With less than 3 days to go before the 2014 FIFA World Cup begins in Sao Paulo, more than 150,000 Americans anticipate travel to Brazil. For first timers to Brazil, it can be quite a shocker. It’s common to see people walk on the highways and freeways even if you’re traveling 30mph! When there’s traffic on the highway, tons of vendors will come out of nowhere to sell you food, drinks, and even today’s newspaper. Don’t be surprised to see favela slums all over Brazil because more than half of the country is living in poverty. There is a huge disparity between the rich and the poor and the gap widens on a daily basis. This will be my 6th time going to Brazil within the past two years and I’m excited to head to the World Cup next week. Here are 10 things you should know before going to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
1. Don’t get ATM scammed – The arrivals airport area is prone to thieves installing ATM card skimming devices to the ATM machines. I’ve had it happen once in Brazil and know many people who have had it happen to them.
2. Bring lots of money – If you’ve gotten this far, you know that going to the World Cup is going to be expensive. A taxi from GRU airport to the city center is easily 135.00 – 150.00 Brazilian Reais.
3. You need a Brazilian Visa to visit Brazil – The cost is $160 USD for US Passport holders (good for 10 years) or you can get a free Brazilian Spectator Visa.
4. Avoid renting a car in Brazil – Driving in South America is pretty hectic in itself and you don’t want to be caught giving bribe money to Brazilian police. There’s plenty of public transportation available and subway systems in major cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
5. Buy a pre-paid sim card with data upon arrival – You can buy a vivo pre-paid SIM card without a CPF number at Sao Paulo International Airport (GRU). The vivo store is located in the departures area of Terminal 1 and it’s open 24 hours. Even if you’re not in Sao Paulo, you can buy various pre-paid SIM cards in newspaper kiosks and even full service stores like Oi, TIM, Claro, and vivo. Be sure to bring your passport to the store if you don’t have a Brazilian CPF number.
6. Double check everything – Be sure to double check your hotel and flight reservations. Have a paper copy of all your flight and hotel itineraries just in case the hotel or airline needs to see it for reference. Don’t forget to bring your FIFA World Cup tickets and ticket receipt just in case you need to show proof that it’s your ticket.
7. Have a game plan – Do you know where the 2014 FIFA World Cup stadiums are in relative to the location of your hotel and airport? Google Maps is your friend. If you plan on not having internet data on your phone in Brazil, I highly suggest printing out maps to and from the stadium venue.
8. Learn basic Portuguese – The official language in Brazil is Portuguese and contrary to popular belief, Spanish is NOT a substitute for Brazilian Portuguese. If you start speaking Spanish to a Brazilian, they won’t know what the heck you’re saying. However, knowing Spanish is much better than not knowing Spanish because some words are similar in pronunciation and meaning. You can learn basic Portuguese by researching on Google and Youtube.
9. Avoid Brazilian taxi drivers – If at all possible, avoid taking a taxi in Brazil. There are numerous ways of getting to the city-center from a major airport. Think of how the airport employees get to work. They can’t afford to take taxis to and from work each and every day. Use the Onibus, airport bus transfer service, subway, and ride-share to minimize transit costs. Brazilian taxis are pretty much a rip off and traffic will be a disaster during the World Cup. Waiting in traffic increases the taximeter fare and some airports such as GRU can take almost up to 2 hours to reach the city center in traffic.
10. Learn the Fan Fest Locations – If you don’t have a ticket to a particular game match that same day, you can watch it for free with local Brazilians. The locations are usually in large open public spaces in the city-center. See here for the list of 2014 FIFA World Cup Fan Fest locations.
Did I miss anything?