Review: Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo

I recently returned from a visit to South America, which I set out upon for an opportunity to brush up on my newly gazetted Portuguese language skills.

This necessitated going through the hub airport of the entire continent, São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport (GRU), which services the greater São Paulo metropolitan area – a megalopolis so enormous it matches Mega City One of Judge Dredd fame, and has the gridlock traffic to match.

Prior to my return to Canada, I had the opportunity to visit the Espaço Banco Safra Lounge, and let me tell you, it was an entirely adequate experience in every sense.

In This Post

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Entry & Access

The Espaço Banco Safra Lounge is located in the VIP lounge space at the top of the escalators at the very front of Terminal 3. The access is located right behind the set of duty-free shops which immediately follow the security check, but before the other shopping areas which lead into the rest of the terminal.

If you’ve never been to South America before, and Brazil in particular, it might be disconcerting to have to go through multiple shopping areas in every airport. After many visits, I’ve learned that the country is notorious for putting duty-free shops in every airport, with hawker salespeople looking to wave down the unwary traveller at every opportunity.

As a result, it’s pretty much always in your best interest to relax far away from the high pressure sales pitches in one of the lounges.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Welcome sign

In this case, I was fortunate to have access because I had used eUpgrades to bump my Air Canada Premium Economy (Flexible) fare to full business class.

Passengers travelling in business class or higher on a Star Alliance airline can enjoy complimentary access to the lounge, which used to be branded as a Star Alliance Lounge. It’s also listed as available with Priority Pass; however, only between the hours of 11pm and 2pm. 

Unfortunately, the front desk staff weren’t too helpful at first. When I approached with my Priority Pass card in hand, the staff’s first reaction was asking if I spoke Portuguese. 

While I’m fortunate enough to speak the local language, this would be troublesome for a foreign traveller who didn’t speak the language, and is particularly odd in an airport where even the perfume sales people speak English superior to my Brazilian Portuguese.

As it turned out, they were to wave me off because the Priority Pass program does not grant lounge access at the Espaço Banco Safra Lounge between 2pm and 11pm every day. However, I managed to explain I was travelling in Air Canada business class, and shortly thereafter the tone changed, and my boarding pass was scanned at double pace.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Check-in desk

After scanning my boarding pass, I was able to enter and take in the sights of the truly expansive lounge. Personally, I was a little taken aback by the welcome I received, even though the environs seemed nicer than the American Express Lounge located directly across from the Espaço Banco Safra Lounge.

In the staff’s defence, they immediately offered me the Wi-Fi password, and directed me both to the departures board and complimentary magazines (mostly in Portuguese).

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Departures board
Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Magazine selection

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Seating

After getting my bearings, I was able to make greater sense of the entire lounge. The extremely high ceilings make it feel even more open than its size might suggest, and also prevented it from getting muggy, which is probably by design due to the locale.

There was plentiful seating of every variety available, including classic lounge favourites such as stuffed chairs and couches, and of course table seating with cushioned dining chairs. 

The lounge is separated into different dedicated seating areas. Closer to the entryway was a seating area with some plush chairs, as well as many dining tables designed for eating.

Both of these areas were located closer to the kitchen and buffet area for convenient access.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Entryway seating
Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Seating
Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Dining area

I tested each type of chair. They were adequate enough for the purposes of sitting, relaxing, and waiting for a flight.

Power outlets, however, were a bit more sparse, and so I had to rotate where I sat in order to finally find a charging outlet before my phone died. I found one available closer to the back of the lounge, further away from the main dining tables.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Rear seating area
Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Rear seating area

Closer to this rear area was also the hallway that led to the bathrooms. Despite being very busy, the bathrooms were actually kept spotless, and I noticed cleaning staff going in and out in very short intervals, so cleanliness is definitely superior to what we unfortunately often see in North America.

The bathrooms consisted of multiple individual rooms, which was a nice touch for guests to enjoy additional comfort and privacy.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Bathroom entry
Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Bathroom

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Dining & Bar

As is so often the case at dining establishments in Brazil, food choices at the Espaço Banco Safra Lounge were served buffet-style.

The best way I could describe the main courses of chicken, beef stew, a few types of rice, and classics such as cheese bread and sliced ham, was that they were edible. There was nothing particularly special nor offensive about the options on display, though it was typically salty like most local fare.

Fortunately, there was enough foot traffic to prevent any unsightly or tasteless films from forming atop the hot options. Cold food options were presented alongside baked goods of middling quality and freshness.

Again, while nothing stuck out to me as memorable, nothing was subpar.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Hot food buffet
Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Selection of baked goods

One aspect that I found to be a bit annoying was the position of the sneeze guards. The unusual height made it slightly awkward to try and serve oneself – clearly, a focus on hygiene isn’t limited to the bathrooms here.

While the main courses of food were nondescript, the coffee and dessert on offer were terrific. I do not say this as hyperbole: the sweet passionfruit mousse was one of the best desserts I’ve eaten in a long while, and I’d gladly pay for it were it to go on sale.

As a coffee-producing country, I can only assume it was a matter of national pride that the coffee, even when dispensed from automated machines, was also tasty.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Coffee makers
Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Coffee accoutrements & desserts

Unlike at the American Express Lounge across the way, there were no bar staff mixing cocktails or pouring wine. Alcoholic beverages were entirely self-serve, often from a fridge which had a sign indicating that only persons 18 and older should be serving themselves.

Like many things in Brazil, this seemed to be enforced entirely on the honour system, as I saw no staff manning or even eyeing the alcoholic coolers for any reason other than restocking.

There were also unlimited non-alcoholic beverages available.

Espaço Banco Safra Lounge São Paulo – Drink cooler


To wrap up, I was refreshed after going to the Espaço Banco Safra Lounge, but didn’t feel like I’d be missing it when the call to board was finally put out for my flight. The food was decent, the environs comfortable, and the Wi-Fi relatively quick.

While I wish the front desk staff were a tad more friendly at the outset, I also understand that they had to do their job and try to control access to an in-demand lounge.

If you’re looking to divert yourself for a few hours, and avoid some high-pressure sales pitches while walking the floors of Guarulhos International Airport, I can certainly recommend the Espaço Banco Safra Lounge; however, I wouldn’t suggest it as a must-see destination if you’re tight on time between connections.

1 Comment
  1. Nicholas Dureault

    Gotta say, I’ve been in this lounge a half dozen times in the last year and I think you’re tearing it a little hard. Granted, the Amex lounge is better, but I found the front staff spoke really great English every time when I fail at remembering my Portuguese.

    Love reading your articles but a little more facts and less drama would be nice.

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