Airline Information – Part I

The following information was taken from Gringoes, a website run by a small team of foreigners and Brazilians.  However I must forewarn you that this is for arrivals in and out of Sao Paulo, Brazil and all contact numbers are those you will need while in the country.

I have to share a frustrating experience when contacting the airlines while living in Sao Paulo.  Whenever I called to change or inquire about my reservations, the sales staff who answered the telephone did not speak English nor did I have an opportunity to request an English speaking operator.  Therefore if you have any problems with your reservations, to resolve any of your airline queries, and if you do not speak Portuguese, I suggest that you have your agent’s number or a contact number for your airlines at home in your own country, available at all times. Otherwise you could find yourself in a quandry especially if it is hours before you have to catch a flight.

The main international airport, known as Guarulhos or Cumbica, lies about 30km north of Sao Paulo. It can be reached either by taking Rodovia Ayrton Senna or Via Dutra northbound, and is well sign-posted. The local telephone number for general information is (11) 2445-2945.

The main domestic airport is Congonhas, on Av. Washington Luis, in the south of the city. The telephone number is 50909000. From here you can get a shuttle flight to Rio and other cities around the country.

A special bus service, at Praca da Republica, stops at a number of hotels in the Av. Paulista region en route to the airport, between 7am and 9pm daily. The price is around R$12. For more information call 64452505.

For Shuttle flight information to Rio, call one of the following airlines:

Varig/Rio Sul Tel: 50912216
Transbrasil Tel: 33269000
TAM Tel: 55828849

Prices differ slightly for each airline. There are flights every 15 minutes and tickets can be purchase directly at the airport.

For charter flights and private planes try the Campo de Marte airport at Av. Santos Dumont, 1979, Tel 62212699.

Here are some approximate flight times from a few countries to Sao Paulo:
London – 11 hours
Los Angeles – 14 hours
New York – 10 hours
Sydney – 20 hours.

Here is contact information for the main airline offices in Sao Paulo:   (Additional Airlines to be posted soon)

Aerolinas Argentinas
R Araujo, 00216 andar 6 – Republica
Sao Paulo – SP
Tel: (11) 259-0319  or  (11) 214-6022

Av. Paulista, 777 – 13th floor – Cerq. César
Tel: 3253-3888

Air France
Av. Dr Cardoso de Melo, 1955, 2nd floor
Tel: 3049-0900 or 6445-2219 (airport)
Av. Paulista, 1776, Cerq. César. Tel: 289-2133

Av. Sao Luis, 50, 29th floor – Centro
Tel: 3257-1022

American Airlines
R. Araujo216, 9th Andar- Republica
Sao Paulo
Tel: 011 3214-4000 or 011 3159-2366

British Airways
Av. Sao Luis, 50, 32nd floor – Edifício Itália
Tel: 3145-9700 in Sao Paulo or 0300-7896140 from other regions

Canadian Airlines International
Rua Araujo, 216, 2nd floor
Tel: 3259-9066

Rua da Consolacao, 247, 13th floor
Tel: 0800-554777

Shopping – Part I

In general, I was disappointed with the shopping. One of the things that disappointed me most when I arrived in Brazil, was the fact that I had the notion that I would be able to buy the famous Brazilian footwear that was popular in the past. But generally I found that many, many of the every day items including clothing and shoes are now from China. The wonderfully crafted shoes of years ago are no longer available. I saw every color and designed shoe you can imagine, some made of plastic, man-made materials, leather, pleather etc. However no longer available for purchase is a good Brazilian leather shoe which gave the Italian market good competition in the past. It is sad really.

Most of the best bargains can be found at various street fairs or outlet malls. However I must caution you, especially if you do not speak Portuguese. Keep silent and look for the tags because even if the item is priced, once the store clerk discovers that you are a foreigner or that you do not speak Portuguese, you will find that prices suddenly, and without warning, go up ‘before your eyes.’

I went into a fairly large neighborhood mall in Villa Mariana, Sao Paulo, where numbers of vendors sell their crafts and goods. I picked up an item that was clearly priced at R$35. Something told me to ask the store owner the price of the item and he told me R$50. So I warn you that if you do not have someone with you who speaks Portuguese, look for items that are clearly priced or be prepared to haggle because the price will be increased just because you are a foreigner.

