Date: October 17, 2015
In South America, competition for the title of best airport on the continent often revolves around which terminals can be cleanest, friendliest and offer up the fastest free Wi-Fi. Although the best airports on this regional list tend to lack the extravagances of our global leaders, their ability to consistently offer a reliable and reasonably-comfortable visit is enough for our voters’ books. That said, it is certainly noticed by our voters when a terminal goes out of its way to offer wallet-friendly dining options, large windows with spectacular views and the odd free pillow or shower!
These are the Top 10 Best Airports in South America based on overall airport experience as determined by voters in our 2015 Airport Survey:
1. Guayaquil José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Ecuador (GYE)
Guayaquil’s recently renovated airport continues its two-year climb on our list of best airports in South America. The terminal provides virtually all of our favourite airport services including free Wi-Fi, 24-hour restaurants, free pillows, plenty of charging points and a good number of comfortable places to lay down. And, showers are available through the VIP area – a private lounge that gets great reviews on value. All this comfort is supported with consistently excellent customer service, impeccable cleanliness and oodles of convenient dining options. Guayaquil is, for the moment, a truly unparalleled regional leader – well done! See also Best Airports for Sleeping.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Showers ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage. For more information, visit our Guayaquil Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of juanmayou on Instagram
2. Montevideo General Cesáreo L. Berisso International Airport (Carrasco), Uruguay (MVD)
Uruguay’s international airport also continues to climb our charts following its 2010 renovation. Though small, the terminal’s spacious design and sleek architecture comfortably accommodates the small number of passengers that travel to or through MVD. And, the free and fast Wi-Fi boosts traveller happiness even more! Other perks include long benches without armrests, a 24-hour café, an aviation museum, and many quiet overnight locations. As with last year, the only drawback to MVD is the high restaurant prices – but that is nothing that cannot be remedied with a little advance preparation! Bring a snack and enjoy your time in this teeny rising star of a terminal.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Carrasco Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of nachoperaalta on Instagram
3. Bogota El Dorado International Airport, Colombia (BOG)
Survey respondents found Bogota International Airport to be clean, efficient and happy to serve. The airport offers free Wi-Fi, luggage storage and a sprinkling of reasonably-priced restaurants that stay open late. Seating is infinitely more comfortable airside, where voters report finding a number of cushioned chairs in reasonably quiet corners. Though, should you find yourself without a couch, the floor between the shops is allegedly nearly free from foot traffic. Outside of the factors that make this airport fairly sleep-friendly, amenities within the terminal are standard. There is a small bookstore with a few English books near the boarding gates, a foreign exchange office (airside) and an ATM (landside). See also Best Airports for Sleeping.
Airport Services/Facilities: Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Bogota Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of wapalacio on Instagram
4. Lima Jorge Chávez International Airport, Peru (LIM)
Lima’s spot on our best airports in South America list is secured by the friendly staff who manage a clean, efficient and easy-to-navigate terminal. However, the Peruvian capital’s airport dropped a few points this year, likely because of a growing frustration with the pre-departure set-up. Passengers at LIM are not permitted to pass through security to the comfortable area of the airport until a few hours before their flight, leaving many travellers with a grievance or two. Landside, seating and facilities beyond the 24-hour food court are particularly sparse, while noise is all too prevalent. However, once you do make it to the airside section of the terminal, you’re treated to cheap massages and Wi-Fi through a purchase at Starbucks. We suspect that with airport-wide Wi-Fi and a few more benches landside, Lima could reclaim its top spot.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • 15 minutes Free WiFi • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($). For more information, visit our Lima Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of rrojaszegarra on Instagram
5. Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Ecuador (UIO)
Mariscal Sucre opened in 2013, after the old airport quite literally outgrew its location in a more urban area of Quito. In the years since, the terminal has ironed out the kinks, earning it a spot on our 2015 best airports list. Currently, highlights include free Wi-Fi, hundreds of charging points, luggage storage, showers and a good variety of restaurants and shops. Though chairs lack cushions and don’t lack armrests, the terminal is said to be consistently clean and safe enough to curl up for a sleep where you can.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($). For more information, visit our Quito Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of felipe_rueda on Instagram
6. Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Chile (SCL)
Santiago’s international airport begins to woo travellers with great views of the Andean mountains through large glass windows. Attention captured, amenities like free Wi-Fi, showers, armrest-less chairs post-security and good food options continue to earn the terminal voter points. Luggage storage and pay-per-use lounges – both available for a fee – make the airport a little more convenient for those with a little extra cash. That said, travellers in 2015 remarked that the terminal was looking a little run down and could use a facelift. Fresher décor and a couple entertainment options would help move SCL higher in the hearts of those who visit.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • 24-Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Santiago Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of carochunita on Instagram
7. Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini International Airport (Ezeiza), Argentina (EZE)
Last year, “Ezeiza” claimed the title of second best airport in South America and has since dropped a number of points in the minds of our voters. Located far from the pricey city centre, EZE has a few good corners for sleeping, and a number of staff that are pleasantly accepting of those who nap. And, features like high ceilings, luggage storage, 24-hour restaurants and free Wi-Fi make an extended stay here all the more pleasant. However, this year’s voters were all extremely frustrated by crowds of disorganized travellers, the long queues at customs, and the dated décor. With renovations perpetually underway we are hopeful things in the terminal will improve – though only time will tell!
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport Guide.
8. Buenos Aires Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery, Argentina (AEP)
Located a mere 2km outside of downtown Buenos Aires, Jorge Newbery is a small, convenient and slightly dated airport with a great view of the sea. Though AEP serves only domestic and nearby South American destinations, the airport recently became Argentina’s busiest airport – and seating within the terminals has become quite competitive as a result. That said, AEP claims a spot on this list because travellers appreciate the presence of free Wi-Fi, efficient immigration and – most importantly – easy access to local public transport and nearby attractions. These features all but make up for the limited and pricey availability of shops and restaurants within the terminal walls.
Airport Services/Facilities: Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Buenos Aires Aeroparque Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of msmmarian on Instagram
9. Brasília–Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport, Brazil (BSB)
Taxi rides to hotels in Brasília tend to come at high cost, meaning that a number of travellers set up camp within BSB terminals for a few hours. Though check-in can be a bit chaotic, once you’re past security voters say it is a comfortable and modern airport. Perks include free Wi-Fi, plenty of plugs and a sprinkling of good food options like McDonalds, sushi and Italian. Though it can be a bit difficult to find a quiet place to sleep, one voter said that a nook on the third floor is workable for a sleep. Up here, you can also find free water fountains near the bathroom.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi. For more information, visit our Brasilia Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of diegospaiva on Instagram
10. Recife/Guararapes-Gilberto Freyre International Airport, Brazil (REC)
Recife’s international airport rounds off our top ten list, thanks to its free Wi-Fi and its variety of Brazilian shops and restaurants. Local delicacies like the bolo de rolo are available to sample, and many restaurants are open 24 hours a day. That said, the better options tend to be located before security. Renovated in 2004, the terminals are also reasonably clean, naturally lit and spacious. A final bonus that comes with travelling through Recife? Landings and departures are said to have a pretty spectacular view of the surrounding landscapes!
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • 24-Hour Food Options. For more information, visit our Recife Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of damasceno1997 on Instagram