São Paulo

Living in São Paulo?

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Living in São Paulo

Living in São Paulo can be quite challenging: We’ll take you through important facts concerning healthcare, education, and safety in the city. After all, São Paulo is Brazil’s major economic and financial center. For many expatriates in Brazil, living in São Paulo is their first choice.

Nowadays, there are almost 20 million people living in São Paulo’s metropolitan area, many of whom are not Brazilian. Brazil’s largest city was founded as a small mission post in 1554. Unsurprisingly, modern life in São Paulo comes with all the amenities and grievances of a megacity. The urban lifestyle has a lot to offer: a vibrant local culture, entertainment and leisure, shopping facilities and – last but not least – exciting business opportunities.

On the downside, air pollution, near-constant traffic congestions, crime, and extreme poverty are a part of daily life in the city as well. All in all, however, most expats who have decided on living in São Paulo over the years have come to love their new home.

São Paulo: Safety Issues

One aspect which can make expats apprehensive about beginning a new life in São Paulo is their personal safety. While São Paulo is considered much safer than for example life in Rio, Brazil’s megacities do have considerable problems with violent crime, especially homicide, drug-related gang violence, and sexual assault. 

Nevertheless, there are a couple of basic safety rules which foreigners living in São Paulo should adhere to:

  • Do not enter the city’s favelas, and avoid the "red light district" located on Rua Augusta and near the Estacao de Luz metro area.
  • Pay attention to your belongings in crowded spaces.
  • “Dress down” in public places and don’t display your most prized possessions.
  • Be especially alert after dark, in tourist areas, and nightlife districts.
  • Lock your car doors while driving.
  • Never try to resist a thief, robber, or mugger.
  • Always carry proof of your health insurance with you.

When you arrive, it is best to ask someone who has been staying in São Paulo for a while about particular do's and don’ts regarding security issues. These also depend a lot on the area in São Paulo where you want to settle down.

Education in São Paulo

For expats with kids, an extremely important aspect of living in São Paulo is schooling for their children. Many expat children attend international facilities. However, if your kids speak Portuguese, you could also enroll them in regular state schools in São Paulo.

Public schools are free of charge for everyone, expats included. From the age of six, children first attend Ensino Fundamental (elementary and middle school) for nine years. Afterwards, students can choose to go on to Ensino Médio (high school) for another three years. An adequate knowledge of Portuguese and a successfully completed adaptação (entrance examination) are prerequisites for attending a public school in São Paulo.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Francois Bertrand

"What a thrilling city São Paulo is. With a great international expat community that keeps in touch on InterNations."

Elin Gustavson

"As I already met several expat women on InterNations online, it was great to meet offline and get to know each other in real life."

Global Expat Guide