Transportation in São Paulo – Part I: THE METRÔ

The subway in São Paulo apparently carries more people daily than any other metro system on earth, and I believe it. Try passing through the Sé station around 6:30PM on a weekday and you’ll see what I mean. Note: this entry deals exclusively with the metro system and not the light-rail (CPTM) suburban lines.


Official Website:



  • Weekdays and Sundays: 4:40AM – 12:00AM+ (I say “+” because each station closes at a slightly different time between 12:00 and 12:35.
  • Saturday: 4:40AM-1:00AM

Price: R$3.20, except before 6:15AM, when fares are reduced to R$2.67


Types of tickets

(official information in Portuguese here)

  • Bilhete Único [comum]: an electronic card that works for the metro and most busses. You can also switch up to 3 times between metro and busses (only one metro ride, up to 3 bus rides)  without getting re-charged within two hours of the first charge. It works like a debt card and you can pass it back to another person if you need to no problem.
  • Vale Transporte: would be provided by your employer. This card allows you four trips in two hours no restrictions on type of transport, BUT to use the card on the same vehicle (or at the same metro station) you have to wait 30min, meaning you can’t pass it back to someone else.
  • Student: special card available for students who register. Institutions registered as educational with the metro company will be able to provide a login password for their students to register.


Comfort & Safety

All reports seem to confirm that the metro is one of the safest ways to get around São Paulo. Not only have I never heard of an incident (not even pickpocketing), but Paulistanos seem very comfortable taking it anytime its running – and they’re a pretty paranoid bunch (forgive the generalization). Kind of like New York, you will notice the socio-demographic composition of your fellow riders tends to vary quite a bit with the line you’re on and the time of day. Your physical comfort will vary according to the same variables – each line has different cars, and obviously the number of people riding with you changes with the hour. The yellow line (L4) is the newest and swankiest with powerful A/C. Plus the cars look like bumblebee the transformer (seriously, check it out). BEWARE rush hour on some lines and passing through the some stations. It gets PACKED. Lines will develop at the turnstiles and at the doors to the train itself. At Faria Lima in the afternoon, for instance, I’ve seen the turnstile line wind hundreds of meters around the station, up the escalators and out into the street. My suggestion if you find yourself in these is to talk to your boss about shifting your work schedule an hour forward or back.


Bikes on the Metrô

(official information in Portuguese here):

During some hours you can bring your bike* on the metro for no extra charge. In my experience, metro staff are actually very polite and helpful, opening the little side gate so you don’t have to lift it over the turnstile, etc. Bikes are always supposed to go in the last car, as marked at most stations on the platform, but I’ve disobeyed sometimes as long as there’s not many people on the train and nobody seems to mind. Beware you will likely have to shoulder your bike a fair amount because of the stairs and escalators nearly ubiquitous to all stations. Technically you’re allowed to go up escalators (not down), regular stairs either way, but not go in the elevator. Again, in the Paulista station where there are a million long flights of escalators I took the elevator and nobody said anything.

[officially] Allowed Hours:

  • Mon-Fri: after 8:30PM
  • Sat: after 2:00PM
  • Sun: all day

Once more, I’ve never paid that much attention to the hours and they’ve never stopped me. I think it’s more just about whether they think it’s too crowded.

*Note: folding bikes are allowed anytime, anywhere on the metro. The official max size is 150x60x30cm folded.


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