Rio de Janeiro airport review: Rio de Janeiro–Galeao International Airport

THE FLIGHT

LATAM flight LA8038 to Montevideo, economy class.

THE ARRIVAL

There are (reasonably convoluted) bus and train options for getting to the airport, but at just under $R50 for the 40-odd minute Uber journey from the southern beach hotspots, it'll take a real dedication to tight-fistedness to bother with them. It's a cracker of a journey, too, past Rio's lagoon and distinctively protruding, green-topped mountains.

THE LOOK

You know Rio's reputation for sexy? Well, this is the direct opposite. A concrete monstrosity of a terminal wraps around a series of somehow even uglier multi-storey car parks. Inside, it's less repulsive, with some clear pre-World-Cup-and-Olympics-lipstick-on-a-pig work covering as much concrete as possible with white panels and allowing plenty of natural light in.

CHECK-IN

There are self-check-in touchscreens, but previous experience has shown these can be a bit temperamental with tickets booked through codeshare partners. So we saunter up to the counter, where there's no queue, and are processed straight away. It's probably worth bearing in mind that most of the major international flights depart later in the day, so this may not be representative of the true Galeao experience.

SECURITY

Again, the vibe of being the only people in the airport not being paid to be there continues. It's the quickest security flit ever, with only laptop (not iPads, curiously) required to be removed from the bag. At passport control, we have to make coughing noises to let the distracted guy behind the desk know there are actually passengers to deal with. It's all eerily quick and crowd-free.

FOOD AND DRINK

The food court – now left with just one place doing Italian dishes and another serving tapioca-based "Brazilian crepes" – looks a little forlorn. Further around, though, the beach shack-esque Asaideira and Amazonian-styled Palaphita go all-in on the theme, managing to be lots of fun in the process. There are Brazilian dishes amongthe standard burgers and breakfasts, too. Palaphita's $R58 Amazonian salmon with garlic rice and banana puree is a great example.

RETAIL THERAPY

Even by the standards of modern airports, the forced looping detour through duty free is astonishingly cynical. But it's not just standard international brands. Sections sell cute beachwear, specialist chocolates made with local fruits and glass art birds. You'll also get at-source Havianas here, too.

KILLING TIME

The Aerotel on the third level offers pod-like rooms by the hour (not in the sordid sense), while the Wellness Spa serves up massage treatments. The latter, however, wasn't open when we arrived. Otherwise, Wi-Fi is free and unlimited, and there are some rather cool super-reclined purple chairs that almost work as beds.

ONE MORE THING

If flying domestically within Brazil, check you're at the right airport – a lot of internal flights go from the smaller, closer to the centre Santos Dumont Airport.

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THE VERDICT

It's hard to knock an experience that was so undeniably, painlessly smooth. In terms of what you actually want from an airport – no hassle – it was nigh on perfect. The fripperies around the edge of this could take a little boost, but certainly don't feel like a let down.

OUR RATING 

4 stars

David Whitley travelled at his own expense.

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