Where to shop at Ministro Pistriani International airport ….
Ministro Pistriani International is easily Argentina’s largest international airport. Privately operated since 1998 and handling some 9 million passengers a year, Ezeiza International, as it is more commonly known, is regarded as one of the best airports in all Latin America. Indeed, in 2007 Ezeiza was voted as the best airport in region in the important Skytrax Airport Awards.An impressive achievement undoubtedly, but Ezeiza has its drawbacks, however. Foggy weather in the winter often causes flight delays and catching an official taxi to travel downtown can be a hassle.
If you are the ‘wrong’ nationality, it can also be an expensive airport to arrive at. Since 2009 arriving Americans, Australians and Canadian travellers have been slapped with a ‘reciprocity fee’ for as much as $130 to enter the country at Ezeiza. Apparently, this charge is levied because of those three countries’ decision to charge Argentineans for a visa to visit them.
Then there is the fact that Buenos Aires’ other main airport, Aeroparque, which handles most of domestic air traffic in and out of the capital, is located at the opposite end of town. Travellers arriving at Ezeiza wanting to transfer on to a flight to another part of the country have to take a long, cross-town shuttle bus ride.
On a more positive note the shopping offer at Ezeiza is good and the recent opening of the airport’s new Terminal C has strengthened it yet further. More of that later, but at this point it is worth noting that there are arrivals duty-free shops at Ezeiza although the allowances are pretty stingy by regional standards. The cigarette allowance per traveller is a carton of 200, while for booze; it is one 1-litre bottle each of spirits and wine.
There aren’t many large international airports around the world that don’t have an expansion programme either underway or in the pipeline and Ezeiza is no exception. In July 2011 the new $150 million (£93.84 million) Terminal C dedicated solely to Aerolíneas Argentinas was opened as part of a plan to boost the airport’s capacity to 13 million passengers by 2013. This bright, modern glass-windowed building is named after a local folk singer (Mercedes Sosa), and features a large 750 square meter, walk-through duty-free shop selling fragrances, cosmetics, liquor, tobacco, confectionery, watches, sunglasses and jewellery.The duty-free shops in the airport’s other two terminals A and B are run by InterBaires, the same company as in the new Terminal C. Prices are in US dollars and because of high domestic prices perfumes and cosmetics tend to get the most floor space in these shops and the range of brands on offer is truly impressive: Biotherm, Clinique, Estée Lauder, Dior, Lancôme, Bvlgari, Chanel, Carolina Herrera are just of the names on the shelves.
When it comes to booze, blended Scotch whisky is the top tipple in this part of the world: Johnnie Walker Black Label, Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Buchanan’s are all big names. Single malts are far less popular and the range is limited to a few well-known names like Glenfiddich, Highland Park and The Macallan. The range of rum and tequila is also a little disappointing too.
Our advice would be to bypass the spirits and head straight for the well-stocked wine department. Argentina is rightly famous for its wines• the combination of high altitude, varying climates and volcanic soils makes from some dynamic and exciting wines. The red grape varietal to look out for is Malbec, the jewel of Argentine wines, light, and refreshing with a taste full of plum and liquorice. As for whites, it has to be floral, fruity Torrontes from the wine-growing regions of Salta and Mendoza: these wines often combine flavours of rose and peach.
In terms of breadth of offer electronics is another strong category at InterBaires. Mp3 players, smartphones, laptops, digital cameras, mobile phone accessories, headphones and computer games are all well represented. Apple, Sony, Nintendo, Canon, Nikon, Motorola and Sony are all stocked. Prices may not be a steal (the hot Apple iPad 2 13GB is a disappointing $769 /£480, for instance), but at least travellers have the chance to compare prices before they travel at www.freeshop.com.ar.
Football is nothing short of a religion in Argentina and the capital boasts the highest concentration of football teams anywhere in the world. As you might expect, Buenos Aires’ two main clubs, River Plate and Boca Juniors, have an intense rivalry and Boca-River derbies are high-energy noisy affairs complete with fireworks, chanting, confetti, flags and banners.Boca stole a march on its cross-town rival last year by opening a Boca store at Ezeiza’s Terminal A last year. It sells all manner of Boca-related merchandise, but for diehard footie fans the must-have purchase from this shop, however, has to be the current season’s football jersey.
If you are looking to pamper yourself, consider a trip to the grand-sounding Universo Garden Angeles store in Terminal A, which has shops all over Argentina. It stocks a wide range of aromatherapy products, face and body treatments, and fragrances for men, women and children, as well as bath products. To immerse yourself in the retailer’s smell-to-get-well philosophy before you travel, log on to http://www.universogardenangels.com/eng/english.html.
Argentina is almost as famous for its long polo-playing tradition as India and England. Upmarket Argentinean leatherwear brand Los Robles Polo Time (Terminal A) tries to emulate the stylish fashion of the wealthy horsy set with its line of leather shoulder bags, brief cases, handbags, wallets, purses and other leather accessories. To have a closer look at what’s on offer, see http://www.losroblesleather.com.ar/productos.htm.
A popular tourist souvenir from Argentina is ‘mate’: an often-decorative gourd used by people all over Latin America to drink a herbal tea of the same name. Other popular gifts are items traditionally used by the country’s tough, skilful cowboys (known as ‘gauchos’) such as curved knives and ‘boleadoras’: three hard balls of leather connected by a leather strap, which were used to hunt animals. Handmade ponchos and handicrafts made my local Mapuche Indians are also worth considering.
You will find many of these gift ideas and much more at the recommended Pasiones Argentinas in Terminal A (see http://www.pasiones-argentinas.com.ar/ingles/). Jewellery and gifts made with locally mined precious stones can be found at Piedras Argentinas, also in Terminal A.
If you are feeling peckish, the line up of cafés and restaurants at Ezeiza is rather poor, especially airside. There are certainly more cafés and places to grab a bite before security, but our advice would be to fill up before you leave for the airport.
See our guide to Argentina Duty Free Allowances
Ministro Pistriani International airport site (English version)
InterBaires shopping site (English version)