Rio de Janeiro’s huge appeal to soccer fans means that hotel accommodation is in short supply during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
World Cup fever means that finding affordable rooms poses a serious challenge for visitors to each of the 12 Brazilian host cities; in Rio, that challenge is magnified by the fact that, as the country’s tourist favorite, most international World Cup fans will visit even if their team isn’t playing in the city.
Soaring Prices for World Cup Accommodation
Hotel rooms in Rio are already among the most expensive in the world, and are now rising into the stratosphere for World Cup stays. For the duration of the tournament, which runs from June 12 through July 13, visitors can expect to pay around $450 per night for a no-frills double room in the vicinity of the famous beaches. Rooms with beach views are considerably more.
The city’s few true luxury hotels are already fully booked, despite charging upwards of $2000 per night. With a serious shortfall of hotel rooms to accommodate the expected 300,000 World Cup visitors to the city, many soccer fans are frantically searching for less exorbitant alternatives to hotels.
An Alternative View of Rio
Cariocas, as natives of Rio are known, are renowned for their entrepreneurial spirit, and many are now offering rooms or entire homes for rent during the World Cup. Rental sites such as Airbnb have been a major success story in Rio, allowing savvy travelers to search by price bracket, location, and accommodation type according to their needs. (Options range from sofa-beds in locals’ downtown apartments, starting at around $50, to entire luxury Ipanema penthouses with pools, starting at around $1500.) Potential guests can vet hosts and read comments from any previous guests, making Airbnb a relatively safe option for visiting soccer fans.
Insider Tip: Holiday apartments are another economical choice for longer stays. At the Fodor’s-recommended AlexRioFlats, week-long World Cup Packages at smart beachfront studios and apartments in Copacabana start at $4000 for up to 4 people.
Pousadas: Brazil’s Most Enticing Lodging Option
For those who like their home comforts, Brazil’s pousadas—independently-run guest houses—are an enticing alternative to often charmless hotel rooms. A common complaint among Western visitors to Rio is that high prices are only rarely matched by high quality in the city’s hotels, but for those prepared to sacrifice a central location in return for lush tropical gardens, personalized service, and lots of charm, the country’s pousadas offer excellent standards. (Options range from simple guest houses to “boutique pousadas” and eco-lodges, and prices vary accordingly. As a rule of thumb, however, they offer vastly more bang for your buck than standard hotel rooms.
Insider Tip: Alison McGowan, a Rio-based Brit, runs the Brazil-wide website HiddenPousadas.com, which cherry-picks the best pousadas the country has to offer, in every price bracket.
McGowan recommends booking a pousada in a scenic location outside the host cities, where the World Cup spirit will not be lacking but the streets will not be swamped by tourist hordes. There are some truly lovely locations just a couple of hours from Rio, and indeed, all the World Cup host cities, from Manaus in the Amazon to Porto Alegre in the far South of Brazil. For those lucky enough to have scored tickets to a game, private transport on match day can usually be arranged. Close to Rio, McGowan recommends Vila do Mar, in the stylish beach resort of Buzios, or Pousada do Ouro, in the perfectly preserved historic town of Paraty.
Favelas: Find a Place to Stay in Rio’s Slums
For those prepared to venture a little farther off the beaten tourist track, truly unique accommodations can be found within the city’s once-infamous favelas, or slums. Formerly the bloodied terrain of heavily-armed drug factions, the majority of these urban developments have now been pacified by Rio’s military police. With power wrested from the violent gangs, the favelas are opening their doors to tourism, and home owners are offering rooms to rent during the soccer tournament.
Elliot Rosenburg runs the favela rental agency Favela Experience, working with locals to offer beds, rooms, and entire homes to rent. He has already received many World Cup bookings and says, “As our prices are 50 percent below even youth hostels, our guests will save money while participating in a vibrant and welcoming side of Brazil.” As Rosenburg points out, a stay in a Rio de Janeiro favela offers an experience in the city that is simply not open to those immersing themselves in the beach zones.
Insider Tip: Favelas in Rio’s Zona Sul—the beautiful South Zone of the city, which encompasses the beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana and Leblon as well as leafy, upper-class suburbs such as Jardim Botanico and Lagoa—cling to the mountainsides, offering sweeping vistas that are unsurpassed by any hotel in the city.