The 2014 World Cup is currently underway in Brazil, with more than 600,000 foreign tourists expected to attend. If you’re planning on being one of them, this guide is for you.
Medical costs can be astronomical in Brazil and hidden dangers lurk around every corner, so it pays to do your research and take precautions, both before you leave and while you’re there.
Choosing your flight
- There are limited flights to and from Brazil each week, so book early.
- There are no direct flights between Australia and Brazil, so you’ll need to make at least one stopover on the way.
- Brazil has three international airports: Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek (BSB) in Brasilia, Galeáo (GIG) in Rio de Janeiro, and Guarulhos (GRU) in São Paulo.
Deciding where to stay
It’s always the same challenge when it comes to housing several thousands of spectators, and despite its immense size, Brazil is no different. As everywhere, prices and comfort levels vary greatly.
In addition to traditional hotels, youth hostels and campgrounds, Brazil offers some more original lodging solutions.
- Pousadas, which are family-run, are quite similar to hotels but offer more ‘rustic’ charm.
- Jungle lodges invite travellers to discover Brazil’s natural environment. There are many in the Manaus region, and a stadium as well. So, nature-loving soccer fans need look no further!
- Or why not give couch surfing a try? Staying with locals is an adventurous way to discover Brazil and an economical solution for the budget-conscious traveller. For more information, visit www.couchsurfing.org
The primary health risks in Brazil come from the water, the food and insect bites.
Numerous infectious agents (viruses, bacteria and parasites) can contaminate food and water, or be easily transmitted manually via dirty hands. For the most part, they cause digestive troubles manifested by fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Symptoms can range from awkward and embarrassing to extremely serious (dehydration or very high fever).
During long-haul flights, try to drink a lot of water (around one litre every four hours) and avoid alcoholic and carbonated beverages. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and support socks or stockings. And make sure you get up and walk around the plane as often as possible.
Preventing and protecting against mosquito bites
Malaria is a very common and serious risk in this part of the world. So we strongly recommend that before you leave, you get a prescription for an anti-malaria treatment to take with you. Dengue fever is also present with renewed outbreaks in the south-eastern and most affected part of the country, including São Paulo. It’s therefore critical that you prevent and protect yourself against mosquito bites, which can occur during the day, in the evening or while sleeping. Use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved clothing and avoid areas where the water is stagnant.
Yellow fever shots are required in Brazil (these last for 10 years). When given for the first time, they must be administered at least 10 days before departure. Also, allow for several days between getting other types of booster shots (check with your doctor about the timing). Ordinary vaccinations such as diphtheria-tetanus-polio must be up-to-date, and other vaccinations, including for typhoid fever and Hepatitis A and B, are recommended if you’ll be prolonging your stay in Brazil.
If something does happen despite taking these precautions, it’s important to know that the 12 cities hosting the World Cup tournament matches all have satisfactory medical care. Nevertheless, medical services in Brazil are very expensive. So before you leave, it’s important to organise travel insurance to cover any medical costs you might incur.
Numbers to call
In case of a medical emergency, call 192 for an ambulance or 193 for the emergency roadside fire brigade; then as soon as possible, call your assistance provider to make sure they’ll cover all related costs. In case of a less serious medical problem, you’ll also want to contact your assistance provider. Doing so early on means they’ll be able to direct you to the best doctors or medical establishments and that you’ll benefit from the best possible care.
“Remember that for any health issue that requires seeing a medical professional, most contracts require that you call your assistance company right away. This will enable you to be supported in the decision-making process, to be cared for in an establishment that is adapted to your illness or condition, and to be advised about the medical costs before agreeing to treatment. Unfortunately, medical costs are very often exorbitant, and you must be absolutely sure that you are taking the right steps to guarantee your financial coverage as well,” explains Laurent Verner, Medical Director of Allianz Global Assistance.
Security – stay alert!
Brazil has a high crime rate. Before leaving, arm yourself with safety tips and advice from the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website: http://smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/TravelBulletins/Brazil_World_Cup
Large cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Polo are surrounded by slums, which should only be visited with a qualified guide. And everywhere, tourists are potential targets for kidnapping and abduction. Bear in mind that even if you can’t see them, dangers and risks are always present, especially during large celebrations or events like the World Cup.
Public transport warning
Most urban travel is done in cars, taxis and buses. The rate of road accidents in Brazil is among the highest in the world, so drive your own vehicle in the large cities, if you can. We strongly recommend you don’t hail a taxi ‘on the fly’. Instead, hire a reputable taxi company and leave ample time to get to your destination, because road traffic is very often at a standstill. Buses and trains are also rarely on time.
And a last word of advice: be sure to regularly check the weather report; rainstorms and flash downpours can cause flooding and block the roads.
The Australian Embassy in Brazil: http://www.dfat.gov.au/missions/countries/br.html
About Online Travel Insurance
Online Travel Insurance is a travel insurance and assistance provider underwritten by Allianz Insurance. We’ve been helping Australians in trouble overseas for more than 10 years.