Escapes

Q:

How Can I Get to the World Cup at the Last Minute?

The Maracanã Stadium will host the final game of the FIFA World Cup—and you can be there too, if you luck out in your visa application.     Photo: Rapha Bahiense/Flickr

A:We’ll start by stating the obvious: with the 2014 FIFA World Cup about a week away, now is not really the best time to book your trip to Brazil so you can brag afterward about seeing soccer’s big dance in person. But you already know that—and you could care less, because you’re the world’s most impulsive futbol fan, and there’s no way you’re missing the U.S. attempt to avoid losing yet again to archrival Ghana (third time’s a charm, boys!) when the two teams meet on June 16. USA! USA! USA! US—hold your horses, friend. We hate to burst your bubble, but there’s no way your Brazilian visa will be processed in time to make it to any of the games in June. And—come on—the U.S.? They’re about as likely to go deep in this tournament as Landon Donovan is to stop bitching about not getting invited (soccer jokes!). Plus, Germany is going to crush everybody anyway.

Your best bet for a last-minute trip to the World Cup is to apply for your visa here. (It’ll take about 15 business days to process by mail; make sure your passport is valid. Godspeed.) If, for some reason, you’ve already bought admission to some of the games, your visa will be free, thanks to a special deal for World Cup ticket holders. If not, you’ll be shelling out $160. 

So let’s say a minor miracle occurs, and you’re cleared to fly to Rio de Janeiro, center of all things World Cup. As you can probably guess, the flight is going to cost you. Let’s say you’re planning to attend the championship game on July 13. You should probably fly in a couple of days prior to get your bearings and shake the jet lag. As I’m writing this, Kayak.com says that the cheapest round-trip flight from L.A. to Rio for the period of July 10 to July 15 is around $1,700. From New York, it’s $1,500.

You still with me? Now let’s talk lodging. An estimated three million outsiders will turn Brazil into a giant anthill during the monthlong World Cup, with at least half a million tourists visiting Rio alone. Hotel rooms are still available, but the nicer ones are pricey. Kayak shows two- to four-star accommodations going for anywhere from $200 to $800 a night (the Best Western near the world-famous Copacabana Beach, for example, will cost $336).

A much cheaper—and much more adventurous—option is a homestay in one of the city’s sprawling slum neighborhoods, otherwise known as favelas. An outfit called Favela Experience has partnered with Airbnb to rent cheap rooms and apartments—think $20 to $50 a night—in private residences in the Rocinha and Vidigal areas. “We started Favela Experience to generate meaningful income for favela families while breaking the negative stereotypes about these communities through cultural exchange between foreign guests and residents,” says founder Elliot Rosenberg. Rosenberg adds that the company has a rigorous vetting process for each host and only rents homes in favelas that have installed a police presence in preparation for the World Cup.

Last but not least, you’ll need those elusive tickets. Again, let’s assume you’re going big and want to attend the championship between Germany and Brazil (trust me on this one). On Wednesday, June 4, FIFA released 180,000 additional tickets for all 64 matches, including the championship at Maracana stadium. Unless you got lucky and snagged one of those, you’ll have to hit StubHub and other secondary markets. As of this writing, StubHub had 23 tickets available for the final match, priced from $7,595 to a cool $15,405. 

Add it all up, and your eleventh-hour vision quest to Soccer’s mecca will only put you back between $10,000 and $20,000. Have fun!

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