A World Cup Guide to Brazil

Rio de Janeiro stadium

Having recently returned from Brazil, and with the World Cup fast approaching in June, I thought it would be useful to share some information on travel within the country. Whether you want to know how much things will cost, the cheapest way to get around Brazil, safety tips, how to get there, or what areas in town you should stay/avoid in Rio for example – I will try to include as much info for you as I can.

What is the cheapest way to get to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014?

First off, as a general rule if you’re flying into Brazil from abroad (and especially Europe), Sao Paolo is usually the cheapest Brazilian destination to fly into. International flights to Rio de Janeiro always tend to be more expensive despite it being relatively close to Sao Paolo (around 1 hour away by plane). For example, when I looked for a flight on the 19th Feb I found a return flight from London Heathrow to Sao Paulo Guarulhos via Toronto for £721, departing the day before the World Cup begins and returning to London on the day after the final. Just a few weeks later, today on the 4th March, that price is no longer available. The cheapest I can find is £893 for a return via JFK on departure and via Atlanta on the way back.

Direct flights to Sao Paolo booked now however are now well over £1000 and a direct flight to Rio from London during the World Cup is likely to cost you over £2000! Again, I can’t reiterate more that these prices will only go up as the World Cup draws nearer. You’re best bet as far as getting the cheapest options if you’re booking late is to look for flights to Sao Paolo that go via another destination such as Toronto, JFK, or Atlanta.

Some of you may also be wondering whether or not it is cheaper to fly to another South American city first and then take an inter-continental flight to Brazil. This could be an option but please be aware that flights between countries in South America are quite often very expensive. They do not have cheap international flights within the continent like we have in Europe. For example, a flight from Buenos Aires to Sao Paolo is likely to cost you around £200. A recent flight from Bogota (Colombia) to Rio de Janeiro cost me around £400. Buses from Buenos Aires to Rio may also be an option but bear in mind that your journey time is around 40 hours for this.

What will everything cost once I get to Brazil?

Below I’ve given an outline of how much some of you’re main travel expenses will cost in Brazil. These prices are based predominantly on my own personal experiences in Brazil this year and how much things cost, as well as some accommodation averages taken from HostelWorld and Booking.com. Please note; All prices listed below are averages and focus on the more budget end of travel. If you want to stay in a luxury 5 star hotel and eat in Michelin star restaurants then of course you will no doubt pay more than the prices listed below.

Price of a local 500ml beer = 5 Reals (£1.28 / $2.13 / €1.55)

Price of a 330ml bottle of water = 2.35 Reals (£0.60 / $1 / €0.73)

Price of a main meal in a local (budget end) restaurant = 20 Reals (£5.11 / $8.54 / €6.20)

1 journey on a local city bus = 3 Reals (£0.77 / $1.28 / €0.93)

Average price of a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro in June = 1131 Reals per night (£290 / $483 / €352)

Average price for a bed in a large hostel dorm room in Rio de Janeiro in June = 207 Reals per night (per person) (£53 / $88 / €64)

1 journey by bus from the International Airport into the city centre = 7 Reals with Real Bus Company (large blue buses). This bus goes all the way to Copacabana via the city centre and Botafogo! (£1.79 / $3 / €2.18)

Cost of a taxi from the International Airport into the city centre = It should be around 40 Reals to the city centre and around 50 to 60 Reals to Botafogo and Copacabana. Note I said it should be.

Entry to visit the Christ Redeemer statue in Rio  = 50 Reals (£12.82 / $21.36 / €15.55)

Is Brazil safe?

Brazil is not as unsafe as international news reports would make it seem. These reports, whilst highlighting important issues going on in Brazil right now, are not entirely balanced in my opinion. The prices in Brazil are far too high for many of the local people compared to what they earn and as a result the locals are protesting about this. At times these protests have spilled over into violence, but to be honest it has not been any worse that what London experienced during the riots in my personal opinion. When I was in Brazil in January this year I didn’t experience any safety issue. If you’re worried about protests and being caught up in them then keeping up to date with the news is the best thing to do, although I wouldn’t be unduly worried about it. The key thing is just to make sure you’re sensible. Places like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo are BIG cities. You wouldn’t go walking alone at night in London, Paris, or New York, so you shouldn’t do this either in Brazilian cities.

