Travelling and staying in São Paulo and the Maksoud Plaza

So after the trip to Oktoberfest, we caught the free bus transfer back to Navagantes for a TAM flight to São Paulo CGH.

CGH is the central airport in São Paulo, as opposed to the international GRU airport located further out.  I’d always try and fly to CGH if you can when flying domestically in Brazil.

The TAM flight was an A320, with no premium seating, and the older style TAM seats.  This gives a tight 30cm leg room.  TAM are part of One World, and had priority check in (which took longer than the normal), and priority boarding, for One World elites.  For a one hour flight, service was friendly, with a water/soft drinks service provided and a snack.  No alcohol service though, but this doesn’t exist on internal flights in Brazil in my experience.

Exiting through CGH is quick and easy, although I did have a bag to collect.  It is worth noting that all Brazilian domestic flights have a very tight 5kg limit on hand baggage, and if you have to go to the check in desks they frequently ask to weigh your luggage.  In this case, I already had 5kg in another bag – of beer!  You can carry liquids on board of domestic flights up to 1l in volume per container and 70% alcohol max.

Taxis on arrival at CGH are plentiful, although there is a taxi monopoly, and Uber cannot come to the airport to pick you up from the pick up zone, and due to attacks on drivers are scared of coming here now.  SP taxis are a bit more than Rio taxis I have found, but the journey to our hotel, just off Paulisa, was quite only R$35.

Although I didn’t realise when I booked, our hotel, the Maksoud Plaza, is quite famous in São Paulo.  Certainly the design of the building stands out with a fantastic atrium filling the inside of the hotel.  It is perhaps a bit ‘brutal’ in some of the architecture, but definitely eye catching.   

 Unfortunately, less fantastic was the long queue for check in, with no priority desk for Accor Le Club Gold or Platinum members.  The Maksoud Plaza seems to be in some sort of limbo in status… It doesn’t have any Accor branding, even on its own website.  But it shows up in Accors list of properties, and it’s own booking page takes you to Accor to book.  The front desk did not know about Platinum benefits such as a free drink at the bar, and had to ring to check with management after which is was a discussion before finally agreeing.  And no room upgrade was offered, and I was told no rooms were available, despite a check on the internet revealing the next higher category of room being available for the full duration of the stay.  However, the service after when I complained has been excellent.

Having said that, the room itself was fine – I had booked a King Corner room.  It was an ok size, with a work desk, a couple of armchair style seats, and a couple of more office desk chairs.  The furniture looked dated, not that it was old, it just was old fashioned.     

   
And the bathroom even more so, with a combined shower/bath that looked positively from the 80s.  Again, I don’t think it was, but it just was old fashioned.  The own branded toiletries were quite nice though.   

 The best thing about the hotel was the bar, Frank’s – quite simply one of the best hotel bars I’ve been in.  Styled like an american cocktail bar, it reminded me of the American Bar at the Savoy.  The service was top notch and the drinks very tasty and reasonably priced.  There was live jazz music every night (piano, double bass, sax etc) while we were there.

I also checked out the pool and gym area, which was quite well equipped, with a smallish pool.  The pool was fine, but very very very shallow at one end!

For those who might need it, the hotel also has a helipad, which has limited free use for people staying in the suites.

São Paulo has a good metro service, with the closest station just a short 5 minute walk from the hotel.  Tickets are R$3.50 per journey, including any connections.  The hotel also had it’s own cabs lined up (official taxis still, but a higher class of car and a slightly higher meter rate).

On leaving, on Sunday’s Avenida Paulista is shut to cars and turns in to a giant pedestrian street – it’s really nice, and feels very European to me, with lots of musicians, street artists etc up and down.  This does mean the taxi journey back to the airport was more complicated however!  It still only took 30 minutes, but the first 15 were doing what would be 2 or 3 minutes if the road were open.

TAM’s check in at CGH is a much nicer experience than GOL’s at GIG, and took only a few minutes.  We were also able to move on to the next departing flight, instead of our booked on that was still 2 hours away (we left plenty of time in case of bad traffic).  This meant us having to go quickly after check in to catch our flight, that was departing only 30 minutes later, and I missed the change to review the HSBC Premier lounge at CGH – every time I have missed this so far!  Of course, getting home earlier rather than waiting in a basic airport lounge is a good thing!  I just want the change to one day use this benefit of my card!!   There used to be an Amex Centurion lounge as well, but I didn’t get the chance to see if it was still there or not, as we didn’t walk by it on the way to our gate.

As luck would have it, our flight scheduled for 1825 was then delayed, and in the end I think it actually left only a couple of minutes before the 19:00 flight…  However, we were booked on the 1955 in the end, so still arrived in Rio one hour earlier.

This flight was operated by an A319, and had TAM’s newer slimline seats.  This gives an extra 1 or 2 cm of legroom, as the seat pocket is now removed and the seat is just a lot thiner at the base than before.  To sit in I noticed no difference in the comfort, but the little bit of extra leg room is appreciated.  

Again, there was a basic drinks service of water, soft drinks and coffee.  However the last rows of the service didn’t really have chance to get anything, as the plane was only ten minutes from landing as they went to serve and had to stop service!

Overall, a great stay in SP, reviewed in detail at britexpatinrio.com.  I would defintely use the Maksoud again, as it was such excellent value for money – an excellently located 5* for less than £50 a night in Brazil’s largest city!  Even the suites were available for £125 at the time of writing.  This is of course in a large part due to the exchange rate, and if things keep going it will get even cheaper.

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