Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Domestic Flights in Brazil

If visiting other parts of Brazil during tours or on business, rather than just Sao Paulo and Rio, it is worth checking a few different options before buying your flights. if only visiting one other city, Salvador  say, you can check prices for flying into Rio then out of Salvador. Even if you have to connect back in Sao Paulo or Rio first, the price of the final domestic flight from Salvador to make your connection may work out cheaper when included as part of your international package. Your options are also opened up a little by having two major cities for flying home, rather than just buying returns to Rio.

This can be especially important for people visiting places far distant from Sao Paulo or Rio. For example if you finish a tour of Brazil at an Amazon lodge close to Manaus, the lodge boats might only have you back in the city for midday. Flights to Sao Paulo can then be better options for connecting to your overnight international flight. It can often be cheaper to buy single flights from inside Brazil. The cheapest seats for online booking are only available inside the country, although the passenger doesn’t necessarily have to be in the country themselves at the time. You do need  an agent in the country though.

Domestic flights in Brazil are mainly covered by TAM and GOL airlines. Other smaller airlines cover a selection of routes, with OceanAir, Trip, Azul, Jetsul and WebJet offering more than just local coverage. If you find the correct flight, these airlines can often work out cheaper for just a couple  of flights if your route is covered.

If you are touring Brazil and visiting a few different destinations though, it is best to use only one of the two major Brazilian airlines for all your domestic flights. Both TAM and GOL have a Brazil Airpass to enable foreign visitors to travel around the whole country more cheaply (with the exception of the Fernando de Noronha islands!).

The TAM Brazil and South America Airpasses and the GOL Brazil/South America/North-East Airpasses are options that you should explore. TAM have also recently joined forces with LAN, who cover far more of the Spanish-speaking countries and have lots of domestic routes from Buenos Aires, Santiago and Lima. This may mean a vast increase in the amount of South America destinations that can be covered on one airpass in the future.

Whichever airpass works best for your itinerary, the idea is generally the same as they work on similar lines. You must already have bought your international flights for entry into Brazil and exit too, although one flight only is possible for those travelling overland from Argentina or arriving by cruise boat for example. As long as you have your international flight ticket number, you can organise a Brazil Airpass, or one for South America. This must be done from home though, before you travel, the airpass is not open to international visitors already in South America.

The flights must be bought via a registered flight agent based outside of Brazil, such as the wonderful Linda at Vision Travel. The airlines’ own websites and those such as Expedia do not offer this service.

The airpasses work on coupons, with a minimum of four destinations included. If you are only visiting three cities it may be worth including a fourth ‘dummy’ flight to use the airpass, rather than buying your flights individually, especially if longer domestic journeys are involved.

The prices vary, with TAM being cheaper if your international flight to Brazil is also with the airline. As yet, GOL do not fly long-haul routes outside of South America. 

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