Chasing the Ball: A Travel Guide to 2018 FIFA World Cup

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The twenty-first FIFA World Cup is going to take place in Russia, 14th of June – 15th of July, 2018. This World Cup is the first one to take place in Europe since 2006 when the event was held in Germany. This is your complete travel guide to 2018 FIFA World Cup destinations.

All the games will be played at venues located in the European part of Russia, except for one, taking place at the Central Stadium of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city which stands in the middle of the Eurasian continent, east of the mountain range of Ural.

In addition to the host team, there will be 31 national teams which have been determined over 2 years during the 2015-2017 qualifying competitions. There are going to be 65 matches played at 12 venues, with an average capacity of 49,300 seats. The opening and final matches will take place in Moscow, at the Luzhniki stadium, which holds 81,006 seats.

This is the first time in the history of the World Cup when all the 2019 FIFA member associates participated in the process for qualification, although Zimbabwe and Indonesia were disqualified before they could even play the first match. Panama and Iceland, which is the smallest country (by population) to participate in the World Cup, qualified for the first time.

The draw took place in Moscow, in the State Kremlin Palace, on the 1st of December, 2017. The teams were allocated into four pots, with Pot 1 containing Russia and the seven highest-ranking teams. The allocation for all the four pots was based on the October 2017 FIFA World Rankings, which sets this draw aside from the previous ones, where all the pots except for the first one were based on geography instead of Rankings.

FIFA has sold the broadcasting rights to multiple companies all over the world. You can see the full list here: 2018 FIFA World Cup broadcasting rights.

But what if you’re not content with watching the games on the screen? What if you want to be in the very heart of the event, to see the live action, to shout and wave for your team, to experience the excitement, the suspense, and the triumph first-hand? In this article, you will find the essential information about dates, venues, and tickets, so that you can pack your bag and join thousands of other fans!

Petersburg Stadium Peterbsurg Stadium

Matches

The opening match will be played on the 14th of June in Moscow, Between Russia and Saudi Arabia. You can download the spreadsheet with the match schedule here: 2018 FIFA World Cup Match Schedule.

If you’re unsure which game you should attend, check out the list of this year’s most anticipated matches:

Spain vs Portugal

Spain and Portugal last met at the UEFA Euro 2012 semi-finals in Donetsk, with Spain winning 4-2 on penalties. Both teams have a massive star cast: David de Gea, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Álvaro Morata, and Andrés Iniesta play for Spain, while Portugal boasts André Silva, Nani, Rui Patrício, João Mário, André Gomes, and, last but not the least, Cristiano Ronaldo. The match is the second one in Group B and will be played in Sochi on the 15th of June.

England vs Belgium

The match between England and Belgium will be played on the 28th of June in Kaliningrad, 28 years after the two countries last met on the football field at the 1990 World Cup. Belgium is considered the favorite, with its star player Romelu Lukaku and such giants as Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Jan Vertonghen, and Thibaut Courtois making up one of the strongest teams in the world. This constellation will be challenged by England’s Danny Welbeck, Gary Cahill, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, and Daniel Sturridge, while Wayne Rooney will, sadly, not be playing, for the first time in fourteen years.

Argentina vs Croatia

Argentina and Croatia will meet at the stadium of Nizhny Novgorod on the 21st of June. Argentina’s ace is Lionel Messi, considered by some the world’s greatest football player and, as if that was not enough, the team includes Paulo Dybala, Sergio "Kun" Agüero, and Gonzalo Higuaín. Croatia, however, also has a number of very talented players, including Nikola Kalinić, Mario Mandžukić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić, and Luca Modrić.

Sweden vs Mexico

The match between Sweden and Mexico, the final one in Group F, will be played in Yekaterinburg, on the 27th of June. For Sweden, this is going to be the first World Cup in 12 years. However, it has already astonished everyone by beating Italy in the playoffs, so there may well be more surprises coming. While Sweden no longer has Zlatan Ibrahimović among its ranks, there are many strong players to be reckoned with: Mikael Lustig, Marcus Berg, Emil Forsberg, Andreas Granqvist, and Ola Toivonen. Mexico’s diamond collection includes Andrés Guardado, Héctor Moreno, Rafael Márquez, and Giovanni Dos Santos.

