Plan your trip to the World Cup 2010

Posted 06/12/2009 in In the news

Cape Town Soccer Stadium

The draw has taken place. We know who England face next June - and how much it will cost to be there.

We (with apologies to our readers in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, most unfairly, Ireland) know who we have to beat to get to the second round of the World Cup. The USA, Algeria and Slovenia are all that lie between us and the knockout stages of the tournament — which are, in turn, all that lie between us and the inevitable trophy-lifting in Soccer City, Johannesburg, soon after 10pm local time on July 11, 2010. Easy.

Crucially, we now know where England are playing — and when. After months of speculation, hedging and hysterical talk about hysterical prices, the final variables have been decided. Here are all the questions you need answered to plan your World Cup trip.

WHERE ARE OUR GAMES?

South Africa is large, and several of the 10 World Cup stadiums are an internal flight apart. England’s opening game, against the USA on June 12, is at the Royal Bafokeng stadium, in Phokeng, near Rustenburg, a good two-hour drive from Johannesburg airport. The second match, against Algeria, is at Green Point, in Cape Town, on June 18. The last group tie, against Slovenia, is in Port Elizabeth on June 23. Since the draw on Friday, tour operators have been sitting in front of their calculators trying to work out the cost of flying their clients from one game to the next. By today, they should have a rough idea of final costs.

BUT CAN WE GO INDEPENDENTLY?

No. Are we absolutely sure? Yes. Really? Yes. Almost all hotel stock was snapped up by the entire planet’s tour operators months and months ago. Unless you want to commute in from Mozambique (which some crazy people are already planning) or sleep in someone’s spare bedroom (check out gumtree.com for very limited options), there is no room at the inn.

Direct flights from the UK to Johannesburg and Cape Town were, as of Friday night, trading at upwards of £1,000, compared to a normal June price of £500. The cheapest indirect flight is via Cairo with Egyptair (£900): you’ve really got to love England to bother with that. And these are entry-level prices — to fly on key days at sensible times will cost more. Then, of course, you’ll need a match ticket. They’re already selling on eBay for thousands, but this is illegal — and risky. You don’t pick up the actual match ticket until you get to South Africa, and you have to show your credit card. If your name’s not down, you’re not getting in.

SO WHAT ARE THE PACKAGE OPTIONS?

There are five Fifa-approved operators: Thomson Sport (which includes Sportsworld), Keith Prowse, Thomas Cook, BAC Sport and Emirates Tours. They have been selling packages like hot cakes for several months at high but not extortionate rates, having long ago bagsied hotels and international flights. Have their numbers on speed dial, phone them all up today and see what the latest deals are.

Some of the options have already sold out. For example, Thomson Sport’s three-night final package, an in-and-out long weekend with a ticket to the (Brazil-England?) final went several weeks ago, despite the £5,995 price tag. Between the five operators, however, you can still book pretty much any Jo’burg or Cape Town-based package. Here are the best options.

Thomson Sport (0845 121 2018, thomsonsport.com) still has availability for its one-group-game packages, with four nights’ accommodation at the Holiday Inn Express in Cape Town, international flights and an England match ticket. Prices start at £2,512pp — but if you want to see the England-USA opener, you’ll be splashing out on internal flights to get you up to Jo’burg. Packages including two England matches, on a similar basis, start at £3,825pp for 11 nights, again not including internal flights.

Sportsworld (01235 547261, sportsworld.co.uk) is for those of you who aren’t content with just being at the World Cup, but want all the trimmings as well. For about £3,550pp, you can watch the England group match of your choice, with a Category 1 ticket (the best), hospitality (lunch and drinks in a marquee before and after the match), three nights’ four-star accommodation and nonstop international flights. Seven nights, incorporating the semi-final and final, will cost a shade less than £10,000pp.

Keith Prowse (0845 125 4880, keithprowse.co.uk), which specialises in corporate travel, but is selling packages to hoi polloi for the World Cup, has an 18-day tour with all three England group games from £4,995pp, including match tickets, international flights and three-star accommodation. For the next few days, it’s knocking £1,000 off that price, which, if you can spare the time off work, is a great deal. Depending on your confidence levels, it also has the 13-day Final Tour, with tickets to a quarter, a semi and the final, from a less great £12,500pp.

