World Cup 2014: Last-minute packages, flight and ticket deals for Brazil
England fans wanting to soak up World Cup fever can still get there on a (reasonable) budget
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 30 May 2014
As the England team prepare to fly to Brazil for the World Cup, fans who have waited for a last-minute deal to football’s biggest tournament are spoiled for choice. Expensive air fares and room rates that have prevailed for months are now crumbling.
Airlines and hotels with unfilled seats and beds are flooding the market, offering bargains to supporters who have held their nerve. They can now buy trips for far less than many fans who booked months ago.
The World Cup kicks off on 12 June in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city. The hosts take on Croatia in the opening match. The final is on 13 July at the Maracana stadium in Rio.
Research by The Independent shows that city-break packages to Sao Paulo are available for around £1,000 for a week, including flights from Heathrow via Miami and a three-star, centrally located hotel. When the draw was made for the tournament in December, similar packages were sold for two to three times as much.
Sao Paulo makes an excellent base for England fans. It has the best air links in Brazil. Manaus, where England play their opening game against Italy on 14 June, is difficult to reach and has a shortage of accommodation. But flights from Sao Paulo on the morning of the match, returning in the early hours next day, are available for £500 return – not unreasonable for a distance greater than London to Moscow.
England’s second match, against Uruguay, will be played in Sao Paulo. Luxury sleeper-bus services from the city run to Belo Horizonte, where England will play Costa Rica in the final group game.
Flying down to Rio, where the England team will be based, remains pricey: the lowest fare on British Airways from Heathrow in the coming month is around £1,000 return, without accommodation – which is scarce and expensive in the city’s most popular areas.
Stuart Whittington, head of product at Journey Latin America (JLA), said: “Our local suppliers have had their work cut out managing the changing situation over the last months. Fifa held allocations on all the hotels for a long time, so hotel availability was an issue.”
The main concern for many England supporters is tickets. Through the organisers, Fifa, “hospitality packages” are still available for each of England's three group games. In effect these are simply tickets sold legitimately at a high premium. For the most sought-after match, England-Uruguay, the price is US$1,700 – over £1,000. Tickets for all three group matches bought through official channels will total over £2,000.
Tens of thousands of tickets are being sold openly through resale agents such as Viagogo. According to prices quoted online, tickets for all three England group games can be bought for around £700.
Fifa warns: “It is likely that consumers who purchase from unauthorised resellers will receive tickets that are counterfeit or invalid, or they may not receive any tickets at all.” The organisation’s marketing director, Thierry Weil, said: “Fifa cancels tickets discovered as illegally sold or resold.” However, it is difficult to find anyone in football who believes the rules will be effectively enforced.
Fans who merely wish to soak up the atmosphere and experience a World Cup match regardless of the teams can easily assemble a cheap trip. Air Europa is selling flights from Gatwick via Madrid to Brazil’s third city, Salvador, for under £850 return. Salvador is the venue for the least-popular match in the tournament, judging from prices on resale websites: Bosnia-Herzegovina v Iran on 25 June, for which £5 tickets are available.
Other host cities are nearby, including Fortaleza – location for another less-popular game, between Greece and Ivory Coast, on 24 June.
Once the tournament begins, operators anticipate a flurry of bookings. Stuart Whittington of JLA said: “We expect some further last-minute interest as the tournament progresses and people head out to see later games.”
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