Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International prepares for World Cup
Airport owners know deep down that their facilities are basically glorified waiting rooms. That’s why they love nothing better than a spot of self-aggrandisement. One tried-and-tested way for airports to big themselves up is to name themselves after famous musicians, rock stars and composers. Thus, Liverpool airport named itself after peacenik Beatle John Lennon; New Orleans airport after jazz legend Louis Armstrong, and Warsaw airport after romantic classical composer Frederic Chopin.Rio de Janeiro’s main international gateway Galeão airport has also got into the act. It decided to name itself after Antonio Carlos Jobim, who was arguably Brazil’s most famous musician and songwriter, and the pioneer of that ultra-cool fusion of jazz and samba: bossa nova. Naming an airport after the man who wrote ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ must have seemed like a good idea to Galeão’s state-owned operator, but ultimately it did nothing for the airport’s dismal reputation for being overcrowded and poorly run.
Happily, a much-needed renovation and expansion programme is underway at Galeão-Antonio Carlos Jobim International’s two terminals. Passenger capacity at the airport, which already flies to 24 international and 26 domestic locations, will then increase from its current limit of 15m to 26m a year.
While this upgrade is in progress, Galeão’s long-suffering passengers will have to make do with the rather lacklustre collection of stores and restaurants. In fairness, it would be difficult for any airport to try and compete with Rio de Janeiro’s superb downtown shopping offer, which rivals the cities beaches for its power to draw in visitors.
But if you are stuck with time to kill at the airport, our recommendation is to head to the Dufry duty-free stores located in each terminal. They are the undoubted highlight of Galeão’s retail offer, stocking range of spirits, wines, tobacco, beauty products, confectionery, fashion items and electronics. Better still, travellers can browse the offer before they travel, and even pre-order on the retailer’s website, www.dutyfreedufry.com.br.
Fragrances tend to be rather expensive in the Brazilian domestic market, which makes the airport’s duty-free stores a great place to pick up the latest perfume launches. Top-selling beauty lines at Galeão as of May 2011 included Paco Rabanne Lady Million (30ml), Dior Addict 2 Eau Fraîche (100ml), Be Givenchy (50ml) and Kenzo Pour Homme Fresh (50ml).In contrast to perfumes, cigarettes are very cheap in Brazil so although the arrivals duty-free allowance is particularly generous (400 per traveller), you may decide to skip stocking up on your favourite brand and buy later downtown.
Spirits are another popular purchase in Brazilian duty-free, especially in arrivals as the personal allowance is yet again bountiful (12 bottles). Popular buys in this part of the world include Johnnie Walker Black, Green and Red Label whiskies, Absolut vodka, as well as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot Champagnes.
A word on Customs procedure when arriving at Galeão, where as at many other South American airports, travellers have to press a button to gain access to the outside world and freedom. If the light turns green, which it invariably does for foreign travellers, you are free to pass through. If it turns red, your luggage will be searched.
Customs are mainly concerned with catching wealthy Brazilians (and there are a lot of them nowadays) entering the country, who have exceeded the $500 personal allowance. Nonetheless, taxfreetravel’s advice is always to stick within a country’s allowance • why take a risk of having a brush with the local authorities unnecessarily?
Back in departures, you will find a good selection of locally run gift and souvenir stores, but nothing of course to rival the shops and markets of Ipanema, Copacabana and the Avenida Atlântica in downtown Rio. If you’ve left it to the eleventh hour to pick up a gift, however, leather, suede, art, Brazilian music CDs and coffee are good choices.
A piece of local jewellery is another sound idea and we particularly like the designs of Sobral, a Rio-based designer, whose beautiful, highly colourful resin jewellery, accessories or homeware would make a stunning gift for a loved one. Check out the company’s US website, http://www.sobralusa.com/default.asp, for more information on this award-winning Brazilian designer.
As Frank Sinatra memorably put it: “They’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil”, and what fantastic coffee it is. Make sure you grab a last-minute caffeine fix at Via Mundi Café before your flight leaves. Alternatively, head to Rei do Mate for a cup of refreshing mate tea, which is made from the dried leaves and twigs of the Yerba Mate tree, and drunk all over South America. Trust us, it tastes a lot better than it sounds!
See the Tax Free Travel Shopping Guide ….
And for arriving passengers check your allowances