If you’re an England supporter, and you’re keen to see the team in live action in the forthcoming World Cup next year (2014) and you are going to treat yourself to a trip to the self-proclaimed “country of football” then you are heading to a country which is blessed with natural beauty and iconic attractions, as well as a nationalistic fervour for the beautiful game. Workers pause from their duties to watch their team in action and even banks shut down three hours before matches. This devotion has been rewarded over the years by a high-achieving and ultra-skilful football team that has won the FIFA World Cup a record 5 times and are the only team to succeed in qualifying for every World Cup competition ever held. Unfortunately for them, they are currently 11th in the FIFA rankings, and even England are above them at number 10! Still, you are pretty much assured of a lively and raucous World-Cup experience if you are lucky enough to be making the trip over there. This Guide is designed to help you with the preparations for your trip, and to give you a heads up on what to expect whilst you are in Brazil.
When is it happening?
Brazil will open the tournament in Sao Paolo on 12th June and the group stages run until 26th June. The quarter-finals are on 4th and 5th July (two a day) and the semi-finals are on 8th and 9th July. The Final will be held in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday 13th July. So we have a whole month’s worth of football to look forward to! The good news for armchair-viewers in the UK is that footie-filled evenings are a real prospect once the fixtures get underway, as there is an initial 10-day period of 3 matches per day, kicking off at 17.00, 20.00 and 23.00 BST – so no lunchtime skiving required! The second-round matches take place at 17.00 and 21.00BST, the quarter finals kick-off at 17.00 and 21.00 BST, the semi-finals at 21.00 BST and the final at 20.00 BST. One addition to this particular World Cup Finals is the inclusion for the first time in the Finals, of goal-line technology – in case of any controversial situations that may need clarification.
How can I get tickets?
Some tickets have already been allocated, with demand for this first batch already being double the total available. 70% of the requests came from Brazil. Tickets that are still available can be bought from 5th November on a first-come, first served process. The next window of opportunity comes on 8th December following the World Cup draw, this batch will be randomly allocated. There will be two more ticket-buying chances in 2014, both first-come, first served. In total, it is anticipated that there will be 3.3 million tickets available, with only 1 million allocated already. Find out more information and learn how you can apply for tickets here.
What will the weather be like?
Brazil is a huge country with a climate that varies depending on which region you are in. As Brazil is in the Southern hemisphere, and the seasons are opposite to ours, the tournament will take place during their Winter. It will still be humid though, reducing in severity as you travel south. The cities based in the South of Brazil (Sao Paolo, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte) are expected to be the most comfortable temperature-wise (mid 20’s) whereas the North-west city of Manaus is liable to be the most humid.
Do I need a visa to travel to Brazil?
As a British passport holder, you don’t need a visa to enter Brazil, but you will need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months and a return ticket. When you arrive in Brazil, you will be given a 90-day entry stamp in your passport and a stamped entry card. It is essential that you take care of this, as you could be fined if you lose it, plus there will be problems when you leave the country. If you are travelling with children to Brazil then they need their own passport. In addition to this, children aged between 3 months and 6 years, you must also show proof of vaccination for polio. If a child is travelling without their parents, or just one of them, the adult travelling with the child will need a notarized letter from both parents confirming permission for the child to travel without them.
Do I need to be vaccinated to travel to Brazil?
It is advisable to visit your doctor at least 3 months before your planned travel to the World Cup, in case they recommend a vaccine which requires that length of time to work properly in your body. There are several vaccines that may be recommended for travel to Brazil – typhoid, Hepatitis A, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, Rabies and Yellow Fever. However, your doctor will advise you on your personal requirements. There are also certain diseases or illnesses that you need to be aware of in particular, plus advice about what to do if you are ill in Brazil. You can find out more information here.
Will I be safe in Brazil?
