5 Reasons Brazil Should Be Your Next Mileage Run
With $40 e-visas now available to US citizens (as opposed to $160 for a visa that took three weeks previously) there has never been a better time to head to Brazil. And if that isn't reason enough, here are five more reasons to make Brazil your next mileage run.
1. All Three Major Alliances Are There
No matter with whom you're trying to rack up miles, Brazil is a great choice, as oneworld member LATAM calls Brazil home and American Airlines flies to five cities in Brazil from Miami (MIA) alone, in addition its to service from Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York-JFK. In total, five oneworld carriers serve destinations in Brazil.
For you Star Alliance folks, you're spoiled for choice too. In addition to Avianca Brazil being one of the domestic airlines, Copa Airlines currently serves seven destinations in Brazil from its Panama City hub (PTY) and has just announced service to two more, Fortaleza (FOR) and Salvador da Bahia (SSA) from next July. TAP Air Portugal serves a whopping 10 destinations in Brazil from its hub in Lisbon (LIS), which is a great way to really make your mileage run as productive as possible. In total, 12 Star Alliance carriers serve Brazil.
SkyTeam also has a presence here, with seven member carriers serving Brazil. Local airline GOL Linhas Aereas isn't a SkyTeam member, but it's a partner of Delta and Air France/KLM, so SkyMiles members earn Medallion Qualification Miles when flying GOL (though Flying Blue members earn miles but not elite qualification). GOL has announced that they will be resuming flights to the US in fall 2018, when they have their 737 MAX 8s delivered. Routes include Miami and Orlando (MCO) to Fortaleza and Brasilia (BRB).
2. Fares and Deals
LATAM usually has pretty good deals for travelers heading to Brazil. At the moment, tickets from New York and Miami to São Paulo (GRU) and Rio (GIG) are under $750 round-trip, and deals are available from other US cities as well. Avianca has recently started service to New York-JFK and Miami, and is selling tickets for as low as $1,800 round-trip in business class — a whopping $3,000 or more less than anyone else flying the same routes nonstop. (Oddly enough, they can only be booked through Avianca's Brazilian website — Avianca's US website doesn't even pull up these flights.) Azul has similar business-class fares from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Orlando. Copa has great deals in the $700-to-$900 round-trip range.
3. Easy Hotel Points
Maximize your mileage run and earn hotel points while you're at it: Almost all of the major hotel chains have properties in Brazil. Of note are the Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana and JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro, both of which are right smack on Copacabana Beach. The Pullman Ibirapuera in São Paulo is another great property, with sweeping views of Ibirapuera Park; and the Renaissance São Paulo is in the upscale Jardins district and has great views of the city from its 23rd-floor executive lounge. For you Starwood Preferred Guests fans, it's got to be the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel, with its private beach and sweeping views of Ipanema and Leblon, or the Kenoa, a resort up north that's a member of Design Hotels.
4. Unique Brazil
While you're on the ground in Brazil, however short your time here is, there is so much to do and see in a country so diverse. Havaianas, the ubiquitous Brazilian flip-flop, make the perfect gift for your friends who didn't chase elite status with you. They cost less than half in Brazil (around $10 a pair) than they do in the States, and their stores feel like a trip to the beach — the Espaço Havaianas in São Paulo has palm trees growing in the middle of the store!
Pop into a samba school on a weekend night to dance the night away in the streets, and be sure to try feijoada, a delicious black-bean stew that is cooked for days and usually only served on weekends. Beach time is sacred in Brazil, and if you make your run to Rio or one of the beach cities up north, take some time to just sit back and enjoy the unique beach culture in this country where people actually wish each other "boa praia," or "happy beaching." And of course, there's açai, the health food that has reached craze status (and prices) in the US; it's still available at corner shops and bars in Brazil for about $3.
5. While You're There
If you make your mileage run to São Paulo, be sure to check out Liberdade, the largest Japanese community outside Japan. São Paulo is also home to some world-class museums, like the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, and numerous restaurants from Brazilian steakhouses to French bistros, to Japanese izakayas and everything in between. Try celebrity chef Alex Atala's restaurant D.O.M. for a world-class Brazilian dining experience. (One of my top-five favorite restaurants worldwide!)
If Rio is more your speed, then you'll of course need to make a trip up to Christ the Redeemer or at least take the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain. Then go plop down on Ipanema Beach for a quick dose of vitamin D before heading home. (Copacabana is nice too, but the water at Ipanema is clearer and cleaner because of the prevailing currents.)
Enjoy your mileage run to Brazil, and boa viagem and boa praia!
Feature photo by @anthony.kolodziej via Twenty20