Matthew Stockman

Going to the Olympics in Rio? Here's everything you need to know. 

Melanie Lieberman
August 04, 2016

The Olympic torch has been headed to Rio de Janeiro since the first of May, and pretty much since then news coverage of the 2016 Olympic Games has been peppered with stories of impending disaster. Zika has freaked out athletes and visitors and Rio’s waters are teeming with garbage and human waste

Still, those lucky enough to have scored a ticket to one of the events need not panic. There are plenty of bright spots: Brazil has waived their visa requirements for the games, one Brazilian real (pronounced rey-al) is currently valued at only 30 U.S. cents, and the country has no shortage of lively, lovely beaches.

Just in case the worst does happen, we've compiled a short guide to getting through a crisis and back to your vacation:

The Disaster: Hotels are Overbooked

People have been concerned since Rio first won the Olympic bid that there wouldn’t be enough hotel rooms to accommodate the flood of visitors. Fortunately, Cariocas are opening their homes and guest rooms to travelers via an official Airbnb program. Norwegian Cruise Line is also pitching in by docking its 4,000-passenger Getaway for an entire month at Pier Maua. You could join members of the International Olympic Federation and corporate sponsors on this floating hotel, which boasts an Aqua Park and a spa, and is supposedly much nicer than the Olympic Village.

The Disaster: Bacteria and Sewage at Rio’s Beaches

Scientists recently discovered drug-resistant bacteria at some of the city’s beaches, including Ipanema and Flamengo (the latter borders Guanabara Bay, where the sailing events will be held). The “super bacteria” was likely introduced when hospital sewage entered the water. Athletes have more reason to be concerned than visitors, but there are plenty of ways to stay clean and safe. In particular, the CDC recommends only swimming in recreational water sites the Rio government has deemed suitable (própria), covering any open cuts with waterproof bandages, and, most importantly, not swallowing the water. You can also try to get your hands on an antimicrobial, seamless unisuit, like the ones Olympic rowers will be sporting.

The Disaster: Catching the Zika Virus 

Almost 200,000 Brazilians have contracted Zika, which can cause microcephaly in utero. With approximately 500,000 people expected to attend the Olympic Games, many scientists have expressed fear about exacerbating the epidemic. But other scientists say not to worry, and the World Health Organization reiterated that the Olympics would not alter the spread of Zika, which is already present in nearly 60 countries. Also: it’s winter in Brazil, so risk of transmission is much lower. Of course, you should still take extra precautions, and stock up on the best bug sprays (and mosquito nets) for travelers.

The Disaster: A Terrorist Attack

The U.S. State Department has issued no travel warnings or alerts for Brazil—which is saying something considering the department has recently cautioned travelers going to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and large swaths of Asia. What's more, Brazil plans to deploy 85,000 officers to police Rio during the Games. 

The Disaster: Failed Infrastructure

The promised metro line extension toward Olympic Park may not be 100 percent complete in time for the games, but designated buses are shuttling people back and forth (you can even opt for an Olympic fare card for unlimited travel), and taxis are easy to find. The collapse of a $12 million coastal bike path was a huge setback, as it was intended to connect major beaches to the Olympic Park suburb. Fortunately, Rio is working with apps like Moovit and Trafi to help you find your way around quickly and efficiently.  You may not even have to worry about data, either. T-Mobile is offering unlimited 4G LTE data, talk, and text to postpaid customers in Brazil throughout August.

The Disaster: Wait, You're Not Actually Going to Rio

It's still totally possible to snag tickets and book a last-minute flight. If that's not in the cards, consider watching the games at one of these great viewing spots in cities around the world.

Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.

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