How to Plan a Trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics

Rio Carnival 2016 - Day 2
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - FEBRUARY 08: A Rio Olympics 2016 car is seen before the first day of parades of the panel's Carnival in Rio de Janeiro on Marques de Sapucai Sambadromo on February 08, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by William Volcov/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Photograph by Brazil Photo Press/CON LatinContent — Getty Images

The world will be watching in August as the Olympic torch completes its journey to Rio during the Opening Ceremony. But the question is, will you be watching from home or from the beaches of Rio? Those hoping to fall in the latter category have most likely been planning their trip for months, but it’s not too late to get in on the action. Below are some basic steps to follow if you’re hoping to experience the games first-hand.

Scoring Tickets to an Event

The first thing to know about Olympic ticketing is that everything depends on your nationality. Each country has its own agency, and citizens are asked to purchase tickets through them. Those reading this in the United States will use CoSport. You’ll need to create an account, log on, and search for available tickets.

It’s important to mention that currently, the pickings are slim (yes, already). CoSport is already in its third phase of ticket sales, which means two groups have already had their pick. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. At publishing, there were still tickets available for events like Track and Field, Basketball, Golf, Handball, and Taekwondo and inventory is constantly changing. Also, there are multiple hotel packages available that include tickets to specific events. Act fast, however, as ticket and package availability tends to dwindle the closer each day gets to the games. It’s also a good idea to get on CoSport’s email alert system. As additional tickets are made available, you’ll want to be the first to know.

If all else fails, there’s always the option to purchase tickets on sites like eBay and Craigslist. Obviously, there are risks when choosing to use a secondary retailer, but for some, the choice works out nicely.

Flying to Brazil

Once you have a ticket to the event, you’ll want to secure your seat on a flight as soon as possible. Travel to Rio is actually quite easy from the United States as multiple airlines offer routes to the city, but you’re bank account will thank you if you search around for the best fare. Keep in mind that the most expensive days to travel will be during the few days preceding the Opening Ceremony as well as the day after the Closing Ceremony. A good solution is to fly while the games are underway or to set aside multiple days for sightseeing.

Do I Need a Visa?

Typically, American visitors need a travel visa (around $160) to get into Brazil. Luckily, that requirement is being waived for a select few countries, including the United States, during the Olympic games. The temporary visa waiver program will be in affect from June 1 to September 18, giving travelers more than nine weeks prior to the games and a month after to travel to Brazil visa-free.

Rio’s Lack of Hotel Rooms

It’s no secret that hotel room inventory in Rio is limited, which is why the Rio Olympic organizing committee has signed an agreement with Airbnb, naming the company as the official alternative lodging supplier. The apartment sharing service has been operating in Brazil since 2012 and estimates around 20,000 listings throughout Rio. A quick search shows multiple rooms available for rent with an average nightly rate around $250. Prices are bound to fluctuate in the months leading to the Olympics and rates can sometimes be negotiated with hosts.

Those with a higher budget can opt for one of the many hotel packages available. CoSport has a variety of options, which include guaranteed tickets to events. The cheapest starts at $2,746.50 per person for two nights and is conveniently located near a competition venue. Most hotel locations are scattered throughout neighborhoods hosting events.

Familiarize Yourself With the City’s Culture and Event Venues

Rio is the second largest city in Brazil and residents speak Portuguese. The local currency is the real, which is pronounced “rey-al” and is currently worth $0.25. Events will be hosted in four neighborhoods: Deodoro, Maracana, Barra, and Copacabana, so it’s important to take a look at the Olympic map to determine the zone where the events you want to attend will occur. Barra will serve as the heart of the games, hosting the largest concentration of venues. As far as weather is concerned, the country will be experiencing the end of its winter season. That’s right, winter. Don’t expect it to be overwhelmingly warm, as temperatures tend to average around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The city is known for its beaches, so travelers should make sure to carve out some time to enjoy the sand while indulging in the local cuisine. Grab a drink from the many juice bars and enjoy the delicious exotic fruits from the region. Sure, the games are exciting, but Rio has plenty to offer in and of itself. Take advantage of the fact that you’re there!

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It’s also important to note that there is currently an alert in effect for travel to Brazil regarding the Zika virus. There is no way to know whether the virus will still be an issue in August, but those who are pregnant may want to reconsider a trip. The United States Olympic Committee has even cautioned athletes about participating.

This article was previously published on Travel + Leisure.

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