The malls reminded me of many I have seen around the world, but I must warn you that prices for electronic devices are ‘through the roof.’ I purchased a cell phone for about U.S. $140 and it does not give me as many features as a cell phone purchased at one of the more thrifty stores in America for U.S $20. So my friends, make sure that you take ALL of the electronic items that you will need and be certain to take a number of converters. … The most common electrical outlets in Brazil are made for a rounded blade, and the flat bladed types used in the U.S and Canada will not work. Many of the larger hotel chains have North American type outlets to accommodate tourists. It is wise to take an adapter that works for U.S. plugs.(Taken from the website: Article: Electric Current and Outlets in Brazil).

Generally I found that the malls had either high-end or low-end items for sale but nothing in-between – I was not able to find any quality items at a more than reasonable price. I tried a number of malls in Sao Paulo and Rio and I found the story to be the same.

I was also disappointed to see so few fashions. Yes I am certain that they exist as I have a couple of designer friends myself. It is just unfortunate that the majority of Brazilians would not be able to afford them any way.

In terms of food, as I said in the food section, there is quite a variety but I found little to no Chinese restaurants. There are tons of Japanese, Italian, French and of course Brazilian eateries and bakeries throughout most cities. BUT my favourite, Chinese was generally a scarce commodity.

Brazilian Foods – Part I

Enjoy A Variety of National Dishes & Other Delectables from a Number of Countries from Around the World

One will be able to select from a variety of foods while in Brazil. However I found my favorite food, which is Chinese food, not as common as Japanese or Italian foods and I was even more surprised to find that most people I asked, were not familiar with fried rice.

Brazilian FoodSince I do not eat pork or shell fish, ‘frango’ (chicken) and queijo (pronounced kay-jeu, which is cheese) became my very best friends.  One popular national dish I tried was called feijoada, (pronounced fish-wa-da) – see photo (right) – which is a hodge-podge of meats, mostly, if not all kinds of pork – sausage, ham hocks, pork ribs, beef etc. combined with black beans and other ingredients into a stew that is served on the side or over rice. I was told that this was a dish that was developed by the slaves but remains popular today. In fact,I tasted the vegetarian version of feijoada, (pronounced fish-wa-da) which was quite tasty – their national plates were all very new to me but generally, I found Brazilian food to be very flavorful.

A favourite dish that the Brazilians ate daily was a meat, white rice, french-fries and baked-beans. I could never comprehend the need to have potatoe and rice and beans on the same plate. However this is a very common lunch time or supper meal for many in that country.

Every day while walking through the streets, I passed a number of road-side bakeries, located on practically every block and/or on every corner. It was hard to resist their savory hot pastries. However I must warn you that regardless of whether you say “não carne de porco!” (no pork), it is very possible that you will receive a pastry with pork inside. The reason is that some of the foods which we identify specifically as pork, have their own names. For example, ‘calabrese’ (pronounced ca-la-bray-ze) which looks very similar to pepperoni. It is not identified as pork by the restaurateurs but yes, it is PORK!

I am not a coffee drinker, but Brazil is world-renown for its coffee. What fascinated me was that coffee was served in a glass about 3” – 4” tall and it would only be half full. But after having a taste, one will clearly understand why. There are a number of varieties of coffee there, but generally their coffee is very dark and strong. I could not drink it if I wanted to, as it would keep me up for over a day or more (smile). So if you decide to drink it, I suggest you do so, sparingly.

Olympic Park Worker Strike Continues in Rio: Daily

Olympic employees have paralyzed construction and are campaigning for better overtime pay, health plans and a higher ticket allocation.  By William Jones, Contributing Reporter, Rio Times, April 15, 22014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Construction workers at the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro have voted in favor of continuing their strike despite opposition from the labor court. The 2,500 strong workforce are locked in a battle with authorities over higher pay, benefits and working conditions.

Olympic Park strike, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

The strike began on April 3rd and has heaped attention and pressure on the host city who have also been under scrutiny for their ability to meet specific construction deadlines. Especially after the country has been experiencing problems with the timing of the completion of some of the FIFA World Cup 2014 venues.