Leaving your passport, a spare bank car, and some cash locked up in your hotel or hostel locker/safety deposit box is something I would highly recommend. Pick pocketing is probably the thing you are most at risk of all over Brazil and so you need to spread your valuables out along your person, and make sure you don’t carry everything out with you – especially at night. Secondly, if you can I would try and make sure your arrival/departure times in Brazil are during daylight hours. In ANY city you have a much higher chance of getting robbed after it gets dark.

The main emergency services numbers in Brazil are as follows;

190 – Military Police

191 – Federal Highway Police

192 – Ambulance

193 – Fire Fighters

194 – Federal Police

197 – Civil Police

What is the best area in Rio to be based?

Given that the World Cup final will be held in Rio de Janeiro, I imagine of any place in Brazil, it is this city which people will probably want to know most about. In my personal opinion Botafogo is a really good neighbourhood to be based in. The reasons for this are;

A) It is the neighbourhood ajoining Copacabana (where most people want to be) yet is a bit cheaper than its neighbour in most respects.

B) It’s actually closer to the city centre and both International & Domestic airports than Copacabana is.

C) It’s on the main bus route for both the International & Domestic airports.

D) It’s still within close distance to all the main tourist attractions such as the Christ Redeemer statue.

E) It’s less touristy than Copacabana or Ipanema but is still quite central.

F) It has its own wee beach that (mid-week) is often empty.

However, if you look at a map of Rio de Janeiro and look at the coastline neighbourhoods from the city centre to Ipanema, pretty much any neighbourhood in between those two districts on the coast is usually ok. The further out from the city you get and the more inland you go, the more you move into or towards the favelas… This is something you should keep in mind when booking accommodation.

How do I get to other cities in Brazil in the cheapest way?

South America does not have a comprehensive rail system like we do in Europe so you only real options for long distance public transportation in Brazil are travel by bus or by plane. Naturally taking a bus is cheaper but takes a lot longer. However, depending on where you’re travelling to, with Brazil being so large, you may still want to take a flight even if it is much more expensive?

Brazil is usually the kind of place you can just rock up to the bus station in and book on the day, however, during the World Cup it’s probably a better idea to book ahead for any long distance travel for football matches. Busca Onibus is a good site for checking bus timetables for all the main routes throughout the country and also tells you which companies run which buses (so you can then go and book them.)

As far as domestic air travel is concerned you may find that most of the cheap fares are purely reserved for Brazilian nationals (hence why most budget travellers here go by long distance bus). The main airlines for domestic travel include TAM, Gol, Avianca, and Azul. As a general rule I usually find that Avianca has the cheapest domestic flights in South America so I usually check them first, but as soon as you cross an international border with them flight prices will go up greatly (so I’d only look to use them domestically within countries if you can.)

How do I get tickets to the football matches?

The only place I would ever recommend buying World Cup tickets from is the official Fifa.com website where you will have to register and apply. The first come first serve basis of the next sales phase commences on 12th March at 12pm CET and finishes on 1st April at 12pm CET.

– If you require any more information in regards to travelling in Brazil during the World Cup 2014 then you may wish to check out the official Brazilian tourism board site. Alternatively, a recent article I wrote titled 10 Reasons Why Rio de Janeiro is Awesome may also be of interest!

3 Responses to “A World Cup Guide to Brazil”

  1. Claire says:

    Nice informative article! Seems like getting TO Brazil is going to be the expensive thing!

  2. Stephen says:

    Great Info! I am not going to make the world cup, but am hoping to make the Olympics!

  3. Rachel says:

    I believe there’s no dangerous place when you know how to take care of yourself, and I do agree with spreading the money with all of your friends when you travel. Have all of your money changed before you visit the country, because if you do it there, chances are you’d be a target by hungry eyes always on the lookout.


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