Getting to Brazil

Travelling to Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century meant a lengthy sea voyage for both Europeans and Americans. From the UK visitors came and went in great style on the Alcântara, Andes and Arlanza of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. In 1914 it was a voyage for the rich, and a round trip first class ticket from London to Rio de Janeiro cost £53. That at a time when a family car would have cost £200.

Today’s international travellers disembark at one of Brazil’s many modern airports and come ashore from the fleets of planes that link Brazil in a matter of hours with the rest of the world.

By Air

Brazil is very well connected by air to Europe, North America and its South American neighbours. There are also an increasing number of flights and connections across Africa and the Gulf states.

From the UK the carriers offering direct, non-stop flights to Brazil are British Airways and TAM Airlines. Other carriers offering flights to Brazil from Europe include Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, Emirates, Etihad, Ibéria, KLM, LAN, Lufthansa, Qatar, Swiss and TAP. TAP offers non-stop flights from Europe (Lisbon) to more destinations in Brazil than any other carrier. It is also possible to connect from Europe to Brazil over North America with Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, and United, that all offer several daily services.

Brazil’s main international gateways and domestic hubs are the international airports in São Paulo (Guarulhos – GRU) and Rio de Janeiro (Galeão – GIG). The distance between the two airports is 220 miles (353 km).

São Paulo and Rio also have smaller airports closer to the city centres that are used for the air-shuttle between the two cities and a number of other short haul regional services. They are Congonhas (CGH) in São Paulo and Santos Dumont (SDU) in Rio.

Other Brazilian cities with direct flights from Europe and the US include Belo Horizonte (CNF), Brasília (BSB), Fortaleza (FOR), Manaus (MAO), Natal (NAT), Porto Alegre (POA), )Recife (REC) and Salvador (SSA).

Flight time from Europe to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is just over eleven hours depending on your starting point and less than nine hours to Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador. Most flights leave from Europe in the evening and arrive early morning in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, although British Airways offer a daylight service. On the return leg they leave late afternoon or evening to get to Europe the following day around lunchtime or later.

Flight time is eight and a half hours from Miami to São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, just over nine from New York, eleven from Atlanta, thirteen from Los Angeles and sixteen from San Francisco.

The vast majority of flights between North America and Brazil are overnight flights that arrive in Brazil in the early morning, with the bonus for east coast travellers that the time difference between the east coast and Rio de Janeiro is minimal.

LATAM SPSão Paulo and Rio de Janeiro receive flights daily from most of the other major Latin American cities.

Distances from Rio de Janeiro’s International Airport in miles / kilometers:

  • Amsterdam – 5937 / 9554
  • Atlanta – 4745 / 7637
  • Berlin – 6207 / 9989
  • Bogota – 2814 / 4528
  • Buenos Aires – 1232 / 1983
  • Cape Town – 3775 / 6075
  • Copenhagen – 6321/ 10173
  • Frankfurt – 5994 / 9566
  • Hong Kong – 11,004 / 17709
  • Johannesburg – 4437 / 7141
  • Lima  – 2346 / 3776
  • London – 5750 / 9254
  • Los Angeles – 6293 / 10128
  • Lisbon – 4780 / 7692
  • Madrid – 5044 / 8118
  • Mexico City – 5057 / 8139
  • Miami – 4163 / 6700
  • Montreal – 5079 / 8174
  • Moscow – 7165 / 11532
  • New York – 4803 / 7729
  • Paris – 5683 / 9145
  • Quito – 2838 / 4567
  • Rome – 5705 / 9181
  • Stockholm – 6637 / 10682
  • Santiago – 1817 / 2925
  • Sydney – 8412 / 13538
  • Tokyo – 11,532 / 18559
  • Toronto – 5124 / 8246
  • Zurich – 5809 / 9349

Visitors who are intending to travel on from their point of entry to explore the rest of Brazil should consider investing in a Brazilian Airpass before arriving in the country. The TAM Airpass can only be sold outside of Brazil and to non-residents with a return air ticket. The price of the Airpass varies, but considering the size of Brazil and the cost of internal Brazilian air travel, it offers excellent value for money.

There is also a South American Airpass which allows the holder to travel economically throughout Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

SP Airport

On Arrival by Air

On arrival in Brazil non-Brazilians will have their passport, visa (if required) and other immigration formalities checked. Like most international airports, the airports in Brazil have separate lines for national passport holders and foreign visitors. Foreign passport holders should make sure they get their passports stamped and have the correct visa.

Brazil’s international airports offer duty free goods on arrival, normally close to the baggage pick up area, and visitors, on presentation of their passport and ticket, will be allowed to purchase up to US$500 worth of duty free products, including drink and tobacco.

By Ship

Since flying became so fast, cheap and popular, no regular passenger service is left between Brazil and the rest of the world although some cargo lines, such as the Grimaldi Lines, do offer a limited service from Europe.

However, Brazil is one of the main regions of the world for cruising, and Rio de Janeiro is a prime port of call for world cruises. The best time to find a cruise ship on which to travel is when they are relocating to Brazil at the end of the European summer season or returning to Europe or the Caribbean at the end of the Brazilian summer season.

Any good travel agent should be able to find out which ships are scheduled to cruise in Brazilian waters in the coming year. Popular ports of call in Brazil, besides Rio de Janeiro, include Belém, Búzios, Manaus, Fortaleza, Itajaí, Recife, Salvador, Santos and Vitória.

By Bus and Car

Despite the distances involved, it is possible to travel from Brazil to another country by bus or car. The journey to Buenos Aires from Rio de Janeiro, for example, takes 44 hours and covers over 1,800 miles (2,900 km).

Reservations for buses should be made in advance through a travel agent or at the relevant bus terminal. Immigration formalities take place at the respective borders.

For a guide to Getting Around in Brazil click here.


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Christopher Pickard – Brazil the Guide – Critical Divide
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