The Olympic competition will be held in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016 has so far been a source of worry for the organizers. It has now emerged that workers who are building the site will defy a court order to return to their jobs after a statement from Rio Mais, a consortium building venues at Olympic Park, announced that the workers will not be returning to their posts.

“We don’t know how long we’ll be on strike,” Antonio Figueiredo Souza, president of the construction workers union Sintraconst-Rio, told Reuters. “We are not going back until we get an offer. So far that hasn’t happened and so it looks like this will end up in the Labor Courts,” he added.

So far there have already been numerous hitches for the organizers. Hazardous water pollution in Guanabara Bay is a concern for the sailing event, work on the Olympic golf course has been delayed and construction in a cluster of venues in the northern Rio area of Deodoro has yet to begin.

A team of inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visited the site in the past weeks. The inspection group, headed by Olympic hurdle champion Nawal El Moutawakel, remained positive but said the 2016 Olympics faced “challenging deadlines”. Furthermore, the president of the Olympic committee, Thomas Bach, has repeatedly said Rio “doesn’t have a day to lose.”

What are Favelas & why did they come about?

According to Wikipedia, a favela is the term for a slum in Brazil, most often within urban areas. The first favelas appeared in the late 19th century and were built by soldiers who had nowhere to live.’  One of the largest favelas, Rocinha, is located on a mountain side overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro.  There are concrete stairways (see below, right) and tunnels throughout the favela from the bottom of the mountain to the top and as a result, not very often will you see many over-weight people.  These slums do keep the residents walking and very active.  However one can often catch a ride from local bikers who will tow you from the bottom of the mountain to the top or to wherever you live, for a small fee – usually in the area of $1.25 U.S.  So why did this favela and others like it come about?

While teaching in Sao Paulo, I was told by one of my students that in the 1960’s, the Brazilian economy was thriving.  HundredsFinal.Local residents of Roncino of thousands of Brazilians, more specifically farmers and their families left their fields and headed to the cities to share in the riches.  Life was exciting and things went well until the late 70’s into the early 80’s.  The economy dried up.  The people retreated to the hills and built little ‘shacks’ hoping that this would only be temporary.  But the jobs never came.  Many were out of work and out of money.  The only life they knew now, was in the favela – it was a source of comfort for many a Brazilian.  To this day, over 70% of Brazilians live in poverty and water and sewage exists in only 40% of this vast country.

Favela communities may vary somewhat, one from another, having their own set of rules and regulations, and crime levels.  In Sao Paulo for example, it amazes me that when local firms want their staff to go in to the favelas to volunteer services (for example to teach the children, or to do community outreach), first they have to get the permission of the local ‘drug-lords.’  What’s even more interesting is that the crime within the borders of the favelas is basically kept to a minimum by the drug-lords and their cronies.  Really! They discourage crime to avoid any unnecessary involvement between themselves and the local police; yes, the favela is more or less, a city within a city.  As a result of this control, crime often spills over into the surrounding areas.

When I took a tour of Rocinha in Rio (see featured picture above), I was surprised to find that an actual city exists within the boundary of the favela.  They have their own banks, schools, shops and restaurants.  It was truly an amazing experience.  Also since many of the houses do not get direct sunlight, tuberculosis is often a problem.  In Rio, the government resolved a lot of the problem by pulling down several of these houses and replacing them with apartment complexes that give way to a more sunlit, healthy living environment.

Therefore to ensure your safety and in order that you do not offend anyone in the favelas, I encourage you to only go with a tour-guide or friend.  Use your cameras discretely, and be respectful of the people.  On a positive note however, the drug-lords do often provide the favelas with other needs such as sewage systems, water and electricity and in return, the people in the local favelas remain loyal to them.

