There are cheaper ways to get to Rio from Buenos Aires. You can travel in the off-season, take a budget airline, or fly to Puerto Iguazú, cross over to Foz do Iguaçu by land, and then fly again to Rio, just to name a few. But my girlfriend could only make it during the winter holidays, which were less than a month away when we decided we wanted a little getaway for a couple of weeks. As I drift into my 30’s, I’ve lost part of my let’s-strap-my-backpack-on-and-set-off sense of adventure but am still limited to tight budgets. As it was, most direct 3-hour flights were over 600 USD/person and we ended up booking a 16-hour trip with two connections for 450 USD each.
So, after enduring the long lines at a packed Ezeiza Airport in the late evening– I’d recommend avoiding the last two weeks of July if possible, our itinerary looked as follows:
- Buenos Aires – Asunción flight 10:00 pm (2 hours)
- Asunción layover (6 hours)
- Asunción – Sao Paulo flight 5:00 am (1:30 hours)
- Sao Paulo layover (6 hours)
- Sao Paulo – Rio flight 2:00 pm (1 hour)
Our journey back was the exact opposite, making another stop in Paraguay, whose airport serves as a hub for LATAM. I remember I also had a layover there on my way back to Argentina from Bolivia. If you have extra time on your hands, taking an indirect flight through this route may save you some bucks.
For my part, I had the time and had Blood Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera (to get in sync with Brazil) and Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (just because it’s awesome). Equipped with these books (and Pokemon Go), I turned long stays at airports into two extra days of vacation.
Of course, there was still the problem of eating and sleeping without incurring charges that would have undone our savings. Here’s where having credit cards on relatives’ accounts just for lounge-access came in. So, without further ado, here are the lounges we visited and how they fared in terms of satisfying our need for rest and nourishment.
Sala Centurión (Buenos Aires)
This was one of the best lounges as far as food goes. They had a good variety with vegetables, fruits, carbs, and protein-rich foods, so you can have a full, healthy meal here. The ambiance was nice, and the chairs were comfy, although the lounge was crowded and didn’t seem great for sleeping if you have a connection flight.
Asunción VIP Lounge (Asunción)
This was hands down the worst lounge we visited. The seats were not much better than those in front of the gates and the only “food” they offered were greasy snacks, watery set yogurt, and some admittedly delicious tapioca chips. We couldn’t sleep a wink, which was probably the worst of it all. As a redeeming quality, they seemed to have a decent selection of alcohol, but we don’t really like drinking.
Gol Domestic Premium Lounge (Sao Paulo)
We stayed here from around 10 am to 2 pm while we waited for our connection flight to Rio. The food selection was decent buy limited (the most substantial thing they had was sausages in red sauce). The seats were comfortable, though, and some even had enough room to lie down and try to catch some sleep.
Gol International Premium Lounge (Sao Paulo)
We were here at night before our flight to Asunción on the way back. It was pretty much identical to the previous lounge, but with a slightly wider food selection, perhaps because of the time of day.
Gol Premium Lounge (Rio)
This was by far the best of all Gol lounges. They had good, varied food with some vegetarian choices, comfortable seating and even showers with grooming kits.
Star Alliance (Sao Paulo)
This lounge had good food but, above all, the seating was great. The white armchairs were really comfortable and probably good enough to sleep on.
Amex (Sao Paulo)
This was a good lounge overall with probably the most varied food selection. There was a wide range of vegetarian/vegan food to choose from.
Extra Lounge: El Alto Airport, Bolivia
This was in 2018 so I don’t remember it that well, but this lounge was definitely better than the one in Asunción but not as good as the ones in Brazil and Buenos Aires.
So, if you’re short on money but long on time, taking a bit of a detour could work in your favor. And, as you’ve seen, there are some nice lounges in South America that might make your layovers a bit or a lot more comfortable.