A 3-step guide to São Paulo’s Metro system
São Paulo’s subway system, the “Metrô” (strong, closed accent on the O) is often subject to criticism. Truth be told, it should be way more extensive for a city this size. And it could be cheaper. And maybe the stations could be built faster. And it can get crowded.
But let’s focus on the positives: São Paulo’s Metrô is clean, punctual, and safe. It’s the best option (other than walking) to get around downtown. Here’s how to use it.
1. The lines
There are five lines: Azul (Blue), Vermelha (Red), Verde (Green), Amarela (Yellow), and Lilás (Lilac). All the other lines, including those with interesting names (Turquoise, Diamond, Saphire) on the maps are metropolitan trains, with different levels of reach and security. Here is a full PDF map.
- The Blue line is the oldest, inaugurated in the 1980s. It connects the South and North Zones of São Paulo.
- The Red line is the most extensive and crowded, connecting the West and East Zones.
- The Green line also connects West (from Vila Madalena) and East (Vila Prudente), crossing Avenida Paulista and some South-Central neighborhoods like Ipiranga.
- The Yellow line goes from downtown’s Estação da Luz to the western neighborhood of Butantan through the ways of Repulica Sq and Pinheiros neighborhood.
- Finally, The Purple line is the newest, shortest and the furthest away line, in the extreme South neighborhood of Capão Redondo.
The main connecting stations are Luz (Yellow/Blue), Republica (Yellow/Red), Sé (Red/Blue), Paraíso (Green/Blue) and Paulista (Yellow/Green). All can get very crowded during rush hour (7-9 AM, 5-7 PM). The last Metrô trains run right before midnight; you won’t be allowed into stations after 11:55 PM.
2. Pricing and Bilhete Unico
One trip: R$3,50.
Bilhete Único (unified ticket) is the Paulistano version of a MetroCard, Oyster, etc. You can buy and use it on municipal buses, the Metrô, and CPTM trains. Other inter-municipal buses and other metropolitan trains accept cash and a different sort of card (why? who knows?). Bilhete Únicos are easy to buy and can be charged at any metrô station with cash or a debit card. You can add money for individual trips or buy a limited-time fare, valid for 24h or a whole week. More here.
3. Buying Tickets
You can buy the tickets from a real person (and ask for directions!) or at the automated machines, but those only work with a Bilhete Único (see above).
People seem to prefer facing the lines and buying tickets from a real person (cash only). Still, because automated machines accept debit cards, I often go there and never have any problems. If you need help, just ask a Metrô worker – they use blue clothes and are always staying near the catracas (turnstyles). Did you learn a few phrases in Portuguese? Now, it’s time to use it!