Difference between revisions of "Porto Alegre"
Revision as of 13:24, 4 March 2013
Porto Alegre is the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul and the biggest urban agglomeration of south Brazil. The perfect blend of Brazilian-Portuguese and River Plate-Spanish cultures, added to a strong European heritage gives the city a unique background within Brazil. The city is one of the richest metropolis in the country, the state capital with the highest life quality and literacy rate (97%), the book capital of Brazil.
The gaúchos are very proud of their land and culture. In 1835 a revolution which declared Rio Grande do Sul independent from Brazil broke out, the most significant national conflict of the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889), named the Farroupilha Revolution or Farrapos War. This war wreaked havoc across the entire state during 10 bloody years, killing nearly 20% of the gaúchos and ultimately leading to a peace treaty where the Republica Riograndense once again became part of Brazil. Another major Brazilian revolution also began in Rio Grande do Sul. The Federalist Revolution of 1893 defended the decentralization of powers and greater autonomy for the states, and only finished in 1895, after spreading to two other states. It was also in Rio Grande do Sul (Porto Alegre) where the 1930 Revolution which overthrew the president Washington Luis began, and so was from Rio Grande do Sul the most important Brazilian communist revolutionary of all times: Luis Carlos Prestes, who led the nation-wide communist upheaval in 1935. For such reasons, among many others, the Gaúchos (Riograndenses) are particularly proud of their mother state, many considering themselves as gauchos rather than Brazilians.
Currently, Porto Alegre is a service centered city in between the industrial part of the state (north-east) and the rural part (south). It is also called the "Mercosul Capital".
Porto Alegre's International Airport is Salgado Filho (POA), located 4.3 miles (7km) from downtown. Flights come from and go to cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Curitiba, Florianópolis, Foz do Iguaçu, Montevideo, Córdoba, Rosario, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Lima, Panama City and Lisboa . It's served by all major Brazilian airlines (Azul, TAM, Gol/Varig, Webjet, Oceanair), regional ones ( NHT and Trip) and international airlines TAP Portugal, COPA, TACA, Pluna and Aerolineas Argentinas.
There is a train station (known as trensurb by locals) and bus stops near the airport. However, it is recommended to take a cab ("taxi" for locals) in order to leave the airport, because the nearby trensurb station is not exactly close to the airport facility and available buses don't take you downtown. Cab rides can be a little pricey, so you can opt to take a bus to a place near your destination and get a cab from there.
You will find two types of taxis by the airport. The red cabs are the usual cabs you find around the city. The white cabs service only the airport. The white cabs are regarded as more trustworthy, even though a bit more expansive. If you don't know your way around the city, it is more advised to take the white cabs.
The airport facility is modern (built in 2001) and has a shopping-like structure, with restaurants, shops and even movie theaters.
Trains serve only the metropolitan area. Locals call it trensurb and services are limited, with only one line connecting Downtown to some metropolitan cities (Canoas, Esteio, Sapucaia do Sul, São Leopoldo, and Novo Hamburgo). The fare is R$1,85 and there's a station near Rodoviaria (central bus station) and the airport. It is more or less safe to walk during day time from Rodoviaria or the airport to the stations.
Coming from the North (Florianópolis, Curitiba, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro), one may reach Porto Alegre by two ways. BR-116 is shorter, but much more dangerous. This road is used to reach other destinations in Rio Grande do Sul, such as Caxias do Sul, Gramado and Canela. BR-116 also connects all major metropolitan cities and traffic jams are frequent during rush hours in weekdays. The other way to get to Porto Alegre from the North is using BR-101 to Osório and then BR-290. The first connects Curitiba, Florianópolis and Osório, and is being upgraded to highway standards; the latter crosses Rio Grande do Sul from Osório to Uruguaiana, through Porto Alegre. The section between Osório and Porto Alegre is called free-way by locals, and is a very well-mantained 6-lane toll-road.
