Living in Brazil – The Complete Guide to São Paulo – 2020

Living in Brazil – São Paulo


Living in Brazil – Is São Paulo a good option? Upon first glance, São Paulo is an eyesore, and from what you’ve heard back home, it seems like it’s got nothing going for it. Images of violent crime, pollution, high-rise buildings as far as the eye can see as well as lack of nature and beaches don’t make it a top candidate on many expats list of best places to live in brazil. So is it just a concrete jungle where people go to experience the “rat race” lifestyle or is it worth considering when moving to Brazil? 

Life in Brazil –  São Paulo – My Experience after 1 Year

After getting set on moving to Brazil, there was one place where I vowed that i would never move to – São Paulo. It just seemed so unattractive, dull and unexotic. However, after living in Brazil for nearly 2 years, there’s honestly no other place i would rather live.

São Paulo – Best Places to Live in Brazil

Most likely to its perceived “ugliness”, São Paulo isn’t a city that receives many foreigners for its size, meaning that it has still managed to maintain a very authentic vibe and hasn’t become “internationalized.” Whilst I feel that some European Cities such as Prague, Berlin and Barcelona have become so international that they have lost much of their authenticity, you’ll find that São Paulo is 100% Brazil, but just ramped up on steroids.

Living in São Paulo is the perfect choice if you have a “work hard, play hard” mentality, and if you’re looking to set up a business and surround yourself with entrepreneurs, then São Paulo is the go to place. But it’s not all about business – the nightlife is arguably the best in Latin America (only that of Buenos Aires can rival it), the food is phenomenal and the people are great fun. Something indescribable about the city is the raw energy and intensity that you feel when you come here, and because of it you’ll find the city surprisingly addictive, as you know that they’ll always be some new experience just waiting around the corner. If you don’t believe me, come and stay here for a month and see for yourself.

Here is your guide to everything you need to know to about São Paulo if you if you’re trying to figure out the best place for you when it comes to living in brazil.

Living in Sao Paulo – Where?

Jardins – A nice, upscale and leafy neighbourhood 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.


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.

Vila Madalena/Pinheiros – Vila Madalena and Pinheiros are two trendy neighbourhoods around 15 mins away from Avenida Paulista by bus or metro and are right in the centre of two of São Paulo’s best nightlife spots.

Vila Olímpia/Moema/Itaim Bibi – These areas have a similar feel to Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro with a more “americanized” vibe. Here you’re right in the centre of the best night clubs, bars and shopping centres.

Vila Mariana/Aclimação – Nice and chilled out residential neighbourhood located south-east of Avenida Paulista with lots of trees and greenspace.

Higienópolis – Similar to Vila Mariana but located just north of Avenida Paulista

Centro – Expect cheaper prices and a more rough and ready vibe (if that’s your kind of thing)

Life in Brazil – 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 anywhere when living in brazil, 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

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 to avoid being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Areas that are generally safe 24 hours are Jardins & Vila Olimpia, whilst it’s worth paying particular attention at night in places such as Centro, Republica, Luz and Sé, as these areas can attract a few odd characters.


Don’t expect wall to wall sun when living in São Paulo, it rains a lot and there is cloud cover a significant amount of the time. However, you’ll also see a decent about of Sunshine, and the seasons aren’t very pronounced at all meaning that it never really gets cold (Anything below 15 degrees is considered as freezing). It also doesn’t get too hot, with temperatures typically maxing at around 31 degrees on your typical summer’s day. A typical day in São Paulo will consist of sunshine for a few hours, followed by the sky clouding over and a downpour around 4-5 pm (in summertime).


Cost of Living in Brazil – São Paulo

Prices in São Paulo are similar to Rio, with the cost of rent being anywhere between R1300 to R$1700 for a room in a shared apartment, and around R $3000 for your own place. Prices tend to be higher in places close to Avenida Paulista, especially in Jardins, and in neighbourhoods such as Vila Olímpia and Moema.

In terms of food, fresh produce in supermarkets is cheap, and expect anything between R20 – 50 when it comes to eating out. Surprisingly, nightlife can be more expensive than in Europe with entrance fees being typically between R$60-100 per entry to a club (but from my experience this is often worth the fee.)