Brazil has got a reputation for a having a high crime rate, especially relating to violent crime, which can be off-putting to some travellers. Back in the 1980’s the situation was a lot worse than it was now, due to the economic problems of the country leaving many people in dire poverty, and the country without the infrastructure to provide the basics of adequate policing and crime prevention. The situation is a lot better now, as the country’s finances improved and they have put a lot of work into turning the negatives around. It is still not advisable to venture into the shanty town favelas and crime remains relatively high in large cities. It would be hoped though, that there would be a heightened police and security presence during the World Cup. There are some common-sense steps you could take to minimise the risks of being a crime victim whilst in Brazil:
- Don’t flaunt valuable items like jewellery, best to leave high-end watches, camera equipment etc at home
- Avoid dark alleys and dingy back streets where you are hidden from public view, especially as night falls
- Instead of having to pull your entire wallet or purse out for a small purchase, have some small bills handy.
- Although public transport is safe to use in the daytime or early evening, it may be better not to use it after dark. When it is really busy, take care of pickpockets, and keep valuables in a zipped bag or pocket.
Another thing to be aware of when negotiating your way around, is the traffic! Brazilian drivers tend to show scant regard for pedestrians and they never have the right of way! Accordingly, take care when crossing roads, especially at night when drivers are prone to running red lights. Also, be cautious when crossing a one-way street, as there’s a fair proportion of drivers who don’t follow this rule of the road.
Check here for more detailed advice about staying safe in Brazil:
Another issue to bear in mind about the World Cup is that protesters in Brazil (still unhappy about the infrastructure problems in the country, particularly in terms of health, education, sanitation and transport) are planning to stage widespread protests, during this global event. Although, citizens are usually employed and are able to buy consumer goods pretty readily, their quality of life doesn’t always match up to their expectations of how much progress should have been made. There have already been violent protests, exacerbated by the perceived waste of public money being spent on stadiums etc for the World Cup, which have resulted in stand-offs with police, damage to property and the use of teargas by police to break things up.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advise that there are ongoing protests in Brazilian cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Brasilia, Recife and Belo Horizonte. They advise (as common sense dictates) to avoid all protests and demonstrations. It is best to check back here before you leave for Brazil to see what the latest advice is. Something to bear in mind is that, if you travel to a location contrary to FCO advice, this could potentially invalidate your travel insurance.
When will shops be open for business?
Opening hours differ to those of shops in the UK, as they are usually open from 9am to 7pm on weekdays, 9am to 2pm on Saturdays and they are usually shut on a Sunday. It is slightly different for shopping malls, as they are usually open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 8pm, this may be extended to 10pm in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. On Sundays, the cinemas and food courts may be open all day, but the shops will only be open from 2 to 8pm. Banks are open on weekdays from either 10am to 4pm or 9am to 3pm.
Emergency Numbers – For police – 190, for ambulance or fire department: 193
Will people understand English?
In most big cities, you will find that people working in the tourism industry will be able to speak and understand English (and hopefully those involved with the World Cup, although this is purely speculative) The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, but if you pick up a phrasebook to help you get by, make sure that it is Brazilian Portuguese and not the Portuguese spoken in Portugal, as these are not one and the same.
What are the drinking laws?
The official age for legal alcohol consumption in Brazil is aged 18, although this isn’t strictly enforced. Alcohol can be bought any day of the week from shops and snack stands. Drinking is allowed in public places and in motor vehicles. Conversely, there is zero tolerance on drink driving as the legal limit of 0.0mg is strictly enforced. Normally, drinking alcohol is banned in football stadiums, in a bid to reduce hooliganism, but FIFA officials are adamant that they want beer to be sold in stadiums. There is still some debate about whether this will happen in all of the stadiums of the World Cup.
Can I use my electrical appliances in Brazil?
Confusingly, the electric current varies from 100 to 240 volts and may even vary within a city. Power surges are not uncommon in Brazil. Brazilian plugs usually have three prongs, two round and one flat, so it differs to sockets in the UK. It is best to pack a universal adapter in your luggage.