Thomas Cook Sport (020 8739 2360, thomascooksport.com) has already broken up its longer stays into bite-size trips. Its England group-stage packages start at £2,499pp for a one-game, five-night trip, £3,650pp for a two-game 10-nighter and £4,150pp for a three-game 17-nighter, including match tickets, international flights and three-star accommodation. Again, you’re going to be paying extra for internal flights. You can also book a stay for the entire tournament, watching all three England group games and the four knockout rounds. The how-on-earth-are-you-going-to-get-your-boss/wife-to-agree-to-it? 35-night epic starts at a relatively good-value £8,200pp, including direct international flights, accommodation and Category 3 tickets. For Category 1 tickets, you’ll pay £1,000 more. Again, internal flights are extra.

BAC Sport (020 7456 7100, www.bacsport.co.uk), the smallest of the five operators, has a two-England-match group package based either in Cape Town or, more originally, Sun City, the gambling resort two hours west of Jo’burg. Prices start at £4,395pp for 11 nights, including both international and, where necessary, internal flights.

Finally, Emirates Tours (0844 800 0775, emiratestours.co.uk) has all sorts of packages available, based in Cape Town and Johannesburg, ranging from a two-star, five-night package with one England group game (from £2,450pp, including indirect economy flights) right up to a five-star, 32-night package covering the whole tournament, with tickets to every England group game and the knockout stages. The price? Drum roll: £22,720, including first-class flights, natch.

So, apart from working out how many wheelbarrow loads of cash you can spare, it seems straightforward. All you have to decide is which games you want to see and where you want to base yourself.

CAPE TOWN OR JO’BURG?

Because operators had to block-book everything long before Friday’s draw, they did so without knowing where England would be playing in the group stages. In other words, they took a punt.

Thomson decided to base its clientele in Cape Town, on the grounds that it’s somewhere you’d want to spend three weeks of your life in between watching the football. They have a point, but every single one of the 10 World Cup stadiums, apart from Green Point, is an internal flight away. Keith Prowse and Thomas Cook opted for Johannesburg, a city nobody would want to spend time in unless they absolutely had to, on the assumption that, because seven of the stadiums are less than four hours away, most of the games would be driveable. Emirates and BAC Sport, on the other hand, hedged their bets and have space in both cities.

Where should you base yourself? Well, Cape Town hosts England’s Algeria game, Jo’burg hosts the USA match and Port Elizabeth (miles from anywhere) is the venue for the Slovenia tie. It’s much of a muchness in the group stages so, on tourist grounds, Cape Town wins. For the knockout stages, Jo’burg is more sensible for all but the semi-finals (England would play in either Durban or Cape Town).

SO, LOTS OF FLYING. WILL THAT BE EXPENSIVE?

Well, it won’t be cheap. Both BAC Sport and Emirates Tours can quote tour prices inclusive of internal air transfers because they have opted to use official Fifa-chartered flights with set prices. Thomas Cook, Keith Prowse and Thomson Sport did not. If you have to book your flights on the open market, this could add a fortune to your package price. On Friday night, Jo’burg-Cape Town returns were going for £600 and up on key dates. Both Thomson and Keith Prowse said they would resort to chartering their own flights, and that prices would be significantly lower than that. Thomas Cook said it already had internal allocations and would confirm prices over the weekend. This should be a key part of your discussion with the operators before you book.

CAN I GO WITHOUT A TICKET?

There are plans for football fan parks — or Fifa Fan Fests, as they’re calling them — with giant video screens at each of the 10 host cities, and despite some security concerns, the football fiesta will be in full swing. BA Holidays (www.baholidays.com), Thomson Sport (thomsonsport.com) and ITC Sports (01244 355390, itcsports.co.uk) are among several operators offering trips to coincide with the World Cup. It is, however, winter in South Africa and summer here. If you’re going to watch it on a screen, you may as well do it in your local... or use the money you’ll be saving by staying at home to invest in that 56in plasma screen you’ve had your eye on. If you’re out there for the England games, the fan parks will, of course, be the place to watch Portugal get knocked out in the group stages.

CAN I THINK ABOUT IT?

If you want to be at the World Cup, you have to book fast. The operators expect a huge surge in the next few days, and most can’t foresee having many tickets past New Year. So, no. Get on the phone.

From the Times Online.