If you’re visiting Brazil, you’ll almost certainly fly through Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport. It’s one of the largest airports in South America and a major hub for LATAM Airlines and Avianca Brazil. Sao Paulo also happens to be the largest city in the southern hemisphere, so you won’t be bored if you decide to stopover in this Brazilian metropolis!
Whether you’re just in transit or staying for a few nights, this AFF guide will help you to make the most of your Sao Paulo stopover!
How to get from Guarulhos Airport to the city
ZElliot suggests taking an Uber, 99 or the train to or from Guarulhos Airport:
São Paulo traffic is notoriously bad. Getting to and from the airport to the city centre can be as quick as 30 minutes and long as 3 hours. Outside of rush hour I budget 1 hour. I usually use Uber or 99 (99 is cheaper). There are dedicated Uber pick up points in all the terminals that are signposted.
A new option since October 2018 is the airport train. It goes directly from near Terminal 1 (Azul domestic) non-stop to Luz Station which has good metro connection to most areas in São Paulo. The non-stop service only runs 4 times a day (why?!) but I took it recently and it was quite fantastic. Much more relaxing than sitting in traffic or dealing with crazy drivers.
There are also regular bus services to Portuguesa-Tietê metro station. From there, you can take the metro for the rest of your trip and avoid the traffic in the city centre.
What to do in Sao Paulo
If you decide to leave the airport during your Sao Paulo stopover, there are lots of things to do! ZElliot has some great suggestions:
Lots of fantastic things to do in São Paulo:
- See a football game at the old-school stadium (Pacaembu) or the modern stadiums (Allianz or Arena Corinthians)
- Run, cycle or people watch while getting an agua de coco in Ibirapuera Park
- Check out the restaurant, beer and coffee scene in Pinheiros
- Tour the graffiti in Beco do Batman
- Zip up and down Avenida Paulista or Faria Lima on an electric scooter (Yellow or Grin)
- Eat rare tropical fruits at the Municipal Market
- For the art lovers see the masters and local artists at Masp on Avenida Paulista. Pinacoteca is also a wonderful museum with 19th Brazilian artists and beautiful architecture.
Where to stay near Guarulhos Airport
If you’re just spending one night in Sao Paulo between flights, you may prefer to stay closer to the airport. This will save you literally hours in travel time getting to the city and back. There are a plethora of affordable hotels located within a short drive of Guarulhos Airport, many of which offer a complimentary airport shuttle service from the airport’s designated pick-up area.
There are also two hotels located at the airport itself. One of these is airside, making it ideal if you have a long layover between international flights.
Fast Sleep in Terminal 2, rooms are tiny and expensive. If you are flying into GRU and have an international connection the Tryp inside Terminal 3 is great. It is after security and immigration and you can walk straight the gate in the morning but the breakfast is pretty bad.
The best Guarulhos Airport lounges
Very few Brazilian airlines offer domestic lounges. GOL does have a domestic lounge in Terminal 2, but neither LATAM Airlines nor Avianca Brazil offer lounge access to domestic passengers at this airport.
For those departing on international flights, though, there are some great lounges. The LATAM Airlines VIP Lounge in Terminal 3 is arguably the best, featuring shower suites, a wine bar, dining area, meeting area and even a sleeping room. You’ll have access if you’re flying in Business/First, or have Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status, and are flying on a Oneworld airline.
There are also American Airlines Admirals Club, Star Alliance and American Express lounges in Terminal 3.
Sao Paulo has two major airports. Congonhas Airport (CGH) is much closer to the city, but mainly serves domestic flights. If you’re flying from Sao Paulo to somewhere else in Brazil, consider flying out of Congonhas Airport.
If you need to transfer between Guarulhos and Congonhas airports during your Sao Paulo transit, there are regular shuttle bus services. If you’re transferring between LATAM Airlines, Azul or Gol flights, these airlines all provide complimentary bus transfers between the two airports for their own passengers. You’ll just need a copy of your ticket, receipt and identification to board the bus. There are also regular buses run by Airport Bus Service. Allow several hours as the traffic in Sao Paulo can be horrendous.
Brazilian visa requirements for Australians
Currently, Australians are required to apply in advance for an e-visa to enter Brazil. However, from 17 June 2019, Brazil is removing its visa requirement for Australians. So you’ll no longer need to apply for a visa in advance to enter Brazil if you’re in transit (or staying for a holiday).
Do you have a great Sao Paulo stopover tip to share? Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: São Paulo (GRU) Stopover Tips
P.S. We’ve recently added 12 new cities to our Stopover Guides forum! Do you have a great stopover recommendation about Auckland, Perth, Brisbane, Manila, Nadi, Guangzhou, Honolulu, Bali, Tokyo, Frankfurt or Kuala Lumpur that other travellers might find useful? Add your suggestions to the dedicated thread for that airport, and your advice could make it into an AFF Stopover Guide article!