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I just got back from 2 weeks in Brazil and wanted to share some of my mistakes & observations in the hope that you, my fellow Mozillians will learn from my foolishness. Most of this info has to do specifically with booking flights and other sorts of transport so if you’re looking for a crazy Sao Paulo bar-hopping story, it ain’t here.
Booking flights ( for Canadians )
The good news for Canadian Mozillians is that there is a direct, daily flight from Toronto to Sao Paulo - AC 090 / 091. You should be aware this flight is a code-share with TAM and seems to be difficult to book via Egencia as an AC flight unless you book well in advance.
Booking as a TAM flight instead introduces various problems:
- you cannot do seat selection via AC or Egencia
- you cannot apply for upgrades until you check in at the Airport
- this flight is on a Boeing 767 ( http://is.gd/JsjNEp )
- other legs of the flight ( Toronto -> Vancouver ) were booked as Tango class, and could not be upgraded.
Lesson: code-shares are evil! Book early! Be flexible on dates!
Cautionary note: on the return flight I was not able to upgrade, but was assured that I had a ‘really good seat in an exit row’. The seat they had assigned me to was, instead, the worst airline seat I’ve ever gotten. Row 18 on a 767 is exit row, sure, but the seat does not recline, does not seem to have appreciably more legroom, and is right next to the galley. I got zero sleep, and had the added bonus of being able to smell all the wonderful food being served for dinner in 1st class as it was being prepared.
Lesson: Always check seatguru.com!
If I was to do this all over again, I should have tried juggling my travel dates to get the AC flight instead of accepting egencia’s TAM code-share.
You will need some cash! But not too much! There are a number of bank machines near the outside doors at arrivals in Guarulhos, including an HSBC ATM that worked well for me. Get 100BRL to start, and try not to carry too much at any one time.
Transport to the city
There is a pre-paid voucher you can get from a kiosk near the arrivals door - use this, and get in one of the white cabs queued nearby. Make sure that between you, the kiosk people and the dirver there is a good shared understanding of where your hotel is. Sao Paulo is huge and there can be several hotels for a given hotel chain.
The Vivo SIM card I used in Brazil worked quite well, all things considered. Internet access in generl in Brazil is slower than you’re used to, but it can be incredibly useful to have access to google maps on a smart phone, provided you’re careful about public phone use. Which leads me to…
People routinely get mugged in Sao Paulo for their mobile phones, which are probably much cheaper and crappier than the Galaxy Nexus or SII you’re carrying around. Don’t take out your phone in public unless necessary, and be very aware of your surroundings. While I was in Brazil, Mozillian Luca Toledo was mugged and had her phone stolen in Guarulhos Airport!
Transport around the city
We took a ton of taxi rides, sometimes for fairly short distances. We were cautioned by local contacts to do this to ensure our safety, and we were unwilling to take chances even though the area around our hotel felt very affluent. The taxis we rode in all preferred cash, often drove insanely fast, and universally were fuelled with natural gas tanks. Personally, the constant faint smell of natural gas exhaust made me quite naseous on longer rides!
Mozilla Brazil community!
I cannot overstate how great it is and how much easier this past trip was on me because I was able to rely on the help and guidance of Mozillians in Brazil. All of our community members were great, but I’d like to particularly call out Luca Toledo, Fabio Magnoni, Sergio Oliveira, and Clauber Stipkovic for all the help, translation, mascot-wearing, introductions, insights and inspiring passion. I was reminded yet again how fortunate I are to be a part of the Mozilla project - we have this unique force multiplier that makes anything we do in a place like Brazil not just easier, but more effective as well. Moz BR rocks!