Goooal! How to Stay Safe When Traveling to the World Cup

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Gol! That’s Portuguese for goal, and it’s a word you’ll be hearing more often starting Thursday, June 12th, when the FIFA World Cup begins in Brazil.  The competition, which will take place in 12 cities across Brazil, will last for a month and bring together 32 teams from around the world to compete for the title (and bragging rights for the next 4 years).

The World Cup is similar to the Olympics in regard to travel unknowns. If you make the trip, you’ll be traveling to a foreign country where you might not be familiar with the language and have to deal with spread-out venues and large crowds.  Although the spread of communicable diseases like flu are higher during events like this, the truth is that motor vehicle crashes are the number 1 killer of healthy U.S. citizens in foreign countries.  Below are some last-minute tips and suggestions for having a safe World Cup.

World Cup infographicBefore you jump on a plane to enjoy the games (GO USA!), we have a few last-minute tips. These will also be helpful for any international travel you have planned. If you haven’t already scheduled a health appointment before you depart on your trip, talk to your doctor or nurse about vaccines and medicines recommended for Brazil. See the Find a Clinic webpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you. CDC recommends all travelers be up-to-date on routine vaccines, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and flu. Pack a travel health kit, and think about where you are going and what you will be able to easily access.  Include prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and health insurance information.

Stay informed!  You can monitor travel warnings and alerts and read travel tips from the US Department of State.  You can also enroll in the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel updates and information about the country where you will be traveling.  Be sure to leave a copy of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home.

During your travel, remember to follow security and safety guidelines. Choose safe transportation – motor  vehicle crashes are the number 1 killer of healthy U.S. citizens in foreign countries. Read about ways to prevent transportation injuries by visiting the Road Safety page. Carry the contact information for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in Brazil  and local emergency service numbers: 190 (police), 192 (ambulance), and 193 (fire department).  Note that these local emergency phone numbers are available in Portuguese only.

While you are traveling, follow food and safety guidelines. Eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water can cause illnesses such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and travelers’ diarrhea. Read about how to prevent these diseases by visiting the Safe Food and Water page. Beware of food from street vendors, ice in drinks, and other foods and drinks that may be contaminated and cause travelers’ diarrhea.

If you feel sick during your trip, talk to a doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.

What's safer and what's note food infographicFor more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad. If you don’t speak Portuguese and require assistance with a health issue, see our list of common Portuguese health terms and phrases.

If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, see Find a Clinic. Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. For more information, see Getting Sick after Travel.

What are you most looking forward to about the World Cup?  How are you preparing for this and other international summer travel?

To learn more about how CDC works 24/7 to understand public health risks at mass gatherings like the World Cup, see

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Page last reviewed: March 20, 2015
Page last updated: March 20, 2015