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Last-minute rush for visas as World Cup fever peaks

The carnival has been kicked off in the far West. First goals have been scored. But that has not stopped the faithful from flocking to a white building hidden under lush foliage on Aurangazeb Road in the heart of the capital.

The building is the gateway everyone in this part of the world hoping to attend the quadrennial congregation has to go through. It is called Embaixada do Brasil em Nova Delhi, Portuguese for Embassy of Brazil, New Delhi.

At 10 in the morning, there are about 20 people, a mix of passengers and agents waiting patiently for their turn at the Brazilian embassy. The heavily-guarded embassy does not allow bags, phones or purses to be taken inside. People leave these on the grass outside the gate.

A white paper notice carelessly pasted on the red brick wall tells people what they can’t carry inside. Another says that the extra fee for sending applications through agents has been waived from May.

“People start queuing up from eight in the morning,” says the guard at the gate.

He adds the embassy receives visa applications only between 9:30 am and 11:00 am, Monday to Friday.

Tourist visas are available for a fee of Rs 1,600 per head but the embassy’s website warns the processing takes at least seven working days. Applicants are hoping to catch the knock-out phase, which will start towards the end of the month.

An email sent to Brazil embassy’s consular officials seeking trends of visa issuances and applications did not elicit any response. Apart from Delhi, Brazilian consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata also process visa applications.

However, getting visas seems to be the cheaper and easier part of the pilgrimage. The real bite comes in air fares and accommodation. Tourism firms are laughing all the way to the bank, with packages that can set you back by a few lakh rupees.

Cox & Kings, the official hospitality partner for FIFA 2014, offers match hospitality packages that start from $ 1,150 per head and are inclusive of match tickets and food & beverage during the matches. These packages include high-end tickets that get one access to FIFA-designated areas such as Match Pavilion, Match Club and Match Premier. Packages are available for the venue series for those who wish to experience FIFA World Cup in a particular host city.

Several packages tailored around the venues, teams and stages of the tournaments are being sold, most of these tailored by FIFA itself. Venue series packages cover matches in each of the 12 venue cities namely Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Sao Paulo.

Unlike the previous edition of FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, Brazil may not be for budget travellers, say tour operators.

A week’s tour in South Africa with a couple of matches thrown in could be done for a tag of Rs 1 lakh per head. But the long-haul flights alone can set you back by multiple of that sum, making Brazil 2014 largely a rich fan’s affair. Agents see significant interest from people in investment banking and telecom space.

Typically, people travel in small groups. Some travel with spouses or alone. As the competition picks up and favourite teams advance, agents expect the demand to shoot up.

“We have designed land packages starting from $ 1,575 per person on twin-sharing basis,” said Karan Anand, head of relationships, Cox and Kings. “We have seen demand coming in from high net worth individuals (HNIs) who can shell out Rs 3-5 lakh per person and our numbers are in the 100s. Inquiries are still coming in as the excitement has just begun and this is a one-month long tournament. All those who have booked with us are individuals and group of three or five people coming together to watch the World Cup.”

Backpackers need not lose heart though. Websites such as booking.com and agoda.com still have offers at lower prices. Some dormitories and hostel accommodations in Rio can be stolen for a few thousand rupees during the knock-out stages of the tournament in late June/early July. But, then, have you got the match tickets?

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