When the torch lands in Maracanã Stadium on August 5th, Brazil will become the first South American country to host the Olympics. Over the course of 17 days, 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will compete for the gold—and if you want in on the action, you need to lock down the trip right now. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Try to snag event tickets
It’s not too late to score tickets to an event: The Olympics committee is shelling out more than 7.5 million tickets this year. If you’re buying from the U.S., you’ll need to go through the agency CoSport (you can find ticketing agencies for other countries on the Rio 2016 website). Availability fluctuates throughout this third, and final, phase of sales, which ends on May 4th. At the time of publication, tickets (from $15) were on sale for 17 sports—including volleyball, basketball, and soccer—with 27 medal contention sessions available. Want to catch one of hotter (and sold-out) events, say, beach volleyball? Spring for one of the ticket + hotel packages, which start around $4,000 for four days.
As a last resort, try secondhand agencies like eBay or Craigslist. Obviously, there are risks involved, but if you protect yourself it can work out in your favor.
Even if you can’t score tickets, go anyway! The electric energy around the venues will be an experience in itself.
2. Lock down your flight and don’t worry about a visa
Flights to Rio shouldn’t be an issue as long as you don’t mind a surcharge of about 30 percent (tickets to the Olympics start at $1,000—roughly $300 more than the average summer flight). Direct flights from the U.S. depart from Atlanta, Houston, New York, and Miami daily. To get the best price, don’t fly within two days of the opening ceremonies. Get to Rio early and explore the city before the larger crowds arrive or fly in after the games are underway.
Brazil has waived its visa requirements for any travel that takes place between June 1 and September 18. So whether you’re traveling for the Olympics or not, you don’t have to pay the $160 visa fee to enter the country—as long as you’re traveling from the U.S., Canada, Japan, or Australia.
3. Get creative with accommodations
If you’re looking for a boutique hotel with a rooftop lounge overlooking Copacabana, good luck. The city’s hotels, everywhere from Barra to Maracanã, are booked solid with very few last-minute openings popping up. However, partner agencies still have hotel + ticket packages available—though it will you cost you (see #1).
Enter Airbnb. This year, the home-sharing service partnered with Rio 2016 to handle the volume of international visitors. From August through September, travelers can choose from the more than 20,000 listings near event venues. At the time of publication, there were still plenty of options, mostly in Copacabana, with an average price of $300/night.
If you don’t see something you like on Airbnb, you can also check out other home-sharing sites like Flipkey, Homeaway, and VRBO—an easy way to see them all is to visit AlltheRooms.com.
4. Get to know the city and the venues
More than 500,000 international visitors are expected to descend on the city for the games, adding to the 6.3 million people who already live in Rio. This means there will be no breathing room to familiarize yourself with the city once the games begin. Get ahead of the curve and brush up on the map of Rio, specifically the four neighborhoods where events are being held: Copacabana, Barra, Deodoro, and Maracanã. Most of the event venues are in Barra, which is about a 40-minute drive from both Copacabana and Maracanã.
As for weather, August is the tail end of Rio’s winter, so expect temperatures that hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit—a little cool at times, but still warm enough to watch beach volleyball on the jumbotron with a caipirinha in hand.
5. Don’t forget basic travel safety
The excitement of traveling to Olympics and seeing thousands of foreign visitors can make you forget basic travel safety and ignore advisories. Don’t. Zika virus is still a concern in Brazil, particularly for pregnant women. Keep an eye on alerts from the CDC.
It’s just as important to remember your personal safety. Brazil is currently in a recession that’s forced budget cuts to security for the games, and President Dilma Rousseff’s possible impeachment is causing political unrest. No matter which event you’re attending, remain aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on personal possessions.