fairly central. Has more of a small town and community feel with some nice parks and greener areas as well. 

Sumare/Perdizes – Two residential areas that are really pleasant and with lots of trees and parks about. Probably my top choice if you’re looking for a well located neighborhood with a nice atmosphere and a more residential feel. 

Meeting People in São Paulo

Despite what other Brazilians say (especially Cariocas) about Paulistas being cold and always in a rush, I’ve found that the people here are extremely friendly (even more so than in Rio from my experience), easy to talk to and are curious about foreigners. As São Paulo is an immigrant hub for people from all corners of Brazil as a place to work and study, you’ll find less cliques and that people will tend to be open towards making friends with you. 

However, as in the case of Rio, having a strong command of the Portuguese Language is absolutely essential if you’re wanting to have choice and freedom when it comes to your social life when living in sao Paulo and is the key to making the most out of life in Brazil on a whole.

Safety and Security in Sao Paulo

Generally speaking, São Paulo is quite a bit safer than Rio de Janeiro and cities in the North-East of Brazil, and violence tends to be concentrated in the “periferia” (near the favelas located on the edges of the city). That being said, you’ll need to have common sense and take a few basic precautions:

  • Take Ubers at Late Hours – Although there are some areas where you can walk around at night, it’s usually better to play it safe and get an Uber. 
  • Avoid Going to the ‘Periferia’ – the outskirts of the city are where most of the crime is concentrated, and there’s little to do here anyway, so best avoided.
  • Be Extra Careful Around Centro – Although there are a few interesting sights in the center such as the Mercado Central, it’s a dangerous area and you need to be really careful. There’s lots of homeless people, drug addicts and odd characters walking around and it is super sketchy, even in the daytime in some places.
  • Get a Solid Grasp of Portuguese – Having a solid grasp of Portuguese reduces the risk of danger due to the ability it gives you more difficult situations, as well as the confidence it gives you when navigating daily life.

Weather in Sao Paulo

The climate is pleasant in Sao Paulo, but don’t expect wall to wall sun when living here, as it also  rains a lot and there is cloud cover a significant amount of the time. However, you’ll also see a decent amount of Sunshine, and the seasons aren’t that pronounced, meaning that it never truly gets cold or overly hot. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons:

Summer – Mid- December to Mid- March

Days are warm but not oppressive, with highs of around 32 degrees celsius and lows of around 20. These temperatures can be welcome when compared to the summer in Rio de Janeiro and coastal areas nearby, and Air Conditioning, although helpful, isn’t a necessity. There’s a fair bit of rain this time of year, although these tend to be quick afternoon showers, but can be heavy. 

Autumn – March – May

The sunniest time of year in Sao Paulo, these are great months with lots of sunny days, less rain and temperatures of around 25-29 degrees with night temperatures of 15-18 degrees. 

Winter – June – August

It never truly gets cold in Sao Paulo, although it might feel so if you’re coming from Rio de Janeiro. Days are usually warm with temperatures between 20-25 degrees celsius, and average night temperatures range from 11-14 degrees. There’s a lack of insulation indoors so it can get surprisingly chilly inside buildings. Usually there’s a lot of sunny days this time of year but there are cloudy/rainy days as well. 

Spring – September – November

Weather can be inconsistent and tends to be the time of year with most gray days. There can be a lot of drizzle and cloudy days which can be a bit of a downer if you’re a sun seeker, but you’ll still see the sun, just not as much as other times of the year. Also this time of year can be unpredictable, meaning that some years you’ll see lots of rainy days, and some years you’ll see sunshine. 


Cost of Living in Sao Paulo

The cost of living in Sao Paulo is similar to that of Rio, but rental can be cheaper when compared to high end neighborhoods such as Leblon and Ipanema in Rio. Apartments on AirBnb are unsurprisingly more expensive, so the best bet if you’re looking to stay for at least 3 months is to look at a website such as So Flats, where you can rent your own studio apartment with much less bureaucracy than renting an apartment long term. You can get a decent studio in a building with a pool, sauna and gym for around R$4000 ($800 USD) a month in neighborhoods such as Pinheiros and Itaim. 

In terms of food, fresh produce in supermarkets is cheap, and there’s a wide range of price options when it comes to restaurants. You can get a basic meal for R$20-30 ($4-6 USD), and high quality eateries can range from around R$40-80 ($8-16 USD) for a good meal. Nightlife can be expensive with entrance fees averaging R$50-100 and cocktails being around R$35-50. 

Finding Work when Living in Sao Paulo

Just like in the case of Rio, finding good career prospects in Brazil is no easy task, mainly due to the lower salaries, visa restrictions and the language barrier. That being said, as the business hub of Brazil, your chances of finding something in São Paulo are much higher than in other cities and salaries can be noticeably higher. So yes, there are job prospects in Sao Paulo for foreigners, especially in multinational companies, and although finding a job isn’t easy, it’s do-able. That being said, working remotely for an overseas company is probably your best bet due to the generally higher salaries and less bureaucracy involved so it’s worth bearing this in mind. Also, the Brazilian Business culture can be quite difficult to adapt to as a foreigner and was something that I personally struggled with, despite being fluent in Portuguese, with this mainly being due to different styles of communication and work culture. 

Nightlife in Sao Paulo

In terms of Nightlife, São Paulo is better than Rio de Janeiro, and you’ll always find new places to go to for all different tastes. There’s hundreds of bars and clubs scattered around the city meaning that it’s almost impossible to get bored. 

The main centers of nightlife are in the following areas:

Pinheiros – Pinheiros seems to be constantly growing with new bars and restaurants popping up all the time. As of 2023, Rua Vupabussu is the new popular spot and has lots of small bars and people standing and drinking in the street. The area around Rua Padre Garcia Velho and Rua Cunha Gago are also popular spots with more of a hipster vibe, and there’s a few clubs around here as well. Clubs include City Lights, Kingston and Amata. Another popular area is Largo da Batata and Pitico, which has more of an edgier vibe. 

Vila Madalena – A very popular nightlife area, there are lots of traditional Brazilian Boteco and Choperia bars in this area where people often gather around tables drinking beer and eating traditional Brazilian food. Although not as good as it was a few years ago, the area around Rua Aspicuelta is definitely worth checking out. 

Itaim Bibi/Vila Olimpia – With a slightly more fancy and ‘playboy’ vibe than Pinheiros and Vila Madalena, Itaim Bibi is a good option for looking for a slightly more luxurious vibe and enjoy going to clubs rather than bars. Clubs include Galleria Bar, Vila JK and Santo Cupido. 

Rua Augusta – Similar to the Lapa Area in Rio de Janeiro, Rua August is the edgiest nightlife area in Sao Paulo and isn’t my top choice. It can be quite sketchy and has plenty of seedy characters lurking around, but is worth checking out once to see if it floats your boat. 


São Paulo is a great city to live in depending on your vibe and tastes, and is the perfect place if you’re looking for a faster paced city with a big city vibe, whilst still maintaining a strong Brazilian feel.. Although it took me a while for the city to grow on me, every day I spent in the city, the more I grew to love it. The city’s ”work hard play hard” vibe make it the perfect place to work on business/personal ventures whilst also having a plethora of options when it comes to nightlife and socializing. You’ll get more and more hooked on São Paulo with each day that you spend here.

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