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As the countdown to the Rio Olympics begins, Brazil’s widespread Zika virus transmission, unfinished infrastructure along with political upheaval and rampant crime and corruption has somewhat dampened world enthusiasm.
Calls for the ‘Olympics to be cancelled’ have led to dismal ticket sales and a general sense of apathy over the games. Polls have revealed that 49% of travellers believe that the Rio Olympics should in fact be delayed or canceled because of the virus. 79% of women say they would cancel travel to the region if they were pregnant or planning to conceive in the near future, says a recent study conducted by Comparetravelinsurance.com.au.
Amidst the doom and gloom it’s easy to forget that the lead up to most Olympic Games are often ridden with scepticism and doubt. Pollution in China, infrastructure in Sochi- even London’s 2012 Games was rife with overcrowding and terrorism fears.
However, the scepticism towards the Rio Games is likely to dissipate once the spotlight shines upon one of the most colourful, flamboyant, party-loving cities in the world. It may have a way go but Rio will no doubt strut its way to the finish line in true Brazilian style.
Travellers heading to Rio shouldn’t halt their holiday based on media hype. If you're worried about crime - make sure you follow government safety advice and use caution at all times. And if Zika is your main concern you'd be best advised to seek out the advice of a travel doctor and take all necessary recommended precautions.
We are firm believers in the spirit of travel and adventure. While you can’t predict all aspects of your journey, travel insurance can give you peace of mind knowing you’re covered for a range of mishaps so you can get on with enjoying your holiday.
1. It’s the Carnival City
‘If you want to go to Carnival, you go to Rio’, the saying goes, and as the world’s very first South American Olympics Rio is set to be the carnival of a lifetime! Also known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) Rio’s flair for vigorous partying and joyful, feathered festivals will no doubt make for one of the most extravagant parties of all time. Fiesta fiesta!!
Tip: Go easy on the cachaça when partying in one of the many beach bars or samba spots of Rio. Keep a keen eye on your drink and stay clear of any illegal substances.
2. Safety is beefing up
Security for the Rio Olympics is ramping up say prominent government officials. A taskforce of 85,000 military police and security forces are set to patrol the event venues and city streets in an effort to thwart street crime and violence. Twice the size of the London Olympics, Rio’s security operation will also feature a terrorism intelligence unit with experts from nations including the United States, Britain, France and Spain.
Tip: Use common sense; keep your valuables out of sight, don’t carry large sums of money, never travel unaccompanied at night and stick to crowded, tourist hubs.
3. Risk of Zika infection is low
With the Olympics reportedly costing more than $13 billion, it’s small wonder that the Brazilian government has undertaken some serious preventative measures against Zika. Countrywide mosquito spraying and daily venue inspection along with a seasonal drop in temperature is predicted to greatly lower Zika transmission rates. Recent studies have even suggested that the chances of tourists contracting Zika is about 1 in 500,000.
Tip: Use prescribed mosquito repellant, keep windows and doors closed when indoors and take all further necessary steps to prevent mosquito bites
4. It will be ready
Despite concerns that both a metro extension and the Olymic velodrome remained unfinished Brazil’s Sports Minister Leonardo Picciani insists that Rio de Janeiro will be on track saying: “Rio is completely ready for the games.” Additionally, Rio has learnt a few valuable lessons on transport arrangements and crowd control after hosting the football World Cup in 2014.
Tip: Rio’s public transport in generally very safe, particularly on the subway (Metro) and the ‘Frescao’ bus service. Avoid flagging taxis off the street, it’s safer to call one from your hotel.
5. Your dollar will go far
As Brazil’s economy slips into its worst recession in decades, experts proclaim that the Olympics will benefit Brazil. Despite the enormous cost of the games, financial experts predict that a strong tourist presence coupled with comparatively lower prices (the Australian dollar is now worth about 2.48 Brazilian reals) will greatly bolster Rio’s economy. Additionally, Brazil will be waiving its usual visa requirements making it easier to nab discounts on cultural attractions, events and metro fares during the games.
Tip: Avoid carrying around wads of cash and valuables- if you don’t absolutely need it, leave it back at your hotel or apartment. Most restaurants, bars and taxis accept credit cards too.
6. WHO (World Health Organization) has given Rio the ok
While WHO has officially given Brazil’s Olympic games the go ahead, the matter hasn’t been without controversy. Medical officials may say otherwise but WHO has advised that all travellers (asides from pregnant women) should not hesitate to attend the games under the proviso that they take precautionary measures against Zika.
Tip: Visit the WHO website for up to date travel information.
7. The spectacular setting
There’s a reason all those songs have been written about Rio; there’s Christ the Redeemer perched high over the city’s rolling hills; the scantily clad sun seekers dotting the sand of Ipanema and the lush tropical forests circling the city. And then there’s the roar of the crowd at the legendary Maracanã football stadium, volleyball under the stars on Copacabana or Sambodromo, the site of Rio’s riotous carnival parade. Rio’s spectacular, Instagram worthy backdrop set against the world’s biggest sporting competition is sure to be nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Tip: Take loads of snaps, but secure your camera straps around your torso and keep it inside your bag when not in use.
Amidst the promise of sun, fun and samba, travel to South America- indeed all overseas destinations - comes with its share of risks.
Medical fees abroad can be exorbitant, and Brazil is no exception. Hospital costs in Rio can reach up to $10,000 per day while repatriation back home can soar into the hundreds of thousands. Even though the risk of contracting Zika is low, now is not the time to throw caution to the wind.
Travelers should consider any potential risks that may affect their trip, particularly when heading to a global sporting event. If you are headed to Rio, we would advise you to take travel insurance, but make sure you understand your policy details before you depart.