Money, Money , Money, Money …


I had to edit this article to include this WARNING!  If possible, ONLY use your ATM Card to get cash from the Bank.  Using your card in stores and restaurants is extremely dangerous as cloning is VERY COMMON in Brazil.   In fact, Brazil rarely uses U.S. Dollars, Euros and any other currency but their own, known as Reals.  So travelers, when you arrive at the Airport in Sao Paulo, or Rio or wherever, go immediately to the Currency Exchange.  They are usually very conveniently located within steps of your arrival gate.  Beware if you decide to use Euros or U.S. Dollars in your day-to-day transactions because your cab driver, store clerk or restaurateurs most likely will not know the exchange rate which changes daily –  No matter what you decide to do, you will need a passport every time you exchange funds.

Brazil does not use pennies, that’s right, NO Pennies.  This means that when you get your change something interesting happens.  If the change comes to say R$10.03, (considering the cents only), the cents are rounded up and therefore you will get R$10 and a nickel (5 cents) change back.  BUT if your change is R$10.02, (anything 2 cents or less) the store will keep.  Therefore you will only get R$10 back.  BEWARE of those people who suspect that you are the ‘unknowing foreigner’ because they will keep the nickel regardless.  I had to ask for my nickel on several occasions.  So COUNT YOUR CHANGE FOLKS!  Remember: ‘Pennies make Dollars’ or should I say ‘Reals?’

When I arrived in Brazil in early 2013, the rate was as high as R$2.89 (meaning 2.89 Reals) to $1 U.S. Dollar.  By September 18, 2013, the conversion rate had dropped as low as R$2.18 to $1 U.S. Dollar.  As of August 10, 2014, the conversion rate is now R$2.28 (2.28 Reals) to $1 U.S. Dollar.  As you can see, the value of the Real fluctuates greatly so one has to decide when and how much you will convert on any one day.  Regardless, keep an eye on your wallet.  In fact, use the security vault in the hotel and only withdraw funds as needed.

Language – Part I

Brazilians speak Portuguese and unlike the language spoken in Portugal, it is not as harsh.  To me, their language is a sweet sounding spoken word similar to an Italian melody.  I must warn you again though, that in a country of over 199 million people (per the 2013 population census), Brazil is 95% Portuguese.  Comparatively, very few people speak English although there are many, many language schools located throughout this vast country.

I am a TEFL (Teach English as a Second Language) Instructor so I had an opportunity to teach

Portuguese Students at London School of English

Portuguese Students at London School of English

business executives in their offices as well as to teach students in the classroom.  However learning English is a benefit of the more fortunate.  So the ordinary citizen would not have access to such a luxury.  In fact, I found that the majority of the people I met are aware of the need to speak English because of the upcoming World Cup in June 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.  But most feel helpless, blaming the Brazilian government for doing little to nothing to prepare the people for the influx of visitors coming to their country, from around the world, to enjoy the games.

Most often, I found the average Brazilian embarassed when I spoke to them in English.  They would back up and say with an embarassed look on their faces, “Eu não falo Inglês,”  (I don’t speak English) or they would apologise fearing that they would speak so inadequately.  However with a bit of coaching, they would learn a sentence or two and be quite proud of themselves.  What was more difficult for me was when I went into a restaurant and they didn’t have an English menu.  It was very frustrating because most often, none of the staff in the restaurant spoke any English.  So make sure that goggle transate or your favorite internet translater is available to you at all times.  If not, you can do as I did.  I would use a translator to request the information, service or supply I needed, I would then print off the Portuguese translation, and take it to the store clerk or the person I needed to communicate with, to get what I wanted.  It was not always the best decision, but since my Brazilian friends were working and were not always available to me, I had to work it out as best I could since I had travelled there without knowing a word of Portuguese.

What I enjoyed most was to teach my English to someone in exchange for learning Portuguese.  Their language is “muito complicado” (very complicated) since a word can be spelled one way and yet have two specific pronounciations, like “bon dia” (good morning or good day) which is surprisingly pronounced ‘bon gee-a.’  I was able to learn enough to satsfy my basic needs.  But now that I am not using the language, I am losing it fast.

You will notice that speaking English will earn you lots of friends, and sometimes many unwanted friends.  But generally, the Brazilian admires the English speaking person.  Let me forewarn you again however, that they call anyone who speaks English, American (smile).  I often had to clarify my citizenship when someone would boldly introduce me as being from America.  There would be a humble apology and a laugh or two but no harm was done and we just moved on until it happened again. However if you are interested in learning some basic phrases that you can use while there, feel free to go to this website located at: <a href=””>Basic Portuguese Phrases</a>.

