Monday, February 26, 2007

How to arrive in Rio

For anyone traveling to Brazil, my advice is this: you’ll probably fly into Sao Paulo’s international airport. Stay two or three days in Sao Paulo, and then fly to Rio. If you fly directly to Rio, or if you transfer from Sao Paulo’s international airport to Rio, you’ll end up flying into Galeao airport, north of the city. However, if you go from Congonhas, Sao Paulo’s domestic airport, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most spectacular flight descents in the world. The ascent from Sao Paulo isn’t bad either - you get to see just how vast the city really is. The only drawback is that Congonas doesn't have the greatest safety record.

Sao Paulo-Rio is the second-most traveled flight pattern in the world (Madrid-Barcelona is number one). Don’t worry about reservations - flights leave at least once an hour, and are usually more like once every half-hour. There’s even a dedicated ticket desk for “buy & fly” purchases -which shouldn’t cost you more than $100 US.

Now, don’t get on the next plane - at least not if you can’t get a window (that’s the whole point). Wait until the one after- you should pretty much have your pick of seats. Although both sides actually have great views, my advice is to sit on the left-hand side window. Rio’s domestic airport (Santos Dumont) is a little two-runway job right next to downtown. This isn’t the difference between flying into JFK and LaGuardia - flying into Santos Dumont is basically the equivalent of flying into the Wall Street Heliport.

Not only are the views astounding (and way better than my disposable-camera picture above), but you can grab your stuff and walk right into the middle of Rio. The subway - which will take you as far south as Copacabana - is only about a 15 minute walk through downtown.

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