Caution: preparing for a stay in São Paulo may lead to luggage overload. The city serves up a rodízio of variables—going well beyond the business-or-pleasure standard fare—for suitcase packers to consider.
The weather is the first x-factor. Many travelers tend to think of Brazil as being either hot or really hot. But São Paulo can get chilly in June, July and August. After a streak of highs in the mid and upper 70s, the sun went on hiatus last week and Sampa slumped nearly 20 degrees. Even on warm days, nighttime temperatures often merit light jackets (although many Paulistanos insist on bundling up Sherpa style at the slightest nip).
That said winter weekends along the Tropic of Capricorn can just as easily call for beachwear, with city dwellers setting out for sand and waves within 45 minutes by car. Leave the sandals at home. Instead, pick up a pair of Havaianas (Brazilian flip-flops) to use here and take as a souvenir.
Exercise gear is another astute tote. Space to be physically active is available across the metropolis, from Ibirapuera and Juventude parks to one of São Paulo’s numerous private gyms. The hilly downtown streets are further impetus to include cross-trainers or walking shoes (if not a hiking stick) on your packing list, alongside the formal shoes required by many business and after-hours establishments.
Now that you have the basics covered, here are some other gotta-haves for a stay over in Sampa:
Even though nobody will recognize you in São Paulo regardless (and hopefully you aren’t wanted by the authorities), a thoughtful costume can be a lifesaver for the nightlife inclined. Brazilians love festas a fantasia (dress-up parties), and not just on Halloween. Make friends with the locals and you are liable to be invited to one of these masquerades. Fear not if you have forgotten your Captain America shield or your Lindsay Lohan orange jumpsuit (yes, for some reason that made news here too). There are plenty of costume shops (check out a sample selection here) around the Basilíca de São Bento in Sé and on Rua Augusta in Jardins. Or you could just follow NileGuide São Paulo’s suit and find a quick fix at one of the many consignment shops along Rua Cardeal Arcoverde in Vila Madalena.
Something/anything to pass the time
If you intend to travel by car, cab or bus—and getting across this mammoth municipality often requires such modes of transportation—an encounter with traffic is as likely as a run-in with a horde of teenyboppers at a Twilight screening. So bring a book, magazine, deck of cards, MP3 player, portable DVD player, etc. to stave of extreme frustration.
Netbooks and iPods (new)
Sooner or later someone here—a friend, tour guide, taxi driver, etc.—is going to ask you to bring them an expensive electronic item on your return trip to Brazil (and those who come, the saying goes, always return). The petitioner might even offer to pay the U.S. ticket price upfront, which generally carries a 50-percent discount over São Paulo prices.
Earlier this week, Rede Record ran a news story on the drastic steps Paulistanos were taking to protect their hair in the cold. The segment seemed to run on for about 20 minutes, so clearly people here must care about that sort of thing (or Rede Record is really out of touch).
Think we forgot something you can’t go without in Sampa? Share with us your São Paulo packing essentials!