Where to shop at Brazil’s busiest airport ….

Duty Free Sao Paulo GuarulhousSão Paulo-Guarulhos International is Brazil’s busiest airport, handling nearly 27 million passengers a year, but sadly all too rarely in the airport world does size equate to good customer service. In fact, this ageing Brazilian hub comes in for such a grilling from frequent travellers online that it would be enough to make the ears of the most negligent airport owner burn in shame.The long litany of customer complaints about Guarulhos airport (as it more commonly called by locals) includes frequent flight delays, overcrowding, long immigration queues, expensive taxis, confusing signage, unhelpful staff and generally dirty facilities. As one online reviewer, memorably puts it: “The only advantage of flying here is that you will never complain about other airports.”

Pretty damning stuff, but in fairness to the airport’s owners, they have realised for some time that a substantial makeover is called for. Consequently, in 2009 an ambitious $784.7 million investment programme was unveiled, which includes the construction of a brand new terminal, which will increase overall passenger capacity by 12 million a year.

In the meantime any one flying from Guarulhos will have to make do as best they can. Our advice would be to give yourself plenty of time to both get to the airport from downtown (the traffic can be horrendous), and to clear immigration and security (as we’ve said, those queues are long). However, once you are in the departures lounge of either of the airport’s two terminals, the range of shops isn’t too bad, especially if you are interested in buying some Brazilian fashion and jewellery items.

However, let’s start with duty-free, which in Brazil is immensely popular with the locals, partly because of high domestic taxes, and partly because, well, this fashion-conscious nation loves to shop. Arrivals duty-free is particularly big business thanks to the very generous personal allowances• travellers can buy up to 12 litres of spirits or wine each, along with 400 cigarettes and 25 cigars.

Swiss travel-retail Dufry runs the duty-free concession in both terminals, and offers a full range of duty-free goods, including liquor, tobacco, fragrances, cosmetics, luggage, electronics, watches, confectionery, fashion and toys. The company offers a comprehensive website, www.dufrydutyfree.com.br, which although in Portuguese only, gives non-speakers a fairly good idea of what is available.

When it comes to liquor, 12 year-old blended Scotch whisky rules the roost in this part of the world. Buchanan’s, Chivas Regal, Old Parr and J&B are all big brands here. If you are flying into Guarulhos and browsing arrivals look for multi-bottle deals to take full advantage of the large allowance. For instance, you could pick up 12 bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label for $370, or six bottles of Chivas Regal 12 Year Old for $179.55.One last thing to mention on duty-free: a gate-delivery system in place for duty-free purchases as is the case at many US airports.

Away from the internationally recognised cosmetics and fragrance brands found in duty-free, why not seek out something a little more unusual in Chamma da Amazonia (Terminal 2, Wing D)? This Brazilian retailer sells eco-friendly beauty products and fragrances using raw materials from the country’s fast-disappearing Rain Forests.

Fragrances are made with Amazonian plants such as patchouli, lavender and priprioca, as well as edible fruits such as açaí, cupuaçu, guaraná and passion fruit. Various other seeds, herbs, roots, resins, and oils are used as well. Visit the company’s website, http://www.chammadaamazonia.com.br/, to get a better feel of the type of beauty ranges Chamma da Amazonia sells.

One of the more unusual fashion outlets at Guarulhos is the Fátima Rendas outlet (also in Terminal 2, Wing D). It specialises in Renaissance Lace, which was first brought to Brazil by European missionary nuns in the sixteenth century. Fátima Rendas has successfully brought this traditional handicraft up to date, creating a range of subtly decorated women’s and children’s fashion lines, bridal wear, and even men’s shirts. See company website http://www.fatimarendas.com.br/ for more details.

Guarulhos has its fair share of international fashion stores such as Lacoste (Terminal 2, Wing C) and Timberland ( Terminal 1, Wing D), but we like the fact it gives Brazilian fashion lots of room too. Take your pick from Havaianas (Terminal 1, Wing B), which sells showy flip flops studded with Swarovski crystals, Gap-style fashion from Hering (Corridor Interconnection), and São Paulo-based Le Postiche (Terminal 2, Wing D), a nation-wide chain selling purses, bags and travel accessories.

Jewellery is another strong product category at the airport. For instance, H. Stern is a high-end international jeweller specialising in coloured gemstones with over 160 stores worldwide, while Capim & Cia, a Brazilian company, specialises in ornate, highly decorative gold jewellery. We particularly like the jewellery of Patricia Centurion, a São Paulo-born artist, whose exquisite, contemporary designs are inspired by subjects as diverse as the Brazilian landscape, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Kenyan handicrafts (see http://www.patriciacenturion.com.br/websiteEnglish/).

Despite all the negative feedback it gets from travellers, Guarulhos is fairly well appointed for customer services. If your crown has fallen out, there is Dental Clinic in Terminal 2; if you fancy a haircut, there is also a hairdresser, the grand-sounding Instituto de Beleza Linda Hair in Terminal 1. Add to that a massage and acupuncture parlour (Terminal 1), Bio Quality, a beauty spa (Terminal 2), the Traveller Spa de Beleza, two drug stores, and even a locksmith (La Berbele, Terminal 2, Wing C).

Finally, when hunger strikes, it is good to know the range of restaurants and cafés at the airport has improved greatly in recent years. If you want the reassurance of international brands there are plenty of choices such as Mc Donald’s and Pizza Hut, but there are also plenty of other options, which include the odd combination of a café-cum-sushi bar (Black Coffee-Sushi Bar), a crêperie (Crepe de Paris, and an ice-cream parlour (Brunella Ice).

Related links

(Unofficial) airport guide (in English)

http://www.aeroportoguarulhos.net/en/guarulhos-international-airport-gru

Tax Free Travel Shopping Guide …..

And for arriving passengers check your allowances