Perhaps you’ve decided last minute that you’re going to attend the world’s most important sporting event. Or you bought a flight to Rio for August and have realized suddenly that you know nothing about where you’re going and what will be happening while you’re there (we’d actually argue that sometimes this is the best way to travel). Or maybe you didn’t make the cut during your country’s Olympic trials but still want to go to Rio. We joke of course; no one reading this site has the athletic wherewithal to get anywhere near an Olympic stadium.
But whatever the reason you’ve decided to attend the Rio Summer Olympics. Here’s what you need to know.
First things first you have to get yourself to Rio de Janeiro. You can find nonstop flights from most major cities around the world to Rio’s Galeão International Airport. United offers direct flights to Rio from major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and New York. If you’re flying within South America, look at Avianca and LAN. Are tickets to Rio in August going to be expensive? Of course they are, so buy now.
Next you’ll need a place to stay – trust us, you don’t want to be sleeping on the beach in Rio. Accommodations registering in at all price points are available in the city – but act fast, as they will book up in the blink of the eye and prices are already shooting up.
You can look find glamorous hotel stays at the likes of the Fasano and the Copacabana Palace, or peruse the cheapest of accommodations through Hostelworld and Couchsurfing. Alternatively, look into the more stylish homestays through Oasis Collections or apartments on Airbnb, both of which have homes in Olympic areas like Barra and Copacabana. If your Portuguese skills are up to it, look for short-term rentals on Easy Quarto or Facebook groups like Alugar ou Dividir Aptos and Aluguel Zona Sul.
Or, if you find yourself without accommodation, you can hope Rio’s athletes will be using Tinder with same fervor they did at the Sochi games and a fateful swipe right will land you at the Olympic Village in Barra. One can dream.
You’ve probably read a lot of hullabaloo about how ticket sales are lagging in advance of the Rio. You could attribute this to the fact that some Brazilians won’t be purchasing tickets in protest of the games; others simply don’t have the money due to the country’s rising inflation. The point is, tickets are still available. Tickets for certain events start at as little as R$40, others will be in the quadruple digits.
However, you will need to be a Brazilian resident with a CPF to purchase tickets through the Rio 2016 official site. If you’re not a Brazilian resident, you can purchase tickets through your country’s authorized reseller. More detailed info on individual events can be found in the official Rio 2016 ticketing guide.
So now that you’re actually in Rio, where exactly are the Olympics? Rio is large enough and the Olympic zones spread out enough that perhaps surprisingly, in certain parts of the city you might not even notice that a rather important global event is about to take place.
The most “conveniently” located (if you’re a tourist that is) of all the Olympic zones is Copacabana, in Zona Sul. Fittingly, the Copacabana venues will host some of the beachier sports like beach volleyball and sailing, while headlining events like the opening and closing ceremonies will be held in Maracanã, in Zona Norte. Barra da Tijuca in Zona Oeste will be home to the likes of tennis, gymnastics and swimming, and Deodoro, also in Zona Oeste, will host basketball, equestrian events and more.
We would like to emphasize that each of these areas is pretty far away from one another – with traffic, it can be as much as an hour, if not more, getting from Zona Sul to Zona Norte or Zona Oeste. And within each zone are multiple arenas, which aren’t necessarily within walking distance of each other. Purchase your tickets accordingly, and don’t expect to jettison quickly from one event to another.
Now that you know which venue you’ll be attending, how do you get there? If this were São Paulo, we’d say just Uber yourself a helicopter, but sadly, in Rio you’ll have to settle for traveling by land like a plebe.
Despite its rocky beginnings (and lack of helicopters), Uber is still a popular choice of transport in Rio – but while it’s cheaper than a cab, you might occasionally get a driver who doesn’t really know where they’re going. There is an uberEnglish option in Rio (no doubt implemented in advance of the Olympics), but frankly we wouldn’t recommend it – there simply aren’t enough drivers available at this time for it to be convenient. Another popular transportation app is EasyTaxi, but if you don’t have a working smart phone in Rio you can of course hail a taxi the old fashioned way.
There were (are?) plans to expand Rio’s relatively limited metro system to cover the Olympic venues in Barra, however the proposed Linha 4 has yet to open. Current reports say the new line will open for limited service on August 1st – let us remind you the opening ceremony is on August 5th. If you don’t want to be one of Linha 4’s guinea pigs, you can take bus lines 553 and 548 from Zona Sul to Barra – you’ll just be at the mercy of traffic. For more detailed info on bus lines, consult Vá de Ônibus. Each bus ride costs R$ 3.80.
Fortunately, the metro is otherwise fast and reliable, and does cover Copacabana (take Linha 1 to General Osorio, Cantagalo or Siqueira Campos) and Maracanã (Linha 2 to Maracanã). Each metro ride is R$4.10. Deodoro is perhaps the trickiest to access by public transportation. From Central, you’ll have to transfer to the train. A one-way ticket costs R$3.70.
You can pay for bus or metro rides individually (you don’t even need exact coinage for the bus in Rio – drivers will give you change), but if you’ll be traveling frequently during the games, it might be worth purchasing an Olympic Games Rio2016 Riocard. The one, three or seven-day passes will give you unlimited access to Rio’s busses, metro or trains.
Remember all those stadiums Brazil built for the 2014 FIFA World Cup? Yes, they’re still there! And some of them will be put to use again during the Olympics. Though the gold medal matches of both the men’s and women’s football divisions will be held at the Maracanã in Rio, other games will take place in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Brasília and Manaus.
If you’re going to the Olympics to watch football, chances are you’ll have to commit to at least a weekend trip in one of these cities. But this gives you the chance to see more of Brazil’s diverse regional beauty; Salvador has its gorgeous coastline, São Paulo its bustling urban scene, Belo Horizonte is surrounded by beautiful mountains, Manaus sits on the bank of the Amazon, and Brasília has…. Some cool buildings or something. Ok, Brasília is kind of boring, but as the capital it might give you the chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive Michel Temer.
Flying to any of these cities from Rio is easy, with flights available through local low-cost carrier GOL, or larger airlines like LAN and United. More daring (or budget conscious) travelers can try their luck with a long-distance bus; check schedules and buy tickets on sites like Bus Bud and Busca Onibus.