For the past few years the American dollar has been laughably weak as compared to other currencies, making shopping less enjoyable when we travel abroad. However, the US economy has been on a tear lately and the dollar is significantly stronger than it was a year ago when we were in Brazil.
As a result, Sergio and I opted for some retail therapy when we visited Sao Paulo. I’d strongly encourage anyone visiting Sao Paulo to bypass foreign ateliers where prices are 100% – 300% more expensive due to the country’s idiotic tariffs and fixate on Brazilian retailers where you can purchase items friends back in the US will not have access to.
While Sao Paulo has many shopping malls (‘the gays’ are partial to Shopping Frei Center and Shopping Higienopolis), but I’d recommend you bypass them and head directly for Rua Oscar Freire. The street is full of retailers you will be unaccustomed to seeing, selling everything from bathing suits to tuxedos. If you get hungry each block has one or two places you can duck into for a quick bite.
A few tips if you go shopping in Brazil:
1) Customer service is taken very seriously. Be prepared to have someone approach you and to bring you multiple items they think you may want to see or try on.
2) Sizes are different and more in line with European designers so don’t enter a store with the mindset that you are a medium or a particular waist size. Clothes in Brazil are much smaller than in the US.
3) If you are serious about making purchases and are buying more than 2-3 items ask them if there is a possible discount they can provide. You are more likely to get a “yes” if you have a Brazilian ask the question. We were able to get 10% off our purchases at one retailer.
4) Avoid purchasing anything from the US or Europe, You will pay significantly more than in the US. Focus your shopping on local designers and chains.
5) The most important phrase of all to learn when shopping, “Quanto Gosto?”, which is acceptable for asking “how much”, although I don’t believe that is the literal translation. It is also good form to know how to say thank you (although this is a phrase you will hopefully use elsewhere as well) “Obrigado”.