The People

Being born and raised in a beautiful country like Bermuda where tourism is a natural part of our P1030623everyday lives, I am very much aware of the need to be courteous and helpful to our visitors; they are our income. (As an aside, I must inform you that Tourism is NOT Bermuda’s primary source of income – International Banking and Reinsurance are our primary industries).  I have found that the occasional smile, “hello” or a conversation in passing or while shopping, does not qualify one to be an ambassador of any country. However I can say first-hand, that Brazilians are a very friendly people. They are ‘huggers’ by nature and they will even kiss a stranger soon after meeting them. They love their families and they are very protective of each member. One of their most favorite past-times is “EATING” – yes, food plays a big part in their social interactions.

What surprised me most was when I was told by a female manager at a local water company, that Brazil is built on a ‘class system.’ Blacks or olive skinned people are automatically assumed to be in Class C or D. No matter one’s education, it is assumed that most Blacks are poor and uneducated. It was even more surprising that being Black and able to speak and teach English makes things a little ‘murky,’ to say the least. What class do you put someone like me in? Class B, C or D? Wow, so 1960’s…

I also noted that there is a huge “Gay” population there – not surprising considering their natural instinct towards intimacy. I have nothing against showing public affection, but I have observed that Brazilians often cross the line. What do I mean by that? Displays of public affection are everywhere, in the subways, on the stairs to the subway, on the bus, on the street corner, in the Mall… It took me months to get used to it, often feeling, whispering or mumbling under my breath, “get a room people!” Personally, I feel it takes the passion out of love-making, but again, that’s only my personal opinion.
While there, I also discovered that Brazilians are generally a very possessive and a ‘jealous’ people. I witnessed this for myself on several occasions. In fact, all Brazilians I spoke with, agreed with my observation. They are a religious people as well. They were mostly Catholic (over 80%) in the past. However those numbers have dropped to less than 50% today.

The best and most precious time was when I was adopted by a final.friendsfinal.friends2Brazilian family (below). They were there for me on my birthday, and when I needed someone to talk to (in English that is). They became my family away from home. I cannot thank them enough although they must forgive me for not being in regular contact with them since leaving Brazil. My thoughts are with them  constantly and I miss them dearly.

Finally, I was astonished when one white, female Brazilian scorned against her people for disregarding their African heritage. Actually I found this subject to be taboo. They will talk about practically anything, but seldom if ever will they discuss questions concerning their dark skin and where it actually came from. Such a shame because heritage is ours to be valued.


Transportation – Part III

Travel by Metro

In my opinion, the safest source of transportation in Brazil is the metro or the subway.  Why?  Because each station is loaded with cameras, the prices are fixed and it is a lot faster than travelling above ground by bus or by taxi. However as in any city, it just makes common sense to be careful.  At various times of the day, i.e. especially during ‘rush hour,’ the metro can become extremely crowded.  So ladies carry your handbags in front of you and try to carry minimal amounts of cash.  Of course it is always more economical to use a metro card since if you get off one stop and stay for less than 2 hours and then you decide to board a bus or another train, in most cases you will receive a discount.  Yes, you can also use your card to catch the bus to the train station and then you use it to catch a train, in such a case, you will be guaranteed a discount.  But with cash, you will always pay FULL fare.

Metro cards (see sample below) are available in most train stations or they can be purchased from any location that sells lottery tickets – they are everywhere, in malls, on street corners, in various shopping areas etc.  I will warn you that you mIMG_20140223_233843ay not always be able to purchase them in the train station.

The stations are usually clean and the instructions are very clear.  As I said previously, it makes sense to know where you are going by checking goggle maps for example, because you may find yourself in a situation where there is no one around who speaks English.  I suggest using google translate to write down your needs in Portuguese and taking it with you.  If you do get stuck, you can always show someone the name of the place or the location you are seeking and they will gladly assist.  If possible, go to a policeman or ask an attendant – I must warn you that they may not speak English either.  However generally they will try to assist.

