I know that I don’t give a lot of practical advice on this blog. Instead, I tend to blather on in a bit of a ‘oh yeah, I did this, you should do it too if you tend to like similar things to me’. But I’ve been getting a lot of questions of late, ever since I announced that I was going to Brazil for the World Cup.
‘Oooh, but won’t it be expensive?’
‘Wow, how did you get those match tickets?’
Or there’s always the very direct Dutch question of ‘how much did it cost?’
So I figured that a bit of an informative, number-y post was in order. In fact, I kept a pretty good tally of what the whole trip to Brazil cost me, which is the first time I’ve ever done such a thing. And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as expensive as I’d budgeted.
I can’t tell you exactly how much it would cost you to go to the World Cup. All I can do is indicate how much it cost me, as somebody who was away for ten days, visited three cities, stayed in three hotels and a hostel and ate in mainly moderate- or low-priced restaurants. The costs are for one person, based on twin-share.
Match tickets: €132 for two matches
We received confirmation that we were successful in getting tickets to both Australia vs Holland and Holland vs Chile in February this year, four months before the tournament kicked off. Before we found out that we’d actually gotten tickets, we hadn’t booked anything. Paul has been to two other World Cups and four European Championships, so I followed his lead and sat tight. The tickets we obtained were US$90 and Category 3, the cheapest available for non-Brazilians. We were in the third row behind the goal for both matches; obviously not prime position but right in the thick of it.
So how did we get the tickets? We applied through the Dutch National Football Association (KNVB), of which Paul has been a member for twelve years. For tournaments outside Europe, members can apply for two tickets per match (in Europe, they can only apply for tickets for themselves as demand is much higher, so much so that many still miss out). Membership is open to anyone so technically any of those incredulous Dutchies could have gotten tickets if they wanted to as well.
Flights: €1,366 for seven flights
As soon as we’d found out that we had gotten match tickets, we booked our flights to Brazil that very night. Direct flights with KLM from Amsterdam to either Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo were ridiculously priced (we’re talking around €1,600) and open-jaw tickets (flying into one city and out of another) were even pricier. So we got a bit crafty on good old Skyscanner and found flights to Porto Alegre (where we needed to head for Australia vs Holland) via Lisbon for €975 with TAP. We booked them before we started second-guessing ourselves, knowing that thousands of others were looking at similar flights at the same time.
We knew that we had to fly back to Porto Alegre from Sao Paulo (our second playing city) in order to fly home, so we booked a flight with TAM a couple of weeks later for €66 each. Nice, right? Well, we got a bit complacent then, thinking that domestic flights were such a good deal in Brazil and really should have moved earlier. We decided on our itinerary in March (Porto Alegre-Rio-Sao Paulo) and booked our flight to Rio for a few hours after the match for €130 with Avianca.
Unfortunately, we were a bit hopeless and only booked our last remaining flight (Rio-Sao Paulo) in early May, with the short hop costing €195 with Avianca. We had been faffing, thinking we could catch the bus between the two cities before deciding that this was a silly idea for a ten-day trip. So do as I say and not as I do, and book your internal flights as soon as you know your itinerary.
Accommodation: €838 for seven nights in hotels and three nights in a hostel
After flights, this is the biggest killer in terms of booking a trip during a festival or event, rather than what is usually the low season (as was the case for us in Brazil). FIFA – wrongly or rightly – buy up thousands of hotel rooms in playing cities during the World Cup and then sell them on to the public, meaning that they essentially control the market. It’s frustrating, and can be a good or bad thing for the humble visitor.
It was good for us in Porto Alegre, a city without too many hotel rooms; here we paid €108 each for two nights at a basic but clean hotel a five-minute walk from the city’s cathedral. It wasn’t so good for us in Rio, however, the city where many teams and most of the international media based themselves; here we paid a whopping €557 each for four nights at a quite decent three-star hotel in the laid-back little neighbourhood of Flamengo. Yep, that was a tough pill to swallow but after tons of research, it really was the best option for us.
In Sao Paulo we had the luxury to be able to do away with FIFA and we found quite a few hostels offering inflated yet reasonable rates for private rooms. (I’m done with dorms these days.) We booked a private room (with a bathroom) for three nights at the flashpacker-y Viva Hostel Design for €140 each. The hostel was only a few months old and in the hilly hipster district of Villa Madalena. Booking through their website was more than €100 cheaper than booking through one of the main hostel booking websites.
(Our first night was spent at a hotel near Amsterdam Airport as our flight left at 6am. We paid €33 each as I booked a couple of months in advance.)
Spending money: €450 (1350 Brazilian Real)
Paul and I each spent a bit under €50 a day on the ground, which covered things like meals, public transport (which we caught everywhere except to and from the airports), a few taxis, entry into a couple of sights, drinks and a few souvenirs. I’d say our budget was in the low- to mid-range. This was a bit under what I thought I was going to spend, as I wasn’t aware of how reliable and user-friendly the metro and buses were in Sao Paulo and especially Rio. Food prices were just a bit under what we’d pay in Europe and drinks were significantly less.
Once in Brazil, I never really felt like prices had been inflated due to the World Cup. We hardly came across any English menus, taxis were metered and Brazilian football paraphernalia seemed to be available for every budget.
I spent €32 on my Brazilian visa, which was the rate set for Australian passport-holders. Paul didn’t need a visa with his Dutch passport. Visa fees were actually waived for those who had match tickets, but we were picking up our tickets in Brazil and the consulate wouldn’t accept solely my email confirmation letter. Catch-22, yes indeed. I also have yearly travel insurance so I haven’t added that to the total.
All of this amounts to a little under three grand for a ten-day trip. Excessive and extravagant? Perhaps. However, I don’t tend to think so. I love combining sport and travel – two of my great loves – and have shared in some experiences that will stay with me forever. Some spend their savings on a car or a big TV. I spend mine on this.
The main thing I want to point out here is that it is possible to go to the World Cup independently and not spend a fortune. If you love the World Cup and dream of attending one day, think about it this way. It is held every four years, which means you have over 200 weeks to save until the next one. Putting aside €15 per week (about AU$20) will get you that three grand. So get saving!
Each Sunday I’ve been connecting with some other travel blogs through #SundayTraveler. Click the below link for some other great stories through chasingthedonkey.com.