Last minute World Cup advice

I know I’ve left this a little late for many, I’m sure most who read this have already confirmed most of their plans, flights, accommodation et al, but just in case someone hasn’t, I thought I’d offer some information and a few tips from someone on the ground in Brazil. Obviously I’ve only been here for a few months so by no means is this the last word on Brazil, or more specifically Rio as it’s where I’ve spent most of my time so far, but hopefully it will add to the other information that you may find online.

If you have anything specific you’d like to know that I don’t cover below, please feel free to ask the question in the comments below, and I will do my best to find out the information for you.

Accommodation

In Rio you won’t find anything for less than $100/night, or if you do I can’t say what sort of quality/security it will be. And that’s for a dorm bed. Apartments you’re looking at $200/night a person. If you find something under these prices it will be as good a deal as you’ll get, UNLESS you can take a chance and wing it on the off chance that someone with a last minute vacancy might offer it cheaper. Can you take that chance?

Forget about the camping option that’s outside Rio, you may as well be staying in another city altogether, it will take 2 hours minimum to get to Rio from there. And same with accommodation being offered in Barra de Tijuca, landlords will try to convince you that it’s part of Rio but it is not. On a good day it may take an hour to get there, on a normal day closer to two hours, during the World Cup…? Perhaps a possibility if all you want to do is head into Rio for the day and be back by early evening, but if you want to party at night in Rio, enjoy the games in the fanfest on Copacabana beach into the night, then forget about it.

You’ll want to stay in “Zona Sul” (South Zone) in Rio, and somewhere near to the Metro. The Metro’s a great system, and can get you to all the main places in town easily and cheaply. Some may choose to stay further out near the Maracana stadium, which would work if all you want to do is go to the games there, but it would be a long way from anything else. The centre of the city, Lapa and Santa Teresa would also be reasonable options as they’re accessible to Copacabana via the Metro, but note that after midnight you’ll need to taxi back if you’re partying in Zona Sul.

In smaller towns, the prices may be cheaper (I’m paying $60/night for a dorm bed in Porto Alegre) but you’ll have less availability, so book early. I’ve decided not to go Cuiaba due to lack of accommodation availability + flight costs (see below).

Flights

Flights the days before game days or mornings of game days are already super expensive, however if you can fly 2 or 3 days before a game they can still be very cheap. Check kayak.com and also Brazil’s GOL airline, I just bought flights a couple days ago to get from Rio to the Aus games, three flights in all and all up cost around $200.

Buses

Buses are a reasonable way to travel around Brazil, and are not too expensive. But obviously allow yourself the travel time, plus book as soon as you arrive in Brazil for the trips you know you’ll need ahead of time.

Favelas

I’m not a big fan of “slum tourism”, I mean would you take visitors to your city to the poorest parts and have them point cameras at people living there? But do take some time to research some of the venues and events that may be held in there areas by the locals, such as the amazing jazz venue The Maze I visited a week or so ago. They are the heart of some very creative and interesting individuals and groups. Yes, many favelas are still dangerous, but some are no more dangerous than the “sketchy” parts of big cities in the west, where you would take a taxi or stick to specific areas going to and from a venue. Common sense applies equally.

Sex

Yes, yes, the majority of men (and some women) coming to party for the World Cup are doing so for matters other than football and cultural, and have probably heard a lot about the famous Brazilian women. First piece of advice: Most of the hype is false, see here and here. In a nutshell: The majority of local women you’ll meet in bars and clubs who are looking for sex will be either hookers or looking for a passport out of the country. Realities of being a white foreigner in many places. So if you’re looking for some cheap, easy sex then you’ll be better off sticking with other tourists, male or female. Of course if you’re looking for love, then perhaps Brazil will be the place for you…

The protests

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past year or so, you would have seen coverage of the various protests in Brazil during last year’s Confederations Cup, and continuing into this year leading up to the World Cup. The truth is that many Brazilians aren’t happy with the money their government has spent on building stadiums while the country’s education and health systems struggle with not enough investment or long term planning. The debate about whether Brazil should have been awarded the World Cup (and the 2016 Olympics!) will continue long after the World Cup has been and gone, and at this stage nothing is going to stop the show from going ahead. Tourists will be perfectly safe while attending the Cup, just as in South Africa the police and military presence will ensure that. But please be empathetic to those who believe money could have been better invested elsewhere, and do spend a little time reading up on some of the ongoing concerns of the Brazilian people with their government and community. Better to be an informed visitor than misinformed or ignorant.

Other advice

Relax and don’t worry so much about all the “dangers” you’ll be warned about. The security will be so tight here you’ll have no more to worry about than the pickpockets, who would be operating anywhere in the world. Use your common sense with regards to how you carry you money/valuables …etc. DO NOT carry your camera and wallet if you’re heading down to the fanfests and/or to go out drinking and partying. Cash only, in some sort of pocket down the front of your crotch or similar (maybe a photocopy of your passport if you want to carry ID on you). Maybe a small amount of loose change in your pockets. Worse case scenario if someone does rob you (can happen anywhere in the world) you can give them your cash and show them that you have nothing else on you.

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As mentioned above, anything else specifically you want to know just ask in the comments below. Enjoy Brazil 2014!

3 comments

  1. Any advice on a tourist hiring a bike for half a day at Copacabana?
    I’ve read about Special Bike, but wonder if there are ‘real locals’ making a living from it on the beach. If so I’d like to support them.
    Allan (aussie)

    • You will find some bike rental places near to Copa once you’re here, though not right on Copa. They’re not that common, unlike the board rental places towards the south end and along Ipanema. Otherwise there’s the Bike Rio service/app that’s very cheap and really easy to use: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mobilicidade.bikerio (it’s available for iPhone too). You don’t need to know Portuguese to work it out, enough of the interface and messages are in English, it’s very simple to use and very cheap. You can download the app and check it out before paying/using it. It accepted my Australian credit card for the monthly fee. There’s also daily and (I think) weekly, or hourly maybe. But monthly is so cheap, R$10, which is around $5.

  2. Thanks for all the advice man! I backpacked around Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru for two months last summer and had a blast. Met so many awesome people from all over. I’ll be in Brazil from June 21-July 8 when I fly out to Colombia. Def true with the hostel prices in Rio. Ridiculous, but I understand it’s the world cup. Airbnb does seem to have some good options for a lil cheaper though. I was wondering what you think is a good place to stay in Rio, fun and safety-wise? I’m staying in a hostel in Ipanema for the first couple of days and heard that there and Botafogo are the best places (right in the center of Rio, not far from everything) to stay and possibly Santa Teresa (it’s close to the nightlife center of Lapa but far from everything else. What do you think? Unfortunately due to the exorbitant prices of the WCup, won’t be able to backpack as much as I did last year so I’ll miss a lot and I hate rushing through places and cities but in your opinion what are best things not to miss in Brazil (particularly Rio)? I plan on being in Brazil for 16 days, spending time in Rio, Sao Paolo, Iguazu Falls, and Porto Alegre. Thanks!

    -Mike-

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