Animal Lovers

Final.Doggie Doo Pick UpBrazilians love their pets, especially their dogs and there  are thousands of them being walked about the cities during various times of the day.  So to solve the animal waste problem in Sao Paulo, where there are more than 11 million people residing with over 2 million dogs, there are doggie-doo (waste) pick up sites in a number of locations.  But generally, regardless of whether there is a doggie-doo pickup in your area, by law, everyone is responsible for picking up and disposing of their animal’s waste which I think is a real plus for this society.  Many other cities around the world could use these simple tips from our friends south of our shores.

Transportation – Part II

Travel By Bus

Catching the bus was always an interesting experience. Using online maps such as Goggle Maps helped tremendously to determine where I was going, how long the ride would take and exactly what bus number I needed to catch to get from point A to point B. Sometimes I had to take a couple of buses or so and even a train. Using the online maps takes the guesswork out of travel since the maps tell you exactly where to catch the bus, how many stops before you get off and the cost. (Note: The maps will also give you a choice, travel by bus, cab or walk).  Don’t forget to take your metro card  because it can be used for both forms of transportation.

When you get on the bus, get on at the front of the bus because in the middle of the bus, you have to pay cash to the bus attendant or you can use a metro card (‘Bilhete Unico’ is one type of card – see Transportation l). The cash price is usually a few Reals and the attendant does give change. Remember if you transfer from one bus to another or if you take the train, it is advantageous to use the travel card rather than cash since there are NO transfers. When using cash, you will always pay full price, but using the card more than once during a single trip will usually entitle you to a FREE pass or at least a discount. Once on the bus, go to the middle of the bus, swipe your card and then go through the turnstile towards the back of the bus. The front of the bus is for the elderly and the disabled. There are also seats usually located in the middle of the bus (some are yellow or a different color than the other seats) labelled for the disabled, pregnant women or women/men with children. Normally one will exit out of the rear doors of the bus unless you are sitting or standing in the front area. Exit quickly as the drivers do not wait. They presume that you are moving towards the door to exit at the next stop.

If someone offers to hold your bag, it is generally safe. They just want to take the strain off you as you hang on ‘for dear life.’ This is a normal courtesy but of course keep an eye on your bag. One should be careful about the items that you carry any way, especially in the larger cities. Leave your passport at the hotel. Carry a copy instead. Keep your cash on your body. Take all of the precautions you would take in any other large city or foreign place. Exercise common sense at all times. If your gut says, ‘something isn’t right,’ then be smart and follow your gut.

Be sure to hang on wherever you can since the drivers seem not to care about the safety of their passengers as they barrel down the narrow streets and around the winding roads and hills. Even in the inner city, they travel at seemingly unreasonable speeds. Hang on with 2 hands if you can or you can end up in a most embarrassing position. Also make sure that you have a couple of markers (restaurants, places of interest, names of a block or two) that you are looking for along the way, so you know when to push the buzzer to get off the bus. A couple of times, I missed the marker I was looking for and was not certain if I had passed my stop or not. I had passed my stop and ended up walking back 11 blocks to get to my client.

Solution: Purchase a metro/bus card at a train station or lottery store located near you. You can also purchase tickets for the metro/bus in the subway stations. The price is generally R$2.40 – R$3.00 per ride (approximately U.S. $1 – $1.25). Keep your purse in front of you and look for markers or landmarks well ahead of time if you do not speak the language. Remember, English is only spoken by less than 2% of the population.


Transportation – Part I

Travel by Cab or Private Car

If you decide to take a cab, make sure it is a yellow cab or at least a cab with a GPS, ensure that you have the name of the place you are going to on hand and sit and watch as the driver puts it into his GPS before you drive off. A cab may not always be the fastest means of travel, depending on the time of day, but the yellow cab in particular, is the more reputable cab line. If you are not able to get a cab with a GPS, you should not let your cab driver know that you have neverTranportation by Car or Cab been to Brazil before; you are setting yourself up ‘to be taken.’ Get a Brazilian, preferably the Bellman or a Hotel Clerk to secure the cab. Always ask ahead of time what the approximate cost will be to travel to your destination. For example, I knew before I reached Brazil, that my ride via cab, to my destination, would be approximately R$90 (90 Reals = just over $37 U.S. dollars). Again we warn you that taking a cab can be a very expensive experience so whenever possible, we encourage you to take the metro. Please take note of the fact that the metro/subway systems are limited and may not cover the entire city or area where you may be visiting. So before leaving your hotel room, hostel, guest house etc. please consider the most affective means to and from your destination especially if you have a scheduled appointment or you have ‘to make time’ or you have to arrive at your destination at a specific time.

