x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Attention World Cup visitors: bring lots of money to Brazil

Brazil was already an expensive place to live, but prices for food, hotels and basic ammendities have recently skyrocketed with the 2014 World Cup just around the corner.

It is not the hotels and flights that will break wallets for fans visiting Brazil for the World Cup. It is the USD$17 cheeseburgers or that $35 pepperoni pizza. Football visitors will quickly learn that Brazil is astoundingly expensive. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
It is not the hotels and flights that will break wallets for fans visiting Brazil for the World Cup. It is the USD$17 cheeseburgers or that $35 pepperoni pizza. Football visitors will quickly learn that Brazil is astoundingly expensive. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

Welcome to Brazil, land of football, sun and sky-high prices.

Unlike nearby Latin American nations where a tourist’s dollar or euro seemingly stretches forever, Brazil is astoundingly expensive.

If the budget is not immediately busted by the flight or the hotel, it will soon be done in by the US$10 (Dh36.7) cocktail, the $17 cheeseburger or the $35 pepperoni pizza – and those are the prices city-dwelling Brazilians saw before the World Cup set off a new standard of sticker shock.

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“Prices in Rio are absurd,” said Maria Anda, a Norwegian artist who has lived in Brazil for a year. “I still like it. It’s worth being here, but it’s not paradise.”

The dizzying prices are referred to here as the “Custo Brasil” or “Brazil Cost” — the mixture of high taxes and steep import tariffs, combined with bad infrastructure, a dose of inefficiency and a thick shot of bureaucracy.

Demand leading up to a big event like the World Cup naturally raises prices. But, as costs were high to begin with, tourists should prepare to dig deep into their wallets and not be too miffed to receive goods or services of inferior quality, said Rafael Alcadipani, a business administration professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil’s top think tank.

“Anything you buy in Brazil will be more expensive than in the United States or Europe, but the quality is going to be worse,” Alcadipani said.

Hotel rates in many of the World Cup host cities more than doubled ahead of the tournament. The Massachusetts-based TripAdvisor website reports visitors to Rio will face the highest prices, with hotel rates averaging $445 per night. Add in food, a ticket and other expenses, and solo travellers to Rio should prepare to spend $682 each day.

Next costliest are Fortaleza and Manaus, where average daily expenses are estimated at $602 and $554, respectively. Even the more affordable host cities will set back travellers a good amount: $457 per day in Cuiaba and $477 in Sao Paulo.

“The cup prices are ridiculous. Everything shot up. The only thing you can buy in Brazil is a bikini, a cachaca (Brazilian sugar cane liquor) and a pair of Havaianas (sandals),” said Gillian Santos, a Brazilian who lives in Belgium and was back in Rio on a visit.

“How do people afford things around here? As a Brazilian living abroad, I think it’s outrageous.”

Experts say prices are kept high because supply cannot keep up with demand.

About 40 million Brazilians, or one-fifth of the population, joined the middle class in the past decade, on the back of strong economic growth and increased government social programs. Between 2009 and 2012, average annual income rose by more than 40 per cent, from $8,140 to $11,630, according to the World Bank. For many, the new affluence sparked a spending spree.

Brazil tries to protect its local industries by charging high tariffs on almost all imported goods. For travellers who lose or forget an item, they might decide to do without rather than pay local prices.

Take iPhones: The unblocked 5s that costs $649 in the US has a starting price of $1,250 on Apple’s Brazilian website. Need a pair of running shoes? A pair of the popular Nike Flyknit Lunar 2 runs about $313 at a Rio shopping mall, nearly triple the US price.

The examples go on. Levi 501 jeans start at $80. The $6.28 Big Mac is among the most expensive in the world. Shaving cream, soap, tissues, aspirin — all are double to triple the prices to be found elsewhere.

“Everything is expensive,” said Nadir Fraguas, a retired bank employee who was at a Rio mall pondering whether to spend the equivalent of more than $100 on a Brazil national team jersey for her grandson.

“Clothing, cars and food – here, you pay a lot and you get very little. Prices were already high, but now they’re impossible.”

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