World Cup tourists face sky-high prices in Brazil

Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:53am EDT
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By Walter Brandimarte

RIO DEIRO (Reuters) - Tourists visiting Brazil for the World Cup are advised to pack a bathing suit, sunscreen, and a whole lot of cash.

Home to some of the world's most expensive restaurants and hotels, and with some prices rising more as the opening match approaches, Brazil will shock those visitors whose idea of a tropical paradise is paying $1 for a beachside beer.

Instead, Brazil is often the land of the $10 caipirinha (the sugar cane-based local drink of choice), the $100 risotto and the $1,000-a-night hotel room, prices fueled by many of the same imbalances and government policies that have restrained economic growth in recent years.

Even by European and U.S. standards, prices for basic items are often staggering.

In Sao Paulo, a bustling business hub that is surrounded by some of the country's largest coffee farms, an espresso often costs twice as much as in Lisbon, says Paulo Duarte, a pharmaceutical consultant who splits time between both cities.

"It's absurd," Duarte said. "We're talking about one country that produces coffee and another that imports it."

High prices are nothing new in Brazil. The country has a long history of economic instability and runaway inflation, which topped 2,400 percent a year as recently as 1993.

Inflation these days is much more manageable, running at about 6 percent a year, though that is still high by international standards. Sao Paulo, for example, is the most expensive city in the Americas and the 19th most expensive in the world, ahead of New York and London, according to a recent survey by the Mercer consulting firm. Rio is among the world's 30 most expensive cities.   Continued...

A man arranges beach chairs at his stall at Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro April 29, 2014.   REUTERS/Pilar Olivares