Can I smoke in Brazil?
Smoking is not allowed on planes or when travelling on long distance buses. You are not allowed to light up in restaurants in Sao Paolo and Rio, other cities look set to follow suit in the future.
Will I be able to find a public toilet in Brazil?
It is not easy to find public toilets in Brazil, except in shopping malls. It’s usual to use toilets as a customer in a hotel or restaurant. If you do manage to locate the public conveniences, they may be labelled Male and Female in a few different ways: it could be an M (mulher) for women and an H (homen) for men, alternatively, it could say D (damas) or C (cavalheiros). If you are being ultra-prepared, it wouldn’t do any harm to carry some toilet paper with you, as you may not receive too much from the toilet attendant.
Can I drink the water in Brazil?
The tap water in Brazil is becoming increasingly hygienic to drink, but unfortunately, it doesn’t taste too good as a result of the treatment process. The water is fine to shower in or brush your teeth in, but you may prefer to drink bottled or filtered water (like most natives do) and if you do, agua sem gas is the name of still water and agua com gas for carbonated water.
Do I need to tip in Brazil?
If you eat out, a 10% service charge is automatically added onto most restaurant and hotel bills, and there is no need to tip in addition to this charge. There’s no need to tip taxi drivers, it’s usual to round up the amount to help with change.
What are the facilities like for those with disabilities?
Brazil will be a challenge to travellers with disabilities, as there is very little wheelchair access. Although many hotels, restaurants and attractions are making themselves accessible, it can be tricky to get to them because of uneven pavements, a lack of ramps and buses and taxis are very rarely adapted to accommodate a wheelchair. Sao Paolo and Rio Metro systems are beginning to provide ramps and elevators, but not all stations are equipped.
How can I get a fair deal on hotel room rates?
Hotel and accommodation room-rates (along with the cost of many other things in Brazil, including internal flights) are poised to rise exorbitantly during the World Cup, as locals hope to cash in on the massive demand. Even if the prices weren’t artificially increased for the World Cup, they would probably still seem expensive, as the cost of living in Brazil has skyrocketed in recent years, and Sao Paolo and Rio are among the most expensive cities in the world. Brazilian authorities are concerned about the effect that massive price hikes will have on the country’s image internationally, it is reported that domestic flights in the tournament may be up to 10 times more expensive, and visitors may have to pay up to £125 or more to stay in a mid range hotel in Rio for a night. Restaurants, bars, car parks and other services in host cities are also expected to up their prices. It is always wise to check a quote that you have been given by a hotel, with a travel agency, as it may not always be cheapest to go directly to the accommodation provider. Many hotels give their best rates to travel agents and up the prices for independent travellers or people booking via the internet. Hotels do not generally provide tea and coffee making facilities and the complimentary toiletries are usually very basic. On the plus side, breakfast (cafe de manha) is usually provided free, typically it is a buffet of bread, meats, cheeses, fruit, eggs and coffee.
Making phone calls
Public phones are easy to find in Brazil and are called orelhoes. You need a phone card (a cartao telefonico) to make calls, and these are available from newsstands. To call the UK, dial 00+21+44 (for the UK)+area code+phone number. International collect class can be requested by dialling 000-111, or automatically by dialling 90+21+44+area code+phone number. International GSM cellphones work in most parts of Brazil, the costs can be high though, about US$1 to US$1.50 per minute. It is more economical to buy a local SIM card, which will give you a local Brazilian number and gives you access to local Brazilian rates.
