When looking to travel in Brazil, you’ll find the actual logistics of travel can be the most expensive part; and while the buses are fantastic (much better than UK) the are frequently as expensive as flights – which by reputation aren’t exactly cheap! However, we’ve just flown with Gol airlines and were so impressed I’m dedicating this entire post to them.
Yesterday was our trip from Paraty to Salvador de Bahia, the 3rd largest city in Brazil renowned for its culture, beaches and chilled out attitude. It was also a trip that we weren’t really looking forward to attempting, as Lynette potentially had to carry four bags and a 13 stone disabled person on her back to get there. She’s been an absolute saint over the past few days of having a lump of immobile meat for a husband! Thankfully it went a lot smoother than it could have; simply because the buses and flights were so great!
Lynette trooping along with about 30Kg of backpack!
Lynette trooping along with about 30Kg of backpack!03-Jun-2009 21:36, Canon Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL, 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
When you’re trying to book a flight in Brazil you’re likely to come across a number of problems. The main companies that fly are TAM, Gol, LAN, Webjet and others. LAN is probably the most famous, but also the most expensive. The main issues you’ll have with flying in Brazil are;
- Their website is Portuguese only.
- They require you to book with a CPF number, a person’s unique ID in Brazil (if you’re a tourist you won’t have one).
- They require payment with a Brazilian based credit card; they also love American Exspress over here!
We’ve just flown our first internal flight with Gol, who are a budget airline in South America, the equivalent of Ryanair in the UK. But much, much better! To make life for UK/Europe based individuals appreciate why, we’re going to do a bare knuckle cage fight between the two; although I’ve probably already given the ending away so no Shyamalan twists here!
The Booking Experience
Ryanair: Completely online, including checkin, just bring a paper ticket. Pay extra for; paying by credit or debit card, carrying luggage, speaking to them on the phone, booking very close to the date you want to fly.
Gol: Completely online, including checkin, don’t even need to bring a paper ticket. Pay nothing extra for payment method, whether or not you carry more luggage, feel free to call and discuss, book in the morning and fly in the afternoon for still a bargain price.
Gol delivers a crushing right hook! To book Gol, go to the Gol website, click on the “brazil” flag in the top right and click other countries. This will change the language to English and crucially, allow you to book without a CPF number; it also allows you to use credit cards that are not Brazilian! It doesn’t seem to accept Visa debit cards from the UK, but once it has declined you simply call them up, ask to speak to somebody in English (press #2, #2 to speak to somebody) and then give them your reference number. They’ll reserve it for you, often even reducing the price slightly (really) and then tell you to just pay when you get there. They’ll give you a conversation reference to prove it took place. Very friendly, very easy, very impressed.
The flight itself was from Santos Dumont airport in the centre of Rio de Janeiro (domestic flights only) to San Salvador Airport at 11pm, arriving at 1am. We wanted to make sure we had enough time to get the bus from Paraty to Rio – we did, and had a fascinating 7hr wait at the airport. Oh to have two legs! Anyway, The flights cost only R$130 each (~£40) which is not bad at all and a lot cheaper than bus, also 2hrs compared to about 20hrs!
Ryanair: Normally about a 2hr drive from where you actually want to be. When you arrive, UK airports generally have long queues and rigorous security checks.
Gol: Santos Dumont is in the centre of Rio, so you have to deal with a lot of traffic and crazy drivers; its about R$20 for the taxi from Nuevo Rodoviaria (main bus station). On checking in, they whisked me out a wheel chair and merrily wheeled me around the massive airport. Security checkin consisted of scanning my bag; didn’t ask a thing about all the liquids I’d left in it and on account of my wheelchair I didn’t get scanned at all. Lynette had a whale of a time wheeling me around also, leaving me facing walls and doorways and other hilarious places like that. Being in a wheelchair is an odd experience; people stare and I did feel like dribbling a bit to show that the wheelchair was fully warranted. FYI it was R$70 for a taxi to Alpha Hostel in Barra, the district of Salvador we are staying in.
Gol sneaks in with a kick in the happysack! A bit of a technicality, but they were so helpful and the whole process so easy that I’m going to give it to them anyway.
The Flying Experience
Ryanair: You get a seat, first come first served. Nothing is free, potentially even the toilet one day, and its generally pretty full.
Gol: You can reserve a seat online; even change it to a different day online without any penalties! When you fly, you are given snacks and drinks all free! There were only five people on our flight. It was a joyous experience. Probably because there were only five people on our flight, but our bags were at baggage reclaims faster than we were. Impressive.
Gol finishes off Ryanair with a one inch punch! No comparison here, Gol doesn’t let its opponent get a look in…
Bare Knuckle Cage Fight results
So, unsurprisingly Gol wins. A 3-0 victory, that I’d rate much higher if I could! Still, I know I’ll fly Ryanair when we get back to the UK, how would we get to Eastern Europe for our budget skiing otherwise?! Book Gol when in Brazil!
Alpha Hostel chillout zone!
Alpha Hostel chillout zone!05-Jun-2009 19:01, Canon Canon EOS 400D DIGITAL, 9.0, 30.0mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 800
So we’re on our second day in Salvador, haven’t seen much of it but after a marathon seven hour session at Sao Rafael, a consultation & MRI scan, I now have crutches! I’ve already been to the supermarket and everything! Bought waaay too much and had to carry seven plastic bags and my backpack while “crutching” but hey, I was mobile! Woohoo!
We’re staying at the Alpha Hostel, a beautiful colonial house with loads of room and an awesome kitchen. We have a good room with the best shower yet, although there are mosquitoes around so we still need to DEET up. Bad news, they don’t sell beer here. Good news, that means you can buy your own and put it into the fridge! Hence my trip to the supermarket… It is quite a quiet hostel so hopefully more will turn up today, Adam the owner is a great guy and big thanks to Harrison, the resident taxi driver, who kept me and Lynette sane in his heroic efforts getting us from A to B for medical care. Within ten minutes of arriving, I’d been given a Reiki massage for my knee by Carolina a girl from Mexico, and we’d met Talia, a writer who has a seat booked with Virgin Galactic in two years time. An interesting place!