Case and Point: I was leaving a client about 6:45 p.m. one evening – I was not aware that the metro was just an 8-minute walk away. But since it was getting dark outside, another TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) Instructor offered to give me a ride. Now I did not know this person, but since the company security knew him and this was on record, I decided to accept the ride. It took us from 6:55 p.m. until 8:14 p.m., 1 hour and 19 minutes to drive across town. Had I walked to the train (8 minutes) and caught the metro (20 minutes) and then walked the 6 blocks (12 minutes) to the hostel where I was staying, it would have taken me a total of 40 minutes, just about half the time.

The time of travel is most critical especially in a city like Sao Paulo with a population of over 11 million people. As in any big city, ‘rush hour’ is no different. It may be a total nightmare for you if you are not used to it. Early morning rush hour in Sao Paulo is from about 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. and in the afternoon from about 3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Try not to catch a cab during these hours. It will take double the time and may cost over 6 times the price than catching the metro.

Speaking about price, by getting a metro card, (the one I purchased was called a ‘Bilhete Unico’) you can save lots of money. These are purchased at a number of outlets that sell lottery tickets or in some train stations. They are all over the city. The great thing about the card is that if you get off one stop and you are at that location for under 2 hours, then your next ride via bus or train is FREE or at a discount. If you have cash, you will pay full fare each time.
Solution: To get around Brazil using the most reasonable means, take the metro and use a metro card. If you are not sure how to get from one point to another, use goggle maps, where you can input your current location and your new destination. It will give you several choices on how to get there, via bus, metro, or walking. You can even put in the time of travel and it will give you an idea of how long the trip will take for that time of day or evening, and it will give you the cost of transportation.


The Immigration Experience

One of the most difficult experiences you may have on your arrival and departure from Brazil may be your ‘run in’ with airportImmigration. This is not to say that they have the most inefficient immigration service in the world, but be very conscious of the fact that considering World Cup is this year, in Sao Paulo, the largest financial city in the country and where the opening of the World Cup will take place, they have not expanded the airport. Upon entering and exiting this beautiful country, you will notice that the airports have not been expanded to accommodate even the normal numbers of tourists. If it took me about 2 hours to go through the entire process and that was on a normal week day or weekend, can you imagine the nightmare of going through immigration during World Cup?

Warning: Be very clear on the immigration policies that Brazil has with your country because one problem that you may have is that not all of the immigration officers know the various policies. They will leave the area and go to consult with their Supervisors to review the immigration policies for your specific country and this can take time. Their immigration process always reminded me of a bad day at Disney World, where the lines moved even slower and seemed like they would never end.

Case and Point: I got to the airport at 8:30 p.m. for my 11:05 p.m. flight to the U.S.. I stood in line, got to the service counter to get my luggage checked-in because I already had my ticket and boarding pass. It was now about 9:00 p.m. I was ready to go through to the scanning machines and on to my gate, but I thought since it was just about 2 hours before my departure, I decided to go and exchange my money from Brazilian Reals to U.S. Dollars. The currency exchange was just a few steps away from the line to the scanners, so I stood in line. 9:20 p.m. came and went; at 9:45 p.m. I finally got to the counter. I hastily collected my funds and got on the line to go through the scanning machines and on to my gate. After joining the line for 12 minutes, I realized to my regret, that there were actually 2 lines, one for the Brazilian citizen and the other for foreigners. It was now 10:05 p.m. The line was still very long and by the time I got to the immigration officer, it was 10:32 p.m.