Also, in neighbouring Canoas, BR-386 begins, connecting the metropolitan area with other major cities in the countryside, such as Santa Cruz do Sul, Santa Maria and Passo Fundo. It has 4 lanes up to Tabaí and it is in decent conditions.
From the East, Porto Alegre is reachable by BR-290 from Uruguaiana and Argentina. Using this road, it's possible to reach southern cities such as Bagé and Santana do Livramento. This section of BR-290 shares a stretch with BR-116, from Guaíba's Bridge up to Eldorado do Sul interchange.
Be advised that some of these roads are dangerous due to their poor signaling/conditions and lots of trucks. Most of them are toll-roads and have electronic speed traps. Schedule your travels by car during the day; it is simply safer.
The long distance bus station is located downtown and is served by state, national and international lines. Daily services connects Porto Alegre with several cities inside the country and also Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay. It is also connected to a trensurb station and several municipal bus lines.
Besides its decent port facilities for cargo, a new service operated by CatSul connects Porto Alegre to Guaiba, a city right across Guaiba Estuary, known as Rio Guaiba. The crossing takes 20 min and costs R$ 7.00 each way. You will find more information here: http://www.catsul.com.br
The city is roughly a semi-circle that expanded outward in a concentric manner, beginning from the historical city center, right next to the promontory and the harbor. Avenues going from the center to the outer areas of the semi-circle are the radiais (radials) and are crossed by avenues named perimetrais (perimeters). Hence, to go to and from downtown one will use mostly the former, whereas to go from one neighborhood to another, one uses the latter.
To understand the bus system, one must consider the above description. All lines are identified as "(prefix)-number name/neighborhood". Currently, almost all lines are radial, that is, they connect an outer neighborhood to the various downtown terminals. Those lines have no prefix. It is quite common to switch buses at downtown but, considering there is a myriad of lines there, it can be challenging to find the right terminal to hop on the next bus. Transversal lines (prefix "T" - T1, T2, ..., T11), connect different neighborhood without going through the downtown area, effectively eliminating the need of changing buses for the most common trips. Circular lines (prefix "C" - C1, C2, C3), as the name indicates, run in a circular manner, usually connecting parts of the downtown area to the nearest neighborhoods.
There is a map with all the buses online: http://lproweb.procempa.com.br/pmpa/prefpoa/eptc/usu_doc/mapa_linhas.pdf
Also all stops are listed here: http://www.eptc.com.br/EPTC_Itinerarios/linha.asp
Together with google maps this can give you a clue.
There have been some attempts to setup a more sophisticated website for describing the public transportation system. The official one, http://www.poatransporte.com.br/, accomplishes this (if only to a certain extent): when you enter an address, the map will show you the nearby stops. You can do this again for the destination address, and see the routes that suit you the best. You can also enter one (or several) routes and they will appear on the map. An alternative site gained a lot of popularity in late 2012: http://www.trafeguebem.com.br/. It tries to turn the task into a one-step process, where you enter two arbitrary locations and it returns several options to make the trip. A lot of times, however, it will not be successful.
Unfortunately, it is very hard to find bus stops with indication of lines' destinations or timetables. Hence, when in doubt, the easiest way is to ask the locals which bus will get you to you destination. Porto Alegre's buses are, in most cases, clean, safe and fast, specially when the line uses the bus corridor, a reserved lane with special stops in main avenues, effectively avoiding traffic jams. In order to use the bus, you must be at a bus stop and signal or wave your hand to the arriving bus you want to ride (they will not stop unless waved upon!).
The fare must be paid to the cobrador before crossing the turnstile located inside the bus. Fares may be paid either in cash or using a smartcard system named TRI. TRI-users get discounts in consecutive trips - currently, a fifty percent discount is granted to the second trip within half an hour. Current fares are listed below:
The Lotação is an alternative transportation system, with fewer lines, served by vans with up to 20 people in capacity, where one can hop on and off at any point (i.e. outside designated stops) of the trip. The fare is R$4.25 for everyone. The vans are easily recognized by their "red and blue" colour. If you're not sure if a lotação goes to the destination you want to go, just wave your hand, wait until it stops and FROM THE STREET ask the driver if it goes to your destination (for instance to go to Iguatemi Mall just say Iguatemi?), don't go in just to ask otherwise the driver might ask you to pay the fare since the counter is measured on the stairs near the door.
