It’s Not Too Late to Go to the World Cup, But Can You Afford It?

The tournament will only get better, but prices are exorbitant

So you still want to make a run down to the World Cup, maybe catch the U.S. if it advances to the second round? Assuming that you don’t have an uncle who happens to be a corrupt FIFA executive, you would have likely had to apply for a ticket through FIFA’s ticketing office, and if you were prudent enough to apply in time for the first phase, you were still competing with roughly four-and-a-half million other people. All this on top of the fact that the entire process of applying for a ticket is wildly complicated and confusing for even the most seasoned of tournament attendees. It involves staggered releases, random lotteries, and all manner of stipulations depending on which games you want to see and how much you are willing to spend.

But let’s stay positive here. Given that the odds worked out in your favor, and you got that highly coveted e-mail from FIFA informing you that you’d been awarded a chance to buy tickets, what you actually won was the opportunity to spend an obscene amount of money. Ticket prices for the average World Cup match basically exclude all but the global elite. Sure, there are reduced pricing tiers for the likes of local students, but the price point that gives you even a reasonable chance of securing a ticket lies at best around the $175 mark. And if you didn’t buy your tickets at the source, those for sale on eBay and StubHub come with eye-watering prices—as high as $1,000 for second-round matches, and that’s for seats high in the upper levels of the stadiums.

That said, tickets are likely to be the least of your financial worries. Flights to Brazil will set you back a small mortgage, even if you booked early. Traveling from the U.S.? You’re in luck. If you confirmed your itinerary early enough, you should only have been set back about $1,500 for a flight into Rio or São Paulo. Unfortunately, if you plan to see your team play Portugal in Manaus—located quite literally in the middle of the jungle—be prepared to shell out another $800 or so for the connecting flight. Brazil is, of course, a massive country, and while the shiny new stadia are all very impressive, the supporting infrastructure is somewhat lagging behind. The result is that typically cheaper modes of travel, like bus journeys, will be out of the question for most match-goers. Domestic flights are the only alternative, and by all accounts, those are turning out to be mind-numbingly extortionate.

Compared to the hassle of actually getting tickets and the expense of travel to the games, accommodation for this year’s tournament at least offers the possibility of cheaper alternatives. Getting a hotel room is a nightmare, with prices in Rio de Janeiro averaging almost $450 a night. Even if your team only lasts through the group stage, those kind of rates are prohibitive. That said, in big cities like São Paulo, you can sublet a room in a private residence or a smaller inn while only mildly overpaying.

By now, you may be thinking that your World Cup dream might just be within your reach if you plan, get lucky, and live while you’re in Brazil. I’ve got some bad news: It is virtually impossible to not spend an absurd amount of money while you’re in Brazil. Custo Brasil, as the country’s sky-high prices are locally known, means that a modest meal for two can easily run up to $70 a pop. And that’s just for pizza. Brazil’s rapidly expanding middle class and high tariffs on imported goods have led to exorbitant prices for quite some time, but the presence of the World Cup has magnified the effect.

Attending a World Cup is not a dream that is realistic for most people. Football club supporters in Europe have been complaining for decades about being priced out of what was once a working class sport, and the international game is now no different. The popularity of the world’s biggest sporting event, and the baffling amounts of money being pumped into it by sponsors—and in turn, squeezed out by FIFA—means that the privilege of attendance is beyond the means of most fans. When top teams play one another, it is a given now that most of the men on the field will be millionaires. At this rate, it won’t be long before those in the stands will have to be similarly well off as well.