UNSPECIFIED - UNDATED:(Original Image Numbers 476800151,102580130,102170234,102409744,81589759,102809563,71267877,102252100,102219150,102603521,102219887,102301394,,71208991,102294805,146439826,81577491,76893617,767663,102685971,102430315,79586503,102227643,686252,102411077,176519134,146216268,102202943,102587956,179711307,102436003,93082958,71177257) This composite image shows a fan of each 32 national teams taking part in the 2014 World Cup starting on June 12, 2014 in Brazil. (Photo by Getty Images)

AS the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil kicks off tomorrow, four years after the greatest sporting event was held in South Africa, many South Africans are gearing up to watch the tournament in this year’s host country.

South Africans don’t need a visa to visit Brazil, and while it is unclear how many will be there to cheer their favourite teams on, what is clear is that Brazil has become a popular destination.

“We know there’s a lot of South Africans here despite the fact that we (South Africa) don’t have a team,” an official from the South African consulate in Sao Paulo said yesterday.

South African Werner Trieloff, who has been living in Brazil for six years, flew from Sao Leopoldo to Sao Paulo yesterday after a number of delays.

“I think South Africa was actually better prepared than Brazil,” Trieloff said.

Capetonian Stephen Timm agrees. He has lived in Sao Paulo since February, studying Portuguese. “They’re only just starting to pave the roads and put up souvenirs in the last five days,” Timm said.

He still planned on watching the matches in the local bars.

Trieloff will watch the opening matches in Sao Paulo.

“Once we’re inside the stadium, I think it’ll be okay,” Trieloff said. “It’s just outside where there’s utter chaos.”

Travel agencies saw a marked interest in World Cup packages, and most travellers have been planning for months.

“I received quite a few requests a couple of months ago already but the problem I faced was (bookings were blocked) at many hotels until they could sort allocation issues with Fifa,” Club Travel consultant Alistair Fortuin said.

“Flights were easy enough to find but extremely expensive. It really put my clients off as airlines only released the lower classes closer to the event.”

World Cup travel is hard on the wallet. Packages could cost as much as R60 000, with the cost of air travel running at R18 000.

“The problem is that a lot of places advertise specials which are way cheaper, but availability is the issue, and they inevitably come back quoting you a higher price,” Fortuin said.

Despite the price and a missing home team, many South African tourists are attracted to this year’s tournament in Brazil.

Fortuin said he had received between two and three queries a week. Another agent said she had booked groups as large as 30.

Timm and Trieloff’s advice to travellers is to learn some Portuguese. Navigating Brazil could otherwise be a hassle.

“The red tape, level of disorganisation and the prices are among the worst in the world.

“But the people have to be among the most warm, friendly and outgoing. They will be your best friends for the whole night,” Timm said.