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How to Enjoy the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro

Now that the Winter Olympics in Russia is behind us, the world's attention is moving to Brazil, host of the 2014 World Cup.

While I haven't been to Brazil (yet), I did have the experience of landing in Paris the same day France beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup Final.

Marching through the streets amongst so many ecstatic, singing, firecracker-throwing French people was an experience I'll never forget.

The Maracanã stadium in Rio will be the site of the 2014 World Cup Final (photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo)
The Maracanã stadium in Rio will be the site of the 2014 World Cup Final (photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo)

For that moment, Paris was the center of the universe, and I was right there in the middle of it.

Will Brazilians have the same opportunity to celebrate a World Cup victory on their home turf in Rio on July 13?

For those heading to Brazil's #1 city to partake in the world's biggest sporting event this June and July, I have some advice to share, and it applies whether or not you plan to attend matches in person.

Gusto's favéla in Rio (photo: Daniel Julie)
Gusto's favéla in Rio (photo: Daniel Julie)

Arrive Early

Soccer fanatics from around the world started planning their trips to Rio years ago, so if you're starting to think about it now, you're playing catch-up.

I recommend arriving in Rio as early as possible for numerous reasons.

First, you'll be in a better position to pin down decent accommodation at a reasonable rate.

If you're going months ahead of time, you can try to negotiate a good deal on an apartment and avoid the double, triple, and even quadruple mark-ups on hotels, hostels, and short-term apartment rentals.

My friend Gareth arrived in early January, giving him six months to experience the city and learn his way around before the rest of the world arrives.

Second, you'll have time to connect with a Rio tour guide who can help acquaint you with the city.

There's more to Rio than the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

A good guide can tailor a tour to suit your interests and curiosities, and many are also multilingual (French readers may want to check out this Guide à Rio).

Third, it gives you a chance to make local friends, which will make watching the Brazilian matches a heck of a lot more fun than if you're in a bar full of gringos.

BRT Bus (photo: World Resources Institute)

Be Patient, Be Flexible

Despite improvements, Rio's infrastructure will be under a lot of stress as people move around the city during the World Cup.

It may lighten up a little as the tournament continues and teams fail to advance, but with the Final happening there, it's likely to be crowded until the very end.

In Paris 16 years ago, there were a lot of drivers honking their horns during the day, and some stranger on the street threw a lit firecracker next to me.

When it exploded, my ears immediately began to ring, and I wanted to slug the guy.

After a long afternoon of searching for accommodation because we didn't reserve a room ahead of time, we finally settled for a relatively cheap, mouse-ridden hotel near a northern train station.

It was not our first or even fifth choice, but we were lucky to find anything with the hostels all booked.

Ipanema (photo: Luiz Ramos)

Have Fun

Attending a World Cup event requires a lot of planning and money unless you take the opposite approach and arrive last-minute, relying on friends or simply good luck like I did.

However, you arrive in Rio for the 2014 World Cup, make the most of your time there because it'll indeed be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And if we have any French soccer fans heading over to Rio to cheer on their country's team, be sure and check out Guide Rio for support.


This post was brought to you by My Rio Travel Guide. 

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Gareth Leonard

Monday 24th of March 2014

You need to make a trip south to Brazil for the World Cup here in Rio de Janeiro in June! Pass through Manaus and head south to Rio!


Sunday 23rd of March 2014

I'd love to get there but honestly doubt I'll manage it this year unfortunately.

I do think the western news media is making the Brazilians preparation for the World Cup to sound waaaaay more terrible than it likely is. I'm betting Brazil pulls it off and it's an absolutely amazing event.

Peter Taylor

Monday 10th of March 2014

I always wanted to go to Brazil, but more to experience the wildlife. I don't like overcrowded places, so i will have to avoid the country during the World Cup. Although it would be a once in a lifetime experience, I think I could enjoy the games more from a quiet pub. I fear that if I visited Brazil during the World Cup, I would be so overwhelmed with the locale that I would miss games, or not pay attention to them.


Friday 7th of March 2014

Although I'm not a big football fan attending the World Cup at some point in my life is on my bucket list. Rio won't be my year but one day. Football fans are among some of the most passionate sports fans in the world. It's going to be completely crazy in Rio but a lot if fun.


Thursday 6th of March 2014

I'm a Brazilian who have already traveled to another country and I'm conscious about our structural problems regard it is a country in development. I'm glad to your text, which showed some beauties of my country.Btw I'm from Sao paulo but I've already been in Rio and it is a pretty cool city full of friendly people. ???? If someone need some tips I'm welcome.

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