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Thursday 18 September 2014

€40 for a Rio pizza! Can we afford to get into the World Cup?

Published 28/04/2013 | 05:00

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Brazil's carnivals burst into life in an explosion of colour as five days of partying takes place on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The events are expected to draw 1.1 million tourists and generate some €485m for the local economy
Things have gotten so bad that Brazilians regularly fly to the US to shop and take advantage of low prices.

Irish fans hoping to cheer on the boys in green at next summer's World Cup may face disappointment both on and off the pitch.

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Host country Brazil is one of the most expensive in the world – and prices are rising as inflation runs at an incredible 7pc.

In a state where a pizza can cost up to €40, a beer another €7 and a basic hotel room €170 a night, some fans may be quietly hoping we won't do the impossible and qualify for next summer's tournament.

The disappointment of not seeing Robbie Keane and James McClean compete against the world's best might be tempered by having a few quid in their wallets and not running up massive overdrafts.

The world's fifth-largest and South America's biggest country, Brazil is home to 190 million people and has both appalling social deprivation and massive wealth.

The 74 richest families and individuals are worth more than €130bn – almost 7pc of the state's GDP, or value of all goods and services produced. It means there are plenty of deep wallets to buy the finer things in life.

You thought Dublin was dear? It's just 72nd on the Mercer list of the most expensive cities in the world. Tokyo comes first, but Sao Paulo is 12th and Rio de Janeiro 13th, and prices are rising.

It means that anyone hoping to travel abroad next summer will have to start putting money aside, and soon.

Travel website ebookers.com says a return flight from Dublin to Rio in June 2014 for four weeks – the duration of the tournament – will set you back about €880, travelling economy. Presumably, those prices will rise come next year.

That's before hotel accommodation, which is among the dearest on the planet.

A basic three-star room in a Rio de Janeiro hotel costs £145 (€171), according to hotels.com, rising to €242 for a four-star. The prices in Dublin? A mere €73 and €95.

Internal flights will also add up, and Ireland would play in at least three cities in the group games. A flight from Brasilia to Rio costs around €90. It's a distance of 930km, so a bus journey might be impractical.

That's before match tickets, prices for which have yet to be announced.

Even getting around and eating is expensive.

While a ticket for the Rio underground is cheap, about €1.20, and a local beer will set you back just 65 cents, a half-litre of your favourite imported tipple – like Budweiser – will cost almost €7. Taxis are also dear.

A sandwich is €7, a coffee about €5. Entry to a nightclub can cost up to €150.

A Sao Paulo newspaper reported that the city has the most expensive pizzas in the world. A small one can cost €12, but a takeaway pizza garnished with tinned mushrooms and ham can cost €35.

Food prices in supermarkets have also rocketed, with locals now joking (through gritted teeth) that tomatoes, onions and potatoes cost the same as gold.

The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics says inflation rose by 6.84pc last year, driven by hikes in tobacco (18.5pc), food (14.57pc) and beverages (12pc).

Things have gotten so bad that Brazilians regularly fly to the US to shop and take advantage of low prices. One airline has a special baggage exemption on flights where passengers can take up to 350lbs of luggage.

The reason for the high prices is demand from an increasingly well-off population, and high taxes.

But die-hard fans are still likely to make the trip across the Atlantic if the team pull off the seemingly impossible and qualify.

The last time we went to a World Cup was in 2002, when we travelled in our droves to Korea and Japan.

One travel agent said it would probably do a two or three-match package, but not until Ireland qualified – only host nation Brazil has so far – would it have prices.

But there will be huge interest from soccer fans to go and support their team.

Chair of the Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters Club (Western Branch), Gerard Blair, said there was plenty of time to save.

The club has 115 members, and most would be keen to travel.

"You'd pay more for a pint of imported beer in Temple Bar," he said.

"Qualifying campaigns go over two years, so a lot budget for these occasions and there's always cheaper ways to get there.

"One of our members said they'd ride a bicycle to get to Rio. That's the attitude of a lot of fans, that it's 10 years since we've been to a World Cup and they'll do anything.

"I would hope to go. I don't have a figure in my head but I would guess you'd get there for about €2,000 if you go for a week.

"Obviously there's a lot of saving to be done. There's sacrifices which have to be made. I'm a married man, and my wife knows I enjoy going, she understands. It's like anything else, there's a bit of give and take."

Of course, that's not to say we'll actually get there.

We lie fourth in our group, and are relying on Sweden to screw up and Germany to win all their games.

"It's a big ask, so hopefully we'll use up a good bit of our luck," Gerard added.

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