Now Bermudians are an exception to the rule. We are not required to have a visa to travel to and from Brazil as stated in the Brazilian Immigration Policy Book – we can travel solely on our British/Bermudian passport. Unfortunately, most Brazilian immigration officers don’t all know the same facts. What am I speaking about? With every experience I had going through Immigration, I had the reference number and the (Brazilian Immigration) policy written and signed by another Brazilian Immigration Officer. One time I completed the immigration process in 16 minutes and now this time, it took 22 minutes. By the time I made it to my gate, the Agent at the desk shouted, “Hold the door!” but the Steward refused and shut it. He then accused me of being late, so I had to deal with it. That night was not a good night for me although I was able to board another TAM flight just 30 minutes later.

Solution: When arriving in Brazil, make sure you have a cell phone or be sure to tell your friends who may come to pick you up, to come one hour after your scheduled landing time as you will have to go through the immigration process which most often is close to an hour or more, then you have to find your luggage and maybe change currency (which is fairly easy, just remember to keep your passport with you as it is always required for this process).

If you are leaving Brazil, get to the airport no later than 2 1/2 hours BEFORE your plane is scheduled to leave. Proceed as quickly as you can to the GATE. (Remember, it is not the airport you have to arrive at 2 hours before the flight, it is at your departure gate and the process from arrival at the airport to the departure gate alone can take well over an hour. Make sure you are on the correct departure line – one for the foreigner or the other for the local, Brazilian. If you need to purchase anything, check-in at your gate first and then you can wander around the area for food and other miscellaneous items.

Hear me when I tell you, the immigration process can be a lengthy one so do all that you can to prepare for it – try to keep you hand luggage to a minimum. You will meet friends on line, some who laugh at the process and others who are just plain disgusted. Regardless, I hope that we have given you some insight into ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ when travelling to and from Brazil. ‘Happy trails to you my friend!…’

Language – Part II – Hello??? Speak to me please!

“Can someone help me please?  Is there anyone here that can speak English?” I found myself asking this a number of times as I truly expected more people to speak English than what I encountered over the 8 months that I lived in Sao Paulo.  Brazil is proudly 95% Portuguese and barely 2% speak fluent English or have a basic understanding of the language.

The Brazilian people greatly admire anyone who speaks English but most often they shy away from speaking the language themselves for fear of sounding ridiculous or just plain saying the wrong thing. Every where you go when you approach the locals, they will either back away and nod, não Inglês (no English) or you will hear the odd person say, ‘No speak English or I speak little English.’  However if you are supportive, they welcome the opportunity to speak the language.  I must warn you though!  They call ALL English speaking persons, American, so beware.  I had to clarify the fact that I am from Bermuda and that I am British numerous times during my stay, and it often ended with a bit of an embrassed apology and a laugh.

Apparently English is taught in the public and private schools, but only the “well to do” are able to afford English classes beyond high school in an effort to become more fluent in the language. This is unfortunate because I often found myself walking into a ‘brick wall’  when I went into stores and more specifically when I went into restaurants and bakeries.  Most stores do not have an English speaking sales staff and the general consensus is that it is not necessary.  This attitude was also reflected in restaurants where over 95% of the time, they had neither an English/American menu nor was there an English speaking person available on staff who could tell me what I was about to eat.  Because the vast majority of the Brazilian menus contain pork, this often presented a problem for me since I am not a pork eater.  So it is critical that one knows key Brazilian words such as ‘frango’ (chicken) or ‘queijo’ (cheese) or ‘batatas’ (potatoes) or several portuguese names of your favorite foods.

My solution to this problem was to use google translate –  So I suggest that you use any of your favorite language translation sites to interpret what you want, write it down and to give it to the staff member, bus driver or whomever, to read so you can get whatever you need.  I had to do this in general merchandise stores, in the print store, in the post office and even on the bus.  It works and took much of the headache out of dealing with the language barrier.  I must caution you that this can put you at risk because it immediately identifies you as a tourist or someone not familiar with the language or the area.  This revelation may possibly subject you to the whims of criminals, including taxi-drivers, vendors etc. who may take advantage of the fact that you ‘do not know.’  Additional details on this subject will be covered under the topic of ‘Crime.’