Finding Work when Moving to Brazil

Just like in the case of Rio, finding work in Brazil is no easy task, not only due to the current political and economical crisis, but also due to visa restrictions and the language barrier. However, as the business hub of Brazil, your chances of finding something in São Paulo are higher than in other cities. I’ll write a detailed article regarding the different options you have when it comes to finding work here, so drop me an email in the meantime if you have any questions.


In terms of Nightlife, São Paulo is a far better than Rio de Janeiro, and there’s hundreds of bars and clubs scattered around the city meaning that it’s almost impossible to get bored.

The main centres of nightlife are in 3 areas:

Rua Augusta – Similar to the Lapa Area in Rio de Janeiro, I personally find Rua Augusta to be overrated and a little bit sketchy, although it can be a fun night out occasionally. Most of the clubs here play “Funk” and Electronic music, and tend to attract a more alternative/LGBT community. Rua Augusta is also the main Red Light District Area of São Paulo.

Vila Madalena/Pinheiros – Having a trendy and slightly hipster vibe, Vila Madalena and Pinheiros are great areas when it comes to nightlife. The area is full of botecos, bars, small nightclubs and is full of people drinking in the street, meaning that you can still enjoy this area on a budget.  Areas that i particularly like are Rua Aspicuelta and Rua Guaicui (Pitico)


Vila Olimpia – Vila Olímpia is the are home to higher end bars and clubs, and attracts more of “playboy” crowd, meaning that prices tend to be higher. Most of the clubs play Sertanejo and often require a better dress code, but the nights out here are first rate. Great bars/clubs at the point of writing this blog post are Toco do Tatu, Tatubola, Vila Mix, Galleria and Dukke

The Verdict

São Paulo is undoubtedly my favourite city when it comes to living in Brazil. Although it took me a while for the city to grow on me, I wouldn’t even consider living anywhere else in the country these days. The city’s ”work hard play hard” vibe and a pulsing rhythm make it the perfect place to work on business/personal growth whilst also having a plethora of options when it comes to nightlife and socialising. Whereas the novelty of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro or the small time vibe of living in Belo Horizonte may wear off after a few months, you’ll find that you’ll get more and more hooked on São Paulo with each day that you spend here.

Living in Rio de Janeiro in 2020 – The Ultimate Guide for Westerners


Living in Rio de Janeiro

Living in Rio de Janeiro – So you’ve decided that living in Brazil could be right for you but have no idea what city to go to? Whether you’re tempted by the beach lifestyle of Rio de Janeiro, the big city and hustler vibe of São Paulo, or the small town and provincial feel of living in Belo Horizonte, it’s worth doing as much research to figure out exactly the best place to live in brazil in your specific case. Let’s start with Rio.

Living in Rio de Janeiro – A 2019 Guide

Living in rio de janeiro is the obvious choice when it comes to moving to Brazil, and it’s no surprise as to why. An incredible setting, access to nature within the city itself, beautiful people and a captivating culture make it a city like no other on earth. However, there are certain things you should keep in mind when moving to Rio.

Where To Live

Copacabana – Whilst Copacabana may seem like the obvious choice for living in Rio de Janeiro, the reality is that the novelty may wear off fairly soon. Although the Location is fantastic when it comes to accessing other areas of the city and visiting different beaches, I personally find the area slightly overrated. It’s status as the main “tourist hub” means that you’ll likely be surrounded by other foreigners, get ripped off in restaurants and will be treated as just another tourist.

Despite this, I still like Copacabana as an area primarily due to its beaches and location, but it might not live up to the picture perfect postcards that you saw when you were a child.


Cleaner and trendier than Copacabana, Ipanema is another obvious choice when it comes to living in Rio de Janeiro, and is one that’s clearly understandable. The beaches looking up to “Dois Irmãos”, are full of activities, good surfing spots, and attractive people, meaning that it’s a great location for those looking for a proper “beach lifestyle.” Leblon takes it even further, with chic shopping centres, high end bars and restaurants and an “elegant” feel.

Those looking for a luxury and more elegant lifestyle would be well suited to live in one of these neighborhoods, but for those looking to see the rougher, spontaneous and more down to earth vibe of life in brazil, then they may not be the best bet.


Botafogo and Flamengo are great areas to live for those of you looking to get away from the crowds of gringos in their havaianas and experience a more local vibe whilst still being in a central location. Prices of rent and food are cheaper in these areas, beaches are close by, and there’s more of a down to earth vibe.

Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca is absolutely huge and driving from one end to the other seems to take forever. Due to its sheer size, your options are limitless for high-end malls and beaches, and it’s proximity towards the edge of the city means that you’re not far from pristine beaches and nature. As a middle/upper class neighbourhood, safety isn’t too much of an issue but I can’t help but thinking that the whole place lacks a bit of soul, atmosphere and is too americanized for my liking.


Locals & Meeting People

Striking up a conversation with strangers in Brazil is far easier and more commonplace than in cancountries such as the UK or Germany, and you’ll find that locals will generally be very receptive. Despite this, the high amount of gringos and “sex tourists” that have been visiting rio over the past few years have somewhat worsened the locals perceptions of westerners (although it’s generally still positive.)

Language barrier is also an issue when living in rio de janeiro, as most Cariocas don’t have a good command of english (although you will certainly find some) meaning that if you decide not to invest in reaching a strong level of Portuguese, you will severely limited in terms of making friends, understanding the culture and and blending in as a local. Learning Portuguese really is the secret to making the most out of life in brazil. Whilst some locals may see you as “just another gringo” if you expect everyone to speak fluent english to you, you will instantly stand out and gain respect from the locals if you at least give a decent attempt at learning the language and make an effort to integrate.

Safety and Security

Rio has a notorious reputation for being a dangerous city in Brazil and elsewhere, and even friends in São Paulo joke about me “getting shot” or “kidnapped” when i travel to Rio. As in most cases, this danger is often massively exaggerated, with most visits being trouble free. The rumours and stories you hear shouldn’t put you off in the slightest.

That being said, crime does exist, and Westerners are often targeted due to their perceived naivety, financial status and lack of knowledge of the culture and life in brazil. Avoid Favelas, many places in Zona Norte and walking around anywhere alone late at night. Having basic common sense, walking with confidence, and having a good command of the Portuguese Language will significantly reduce your odds of getting robbed or ending up at the wrong place and the wrong time.  


As you can expected, the weather is great in Rio de Janeiro all year round, with anything below 20 degrees celsius being considered as cold to the locals. January and February can sometimes be unbearably hot and humid and there are a number of cloudy and rainy days throughout the year, but on a whole the weather is great.


Cost of Living

Despite common thinking, living in Brazilisn’t that cheap, especially when compared to other Latin American Countries such as Peru, Colombia or Mexico. However, it’s still significantly cheaper than the UK, Australia or the USA, with the Brazilian Real (as of late 2018) being weak against currencies such as the US Dollar or Euro.

You can be comfortable living in Rio de Janeiro (If you`re by yourself) for anywhere between $1000-$2000 per month, depending on what activities you decide to do,how often you eat out, go out at night, and where you choose to live.

Job Opportunities

Finding a decent job in Brazil without a visa is a tough deal, and will be significantly harder if you don’t speak Portuguese. Due to Brazilian Protectionist Laws, it’s tough for companies to hire foreigners who don’t already have residency and companies aren’t willing to go through the bureaucratic process of sponsoring a foreigner. However, it is still possible, and the larger the company, the better position they generally are to hire you.  

If you’re thinking about moving to brazil and aren’t sure what path you would like to go down regarding jobs, take a look at this post, and drop me an email and i can see how i can specifically help you in your case.


Despite having a reputation as a crazy party destination, the nightlife in Rio de Janeiro is not what you would expect. It isn’t bad by any means, but is eclipsed by that of cities such as São Paulo, Buenos Aires or even little-known Belo Horizonte.

There are good spots, but it just takes some effort to find them. Avoid the Gringo parties and typical tourists spots at all costs, and despite being fun once or twice, areas such as Lapa and Copacabana are massively overrated and aren’t the best options of nightlife in Rio de Janeiro. Gavea, Botafogo and Leblon are good for street parties and small bars whilst Barra da Tijuca is king when it comes to nightclubs.

The Verdict

I absolutely love Rio as a place to visit and spend a few days chilling out on the beach, but i wouldn’t live there as a first choice, mainly due to the fact that its chilled-out, beach lifestyle vibe makes in hard to get into the working rhythm and get stuff done. I also personally got tired of the large amounts of foreigners visiting the city, and found it easier to integrate into local-life in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

If you`re looking for a relaxed beach lifestyle as a long term option, than living in Rio de Janeiro is a great option, but may get seem to wear off on you after a few months if this isn’t the case.