About 380,000 visitors are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games (Aug 5th – 21st) and the Paralympic Games (Sep 7th – Sep 18th). From where to stay to how to protect yourself from any incidents (aka. Zika), here’s some very useful information to help travelers easily navigate this beautiful and fascinating city:
- Familiarize yourself with the local language
Brazilians speak Portuguese – the only country in Latin America that doesn’t speak Spanish. Although many well-educated natives speak English, most of the population are still monolingual. However, if you know some Spanish, you’re in luck: there are several similarities in the grammar and vocabulary of both languages, so with a little patience and some use of the famous Latin hand gestures, you should be able to make yourself understood. But learning, at least, basic phrases in Portuguese before you go to Brazil is recommended to make your communication with locals easier and more pleasant. iTunes offers some free lessons, and you can access SurvivalPhrases.com for PDF guides. Just do your homework, a little goes a long way!
- Get to know the city
Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, famous for its stunning beaches, so travelers should make it a priority to spend time getting to know the city’s many attractions while indulging in the rich local cuisine. The Games will happen in four different neighborhoods: Deodoro, Maracanã, Barra da Tijuca, and Copacabana, so have your Olympic map always in handy to determine the zone where the events you want to attend will occur. Barra will serve as the heart and center of the games, hosting the largest concentration of venues. As far as the weather is concerned, it will be the end of winter in the southern atmosphere, so temperatures will be pleasant and mild, with an average of 75˚F (25˚C).
- Plan ahead
Citizens of the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada won’t need a visa to travel to Brazil for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The waiver will apply only for tourist visits between June 1 through September 18, and it’s valid for up to 90 days. This measure is designed to encourage foreigners to travel to Brazil for this unprecedented event, which could give a much-needed boost to Brazil’s struggling economy.
Another interesting fact is that the Olympic’s organizing committee has signed an agreement with the popular website Airbnb, naming the company as the official lodging alternative besides hotel room’s around Rio, with around 20,000 listings throughout the city. A quick search shows multiple rooms available for rent with nightly rates at around $150 reais (US$ 40). Those willing to invest a little more can opt for one of the many exclusive hotel packages available, with most hotels located throughout the event’s hosting neighborhoods.
Scoring tickets for the events will depend on your nationality. Each country has its own agency, and citizens are required to purchase tickets through them. For United States citizens, you should go to CoSport. It’s useful to mention that tickets are limited, so you should act fast! It’s also a good idea to get on CoSport’s email alert system, as additional tickets are made available, you’ll want to be the first to know.
Once you have purchased your ticket, make sure to book your flight as soon as possible. Traveling to Rio from the United States is quite easy, with multiple airlines offering daily direct flights. Keep in mind that the most expensive days to travel will be during the days preceding the Opening Ceremony, as well as the day after the Closing Ceremony. A good solution is to fly while the games are underway or to set aside multiple days for sightseeing. You can also contact a travel agency such as Sports Traveler, based in Chicago, for packages that include airfare, hotel lodging, ground transportation, and more.
- Protect yourself
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the Zika virus, which is mostly spread by mosquito bites, is a cause of alarm not only in Brazil but around the world. There have been several diagnosed cases in Brazil and in more than 20 surrounding countries. Since there is no way to know whether the virus will be under control in time for the Olympics, it is advised to those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to avoid traveling to countries associated with the Zika outbreak. For others travelers, the risk of the virus is a less serious concern – symptoms are usually fairly mild and can include joint pain, fever, a rash and red eyes; the illness goes away in a few days.
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE, also called para-menthane-diol [PMD]), or IR3535. Always use as directed.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
- Most repellents, including DEET, can be used in children older than 2 months. (OLE should not be used in children younger than 3 years.)
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
- Stay in places with air conditioning, window, and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air-conditioned or screened rooms are not available, or if sleeping outdoors.
- Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.
The Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted, especially from a male partner. If you happen to have relations (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a man while traveling, you must always use protection.
Check out CDC’s travel notice “Zika Virus in Brazil” for additional information.
Official website rio2016.com