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The Best of Brazil: Travel Tips for Visitors to Sao Paulo

You’re on your way to Sao Paulo, and you’re so excited. You’ve never been there before. But, there are many dangers lurking.

Do you know the culture? What about tipping when you go out to eat? How do you get around, and what do you do if the unthinkable happens – you lose all your money?

Changing Money In Rio and Sao Paulo

One of the best places to change money in the Rio International Airport is with Bank Itau – it’s a major Brazilian Bank. Banking hours are generous, and the people tend to be very friendly.

But, an even better place – and really something of a secret actually – is a bureau de change called ACE-FX. It has, by far, the lowest exchange rates anywhere. Here’s the catch – it’s accessed primarily online or over the phone.

But, don’t let that stop you. When you need money, you have options and you should use all of them.

Tipping Etiquette

You’ll encounter a very different culture here when it comes to tipping. Unlike many countries, tipping is usually not expected or given.

The only time tips are given is when there’s some kind of exceptional service given. In restaurants, there’s what’s called a “service fee” or “servico.” This is in lieu of a tip.

However, even though this is included as a line-item on the bill you get, it’s not compulsory – though many tourists often believe it is. We’re so used to paying everything we see on the bill. In Brazil, the service fee is usually paid, but it may be skipped if you believe you’ve gotten bad service.

Just know that most waiters will complain if you do not pay it.

A bar in Brazil is not a nightclub or a pub in the usual sense. It’s a restaurant that serves appetisers and drinks, but there are no guards or bouncers. Usually, there’s music playing in these places too. It’s casual, and waiters and waitresses do not typically handle cash – no tipping. If you pay by card, the wait staff will bring you the terminal so that you can swipe your card.

In general, when you take a taxi, you do not pay a tip. But, there are two types of taxis: a radio taxi and a standard yellow taxi. If you book a radio taxi at the airport, you do not pay a tip and these taxis do not run on a taximeter.

If you book a traditional or standard cab, no tip will be asked for. However, if your fair comes to R$20.40, you’re expected to pay R$21 so that no one has to deal with change.

At your hotel, it is customary to tip the bell hop if they transfer your luggage to or from the room – between R$5 and R$10. The chamber main should be tipped about R$5 per day.

You can tip the person who rents you a chair and umbrella at the beach, but it’s not required. However, if he is preparing your food and staying with you all day, he will remember you and it’s almost guaranteed you will get better service.

Eating Out

When you’re in Brazil, don’t be afraid to try a variety of dishes. While outsiders often view the country as being a tropical paradise, this is only part of the culture.

It’s actually made up of three cultures: Portuguese, African, and Native American. Sao Paulo is especially influenced by Italians, since many Italian immigrants came here during the 19th and 20th centuries.

So, there’s a lot of food that reflects this culture. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Danielle Palmer is a long-time world traveller. When she’s not travelling, she’s writing about it online to help others travel safer and better. Look for her helpful and interesting posts on many of today’s websites and blogs.

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