What to do with a 7-1/2 hour layover
October 26, 2011 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I will be traveling in mid-December as a woman alone and have a 7-1/2 hour layover in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I arrive at 4:30 pm and depart after midnight. Any suggestions for something safe to do to pass the time, (a tour is probably unlikely that late in the day) or a nearby and safe hotel to spend the time? I hate the idea of just sitting all night in an airport.
posted by eepersmom to Travel & Transportation around Sao Paulo, Brazil (10 answers total)
Do you speak any Portuguese? Do you not speak Portuguese but are super-comfortable in another Romance language that might give you a fighting chance?
Are you coming from elsewhere in Brazil and you want to see Sao Paulo local landmarks, something typically paulistano, etc, or is this your moment of Brazil and anything Brazilian (a good restaurant) would do?

Your best bet is to pick a destination in the city - even if it's as simple as a steakhouse restaurant, a bar recommended in the tourist handbook, or a big shopping mall - catch a cab there, walk around, eat, and come back again. Cab fares to/from the airport will not be cheap, but getting the cab to drive you past a few landmarks on your way won't cost much more. It'll be safest, as well as easiest, if you've checked your luggage for the midnight flight and will be travelling with just a purse/shoulder bag.
posted by aimedwander at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I do not speak Portuguese. Sadly, my only language is English. I will be coming from Aracaju, Sergipe, Brasil, beginning my return to Seattle, WA following a month long visit with my son. If it were earlier in the day I'd happily pay a cabbie to drive me around to see the sights stopping along the way to take photos, but how much can one see at night? And is it safe to have a cab driver drive me around for several hours at night? I'd pay him/her well.
posted by eepersmom at 3:19 PM on October 26, 2011

Let me just say that the traffic in Sao Paulo is horrific, one of the worst I've ever experienced ever throughout my many trips to South America. And worse, you're way out in the middle of nowhere so count on a minimum of 1-2 hours just to get out of the airport into town each way. Which doesn't really leave that much time once you leave the airport. And it's dark, so not much to see.

If it was me, I'd probably splurge for one of the nice airport lounges and settle in rather than spending $$$ on a taxi ride to nowhere in the dark.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:22 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless you have a guide, don't leave the airport. The traffic is so bad they are only allowed to bring a car into the city every other day. Sorry.
posted by tamitang at 4:47 PM on October 26, 2011

My team develops a product used by a large Brazilian company, and several of my folks have traveled to Sao Paulo -- I made my first trip there in August.

In the past few years:
- one of my colleagues was robbed at gunpoint while on the freeway in stop & go traffic between the airport and the hotel
- another colleague was kidnapped at gunpoint walking back to his car after dinner -- he was released after giving up his ATM card and PIN
- a bunch of execs from Nike in Oregon were robbed at one of the nice hotels this summer

I had a good time in Sao Paulo, but I would be careful -- especially as a single woman and especially at night. Having spent a few hours in the Sao Paulo airport waiting for my flight, I can see wanting to get out and about but between the traffic and the safety issues, I would probably choose just to stay there and bring some good music, movies, books...
posted by elmay at 5:20 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Chiming in as a former resident and frequent visitor of São Paulo. There are two airports in São Paulo (Congonhas and Cumbica), and only one is located in the city itself (Cumbica). I am going to assume you are flying into the international airport, which is Congonhas. If that is the case, I would agree with everyone else and strongly encourage you to spend your extra money and stay at a lounge at the airport. There is absolutely NO REASON to try to get into the city, for all the reasons that everyone cited above (although elmay, you make SP sound like a war zone, it isn't all that bad). Traffic on the "marginal" highway into the city is very heavy, and the trip into town is awful. Once you get into town, you would have to turn around and go back almost immediately. I am sorry, I love São Paulo, but it is not the kind of place that works as a quick tourist destination.
posted by msali at 7:24 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I appreciate all the advice; I think I'll stay at the airport and tough it out with my iPad.
posted by eepersmom at 8:42 PM on October 26, 2011

HUGE BUZZKILL that I am, I have to point out that wifi at Congonhas ain't free. Just an FYI...
posted by msali at 11:52 AM on October 27, 2011

Response by poster: I did indeed by a one-day membership in the American Airlines lounge and spend my time there. They have food, drink, TV (in English also), Wi-Fi, showers and it was certainly a safe place to while away the time. I loved my month in Brazil and wish I could have seen some of Sao Paulo. I guess I'll just need to go again sometime.
posted by eepersmom at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2011

Response by poster: Oops, I didn't "by", I did "buy" a one-day membership.
posted by eepersmom at 2:17 PM on December 27, 2011

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