Cynthia Fujikawa Nes

Cynthia Fujikawa Nes

The Brazil Business


How to get around in São Paulo

Cynthia Fujikawa Nes

Cynthia Fujikawa Nes

The Brazil Business


With 39 municipalities and nearly 20 million inhabitants, São Paulo’s metropolitan area has a broad public transportation system. Learn in this article how to benefit from it

São Paulo city can drive anyone crazy. The city is overcrowded, traffic is chaotic, people are always in a hurry and do not tend to be very nice. It is hard to stop somebody and ask for information because people often don’t speak any languages other than Portuguese or are too shy to speak other languages.

Public transportation in São Paulo is extremely crowded during rush hour. Do not expect that people will peacefully wait in line for the bus to arrive or for the train to open its doors. You must be constantly ready to make your way in, or otherwise you will be crushed by other passengers.

Even so, public transportation can be the best option to get around in São Paulo as owning a car in Brazil is expensive and traffic is chaotic. It is not uncommon for commuters to spend more than three hours a day travelling to and from work. Public transportation (in this case, trains and subways) can be extremely crowded and uncomfortable, but at least they keep on moving and are not directly affected by traffic.

Subway or Metro

There are five subway lines in São Paulo, reaching most commercial areas in the city. The presence of a subway station inflates real estate prices as the areas with a metro service are very limited. Opening hours differ from station to station, usually running from 4:40 AM to midnight.

A few of the stations are integrated among other lines and it is possible to change from one to the other without having to pay additional fares. Some stations also offer free transfers to the CPTM lines, which is the train service running in the metropolitan areas. The current single fare for both train and subway is BRL 3,80, regardless of the distance you are travelling. Students, you can request a student’s tickets, which lets them pay half the price. The elderly above 60 can travel for free upon showing an ID card with their birth date.

The Blue Line - Linha 1 Azul

With a length of 20,2 km, the Blue Line connects the North to the South of the city. It goes from Tucuruvi (Northern area) to Jabaquara (Southern area), passing through downtown areas, such as Sé, where it is possible to connect to the Red Line. The line began operating in 1974, it is the oldest subway in service in São Paulo, completing 40 years in 2014. The Blue Line offers access to Lines 7 and 11 of CPTM’s services, and is connected with the Green Line at Ana Rosa and Paraíso stations, and with the Red Line at Sé station.

The Green Line - Linha 2 Verde

Connects the neighbourhood of Vila Madalena (West) to Vila Prudente (Southeast). Operating since 1991, the Green Line serves the Av. Paulista area. It offers free connection to the Yellow Line at Consolação station and to the Blue Line at both Ana Rosa and Paraíso stations.

The Red Line - Linha 3 Vermelha

Operating since 1979, the Red Line connects the East to the Western areas of São Paulo city and is the most crowded. It is connected to the Blue Line at Sé station, and to the Yellow Line at República station. The Red Line allows free transfer to the Lines 10, 11 and 12 of CPTM’s services at Brás station. At the Barra Funda terminal station, it offers free connection to Lines 7 and 8 of CPTM.

The Yellow Line - Linha 4 Amarela

The Yellow Line runs the stretch between Luz and Butantã stations, however, as of June 2016 not all stations that were initially planned for this stretch are in operation. It is the first subway line in São Paulo to be operated by the private sector. This was considered to be a very important line that connects with the Blue Line at Luz station, Red Line at República station, and the Green Line at Paulista station. The Yellow Line also offer access to the Lines 7 and 11 of CPTM’s services at Luz station, and to the CPTM’s Line 9 at Pinheiros station. It is the first subway system in São Paulo to use driverless technology.

The Purple Line - Linha 5 Lilás

Connects the Southern area of Santo Amaro to Capão Redondo in the Southwest. The Purple Line offers free connection to CPTM’s Line 9, connecting the city of Osasco to the neighbourhood of Grajaú, in the South of São Paulo city. Trains often run from 4AM to midnight.

CPTM Trains

While the subway only services areas within the limits of São Paulo city, trains reach metropolitan areas located up to 50km away from São Paulo city center. The railway system in São Paulo is operated by CPTM and has six lines:

The Ruby Line - Linha 7 Rubi

Connects the city of Jundiaí to Barra Funda terminal, where it gives free access to the Diamond Line and to the Red Line of the subway.

The Diamond Line - Linha 8 Diamante

Connects the neighbourhood of Amador Bueno, in Itapevi, to Barra Funda terminal in São Paulo, where it gives free access to the Ruby Line and to the Red Line of the subway.

The Emerald Line - Linha 9 Esmeralda

Connects the neighbourhood of Grajaú, in the South of São Paulo, to the city of Osasco in the West. Pinheiros, its busiest station, offers free connection to the Yellow subway Line and Santo Amaro station offers connection to the Purple Line.

The Turquoise Line - Linha 10 Turquesa

Connects the city of Rio Grande da Serra to the Red Line at Brás station. Brás allows free connection to Line 11, Line 12 and to the Red Line of the subway.

The Coral Line - Linha 11 Coral

The Coral Lines connects Luz station, centre of São Paulo, to the city of Mogi das Cruzes. The Coral Line has 5 connections along its stretch. At Luz station, it offers connection to the Blue Line of the subway and to Line 7 of CPTM; at Brás station, it offers connection to Lines 10 and 12 and at Tatuapé and Calmon Viana offers connection to Line 12.

The Sapphire Line - Linha 12 Safira

Connects the station of Brás, centre of São Paulo, to the city of Poá. It offers connection to the Red Line of the subway at Brás and Tatuapé stations and to Line 12 at Brás, Tatuapé and Calmon Viana stations.


There are 55 bus terminals in São Paulo city, with 34 of them offering integration to the subway or to the train. The bus fare is BRL 3,80, the same as the subway and the train.

For those who have a Bilhete Único, which is similar to the Oyster card in UK, the cost to change between bus, subway or train is 50% of the single fare if the change is done within a 3 hour period. The Bilhete Único can be used on the city bus, train and subway services. The bus system is run by SPTrans.

There are also intercity buses that cross several different municipalities. They are an alternative when the train is not available.

The problem with buses in São Paulo is the amount of traffic, especially when it rains, along with the long waiting lines and overcrowding. The bus is often used to connect central areas or subway and train stations to more residential areas where there are no railroads in close proximity.

Another general complaint among bus passengers is that the service is irregular and there is no set schedule for buses. Note that not all buses run around the clock, the list of buses that are running during the night can be found on the SP Trans website.

And what about alternative transportation methods?

As an alternative to the bus, there has been encouragement to use bikes for short trips in São Paulo. Subway and train stations offer parking lots for bikes and at some of them it is possible to rent a bicycle.

The problem with riding bicycles is that Brazilians, in general, are not yet fully accustomed to this transportation method and the city is only now beginning to create bicycle lanes to make it a safe option. Unfortunately, many drivers do not respect bicyclists, who for this reason, have to pay extra attention when riding alongside cars.

There are already 412 km of bicycle lanes in operation in the city as of June 2016.