Uruguay vs Egypt

On the 15th of June, the two teams (pooled in Group A) will meet in Yekaterinburg. The match is expected to be the clash between the two forwards, Luis Suárez (Uruguay) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt). Besides the all-time top scorer forward, Uruguay’s team includes Álvaro Pereira, Fernando Muslera, Cristian Rodriguez, Diego Godín, and Martín Cáceres. To oppose these, Egypt’s team has Ahmed Elmohamady, Mohamed Elneny, Ahmed Fathy, and Kouka. The one and only time that Uruguay played against Egypt was in Alexandria, in 2006, and that time Uruguay won 2-0. This year, in the cold region east of the Ural Mountains, Egypt has a chance to take revenge.

Tickets

The tickets come in 4 categories, but keep in mind that the Category 4 tickets are for residents of Russia only. There are also the Special Access tickets, for those with limited mobility. You can see the Category layout for every venue here: Ticket Categories.

Ticket prices range from $105 to $1100, with the same prices applying for both children and adults:

Ticket prices Ticket prices

Buying a Ticket

Last Minute Sales Phase lasts from the 18th April to the 15th of July. The sales begin at 11H CET / 12H Moscow Time. The tickets are available online, and, up until the Final match, any remaining tickets can also be purchased over the counter at the FIFA Venue Ticketing Centres. You can download the spreadsheet with the information about these Centres here: 2018 FIFA World Cup Ticketing Centres.

Since the tickets are allocated on the “first come, first served” principle, it is highly advisable to place your ticket order online, the sooner the better, because the best tickets sell like hotcakes. You can collect your tickets at the Ticket Collection Locations at the host cities, starting from the 18th of April until the day of the final competition.

To stay informed about the latest updates, follow the news on this page: 2018 FIFA World Cup Ticketing.

Venues

The host cities are as follows: Kaliningrad, Kazan, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd, and Yekaterinburg. All of these, except for Yekaterinburg, are located in the European Russia.

Kazan Stadium Kazan Stadium

The largest venues belong to Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium) and Saint Petersburg (Saint Petersburg Stadium), while the smallest one is the Kaliningrad Stadium. You can find detailed information about each venue here: 2018 FIFA World Cup Venues.

Getting to the Venues

During the World Cup, over 700 additional trains will be traveling between the host cities. Also, the host cities will provide the transport to and from airports, as well as the public transport on the days of the matches. The transportation is free for those who have the match tickets and the FAN ID.

To get your free transportation, first, register here: 2018 FIFA World Cup Free Ride. You will need to enter the number of the ticket (or the number of your application), your FAN ID, the date and time of the match, and the name of the host city. After you have completed the registration, the boarding coupon will be sent to your email. You need to remember, however, that to use the free transport you will need to have both the ticket to the game and the FAN ID. The registration to the train stops twenty-four hours before the departure, so it’s best to plan ahead. For more information on the free transportation, see 2018 FIFA World Cup Transport.

FAN ID

FAN ID is a document that you will need to enter the 2018 FIFA World Cup stadiums. Once you’ve received your ticket confirmation, you’re ready to apply for the FAN ID, which will also provide you with a visa-free entry to the country (the visa-free period begins 10 days before the games and ends 10 days after the Cup finishes), and free transport to the venues. Remember that you’ll also need your FAN ID to leave the country, so hold on to it!

For detailed information about the FAN ID, please visit 2018 FIFA World Cup FAN ID.

Visa to Russia

If you have a ticket to the 2018 FIFA match and a FAN ID, you don’t need a visa to enter Russia.

Also, there is a number of countries the citizens of which do not need a visa to Russia. To find out if you’re eligible for a visa-free entry, please check out the list here: Russian National Tourist Office.

If you don’t have a FAN ID and/or a ticket to the match, you will need either a Tourist or a Private visa. You can get the private visa if you have friends or relatives living in Russian Federation. To get detailed information about the types of visas, requirements, and application process, visit Visas to Russia.

Accommodation

There is a large variety of places to stay at, ranging from the mind-numbing Ararat Park Hyatt Hotel in Moscow to the modest Airbnb apartments that will suit practically every pocket.

Those who prefer to stay on the safe side can consult the list of hotels recommended by FIFA.

Another option is to check out the list of accommodation resources for the host cities:

2018 FIFA Fan Fest

In 2006, the Fan Fest became part of the official 2006 FIFA World Cup program. Following that, the Fest was held both in South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014) and has by now become a well-loved tradition.

Each host city has a Fan Fest venue, where the football fans from all over the world can gather to share the thrilling experience of watching the matches together with a jolly crowd of like-minded sports admirers, in an environment that is both fun and safe. In addition to the games’ broadcast, music, food, and drink will be provided. The access to the party is free for everyone.

You can find complete information on the venues here: 2018 FIFA Fan Fest Venues.

Words: Jelena Schmidt

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