This a scattered set of informal, supposedly important information I´ve put together as your ´survival kit´ in São José, but hopefully useful in general, during your stay in Brazil. As I remember other things, I´ll update them. In the meantime, please feel free to ask me for any further information or clarification.
General InformationThe location of the workshop venue
The hotel where the workshop will take place (Mercure Hotel Colinas) is located at the coordinate S 23° 12' 19.76" W 45° 54' 19.64". If you check it up in Google Earth, you´ll see that it faces a big road and roundabout, and is neighbour to an area that is in the corner of the block. This area (which has a gas station) is quite handy, as it contains a convenience store and a pharmacy, just a few steps away from the hotel.
Across the road, in front of the hotel, the large flat building is a 24-hour supermarket (Extra), open every day of the week. It also has a pharmacy.
Across the roundabout, about 200m diagonally to the hotel, the even larger flat building is Colinas shopping centre (http://www.shoppingcolinas.com.br/page/). It´s not the largest in the city, but can be quite handy, as it has a nice food court, another supermarket, yet another pharmacy, various ATMs (cash dispensers) and a currency exchange office.
The hotel is also very close to Vila Ema, which is the main bohemian neighbourhood of the city, with many bars and restaurants, coffee-shops and high-street small shops. Along the same line you may wish to consider the bars and restaurants along Avenida Anchieta, a very pleasant road facing the Banhado, the large green marshland that is the main postcard of the city
General InformationThe period of the workshop
October 12th (Monday) is a national holiday. This means that throughout the whole extended weekend of the workshop, many people will have gone out of the cities, in particular from São José. This means the city will be calm in terms of traffic and general movement. But you may find various places closed on Monday, in particular high street shops. The shopping malls will be working, though. As for Colinas mall, the opening times will be as follows: Friday and Saturday, from 10:00 to 22:00; Sunday and Monday, from 14:00 to 20:00 (except for the supermarket, which opens from 08:00 to 22:00 every day).
General InformationCurrency exchange
Because of the weekend, there won´t be many options for buying (Brazilian) Reais during your stay. Your best bet will be to withdraw from the cash dispensers at Colinas mall. Even the currency exchange office at Colinas (http://www.confidencecambio.com.br/) won´t be a safe harbour, as it will have restricted opening times: Friday, from 10:00 to 20:00; Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00; Sunday and Monday, closed.
General InformationPersonal communication in Brazil
Don´t expect to find many people able to speak English in services, bar, restaurants, commerce, etc. Most of the time you can expect a poor mastery of English, or none at all. With young people and students in general you can expect an easier communication in English. Nevertheless, you can certainly expect good will to try to understand you, one way or another, and a great deal of general hospitality.
If you can speak Spanish, you´ll be surprised to be able to use it widely (just don´t speak fast!), as you´ll be understood quite easily.
No signs are bilingual, on roads, shopping malls or in the transport system. But if you can read Spanish, French or even Italian, it´s very likely that you´ll be able to make sense of their content.
Things to know:
1) Local phone numbers usually have 8 digits.
2) Area codes in Brazil always have 2 digits; for instance, 12 for São José, 11 for São Paulo city, and 21 for Rio.
3) Brazil international dialling code is 55.
4) In order to dial between different area codes in the country or to dial abroad, you need to select the company (the ´operator´) through which the call will be made. They are identified by further 2 digits, the most common numbers being: 21, 15, 13, 41 and 31. My suggestion is: just pick one of them! My examples below use operator 21.
So, this is the phone number syntax for dialing in Brazil:
- - within the same area code: [LocalNumber]
- - within different area codes: 021[AreaCode][LocalNumber]
- - dialling abroad: 0021[CountryCode][AreaCode][LocalNumber]
Handy phone numbers (but be sure to use your best Portuguese ;-)
- - Radio-taxi: the main radio-taxi in São José is 3912-6444
- - Emergencies of any kind (rescue, police, fire brigade): 190
The Winter this year in Brazil´s SouthEast was very wet, atypically wet. And it was very short. Spring started on Septembre 23rd; it seems we´ll have sunnier days, higher than average temperatures, with some quick rain at the end of the afternoons. To some extent, a softer version of the Summer to come. Update, extended weather forecast in São José can be obtained in http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/folha/tempo/br-sao_jose_dos_campos.shtml.
São Paulo state is relatively pretty safe. Crime stats have dropped continuously, year after year, since 2000, in fact, much quicker than in almost all states of the country. In particular, São José has done very well in this period; for instance, the number of intentional homicides in 2008 in the city, per 100 thousand inhabitants, has gone down to 1 digit (9.8, to be exact), which is an excellent index for UNO standards, and a better index than many well-known US and European cities. Nevertheless, be aware of the standard recommendations that every traveller should keep in mind, such as always preferring to use a taxi, particularly at night.
São Paulo state has very recently (last August) started enforcing a very rigid law prohibitting smoking in any public place. So, don´t expect to find smokers´ corners not even in restaurants, bars and shopping malls. If you need smoking, you´ll have to go to an open public area (and do not count open bars in!), like a sidewalk, road, etc. Even in your hotel room you should check about the possibility.
- - There´s free Wi-Fi in all areas of the hotel of the workshop. But they have only one machine for public Internet use, and it´s operated through a prepaid card.
- - Voltage varies (either 220V or 110V) from city to city in Brazil. So, while in São José it is 220V, in São Paulo and Rio it´s 110V.
- - Other shopping areas in São José you may wish to consider are Center Vale shopping mall (http://www.centervale.com.br), which is the best of the region in terms of options, as well as Vale Sul shopping mall (http://www.valesulshopping.com.br), which is part of a shopping complex that makes the whole the largest in the region (though more popular than the other two). For these alternatives you´ll prefer to get a taxi.
- - For all practical purposes, just consider there are no trains to travel in Brazil, in opposition to what is common in Europe. Coaches are the stardard transportation means.
- - If you need driving directions in the country, indications of hotels, beaches and all related tourist information, the best locally edited guides are Guia Quatro Rodas (´Four Wheels Guide´; http://viajeaqui.abril.com.br/g4r/). They even have a route planner you can use (http://mapas.viajeaqui.abril.com.br/guiarodoviario/guia_Rodoviario_viajeaqui.aspx). The catch is that all of them are available only in Portuguese!