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A Complete Guide for Americans to the 2010 World Cup

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World Cup 2010 - South AfricaIf you’re just now thinking about heading to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, this guide is for you.

Whether you’re a hardcore soccer fan, or just want a great excuse to visit South Africa, it’s not too late to make your plans to visit.

So check out our complete guide for Americans traveling to the 2010 World Cup.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

For soccer fans in the United States, expectations are high for this year’s World Cup tournament. Destined for South Africa, the U.S. men’s team is ranked 14th in FIFA World Rankings. June’s tournament is expected to be one for the record books with the U.S. fielding perhaps one of the best teams in a decade.

After returning to the World Cup in 1990, ending a 40-year period of failing to qualify, the team has had difficulty performing on the world stage. In 2006, 1998, and 1994 the American squad was knocked out early in the tournament.

Soccer Ball - World Cup 2010However, the 2002 Korea Japan tournament saw the team make history by reaching the quarter finals against Germany. American fans are hoping to see the success in South Korea repeated in South Africa next month.

HEADS UP

This is the first time the World Cup is being hosted in Africa and for American fans this is also likely to be the first time they are setting foot on the continent.

Attempting to manage the logistics of arranging travel and accommodation in an unfamiliar county is a daunting task. Especially considering that the host cities for the matches are hundreds of miles apart.

Learn more about local travel in our African Travel section.

This late in the game, your best option is to go though one of FIFA’s Partner Tour Operators. These are travel companies that have authorization to sell tickets as part of a package with hotel accommodations and/or flights.

In the U.S., three companies, Cartan Tours, Great Atlantic Travel, and Destination Southern Africa were selected as Official Partner Tour Operators.

Landon Donovan Will Lead the American World Cup Team - photo by Scott ClarkeMATCH TICKETS

FIFA reports to have sold roughly 90 percent of match tickets and individual tickets are sold out for the majority of the group matches. However, travel package operators were allocated tickets in advance and still have stock for most matches up through the final, though perhaps not in all categories. Just to be clear, Partner Tour Operators cannot sell tickets separate from hotel and/or flights.

In regard to these categories, tickets are available in four varieties, with Category 1 tickets, located along the pitch, being the most desirable and expensive. Tour companies usually include Category 3 tickets by default when listing the base price of their packages. If possible, it’s probably worth the money to upgrade to a higher category, since Category 3 seats are located behind the goal posts.

For help on traveling to the world’s other giant sporting event, visit our Olympics Travel section.

Soccer player silhouetteMost travel packages offer Teams Specific Tickets (TST). For a county of your choice, a base TST-3 tickets allow entrance to all of that country’s three group matches. Knockout matches can then be tacked on for a price, for example, a TST-7 ticket includes group play, round of 16, the semifinals, the quarterfinals and the final. If you’re team is eliminated, you will continue to follow the winning team to subsequent matches.

If you’d prefer to just attend one of the later games, there are also packages offering single tickets to the final rounds, but these are generally more expensive and possibly sold out for higher category tickets.

TRANSPORTATION

The initial flight to South Africa runs around $2,300 from New York City to Johannesburg. Most tour companies still have flights during key dates, and transit from the airport to your hotel is usually included as part of a package.

Since the group play will take place in multiple cities you’ll need to arrange domestic travel either independently or as part of a package. Currently, airfare is starts at roughly $200 round-trip depending on the date and destination. Rail and bus transport are also an option.

Don’t miss the Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Cape Town, South Africa

Giraffes seen on a safari in South AfricaIf you were thinking about renting a car in order to save money on domestic travel, you should probably reconsider. According to Diana Imhoff of Cartan Tours, the vast majority of rental cars in South Africa are manual-transmission. Should that not be enough to dissuade you from driving, consider that cars in South Africa drive on the left side of the road.

Finally, on match days, in Cape Town, you would have to park it at least 2.5km from the stadium because roads surrounding stadiums in host cities will be closed off to all traffic except for FIFA-accredited match transportation. Fortunately, there are free stadium shuttles available to ticket holders for transport to the stadium from central locations in the city.

If you do decide to rent a car in South Africa, don’t miss these Great Cape Escapes & Tips for Driving in South Africa.

Soccer Ball - World Cup 2010SAMPLE TRAVEL PACKAGES

Cartan tours offer a great deal for a budget conscious traveler with a five-night pakcage in Johannesburg including Category 3 tickets for $799 per person. The caveat is that you’ll need to find three other friends to get this low rate otherwise the rate for a solo traveler is $1499. Though the available matches included in this package are not necessarily headliners, the accommodations provided are walking distance from an official fan park where matches will be broadcast for the public on huge screens.

For those looking for a more robust African vacation, Destination Southern Africa, the only partner company that specializes on South Africa, can prepare a tailor-made World Cup package featuring all inclusive safari tours.

More safari ideas: “Soft” Adventure Travel & South African Safaris

South African baboonAccording to Terry Von Guilleaume, President and Founder of Destination Southern Africa, “Africa and its safaris are a dream for most Americans—and we found that many of our clients used the World Cup as an impetus to visit Africa—and kill two birds with one stone.”

Destination Southern Africa is also running a few last minute specials here that include airfare, accommodations, and airport transfers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

With three companies to choose from it might be possible to mix and match accommodations from different providers. For instance, you could expand your travel plans with a Host City Day Trip from Great Atlantic travel that includes match tickets and transport to a number of group play matches for less than $300.

Ultimately, the take-away here is that there aren’t any distinct disadvantages to planning your World Cup vacation this late. So if you’ve always wanted to go to South Africa and/or the World Cup, you can still do both.

By Fernando Padilla for PeterGreenberg.com.

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