Costly Cup tour for England fans

EnglandPossible sky-high air fares and rocketing room rates could confront England football fans heading for Brazil to follow their team in next summer's World Cup.

Thousands of followers are expected to make the journey to South America to cheer on England in a tournament that begins on June 12.
Those wanting to travel by air from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo - a distance of only just over 200 miles - where the opening match is scheduled are already facing return air fares as high as £720.

And there have been reports of Brazilian hotels charging as much as £800 a night for the duration of the tournament. Even at best, rooms could be costing around £350 a night.

England fans will not find out where their team will play in the group stages of the tournament until December 6 when the draw for the finals is made.

But travel experts are warning that supporters could face having to cope with a huge range of temperatures, depending where England end up.

"It will be far warmer at the venues in north east Brazil than it will be in the ones (south of Rio) in the south east," said Robert Coates, author of Rough Guide travel books to Rio and to South America.

He and travel expert Laurence Bresh, who is managing director of tour operator STA Travel, were speaking on Sky News.

Asked about the safety of fans, Mr Bresh said: "People should always take care. The Brazilians are conducting a big operation to make sure everything is fine in cities such as Rio and Sao Paulo in time for the World Cup and also for the Olympics (in Rio in 2016).

"This is going to be a huge, colourful event. It's going to be fantastic."

British Airways and Brazilian airline TAM are the only carriers that fly direct to Brazil from the UK. BA has daily services running from Heathrow to Rio and to Sao Paulo.

But it is the internal flights that are really likely to set the England fans back .

Brazil is a huge country. One of the World Cup venues is Manaus, in the Amazon rain forest. It is 2,700 miles from Rio, leaving fans with little option but to take a flight.

Similarly, Fortaleza, the most northerly venue, is 1,670 miles from Rio and more than 2,500 miles from Porto Alegre - the most southerly venue.

Latin American airline Avianca is reported to have cut its June 12 Rio-Sao Paulo ticket prices but its new price is still around double what it is charging for a flight exactly a month earlier.

The Brazilian Hotel Industry Association has said: "During the Cup, the cost of everything will go up. That's the market."

On its website, the Foreign Office says of Brazil: " Levels of crime and violence are high, particularly in major cities. You should be particularly vigilant before and during the festive and Carnival periods. Bank card fraud is common."

It adds that 155,548 British nationals visited Brazil last year.

British travel organisation Abta said today: "Brazil is a beautiful and dynamic country and thousands of lucky football fans will be heading off next year for the amazing party that will be the 2014 World Cup.

"We would strongly recommend that fans buy their tickets from official Fifa-appointed agents to avoid disappointment as major sporting events often attract fraudsters.

"There is bound to be a lot of demand for hotels and flights so fans should try and book as early as possible to get the best deals.

"When there, fans should follow advice from the Foreign Office and their travel providers in regards to safety and security.

"The Brazilian authorities are doing, and will continue to do, everything they can to ensure the safety of visiting foreign football supporters, with measures such as increased policing levels."

England and their fans may want to steer clear of one Brazilian World Cup venue next summer - Belo Horizonte. It was there in the 1950 World Cup that England were sensationally beaten 1-0 by the USA in one of the biggest-ever World Cup shocks.

England's side that ill-fated day contained such legends as Tom Finney, Billy Wright, Alf Ramsey and Wilf Mannion. Yet having dominated the match they were beaten by a goal by Haitian-born Joe Gaetjens, who was hoisted on to the shoulders of jubilant fans on the final whistle.

The result was greeted with incredulity in England where it was assumed the 0-1 scoreline was a misprint and that England had won 10-1.

England, playing in their first World Cup, had beaten Chile in their opening match in 1950 but the loss to the USA was to ultimately cost them dear. They lost in their final group match to Spain and were eliminated.

In June, British Airways lead-in fares to Rio start from £897 return and to Sao Paulo from £963 return, including taxes, fees and charges.

A BA spokesman said: "We're expecting our flights to Rio and Sao Paulo to be very busy during the World Cup 2014 and we're looking at where we may be able to increase the number of seats for England fans keen to fly out to Brazil."
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