Tips for Flying in Brazil

In the space of a few years and a World Cup, flying in Brazil has changed very little. The experience is pretty good, with a few pitfalls. A few tips can help you along the journey.

Choose your airport strategically: Brazil’s major cities can have several airports and with Brazilian traffic added in, logistics and costs are a big factor with airport selection.

Find a way to/from the airport: taxis can be mega-expensive. Sao Paulo’s GRU has a taxi monopoly and fares to the city start around US$50 and climb up, up, up. Rio’s airport taxis add surcharges for every piece of luggage you are carrying. Some airlines have shuttles for some airports, and there are other transport options, but don’t expect a slick rail link anywhere.

Flight check-in can be slow-moving mayhem: if at all possible use kiosks or online check-in. Here’s a Gol international departure check-in line:

GRU Airport Gol International Check-in

Priority check-in and boarding: is recognized for OneWorld elites (TAM), Delta elites (Gol), and it seems for anyone willing to bluff or push through.

GRU Airport Gol Priority Check-in

Landside food courts: most of the dining and retail may be landside (before security). Here’s a great food court and viewing platform in Recife:

REC Airport Food Court

Airside is skimpy: domestic departures especially can be in small concourses with only a basic cafe and a shop or two:

REC Airport Domestic Departures

Domestic security: is a breeze. International is a bit more thorough, though still quite reasonable.

Lounges are few and basic: Gol serves cocktails in plastic bags. There are few domestic lounges. 3rd-party lounges accessed through programs like Priority Pass are mostly cruddy.

Gol GRU Lounge 02

ATMs: there may be dozens of ATMs, just be happy if you find one that is operational and that accepts foreign cards (this goes for all Brazil).

GRU Airport Arrivals

Seat reclining: immediately as the captain wraps up the post-takeoff announcement, the seatback in front of you will be violently thrown back. Moments later, it will be thumbed back a few times more.

Frigid: Gol keeps its planes incredibly cold. I don’t remember about TAM. Haven’t flown Azul.

Connections: domestic connections typically involve checking in segment by segment as you travel. Luggage is checked through but, somehow, passengers not. I don’t really understand it but have had it on both Gol and TAM. One time, an agent was able to check me in for my next connection, while the website and kiosk couldn’t, but then that created all kinds of confusion at the next stop as I fell off the connecting list held by the agent at the next airport. Usually there is an agent to greet a flight and get people through a side door to their next connection without exiting and going through security again.

GRU Airport TAM Connections

Readers, your tips for flying in Brazil?

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12 Comments on "Tips for Flying in Brazil"

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George
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Well, some insights about the things you wrote: 1-)Choose your airport strategically: The thing about having too many airports is actually not that true. For instance in São Paulo you have GRU (Guarulhos International) and CGH (Congonhas Airport). The first is the international one, the “JFK” one, and the former is the La Guardia. The same goes for GIG (Rio’s Galeao International) and SDU (Santos Dumont Airport). The same for Belo Horizonte that have CNF (international) and PLU (domestic flights). And in all these cases, the domestic airport is always close and within the city. 2-)Find a way to/from the… Read more »
Santastico
Guest

@Rapid Travel Chai: you also need to have a local to take you to places where you can eat real food. “…there is way too much tough, overcooked and over-salted beef with mushy beans and rice for my taste…” To start, rice and beans is the main dish in Brazil. It is everywhere and people eat everyday. If you got mushy beans, you did not got to the right place. As for the meat, next time you go to Sao Paulo, try the following places: Figueira, Rubayat, Rodeio, Dinho’s. You will get the best beef you can find.

Santastico
Guest
@Tyler: I believe you wanted to say “AIRPORTS in Brazil are tough to find great local eateries”. If you are talking about the airports I have to agree (changing now with Terminal 3 at GRU). However, if you are talking in general about the country I guess you missed a lot. Brazil is well known for its amazing diversity and the country offers the most amazing restaurants you can find with Sao Paulo being easily compared to any big city in the world. Brazil offers most of the international cuisines with huge influence from Italy, Portugal, Lebanon and Japan. Also,… Read more »
Tyler
Guest

@Joey- I know exactly in GIG where you are talking about. I get nervous at pretty much all ATM’s in Brazil- the crime rate is so high.

Tyler
Guest

Yea, Brazil is tough to find great local eateries. My girlfriend is Brazilian so I’m lucky to hit up the local spots, but I’ve been to plenty of mediocre restaurants.

In general though they do love to put a lot of salt on their meat, sometimes too much for my taste. But they rock at desserts- pretty much every Brazilian dessert I’ve had has been good.

Headly
Guest

Never experienced the last one either. In fact, I get my return boarding passes sometimes along with my outbound on a same day return on Gol.

Only other comment to add is that the new Star lounge in T3 GRU is very nice. Totally different lounge experience for Brazil.

ATM comment is absolutely spot-on. You will go through 4 ATMs on average till you find one that works and accepts your card.

Joey
Guest
Don’t use the ATMs at Rio de Janeiro’s international airport (GIG). I forgot which one but my friend used it when we went to Rio back in summer 2013 and a few days later guess what? Money was stolen from his bank account (there was a skimmer in most if not all the ATMs on the 2nd floor.) :/ Luckily he sorted it out once he was back in the USA but it was still a hassle. Just google Rio de Janeiro airport ATM scam skimmers and you’ll see plenty other examples. As for me, I had Brazilian Real from… Read more »
purcitron
Guest

@rapidtravelchai
a sudden urge for a bagged cocktail has come over me.
which cities have you visited? any recommends? rio & st paul seem rather tourist trappy, but i am personally pretty interested in Manaus

Tyler
Guest

Completely agree on all but the last one- never had to check in separately per segment.

Also I’d recommend trying to avoid eating in airports completely- 99% of the restaurants are horrible and very overpriced.