The official unit of currency in Brazil is the Real (pronounced Ray-all), the plural is Reais (pronounced Ray-eyes). Check here for the current exchange rate. When you exchange £’s for R$, remember to keep the receipt as you will need it to change any left-over R$ at the end of your trip. It can also be useful to take a small amount of US $ with you as an emergency supply in case the ATM is broken or your credit card isn’t working. Shops all over Brazil will be happy to take US $ as currency. It is not advisable to take travellers cheques to Brazil, as they either aren’t accepted, or you get a terrible exchange rate. The best way to get money at a reasonable rate is by getting money from an ATM. You can find them everywhere in Brazil, the only issue is finding one compatible with your card. It is advisable to contact your card provider and find out the location of ATM’s that you will be able to use near to where you are staying. You will also need a four-digit PIN to access ATM’s in Brazil. Most have a withdrawal limit of R$1, 000 but this may be lower. Another thing to bear in mind, is that ATM’s don’t usually operate 24 hours a day – they may close after 10pm or only allow a small amount of cash to be withdrawn when its officially shut.
Making the right impression
Different countries obviously have their own cultures, customs and interpretations of body language. If you’re going to Brazil, there are a few things that are considered rude:
– Picking your teeth
– Touching food with your hands at any time
– Cutting to the chase in a conversation without previous chit-chat
– Eating in places that aren’t designated eating areas
– Not queueing – Brazilians rival us Brits in terms of polite and organised lines waiting for buses.
Generally, people are more ‘touchy feely’ in Brazil and more liable to invade your personal space when having a conversation with you.
Food and Drink
There’s bound to be a vast array of food and drink available to buy at the World Cup to cater for the influx of foreign visitors, much of it untypically Brazilian. If you want to get a taste of local delicacies look here for some ideas.
Do I need to take out travel insurance before travelling to Brazil?
It is essential that you take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart the UK and jet off to the World Cup. Even though foreign Nationals are entitled to free emergency treatment in a Brazilian public hospital, these are often very crowded. Many Brazilians have a private health plan allowing them to be treated at a private hospital – but these may want evidence that you have travel insurance or adequate funds, before admitting you for treatment. Also, if you are seriously ill, and require repatriation to the UK, this will be a very costly procedure, but one which would be covered by your travel insurance if the need arose. It is essential that you contact your travel insurance provider’s Emergency Assistance team as soon as you require medical treatment, so they can advise you of the best place to receive treatment and what you need to do make a claim. Travel insurance has a multitude of other benefits too, including cover for the cancellation of your trip, and there is also cover for lost or stolen valuables or travel documents (depending on which policy you take out). Something to bear in mind, to cut out the risk of invalidating any claims, is that you need to declare any pre-existing medical conditions, else you run the risk of any costs incurred that are associated with that medical condition, not being covered. Also, you will need to let your insurer know, prior to doing it, if you will be taking part in any adventurous or risky activities such as paragliding, as you may have to pay an extra amount to be covered for this. If you take part in an impromptu beach football kick around, there may not be a charge for this, but if you play as part of an amateur side, there may be (check with your chosen insurer). When you take out travel insurance, you are asked to select the area cover you require – if you are solely travelling to Brazil, this may be described as Worldwide excluding the USA, Canada and the Caribbean, which means it should be cheaper to cover you than if you were heading to the USA. Taking out travel insurance is a very sensible precaution against your dream adventure to the Brazilian World Cup turning into a costly and stressful personal disaster.
What else can I do in Brazil?
As you’ve travelled in excess of 10 hours to get from the UK to Brazil, you will no-doubt want to explore more of this immense and incredibly fascinating holiday destination. While the football may be your main focus, if time and money allows, it would be a shame not to broaden your travel plans to include some of the many sights and sounds on offer in Brazil. Apart from the razzmatazz of Rio and the eponymous Copacabana beach, there’s lots more to enjoy if you get the opportunity. Read more here: 10 Top Tourist Attractions in Brazil, Brazilian Obsessions: 10 Must-See Destinations in Brazil and Brazil: a hat-trick trip
If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to Brazil for the World Cup, we hope that you will find this guide useful and that your dedicated support is rewarded by a great showing from the England team, and a bona fide party atmosphere in the land of samba.