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List of TOP 5 Central and South American airports

Central and South America are fantastic regions that still keep the secrets of their ancient tribes. People speak a wide range of languages, from Spanish to Portuguese, and believe in the gods of their ancestors. Keeping old traditions doesn’t stop this area from developing tourism, and developing tourism means more airports get a revamp: no wonder so many people get the opportunity to come here. Read on to find out all about Central and South America’s top airports.

TOP 5 biggest airports in Central and South America

  • São Paulo – Guarulhos International Airport, Brazil.
  • El Dorado International Airport, Bogotá, Colombia.
  • Tocumen International Airport, Panama City, Panama.
  • Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, Santiago, Chile.
  • Jorge Chávez International Airport, Lima, Peru.

São Paulo – Guarulhos International Airport, Brazil

São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport, formerly known as Cumbica Airport, is one of the largest airports in Brazil by area.The airport has three passenger terminals with more than 350 check-in counters. Terminal 1 has wings A and B, while Terminal 2 has wings C and D. It received a significant amount of investment for the 2016 Olympic Games as there would be a massive influx of travelers throughout the competition.

Everything you need to know about São Paulo – Guarulhos International Airport

Area 13.8 km2 Distance from city center 25 km
Airport code GRU Number of lounges 17
Date opened 1985 Number of airlines 33
Passenger no. 41.8 million Smoking Area yes
Number of flight routes 94; both domestic and international

São Paulo – Guarulhos International Airport: Practical tips

Food facilities are limited in Terminal 4, although coffee shops are available. Be sure to check out the pasta at Olive Garden! Delicious is an understatement. For tastier and more sophisticated food, head to Terminals 1 and 2.

Free Wi-Fi is available for only one hour (GRU WIFI network). In addition, charging stations are not spread across the whole airport-but staff will help you find one near some gates.If you need to sleep, go to Terminal 3: it is the most comfortable place to rest for free, especially in the plush chairs at Starbucks.

Interesting facts you should know

The first common-use self-service kiosks in Brazil were introduced at the São Paulo–Guarulhos airport in September 2009. The kiosks enable quick check-ins and have been making the airport’s operations run smoother since.

In 1986, a plane flying from Guarulhos to Belo Horizonte unknowingly tried to take off during a fog. The airplane collided with a dyke and broke in two. One passenger died.

The Brazilian band Mamonas Assassinas, popular in the 90s, notoriously died after their plane crashed into the Serra da Cantareira mountain range, not far from São Paulo-Guarulhos airport, in 1998.

Average monthly temperatures in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Avg Temp Rio de Janeiro Brasil

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El Dorado International Airport, Bogotá, Colombia

El Dorado International Airport is one of the top 100 busiest airports in the world and the most important gateway for trade in Latin America.

The airport has two passenger terminals: El Dorado and Puente Aéreo. The El Dorado terminal is the main one, with numerous passenger facilities for domestic and international flights. Puente Aéreo is smaller and serves domestic flights to Medellín and Cali.

Everything you need to know about El Dorado International Airport

Area 6.9 km2 Distance from city center 15 km
Airport code BOG Number of lounges 10
Date opened 1959 Number of airlines 39
Passenger no. 35 million Smoking Area yes
Number of flight routes 85; both domestic and international

El Dorado International Airport: Practical tips

If you need to exchange your money for pesos, don’t go to the first office you see-instead, find a Casa de Cambios Guendi or ScotiaBank ATM. They have the most beneficial rates, due to their location in more remote corners from the international arrival halls.

Don’t take a taxi ride from the Taxi Imperial counter before exiting the arrivals hall: they are legal, but more expensive. Join the (quick-moving) queue for the standard yellow taxis outside the airport.

Don’t miss a chance to try authentic Colombian coffee at the airport: skip Starbucks and opt for Cafe Quindio for a true local taste.

Interesting facts you should know

In 1989, a plane flying from Bogotá was destroyed by a bomb, and all passengers and crew died. Pablo Escobar bombed the plane in an attempt to assassinate the presidential candidate César Gaviria Trujillo, who was not on the plane. Gaviria Trujillo was elected President of Colombia in 1990.

El Dorado was awarded four-star certification, the “The Best Staff in South America” (2015–16) award, and “The Best Airport of South America” award (2016–18) by Skytrax for its excellence in customer service.

Tocumen International Airport, Panama City, Panama

Tocumen International Airport is the main international airport serving Panama City, the capital of Panama. This is the busiest airport in Central America since it is a hub connecting South America, the Caribbean, and North America. The airport consists of Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Both terminals have a wide variety of cafes and restaurants with fast food, delicatessens, and regional products.

 

Everything you need to know about Tocumen International Airport

Area 7.2 km2 Distance from city center 24 km
Airport code PTY Number of lounges 4
Date opened 1947 Number of airlines 18
Passenger no. 9.1 million Smoking Area no
Number of flight routes 81; both domestic and international

Tocumen Panama Airport: Practical tips

Keep in mind that the space near each gate is limited to around 50 seats. It can be pretty chaotic there at the best of times. Either come in advance or get something to lay on the floor and sit on.

If you fancy taking public transport, the fare to the city from the airport (and vice versa) will only cost you around $0.25.

