Thinking about heading to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics this August? I’ll break down the major costs* to help you decide if a weeklong trip to the Summer Olympics in Brazil is in your future.
Only a handful of cities offer round-trip flights to Rio, so you’ll most likely have at least one layover. A round-trip ticket from Atlanta or New York City might cost around $750, but starting from a place like Detroit will cost you around $1,500. While this might seem extreme, purchasing separate plane tickets for various parts of the journey may help lower costs. For example, purchasing two one-way tickets or purchasing round-trip tickets from Detroit to Toronto and then from Toronto to Rio de Janeiro may be more economical. Flying standby can also save you money if your return dates are flexible.
Hotel rooms average a gut-wrenching $300 per night. Even if that fee includes Wi-Fi and breakfast, it’s pretty expensive.
For a more authentic Brazilian experience, a “pousada” may offer a great alternative to chain hotels while offering more bang for your buck. There is no direct English translation for the word, but pousadas are similar to a bed-and-breakfast or even a boutique hotel. They are typically independently owned and offer the chance to live more like a local. Brazilian pousadas can run anywhere from $30 – $70 a night but might increase in price closer to the official opening ceremony.
Airbnb is another option that may allow you to live like a local while simultaneously meeting new friends. Single rooms are going for an average of $80 a night, but you can rent an entire apartment for $170 a night. If you share the apartment and the cost with friends, this can be a great deal.
If you’re feeling adventurous, renting a bed in a hostel averages $50 per night. This is the most cost-effective option for single travelers, but it generally requires you to share the room with strangers (in other words, new friends).
Because demand for rooms will be high, these prices are close to double what they normally are. During the Olympics, certain places also require that you stay a minimum number of nights and pay in full upfront. And like always, you’ll typically find better prices if you book earlier.
Rio has a great public transportation system, so there’s no need to rent a car. For less than $1.50 a ride, you can use the metro or the bus to get around the city center. While utilizing public transportation can be fun, wandering the city on foot will allow you to explore areas of the city that are unreachable by buses.
For longer journeys or trips outside the city, you can use metered taxis or pre-book a taxi. For example, a taxi ride from RIOgaleão – Tom Jobim International Airport to the city center would cost anywhere from $20 – $30 depending on traffic and the exact route. Just make sure the cab driver uses the meter; some cab drivers don’t turn on the meter when transporting tourists so they can charge more than they should.
Tickets to the Olympic Games
You’ll most likely want to go to at least one of the games, so you’ll need to determine which ceremonies or events you’re interested in and can afford. Budget tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies will cost you at least $750, while individual events such as soccer, which is arguably the most popular sport in Brazil, go for $30 – $80. You can save money by purchasing the budget tickets or going to a less popular sporting event. However, after spending all that money getting there, you may decide to spend the extra cash to see the event you’re really interested in.
While you’re there, you’ll probably want to hit up some of Rio’s best attractions. Some excursions charge entrance fees, while others are free. The Christ the Redeemer statue (Rio’s most famous landmark) and the stunning views from atop Sugarloaf Mountain can’t be missed, even if getting there is pricey. There are also plenty of beautiful budget-friendly beaches to relax on, trails to hike and culturally diverse neighborhoods to explore. In many cities in the area, local students offer free walking tours. They can show you around the city while offering insider tips on sightseeing, restaurants and shopping, and answering questions about the city.
Plane tickets: $1,500
Accommodation in a hostel: $350 ($50×7 days)
Transport: $75 (including to and from the airport plus daily metro rides around the city)
Budget tickets to an Olympic event: $50
For a one-week budget vacation to Rio during the Olympics, expect to pay a minimum of $1,975 for accommodation, a round-trip plane ticket, transportation and a ticket to one of the games. This doesn’t include food, travel insurance, fees for additional excursions that you’ll want to take and, of course, souvenirs. This seems like a lot, but had you spent a similar week in London for the 2012 Olympics, you would have spent close to $4,000.
As with any major decision, from buying a house to choosing a college, you’ll want to weigh the costs and benefits. Rio will be at its best during the Olympics, as billions of dollars are being invested in public transportation and infrastructure, meaning the city is even more beautiful and accessible. Similarly, the lessons you’ll learn overseas are invaluable and need to be taken into consideration when determining if the Rio Olympics are affordable for you.
But if you’ve looked at your budget and a trip to the Olympics simply costs too much, my advice is to watch the games from the comfort of your living room and plan your budget-friendly Brazilian adventure for later in the year, when prices and temperatures are much lower and the crowds have all gone home.
Save the cash from your travel budget and invest in a home today!
*Rates accurate at time of publishing.
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