When Brazil was chosen for the 2014 World Cup—bringing the games to Latin America for the first time since 1986—it was a victory for fans throughout the football-crazed region. I often find that Brazil holds a special allure for Latin Americans, who dream about traveling to places like Rio and Bahia, and the games represented a new reason to go. Yet even Brazil's neighbors may have trouble making it to the event given the astronomical costs to attend.
Luckily, Brazil's World Cup Law has assured that a certain number of cheap tickets must be sold to Brazilian citizens, specifically students, senior citizens, and Bolsa Família recipients. The least expensive tickets start at R$30, or about $15. It's not clear how many of these tickets have been sold yet; close to two-thirds of all tickets are reserved for sponsors and country teams, and aren't for sale. During the 2010 World Cup, nearly a third of all tickets sold directly to fans were low-cost tickets purchased by South Africans.
But for non-Brazilian Latin Americans without deep pockets, the World Cup may be out of reach.
First off, costs for flights and hotels have spiked during June and July. Some flights are as much as 1,000 percent more expensive, and in some cases, hotels are charging four times the normal rate. Folha reported last month that Match Services, a tourism company associated with FIFA, is charging an average of 24 percent more than what the actual hotels are charging. For example, the company is charging nearly 2,000 percent more for one Rio hostel than the hostel normally charges. Folha also found that of 85 hotels surveyed, nearly half said they had run out of rooms during the games—even though those same rooms were still available through FIFA.
Then, there's the option of buying a package deal. I did a bit of research about what kind of packages are on offer in the Latin American countries that will be represented at the World Cup. What I found were exorbitant prices, being charged in U.S. dollars. (All prices are per person.) I also checked gross income per capita using World Bank data as a comparison, given that some companies are charging the average of a year's salary, or even more.
Argentina: One of the official companies offering World Cup packages has packages starting at around $10,000, including only hotels and transfers, and VIP tickets starting at $3,200. An Argentine football blog found that some Argentines had booked hotels, flights, games, and transportation on their own for between $4,400 and $5,560 for two weeks, and about $2,500 for four to five days. [Argentina's gross national income per capita: $5,170.]
Costa Rica: Packages start at $6,000 (without lodging), with the cheapest package including a hotel stay at $10,500; the most expensive package costs up to $22,000. [Costa Rica's gross national income per capita: $8,740]
Ecuador: A local company is offering packages ranging from around $4,400 to over $9,700 for hotels and transfers alone (no flights), and between $800 and $2,000 for game tickets. One report says that the average price for Ecuadorans, with all costs included, is about $12,000. [Ecuador's gross national income per capita: $5,200]
Mexico: One tour company is offering complete packages that range from nearly $7,600 to over $99,600. Six of the packages include a hostel, rather than a hotel, for lodging. [Mexico's gross national income per capita: $9,600]
Image: Rio's Maracanã Stadium. Iko/Flickr.