Shop til you drop for awesome local trinkets at the airport! Browse Studio Natural and Celebra Panama for locally-made goods as souvenirs at reasonable prices.

Interesting facts you should know

The airport’s operations began even before the construction work was completed. Planes were already taking off, but the passenger terminals only began functioning seven years later.

The bed of the Tocumen River had to be diverted from its original site to build the structure of the current passenger terminal.

The airport was once renamed Omar Torrijos International Airport in honor of the Panamanian leader and dictator. It reverted to its original name after the fall of Panama’s dictatorship.

In 2015, the world’s longest non-stop flight-from Dubai to Tocumen International Airport-was planned to take place. Unfortunately, it was postponed and remained so.

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Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, Santiago, Chile

Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport is one of South America’s busiest and most advanced. It is a vital hub for flight connections between South America, the Caribbean, Oceania, North America, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Moreover, it is a hub or main connection center for LATAM, Sky Airlines, One Airlines, Aerocardal, and JetSmart.

Everything you need to know about Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport

Area 3 km2 Distance from city center 17 km
Airport code SCL Number of lounges 5
Date opened 1967 Number of airlines 21
Passenger no. 8.5 million Smoking Area no
Number of flight routes 51; both domestic and international

Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport: Practical tips

If you want a more filling meal than a coffee and sandwiches from Starbucks, head to restaurants like Medas Grill and the Ruby Tuesday Steakhouse.

Need a bus to the city? Go to the first level at gate 4. Centropuerto or TurBus carriers will take you to the city for around $2.Don’t miss a chance to try locally-made chocolate at La Fete, Britt Shop, or Havanna.

Interesting facts you should know

Initially, the airport was named Aeropuerto Internacional de Pudahuel. In 1980, it was renamed the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport to honor the founder of the Chilean Air Force.

In 2010, a massive earthquake occurred in Chile, and the passenger terminal building was partially damaged: a pedestrian bridge between the vehicle ramp and the departure area collapsed. Nevertheless, flights resumed four days later.

In 1969, a Boeing 727 heading to Arturo Merino Benítez Airport crashed, but none of the 60 passengers and crew were injured.

Jorge Chávez International Airport, Lima, Peru

Jorge Chávez International Airport, just outside Lima, is Peru’s main airport. It is a single-terminal airport and, compared to most international airports around the world, is relatively small. That explains why it is consistently ranked as one of South America’s busiest airports. Due to its modest size and simple layout, Jorge Chávez International Airport is easy to navigate. Check-in counters are visible upon entry, and a single set of escalators/stairs and an elevator lead to the second floor, where you’ll find customs and departure gates.

 

Everything you need to know about Jorge Chávez International Airport

Area 2.51 km2 Distance from city center 12 km
Airport code LIM Number of lounges 3
Date opened 1965 Number of airlines 39
Passenger no. 7.8 million Smoking Area yes
Number of flights 66; both domestic and international

Jorge Chávez International Airport: Practical tips

Besides Airport Express Lima, public transport offers no other options for getting to the city. The price for the bus might seem high ($8), but it’s convenient and worth the price and has air conditioning, good Wi-Fi, and comfortable seats.

Don’t order an Uber from the airport! Uber is not a licensed taxi company in Lima, and local authorities have banned their drivers from the airport. You can still order a car, but you will find that they cancel your trip upon trying to enter the airport, so don’t waste your time.

The airport offers 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi, then they charge $6 for two hours. Alternatively, you can pay a few more dollars for a coffee at Starbucks and get unlimited Wi-Fi there.

Make sure you stop by Republica Del Cacao. They sell 100% gourmet cacao premium chocolate with pepper. Amazing!

Interesting facts you should know

Jorge Chávez International Airport is named after a famous Peruvian aviator.

Although the airport is also known as Lima Airport, it is in a district of Callao, not Lima. Callao is a port city now fully integrated into Lima, yet it remains independent.

In 1991, a car bomb placed at the airport by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) killed two Peruvians and wounded ten people. The attack occurred in a context of condemnation by left-wing armed groups and political movements concerning Operation Desert Storm.

Average monthly temperatures in Lima, Peru

Avg Temp Lima Peru

More tips and tricks for the busiest airports in Central and South Africa? Look at Kiwi.com stories!

Frequently asked questions

How many airports are in South America? And in Central America?

There are 420 airports in South America and 62 airports in Central America.

Which Central and South American airports have pet relief areas?

Nowadays, pet relief areas are being planned in most Central and South American airports.

Which are the best Central and South American airports for plane spotting?

  • El Dorado International Airport—airplane enthusiasts will be happy to spot classic models, like the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-3, in regular operation.
  • Rio de Janeiro–Galeão Airport— Spot fantastic views near the large windows at Terminal 1.

Which Central and South American airports are close to ski resorts?

  • Aviador Carlos Campos Airport is 27 km from Chapelco resort.
  • Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport is 50 km from Valle Nevado resort.

Which Central and South American airports are close to beaches?

  • Gustaf III Airport in Saint Barthélemy is only 550 m from Saint Jean Beach.
  • Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten is 850 m from Maho Beach.

Which Central and South American airports have smoking areas?

  • Luis Muñoz Marín Airport.
  • Jorge Chávez International Airport.
  • Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport.
  • São Paulo–Congonhas Airport.
  • São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport.
  • El Dorado International Airport.