Counting the cost of a dream ticket to Brazil

Posted by Tim Vickery

Sales of 2014 World Cup tickets got off to a brisk start Tuesday. According to FIFA, the 1 million applications received in seven hours included plenty from host nation Brazil, from neighbours Chile and Argentina, and also from the USA and England -- a testimony to the strength of Anglo-Saxon fan culture, especially as there is no guarantee that Roy Hodgson’s men will even qualify for the competition.

For non-Brazilians the cheapest tickets start at $90. A number of tickets are available to locals at knockdown prices -- part of a PR offensive to win Brazilian hearts and minds in the run-up to a tournament that may be a focal point for vociferous protests.

For visiting fans, though, the price of the tickets will probably be one of the more minor concerns when the time comes to sit down and draw up a budget for the trip. This is likely to be a very expensive World Cup.

The first cost, of course, is that of getting to Brazil. For Europeans, especially, this is likely to leave a considerable hole in the wallet, accustomed as they have become to cheap travel around their own continent. But once they touch down in Brazil their financial problems have only just begun.

Here I can throw in my own costs during the Confederations Cup by way of example. I managed to find hotels -- by no means top of the range but adequate enough for my needs -- for around $80 a night. I took three internal flights -- from my home city of Rio de Janeiro to Recife, the short hop from there to Salvador, and from there back to Rio. Cost: Approximately $560. Not excessive, perhaps, but not cheap either.

And here it has to be remembered that these prices are market driven. The Confederations Cup attracted hardly any foreign fans -- little more than 2% of ticket sales were to non-Brazilians. The World Cup is on a completely different scale. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners will be chasing hotels and internal flights, and prices will certainly reflect this.

I suffered from this phenomenon during the Confederations Cup when I tried to book a flight to Belo Horizonte for the semifinal -- which turned out to be Brazil against Uruguay. Prices from either Salvador or Rio were prohibitively expensive -- and this was before the tournament had begun, long before it had been confirmed that the hosts would be playing in this match. But the mere prospect of Brazil taking part had created extra demand and pushed the price sky high. I ended up taking the overnight bus from Rio, and then going back the same way a few hours after the match had finished. It was a good cheaper option -- but one that is not viable for most World Cup journeys. Both Rio and Belo Horizonte are in the South East region, and so close enough to each other to go by road. But in a country the size of a continent, that simply is not true about many of the 2014 venues. They are so far apart that there will be no real alternative to air travel.

This brings hidden costs into the equation. Many of Brazil’s airports are deficient in mass transport options to deliver the new arrival to the city centre. Taxi drivers will hope to make a fortune. In some of the cities -- Salvador, for example -- the journey from airport to hotel is a long one that can eat up at least $40. Over the course of a World Cup campaign, these kinds of costs all add up.

The exchange rate is easing for foreign visitors -- the dollar has just hit a five-year high against the real, Brazil’s currency. Even so, prices of things such as restaurants could well come as a nasty shock. Indeed, the rising cost of living was surely a factor in the background of the protest movement that suddenly flared up all over Brazil in June.

There could well be moments next year when fans from all over the world will feel like staging their own personal protest at the amount of hard-earned cash they are handing over. To ensure that you enjoy the experience of the 2014 World Cup, then, the best advice is to start saving yesterday.

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