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I was on a business trip to the south of Brazil including São Paulo. Out of Zurich, it was a 12-hour non-stop overnight flight. Arrived at GRU, Sao Paulo’s international airport from the 70’s.sp traffic-2

São Paulo is notorious for several things – one of which is the traffic jam.

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I walked around the city and can generally confirm the widespread traffic congestion.

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Taxi is useless if you are in a hurry.

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The city is huge and gritty, not a pretty place, and does not have much to offer in terms of tourism.

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The heavy traffic problem is fueled by a rising middle class who can afford a car, and the lack of an efficient mass transit system in this city of 10+ million people.

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And the rich 0.1%’s solution to this traffic problem ?  The city apparently has the highest per capita ownership of personal helicopter. There is an article by BBC news on this topic – here.

Ignore the airplane in the photo below – see the helipad on top of the left building.

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There are air taxi services that ferry the rich or busy between helipads at the top of high rises. See the flying saucer-like thing on the right (photo below). It is a common sight in the downtown or  business districts.

The view from a helicopter flying above this city at dusk must be incredible. My business was not important or urgent enough to commandeer a helicopter. Must work harder to find another deal here.

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In parts of the city, there was a constant drone from helicopter taking/dropping off, it was loud, which made the streets which are full of cars and people felt like a war-zone (think Vietnam era war movies). There was a helipad that I can see from my hotel room and I heard the drone of helicopters many times while I was in the room.

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It is on top of a fancy hotel – The Tivoli – which is a block away.

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When I walked by the Tivoli on my last day there, a large group of teenagers were waiting outside and screaming for, what I presume, their pop idol. I guess this celebrity wanted the crowd scene and chose not to travel by helicopter.

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There is another concern beside bad traffic that led to the growing use of helicopter – it is the fear of crime. My local colleagues all warned me about the danger of being mugged and every one seemed to know someone who had been robbed at gun point.  Don’t worry about the pickpockets, they said.

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Every night (while I was there) around dusk, the police assemble themselves with riot shields on the main street in the center of Sao Paulo – Avenida Paulista – apparently ready for action. I did not see any crime but this daily show of force suggests the presence or history of crime in the city center. I saw something like this in New York too, NYPD does the same thing on 42nd street once in a while but they are there  to make people feel safe from terrorism, not crime.

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While Sao Paulo is not exactly welcoming for tourists, as a prosperous big city (often compared with New York), it does have lots to offer in terms of the arts, shopping and restaurants. More posts to come.

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One Comment

  1. Nice piece showing a general first impression of the city. I’ll look for the posts to come to see other observations you’ve made during your stay in our city.


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