Airport review: Carrasco International Airport, Montevideo, Uruguay

OFFICIAL IATA CODE

MVD

THE FLIGHT

LATAM Chile flight LA405 to Santiago, premium economy

THE ARRIVAL

An Uber to the airport from the Punta Carretas 'hood costs just under 600 pesos. Pretty much double that for taxis. A decent stretch of the journey is along the wide River Plate estuary, and it takes just over half an hour. Several buses, costing peanuts, trundle along from the various bus terminals, taking a little longer.

THE LOOK

The terminal building is very easy on the eye, with the single, white, curving roof something of a showstopper. It has the feel of an alien spaceship slowly emerging from the earth. There's also an ancient wooden plane that the Wright Brothers would have felt at home with suspended from the roof, next to a few small trees growing by a high-level walkway that seems impossible to reach.

CHECK-IN

On arrival it looks hectic. But the big queues are for the Air Europa flight to Madrid. The LATAM line is pretty short and there are five people in the economy line as we chance our arm and go straight up to the "preferential" queue. It turns out premium economy counts for preferential and we're given a thoroughly unexpected, but very welcome, lounge pass at the end.

SECURITY

Remember when you didn't have to bother taking your laptop out of your bag? Uruguay does and there's much less security than usual. There are only two lanes open – one reserved for us "preferential" types, the other for mere mortals – though. There are about 30 people in the queue for the latter which is not outrageously long, but annoying when you can see conveyor belts without anyone operating them.

FOOD AND DRINK

It's a fun-sized eight-gate airport, so you don't go through expecting much. But even so, food and drink is a real weak spot. There are two options, both called Patria, selling generic sandwiches and salads, plus some pretty dry-looking empanadas. Expect to pay 130 pesos for a cafe con leche and 370 pesos for a chicken and cheese baguette. One serves pizzas and burgers after 11am, the other has an outdoor terrace. This isn't as appealing as it might sound, given the sensory barrage of cigarette smoke and roaring airconditioning vents.

RETAIL THERAPY

Given the size of the terminal, duty free is surprisingly large. Bewilderingly, the two international brands with separate stores are Victoria's Secret and MAC cosmetics. The best spending is to be done at Rincon del Tannat, which sells Uruguay's deliciously smooth tannat wines.

PASSING TIME

Kids get a small-ish plastic climbing frame with slides, adults get a little corner with sink-into Danish designer furniture. The lounge is more inviting than most with rich brown leather banquettes, a kids' area and a separate darkened room with three couch/beds for a sneaky bit of shut-eye.

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ONE MORE THING

Don't fret too much about getting to the gate as soon as boarding is called, You can walk from one end of the terminal to the other in 10 minutes.

THE VERDICT

Like Uruguay itself, Carrasco International Airport is cosy, quietly personable and done pretty well. Whether it's a great airport depends on what you like – bags of facilities and gimmicks, or easy-going compactness that's low on headaches and epic schleps. If the latter, you've got a good 'un here.

OUR RATING

4 stars

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