There are plenty of taxis. They can be pricey, if compared to other towns, but they are also an easier, safer and more dependable option than buses in some cases. To ride a cab, one can walk to the nearest "taxi stop" (usually in crowded areas or points of interest), wave for an empty passing cab or call a tele-táxi service. Tele-táxi may charge extra for this service. The price of the fare is determined by a machine called taxímetro, usually in front of the passenger seat. There is always a minimum price, which is shown when the machine is reset for the trip, which is, as 2011, R$3,50. Next to the value, there is a "flag" indicator that shows the level of price being paid, always according to the service. Usually there is a table inside of the cab explaining each level of service. It is recommended to check if the correct level is being charged in the beggining of the trip, in order to avoid problems when you reach your destination.
Walking around is a reasonable idea only inside a given neighborhood or downtown, as opposed to from one neighborhood to another, as they are usually too far apart. Walking during the night in most parts of the city is outright dangerous. During the day, it is recommended to pay attention to your belongings at all times, due to activity of pickpockets and other thieves. Avoid parks at night. Porto Alegre is a dangerous city at global levels. Be advised that pedestrian crossings, most of the time, are completely ignored by the vast majority of drivers; never rely on them without looking or making sure the driver will stop. It is also not recommended to cross the street outside the proper crossing areas in traffic jams: motorbike riders usually split between stopped cars, causing a great risk to pedestrians.
Linha Turismo is a tourist bus line that rides through 11 neighbourhoods and shows the main attractions of the city (parks, trees, statues, hospitals, churches, etc), with audio guides in three languages. The trip is 28km long and lasts for about 1h20min, and the arrival is at the same departure address. From Tuesdays to Sundays (holidays included), at 9am, 10:30am, 1:30pm, 3pm and 4:30m (winter) or 10:30am, 1:30pm, 3pm, 4:30pm and 6pm (summer). The tickets cost 5 reais for the lower floor and 7 reais for the superior one (which has no ceiling). Travessa do Carmo Street 84, phones (51) 3213-3464 and (51) 3212-1628:
Museums & Art
Global companies like Dell, Inc. and ThoughtWorks, Inc. maintain their presence in Porto Alegre.
 Steakhouse that serves a lot of steaks and offers an excelent ambient. Prices from R$ 40 (US$ 20).
Porto Alegre's nightlife is basically divided onto two neighborhoods: Cidade Baixa and Moinhos de Vento. Although, several pubs and clubs are located throughout the city.
Cidade Baixa is an old neighborhood, filled with historical buildings and oldfashioned mansions. Most of the popular and cheap bars are located in Lima e Silva Street; they are the traditional xis (cheeseburgers) places, such as Speed and Cavanhas. In República Street, pubs and bars are fancier and more expensive too. Inside the old mansions of João Alfredo Street, several dance clubs party every night. The places are perfect to dance Brazilian popular music (called MPB) and samba.
Moinhos de Vento
Moinhos de Vento is one of the richest neighborhoods in town. Its bars and clubs are more likely to be fashionable. Expect bars to be pricey. Along Padre Chagas Street you can find typical Irish pubs and cafes.
Other options are:
The area code for Porto Alegre is 51.
Be aware when walking around downtown, especially on Rua dos Andradas (commonly known as Rua da Praia) and near the bus station even during daylight, since pickpockets may wander about — watch your backpack, pockets and wristwatch.
