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Banking & Finance
Bound for Brazil: Tips to save you money
Sun Jun 15 2014, 23:08 hrs
The month-long, 32-country soccer tournament known as the World Cup kicked off on June 12 in Brazil. Since many of you are apparently going and because Brazil—even under normal circumstances—is one of the most expensive places in the Western Hemisphere, I’ve compiled some country-specific money-saving strategies. They come both from friends in Brazil and my many travels around the country, which includes 11 of the 12 host cities. (Photo by Reuters)
Flying? Book direct
Stating the obvious, Brazil is a big place, so fans following their own national teams will have to fly around the country. In the first round, every side plays three games in three different cities, and no one knows where (or if) their team will be playing after that. But familiar sites like Kayak, Expedia and Skyscanner stumble when booking flights within Brazil, sometimes badly. In fact, I checked all the major sites I could think of and not a single one listed flights for all four Brazilian airlines that serve the 12 host cities: Gol, TAM, Azul and Avianca Brazil. There’s also Passaredo, which serves five of the cities. Your best bet is to check them all individually and compare options. (Photo by Reuters; Italy vs England)
Switch to T-Mobile
If you’re planning to use your smartphone during the World Cup and don’t want to be tethered to sketchy hotel Wi-Fi, consider T-Mobile’s contract-free plans, which now come with free international data and text messaging in over 120 countries, plus 20-cents-a-minute international calls (you have to buy a new phone, but they’ll refund the early termination fee from your old carrier). The catch: they guarantee only 2G data service abroad, slower than 3G and much slower than the 4G many of us are used to. But I recently spent three weeks in Brazil, in three states, and got consistent 3G connections, slow but steady. And all that free texting and cheap calling mean no more worries about staying in touch with family back home. (Photo by AP/PTI; Japan vs Ivory Coast)
Are you the kind of traveller who brags about packing light, arguing that if you really need something, you can buy it when you arrive? Bad idea for World Cup time. Just about everything in Brazil is extremely expensive, from bottles of sunscreen to forgotten chargers to extra underwear. Also, don’t bring just a couple of outfits, especially if you are visiting multiple cities. Temperatures will vary drastically: Australia, for example, plays its first game in Cuiaba, highs in the 90s, and its second in Porto Alegre, lows in the 40s. Sao Paulo and Curitiba will also be cold, and will feel colder since many buildings do not have heating systems. So, pack a sweater alongside your bikini. And while you’re at it, bring some snacks, as even food prices are outrageous these days.
The good news? Flights to and within Brazil almost always allow a free checked bag up to 50 pounds. And don’t complain about waiting for your bag: if you can’t handle a few extra minutes at the baggage carousel, you probably don’t have the patience to be in Brazil at all. (Photo by AP; Greece vs Colombia)
Paying by the kilo? Skip the rice
One of the greatest budget institutions in Brazil is the ‘self-service’ or ‘kilo’ restaurant. You fill a plate from a buffet, which almost always includes a salad bar and multiple entrees. It’s a good deal, especially for foreigners. That’s because most Brazilians cannot envision a meal without a pile of rice and beans, which are heavy and cheap, and thus drive up the final tab. Go easy on them for even more of a bargain. (Photo by AP; Chile vs Australia)
I’ll leave it to others to tell you how to handle muggers in Brazil’s high-crime cities. But purely as a budgetary matter, you should realise that whatever you walk out of your hotel with might not come back. I typically go out in Brazil with one credit card, a wad of cash and my phone, which I don’t use on the street (at least, that is, since last year, when a kid on a bicycle swiped my new iPhone 5. A friend had sunglasses stolen in a similar manner). A contradictory side note: many ATMs won’t accept your bank card, so when you find one that does, withdraw the maximum.(Photo by AP; Colombia vs Greece)
Tip: Don’t tip
Brazilians don’t tip much—not because they are mean people. In fact, they are probably much nicer than you. In restaurants, a 10% service charge is added automatically, and there’s no place on a credit card receipt to add a tip. The same is true in bars, where paying by the drink at the bar is practically non-existent (you’ll either have a waiter or accumulate a tab to be paid at a cashier). In taxis, you round up to the next real, but that’s just for convenience’s sake—making change is not a Brazilian forte. The only exception is in upper-end hotels, where international norms of tipping bellhops and housekeepers still apply. (Photo by AP; Chile vs Australia)
Some routes will require a flight, but for shorter legs, inter-city buses might do the trick. They are generally modern and comfortable, and pit stops offer hearty, healthy meals. The challenge is figuring out how to reserve and book. You can usually find the right companies through a Web search (‘Salvador Fortaleza bus’), but some sites don’t have English versions and foreign credit cards may not work for transactions. Also, beware sites like BrazilByBus.com, a metasearch site that hikes up prices significantly, at least in my tests. The surest bets are to ask for help from hosts and hotels, or to buy at the bus station. (Photo by AP; Costa Rica vs Uruguay)
Congratulations! You’ve already saved on beer. The Brazilian government decided last month to postpone an increase in the tax on beer (and some other beverages) till September 1. You may have heard that the Brazilian national beverage is the caipirinha, but, in fact, Brazilians drink far more beer, which is cheaper and ubiquitous. You can often buy it in the street, which will save you money. Prices will often be posted (latinha means a 12-ounce can; latao, 16 ounces), but if they’re not, be sure you don’t pay more than Brazilians. (Photo by AP; England vs Italy)
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