The good news is that it's not too late to plan a trip to this year's soccer World Cup in South Africa. The bad news? The experience won't come cheap. Here's a quick guide to where things stand on the travel-planning front if you haven't already booked your tickets for the big quadrennial soccer fiesta. We'll be posting updates here on the Away.com Travel Blog as we receive them in the run-up to the World Cup's kickoff in June. (The tournament is scheduled to run from June 11 to July 11 in nine host cities throughout South Africa.)
Tickets to individual games are currently being sold through the tournament organizer, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Now in the fourth and final phase of worldwide public ticketing, you can apply for tickets to individual games (up to seven choices available) or a bundle of team-specific tickets. Tickets are allocated based on availability on a first-come, first-serve basis. The application window for the fourth phase closes on April 7, after which the remaining tickets will only be made available through FIFA's official in-country kiosks. Given the late date, tickets to see the tournament's more popular teams and more competitive group-stage games, as well as games during the final knockout phases, are all sold out. However, there are still tickets available to watch matches in the qualifying stages that will be once-in-a-lifetime experiences nonetheless. Your other option for following the team of your choice or to attend the later-stage games is to buy an all-inclusive vacation package that will include tickets along with accommodation and travel. If you're a U.S. soccer fan, you can purchase tickets for group-stage games involving the United States national team via the U.S. Soccer Federation's website.
Rooms are still available in many of the hotels and resorts in and around host cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. However, given that the tournament is one of the world's biggest sporting events (not to mention a huge economic opportunity for local business), rates for those rooms still available are at an all-time premium. All-inclusive packages will save you some money on the mid- to higher end of the accommodation spectrum, though it's still possible to score a deal by using sites such as iStopOver.com or HomeAway.com, which feature vacation-rental listings by local property owners. If you're feeling intrepid, you should also look at listings on CouchSurfing.org and AirBnB.com. Caveat emptor: These sites are typically a great source of authentic, budget accommodations through locals, but prices will regardless be higher than normal during the World Cup. Finally, along with a glut of temporary lodging through local property owners, a number of makeshift "tent cities" are likely to spring up in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, according to the Guardian. Pack a tent and mix it up with the backpacker crowds (though note that it'll be winter in South Africa, so pack accordingly!). For more general information on hotels, see South Africa Tourism's World Cup site
As with accommodation, travel to South Africa during the course of this summer's event will be at an all-time high given worldwide demand. At the time of this writing, tickets are available for flights on South African Airways from New York to Johannesburg for around $1,500 round-trip. This will get you to South Africa in time to see the U.S. take on England in the first big crunch game of Group C on Saturday 12. Flights closer to big game days are sold out, but there is still some availability if you have flexibility in your travel plans. Emirates, the World Cup's official airline sponsor, is still showing availability for flights prior to the opening week for between $1,500 to $1,800 to cities including Johannesburg and Cape Town (from New York), though you will need to fly via Dubai (make a trip of it and stay for a few days in this burgeoning Vegas of the Middle East!). Emirates also offers vacation packages through its tour affiliate, Emirates Tours, that combine flights, accommodation, and team-specific ticket bundles; prices start from between $5,000 and $8,500 based on single and double occupancy, respectively, for standard (i.e., budget) accommodation. For U.S.-based soccer fans, other tour-package providers include Dream Tickets USA, recently named the official travel provider for Sam's Army, the U.S. national team's supporters' club.
FIFA's World Cup site includes destination guides and travel-planning resources and is a good place to check for event-related news and any special offers related to World Cup accommodation, tickets, airfare, and all-inclusive packages. More travel-planning advice is available on Away.com's exclusive 2010 World Cup Travel Guide, with photos, features, and live blogging from our on-the-ground correspondents once the event gets underway!
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