Stay away from empty shady areas at night, specially the surroundings of two big parks near downtown: Redenção and Marinha (with some spillover into the nearby Harmonia/Maurício Sirotsky Sobrinho). Drug dealing and unsafe sex take place in the shadows of these parks every night since early dusk, often attracting aggressive men like thieves. Rua Voluntários da Pátria is somewhat dangerous (though not as much) for similar reasons due to prostitution. Other parks such as Parcão are much safer. If you're into this kind of stuff, be warned that attendees almost never include tourists, so you would probably be a target.
As in any Brazilian city, observe the people around you and avoid being ostentatious to them. That is, unless you see people doing the same, use expensive electronics unobstrusively when surrounded by many people (such as in bus stops) and avoid wearing expensive jewelry and clothes. This is particularly important if you visit a poor neighbourhood (see a map here). If you need to do so, bring a friend, preferably a city resident you trust, and blend in: wear bland casual clothes, leave valuables at your accommodation (you may bring a basic phone for emergency), avoid English and even Portuguese if your accent is not perfect, walk confidently (know where to go without a map) and avoid obviously tourist behaviour such as opening a map in a visible spot. Fortunately, in the South of Brazil many racial types are well mixed, so if you look European, Arab, African, Indigenous (native) or Asian (or anything in between) you are unlikely to be identified as a tourist based solely on physical appearance. However, this is not the case for people with strong Indian (South Asian) features, which are rare anywhere in Brazil. Also, people with a strong East Asian look are rarely seen in poorer neighbourhoods and may draw some attention there. Skin types  II to V are the most common and the distribution is almost uniform; people in the extremes may expect some curious glances.
Porto Alegre has a higher per capita homicide rate than Rio and São Paulo , but most homicides take place in poorer neighbourhoods, so learn them beforehand and avoid them. A recent survey  revealed that the most dangerous neighbourhoods are Farrapos, Jardim do Salso, Lomba do Pinheiro, Bom Jesus and Mário Quintana. You are unlikely to visit any of them since they lie on the outskirts of the city and offer almost no attractions. In other middle- to upper-class neighbourhoods, specially in downtown and nearby, homicides are less common, most crimes involve stealing or robbery of valuable goods such as cars, mobile phones and cash (,  and ).
In upper-class neighbourhoods like Moinhos de Vento, these behaviours (opening a map, wearing expensive items and speaking a foreign language) are normally safe and not unusual.
The voltage is 127v in Porto Alegre, but 220v in other cities at the country side. Take care of this when using electronic devices such as hairdryers. Some places have both 127 and 220v, in these cases, the 220v outlets are red.
Useful Phone Numbers
Civil Defense: 199
Civil Police: 197
Federal Police: 194
Transport and Circulation Public Business: 118
Telephone Assistance: 102 (To know area codes and international codes of countries)
Humid climate with four well-defined seasons. Average annual temperature of 19ºC
Winter (June to September): between -1ºC e 19ºC
Summer (December to March): between 20ºC e 38ºC
Fall (April to June): between 7ºC e 25ºC
Spring (September to November): between 10ºC e 30ºC
In the case you need help, go to the Hospital Municipal de Pronto Socorro (HPS). Public, conventional, and private patient services. In the case that you need immediate help, call an ambulance at 192 (SAMU system). Located in Largo Teodora Herzl (corner of Avenida Osvaldo Aranha, Bom Fim neighborhood).
The area code of Porto Alegre is 51
For national calls, press 0+ operator code + area code (DDD) + telephone number -For national cover calls, press 90+ operator code + area code (DDD) + telephone number -For international calls, press 00 + operator code + country code + city code + telephone number
To make phone calls, the Integration Phone Station is also available (Avenida Borges de Medeiros 332 – Centro) from Monday to Friday, 8am til 8pm, and Saturday, 9am til 6pm.
The cellphone companies that serve Rio Grande do Sul are: Vivo, Claro, TIM and OI. Recharging cards for these carriers can be found in a variety of places like supermarkets and pharmacies.
Oi frees up public phones throughout the city. They operate through special cards that can be acquired at the company’s store or in newsstands.