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Shopping in Brazil

Sao Paolo

Paulistas say that if you can't buy it in São Paulo, you can't buy it in Brazil. They're probably right. São Paulo certainly seems to have it all, from international fashion boutiques to little local crafts markets.

The city has a number of shopping areas, all unique and interesting to explore. Jardins is well known for its high-end fashion boutiques. The main shopping streets in this neighbourhood are Rua Augusta, the parallel Rua Haddock Lobo, and their cross streets: Rua Oscar Freire and Alameda Lorena. This area is packed with national and international brands, expensive clothing and jewelry, gourmet foods, and luxurious gift shops.

In Centro (downtown São Paulo), Rua 25 de Março is the place where Paulistas rich and poor browse the market stalls and small shops for inexpensive items such as belts, buttons, small toys, gadgets, towels, textiles, and socks. Keep an eye on your purse, though, as the streets are chaotic with vendors and stalls vying for space, and throngs of people make their way through.

For Oriental trinkets, there's no better place to shop than São Paulo's own Japanese neighbourhood, Liberdade. On Sundays the neighbourhood holds a large market with great food and a variety of market stalls selling all kinds of ware, from bonsai plants to porcelain Buddha statues.

Then there are the malls, which in São Paulo have been elevated to a whole other shopping experience: elegant, upscale, and refined. Sophisticated brands, boutiques, and fine dining can be found in a number of malls; the best-known ones are Shopping Morumbi, Shopping Iguatemi, and Shopping Patio Higienópolis, located in upscale neighbourhoods close to the city centre.

And finally, there the street markets, which are particularly popular on the weekends. With antiques, food, and flea markets, they're a great excuse to get out, browse, haggle and shop.

Hours: Most stores are open from 9 am or 10 am until 6 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. Malls are usually open from 10 am to 10 pm, Monday through Saturday.

Money: Most stores will accept one or more types of credit cards. Keep in mind that you can often obtain a discount if you pay with cash. Traveler's checks are normally not accepted.

If you missed the season in Europe, you may still be able to find your favourite designs here, as the collection is a few months behind thanks to the reversed Southern Hemisphere seasons. For "designer central," visit the chic Jardins neighbourhood. Here you'll find Hugo Boss, Rua Haddock Lobo 1626 (tel. 011/3081-8833); Emporio Armani, Rua Haddock Lobo 1550 (tel. 011/3062-2660); Christian Dior, Rua Haddock Lobo 1589 (tel. 011/3082-3059); Versace, Rua Bela Cintra 2209 (tel. 011/3088-8602); and VR, Rua Oscar Freire 725 (tel. 011/3083-7888).

Rio de Janeiro

If Cariocas had to list their primary joys in life, shopping certainly wouldn't come out on the very top -- there are, after all, beaches, music, and sex to consider -- but it'd certainly be in the top five. Cariocas shop anywhere and everywhere: Even on the beach vendors will peddle an enormous range of products. Elsewhere clothing, shoes, arts and crafts, musical instruments and other souvenirs can all be had at good prices.

The old downtown neighbourhood of Centro offers great deals for clothes and shoes. Fun to explore are the pedestrian streets around Rua da Alfândega, Rua Uruguaiana, and Rua Buenos Aires, jampacked with hundreds of merchants in small shops side by side. Back in the '70s the area was slated to be demolished to make room for a viaduct, but over 1,200 shopkeepers formed a merchant's association and banded together to put a halt to the development. The best days for shopping are Monday through Friday when the downtown core is full of office workers. Throughout downtown you will also find many street vendors hawking a variety of wares, everything from portable radios to pirated CDs and see-through bra-straps. The area around Largo da Carioca has a number of market stalls and street vendors. More upscale clothing can be found around the Rua Gonçalves Dias, with many stores selling Brazilian brand names and local designers.

Botafogo has two interesting shopping centres, the Botafogo Praia Shopping and the older Rio Sul. Rio Sul was one of the first malls of Rio and is still a very popular shopping destination. Many Brazilian stores can be found in this mall, and it makes a convenient place to browse and get a sense for brands and prices.

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