Rio Olympics: Here’s What Travelers Need to Know

South America’s first Olympics offers a real opportunity for travelers. Here’s what you need to know before planning a trip.

This will be the first Olympic Games in South America, which we see as a real opportunity for travelers and sports fans. Here’s what you need to know about planning your Rio de Janeiro Olympics vacation for summer 2016.


When you look at the numbers—10,500 athletes, 138,000 staff and volunteers, and 380,000 spectators—you start to see why it’s likely a good idea to book early. recently announced it will offer 20,000 affordable in-home options for travelers during the Games.

What we’ve seen with past games, though, is that there’s usually some availability at the last minute, though it can be pricey. Our sister site does a great job highlighting beautiful properties with last-minute availability, so if you’re a last-minute type, keep that in mind for next summer when you get the sudden itch to see some gold-medal battles.

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The Olympic Committee releases allocations of tickets to the U.S. ticket seller CoSport at intervals leading up to the games. Right now, there are not very many individual tickets available, but that’s because this is what’s left over from the last big allocation in April. When the company gets a big allocation of tickets, it alerts those people who have signed up through the website. But for allocations of just few thousand tickets, CoSport might just post them to the website without an announcement. So if you want tickets, check the website often to stay on top of the offerings.

There’s often this sense that Olympic tickets are astronomically expensive. While there are definitely some events most people will be priced out of, it’s worth noting that out of a total of 7.5 million tickets available worldwide, about 3.8 million of them will cost less than $30.

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Visa Requirements

There’s no firm word on this yet, but it looks like visa requirements may be waived for travel during the Olympics. This is great because it will save Olympic travelers both time and money. It also looks like there’s a possibility that there’s an end in sight for visa requirements for travel to Brazil in general.

Making the Most of an Olympic Trip

Rio is a major hub in South America, so if you’re planning a trip to the Olympics, it should be both relatively easy and affordable to extend a trip.

Olympic cities often see something called tourist “displacement,” in which non-Olympic visitors worried about inflated prices and crowds steer clear of the city. And that means that usually popular tourist attractions may be emptier than usual because of the Olympics, making it a potentially ideal time to explore the city.

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Getting There/Getting Around

Quite a lot of the money being spent in Rio is going toward upgrading public transportation. By the Games, the city is expected to have a new subway line as well as express bus routes and trams, which should both easy traffic congestion and make it easier to get around.

Brazil is upgrading its air traffic management technology across 23 airports. The modernization should make flight takeoffs and landings both more efficient (a big deal when you’re hosting the world) and safer.

In an effort to make the city easier for English-speaking visitors, Rio is offering English lessons to 10,000 taxi drivers before the Games.

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(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

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