Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Smarter Travel and has been republished here with permission.
Thinking about traveling to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup this summer? First, you’ll need to think about logistics. Here are 10 tips on destinations, accommodations, transportation, and more for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup will take place in Brazil from June 12 to July 13. The initial three games in the group stage will be played in 12 different cities around the country, along with at least one additional game in each venue:
- Cuiaba, Curitiba, Manaus, and Natal: Four games
- Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, and Recife: Five games
- Fortaleza, Salvador, and Sao Paulo: Six games
- Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro: Seven games, including finals and final consolation
If you’re just now starting to consider attending, the best place to start is the official FIFA website, where you can find all the details: schedules, ticket availability, accommodations lists, and such.
The 12 host cities are dispersed around a very large country. The distance between Manaus and Porto Alegre is more than 1,900 miles. Geographical settings vary considerably: Manaus is deep in the Amazon rainforest while Cuiaba is in the Mato Grosso. Eight of the host cities are on the coast.
The nature of the cities also varies: Rio and Sao Paulo are huge metro areas; Brasilia was created as a capital city from interior nothingness in 1960, with spectacular modern government buildings designed by famed architects; several of the coastal cities feature colonial-period sites of historical interest; and all coastal areas have beaches.
The July climate varies from coastal moderation in Porto Alegre, with an average daily high of 67 and an average low of 61, to tropical in Manaus, with an average daily high of 88 and an average low of 73.
You’ll need a passport and a visa to visit Brazil. Check the Embassy of Brazil website for details.
You can fly nonstop to Rio or Sao Paulo from Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Miami, New York, and Washington and with one stop from most big cities. With few exceptions, most nonstops are overnight red-eyes in both directions. If you’re heading to or from one of the outlying cities, a through ticket, probably with a connection in Rio, Sao Paulo, Bogota, or Lima, will be less expensive than booking an internal connection separately.
Brazil essentially has no long-distance trains. If you don’t fly, you take a bus.
You can combine a few relatively close venues without paying a fortune: Natal and Recife are neighbors, less than five hours apart by bus; Sao Paulo and Curitiba are about six hours apart. Check BuscaOnibus for bus details.
Follow Your Team
You can definitely follow your team for the first three games—and possibly after that. The U.S. is in Group G and will play its first game on June 16 vs. Ghana in Natal, its second on June 22 vs. Portugal in Manaus, and its third on June 26 vs. Germany in Recife.
If the U.S. gets through the third round, the next game will be in either Porto Alegre on June 30 or Salvador on July 1. Beyond that is pure speculation.
Mexico is in Group A and Canada isn’t participating. Check the official FIFA website for any other favorites.
Pick Your Time And Spot
Unless you plan to take the entire month off, you will have to decide how you want to time and locate your visit. The least expensive way will be to pick a host city and take in whatever games are scheduled while you’re there. At a minimum, you can see four in each location, typically spread over 11 days. On the other hand, if you want in on the more exciting late-round action, you can head for one of the three cities that will host late-round games or to Brasilia or Rio for the finals.
You can follow your team to known venues for the first three games; from then on, the venue will depend on whether your team gets past the initial rounds. If you want to prearrange later rounds, you’ll have to guess the initial outcome. And the internal travel may be expensive. The U.S. team’s first three games are all in the north, but if it survives the first stage, the next game might be in Porto Alegre, at the other end of the country from Recife.
Figure In Outside Activities
Unlike other mega-events like the Olympics, no single World Cup venue has something going on all the time. Even in Rio, early round games are only every three days, and the final game is a week after the semis. This means you’ll have lots of time for sightseeing in such interesting areas as the Amazon rainforest or the Mato Grosso, taking in the big-city nightlife in Rio and Sao Paulo, or sunbathing on the beaches in the more northerly coastal areas. Although June and July are midwinter in Rio, no host city is far enough south to risk cold weather.
The official FIFA website provides a good start on the local activities and surroundings of each host city. And if you take a packaged tour, it will undoubtedly include local sightseeing tours.
Tickets Are Expensive
Official prices for tickets bought through FIFA for early rounds range from $90 for Category 3 tickets to $175 for Category 1. Top prices for the finals range from $440 to $990. Those are stiff but still within reason. To get those official tickets, however, you have to register and request tickets, then wait to see if you are lucky enough to get any. Some events are already sold out of official tickets.
Although FIFA is the only official outlet, third-party sellers are already active in the market. And the markups are astounding: Viagogo, for example, is listing early round tickets at $100 to $1,000 each, with final-round tickets selling at $3,444 for the cheapest seats and $16,623 for the best views and even more for VIP packages. Third-party tickets to the U.S. games range from $165 to $1,372 for Ghana to $396 to $2,161 for Germany. If the U.S. makes it to the next round, tickets are $414–$2,192 in Porto Alegre or $419–$1,900 in Salvador. Other online ticket sellers offer similar pricing.
The Gouge Is In
Again, following the well-established mega-event tradition, Brazilian hoteliers have decided to make a good share of the year’s profits during the World Cup. A typical example: I found the Copacabana Praia Hotel—a three-star hotel with good marks on TripAdvisor—for $513 per night during the July games and only $179 per night a few weeks later. Presumably, you’ll encounter similar inflation at local restaurants and shops, too.
Try A Tour
You’re already pretty late to the game. As of March 13, Hotels.com posted only 18 Rio hotels open for booking during prime game days; the other 251 are not available. When you find hotel rooms scarce for any really big event, consider a tour package. Wholesalers often have remaining guaranteed-room inventory when hotels have no more to sell to individual buyers.
Among the tour operators promoting World Cup packages are Global Event Forum, Great Atlantic Sports, Kensington Tours, and Roadtrips.
Several offer “Follow Team U.S.” packages: Prices, including local transport and lowest-level tickets, but not airfare to/from Brazil, start at $4,000 to $7,000 per person, double occupancy, for seven-night two-game packages.
Or consider a travel agent. Given the complexity of the potential itineraries, a local travel agent who specializes in Brazil, sports travel, or both might be able to figure out a reasonable itinerary much more easily than you can on your own.
Often, mega-events like the World Cup, the Olympics, and so on are overhyped at the outset. Hotels jack up rates to obscene levels and enterprising householders dream of renting their spare rooms out for big bucks. Actual events sometimes work out that way, but sometimes they don’t. With the event looming, hotels sometimes find that nobody wanted to pay their inflated prices and scalpers face the prospect of eating the tickets they bought. In those cases, last-minute rates drop dramatically, and folks who wait get in on some good deals.
Right now, it looks like the gouge is working: Bookings are scarce and expensive. But if you’re willing to gamble on not going at all, you might consider waiting until May to see if you can find some “Oops, we were asking too much” deals on accommodations and tickets.
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