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Rio's slums the hot World Cup destination?

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
updated 8:14 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Staying at a hostel could cost as much as $400 a night during the World Cup
  • About 600,000 foreign fans are expected during the tournament
  • Rooms in Rio's favelas could go for as little as $50 a night
  • Security in some favelas remains a concern

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (CNN) -- High above the beaches in Rio de Janeiro's hillside slums, you can get some of the best views in town. And now, they come from some of the cheapest rooms as well.

With the World Cup less than four months away, residents in many once infamous favelas are opening their doors to tourists, renting beds, rooms or even entire houses, and building youth hostels.

"If you want to see the World Cup, see some football matches and experience true Brazilian life you should really check this out," says Michael Blommers, a Dutch backpacker staying at a hostel in the Vidigal shantytown.

Beds at hostels in Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, which usually go for around $40 a night, are expected to cost as much as $400 during the World Cup. Hotels are even more expensive, with many requiring multiple-night stays.

A tourist in Rio\'s Vidigal favela calls to a dog on a street.
A tourist in Rio's Vidigal favela calls to a dog on a street.

But a bunk at Alto Vidigal Hostel will set guests back just $65 -- four times the usual price, but still a relative bargain.

Of course, visitors staying in Rio's favelas will likely be confronted with more than just a modest room. Garbage in these areas often piles up along the roads, while electricity, water and sewage services are spotty at best. Transportation can be precarious.

The biggest concern, though, is security. Just a few years ago, Rio's favelas were controlled by drug lords. Police have since stormed many of them, in a process dubbed "pacification," driving out armed gangs in an effort to make it relatively safe for residents and visitors. But they've had mixed results.

Periodic gun battles continue in many favelas. Just last week, drug traffickers shot at police posts in Rocinha, one of the biggest shantytowns in Rio.

Maria Clara dos Santos says she could hear the recent shootouts from her terrace. She rents rooms in her bright yellow house to foreign tourists and says safety depends on knowing where not to go and following rules.

"Don't use drugs, don't bring girls home, keep it a nice environment," she says.

A Los Angeles native, Elliot Rosenberg has launched a website with an eye on the World Cup allowing residents to rent out rooms to foreigners.

With some 600,000 foreign fans expected over the course of the tournament, there could be plenty of demand. But Rosenberg believes that many of those looking for rooms will be attracted by more than just the about $50 price tags on many rooms.

"They want more authentic, lively, meaningful experiences," he says. "They want to see the real Rio."

And, of course, those great views don't hurt either.

Curitiba stadium retains World Cup status

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