Going to the Olympics in Rio? Here's How to Plan the Perfect Trip

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Brazilian flags wave and fireworks explode as the Rio 2016 logo is paraded through Olympic Stadium during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (Photo: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The Rio Olympics are just 400 days away, which may seem like a long time from now. But with tickets already on sale (and disappearing quickly), if you want to be one of the 500,000 people expected to travel to Brazil for the Games, now’s the time to start making plans.

“It’s not too early and it’s not too late,”said Anbritt Stengele, president of Sports Traveler, a travel company specializing in sports event packages. “It’s just the right time to start planning.”

Tickets

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If you plan on cheering on your home country at Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium, you’re going to need a ticket. (Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

The first step to getting your butt in a seat at the Olympics is getting a ticket for that seat. This is both as easy as it sounds and a whole lot more complicated.

If you’re a Brazilian or a resident of Brazil, then you can buy tickets directly through the Rio2016.com website, which began its second phase of ticket sales this week. Everyone else, has to go through their country’s official authorized ticket reseller. (Check the full list of official resellers to find yours.)

Related: Cheat Sheet: Rio de Janeiro

“First try to get your tickets through the official ticketing agency,” said Stengele.

In the U.S., that reseller is CoSport.

That means that Americans looking for tickets first need to visit CoSport’s website and create an account—and sign up for email alerts about when tickets are up for sale, so you don’t miss out! CoSport has already conducted two lottery rounds to award tickets, with the most popular events having far more interest than availability. Think: women’s gymnastics or the men’s 100m final. Earlier this week, CoSport opened up some general tickets sales on a first come-first serve basis. Currently, there are still a handful of tickets available.

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Getting tickets to your favorite events may require a little luck, some persistence, and the help of email alerts. (Photo: Kristen Curette/Stocksy)

This whole process can be mind-numbing, as tickets disappear while you try to compare what’s available with what you want. It can be especially frustrating when the system fails. In the second lottery round, I submitted a number of ticket requests. But when I logged back in after the lottery draw, my request had disappeared!

But, don’t fear.

“We got all of our tickets for London once they were generally available rather than the lottery. For a while, we didn’t think we were going because we didn’t get any tickets on the first two attempts,” said Ilyce Shugall, who went to the London Games and is planning to go to Rio next year.

Once the official ticket resellers sell their allotted general public tickets, there will be more tickets released in the future—which is why you want to be on the email alert system to find out about those. There will also likely be a secondary market later, said Stengele, as corporate sponsors sell off some of their allotted tickets closer to the Games.

Some of the 7.5 million tickets are on sale for as cheap as $15, and some for as much as $1,800 for the opening ceremony. To cut down on scalping, organizers announced that people reselling tickets illegally or for higher than face value could be fined as much as 100 times the price of the tickets.

Flights and Hotels

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Now that you’ve got your tickets, time to figure out how you’re getting to Rio and where you’re staying once you land. (Photo: Getty Images)

Once you know that you have some tickets (and could possibly get more), then it’s time to start making the rest of your travel plans.

You could opt for a package, like Stengele’s company provides, which would include your accommodations, flights, Portuguese interpreters, and other activities and excursions. CoSport even offers official ticket + hotel packages that start around $4,000 per person for four days. The bonus of the official travel package is that it’s another way to guarantee tickets to events that might otherwise not be available.

If that’s not up your alley or in your budget, then you can always put together your own trip. Shugall and her husband shared an apartment in London with three other friends and plan to do something similar in Rio.

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With limited hotel options, an AIrbnb might be the way to go. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Because of the lack of hotel rooms in Rio, Olympic organizers in Brazil signed the first-ever deal of its kind with Airbnb to provide accommodations for visitors in locals’ apartments and houses. But Stengele said that the apartment market is very expensive right now, and she’s seen some not-really-quite-luxury apartments asking for $30,000 for 20 days. Expect that to get slightly cheaper with more options as the Games get closer and those too-expensive apartments go unrented.

However, Stengele does warn against staying anywhere that hasn’t been certified or checked out by any official government agency.

You’ll also probably need to wait on finalizing your flight too. Airlines don’t release flight information until 330 days beforehand, which means that it’s too early to book your trip to Brazil yet.

“There’s a lot that’s still up in the air,” said Stengele.

Get Ready

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Be organized and make sure your itineraries, visas, money, and plans are all in order. (Photo: Lumina/Stocksy)

Despite the fact that it’s too early to 100% finalize all your plans, this is really not the kind of trip that you can wait to organize until the last minute. Even just getting your visa takes weeks and costs another $160. (Brazil’s tourism minister has said the country may relax the visa requirements for Americans coming for the Olympics, though.)

Related: Favela Painting: Brushing Up Rio’s Slums For World Cup

You’ll want to make all the usual travel plans: having copies of your itinerary, checking your passport, trying to understand local customs. You should also figure out what parts of the city you’ll want to visit and what else you’ll want to see on days you aren’t going to events. Use the time to get out and away from the crowds. Some people are even booking trips down the Amazon while they’re in Brazil.

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Since you’re already in Brazil, you might as well take a trip down to the Amazon. (Photo: Getty Images)

And expect everything to cost quite a bit of money. Not only is Rio one of the most expensive cities in the world to visit, but you’re also likely to see about a 30% “Olympic mark-up” on everything, said Stengele.

It may seem hectic, but once you get there it’ll all be worth it.

“The Olympics is one of the most special events you can attend,” said Stengele, who’s been to a number of games. “There’s nothing quite like it.”

For Shugall, it was a special moment to be part of history in the Olympic stadium as Mo Farah won the 5,000m and 10,000m.

“After going to London, I want to go again,” she said. “It was amazing to be able to see top athletes in so many different events all in one place. The general excitement throughout the city, and particularly the stadium, was just incredible.”

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