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2016 Rio Olympics travel on a budget: 7 tips to save money

There's still time to book a trip Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to attend the 2016 Summer Olympics — and still save money.
/ Source: TODAY

Olympic excitement is starting to pick up as May 3 marked the first day of the Olympic torch relay. And with fewer than 100 days until the Aug. 5 opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games, people from all over the world are nailing down their travel plans.

According to TripAdvisor, the travel planning and booking site, interest in booking a trip to Rio de Janeiro between Aug. 5 and 21 has increased more than 1,000 percent, while international searches have climbed 450 percent for that same time period. Given this sharp increase, it may seem impossible to find any deals so close to the highly anticipated event, but there are still a number of ways for you to score some deals and find some savings.

Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Christ the Redeemer statue, in Rio de Janeiro, BrazilAFP - Getty Images

TODAY reached out to several experts to learn their tips for checking out the Summer Olympics while on budget. Here are seven ways to take home the gold when it comes to savings.

1. Stay outside the city.

It’s certainly enticing to want to stay in the middle of the action, but choosing accommodations on the fringe of the excitement can be a nice break for your wallet. According to TripAdvisor data, Copacabana, Barra da Tijuca (location of Olympic Park), Ipanema, Centro and Santa Teresa are the most searched neighborhoods for accommodations.

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“Botafogo, Lagoa and Santa Teresa offer lower average nightly rates during the Games than some of the other neighborhoods," Julie Cassetina, a spokesperson for TripAdvisor, told TODAY. Booking a room in Botafogo, which is located 23 miles from Olympic Park, can save you up to 85 percent compared to $351 per night in Barra da Tijuca.

2. Take advantage of cheaper flights, with airfare hitting a seven-year low this summer.

According to research done by travel app Hopper, airfare will bring the cheapest summer fares in seven years. While prices are down 12 percent from last year and more than 20 percent from two years ago overall, you might want to book a flight to Rio this month because the site predicts prices will drop 32 percent from the current average price of $639.

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3. Choose alternative accommodations.

There are so many other forms of lodging these days than traditional hotels. In fact, Airbnb signed a deal to be the official “alternative accommodations” sponsor of the 2016 Olympic Games. “Airbnb has a goal of offering affordable in-home options to almost 400,000 travelers during the games,” Christine Sarkis, senior editor at SmarterTravel, told TODAY. “It will likely be a good place to find last-minute options as well, since it’s an easy way for locals to offer their extra rooms on the fly during the Olympics.” In fact, Airbnb still has 25,000 unique homes available at different price points for the event.

How to travel to the 2016 Summer Olympics on a budget
Santa Teresa is a stunning apartment that's reasonably priced and has views of the Christ the Redeemer.TripAdvisor

Even TripAdvisor has some vacation rental options that will give you the best bang for your buck. "Vacation rentals are a fantastic accommodation option," added Cassetina. "Not only do they provide a value for larger groups — think families and/or friends traveling together — but they put travelers in touch with a local expert." For example, the Santa Teresa Art House sleeps four, is in bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood and features a large terrace with a view of the Christ the Redeemer statue.

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4. Save $160 in visa fees.

One of the pesky things about traveling can be the added expense of purchasing a visa. These can sometimes amount to hundreds of dollars. Luckily, Americans heading to Brazil between June 1 and Sept. 16 (a time frame that includes both the Olympic and Paralympic Games) will automatically save $160 since Brazil is waiving visas during this period.

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5. Consider an alternative airport.

It may seem easiest to book a plane ticket to the main airport hub, but you could save some cash by looking just elsewhere. “Consider flying into other Brazilian airports which sometimes have sales, such as Sao Paulo and Fortaleza, when Rio does not,” George Hobica, founder and president of Airfarewatchdog, revealed to us. “And flying on from there on a budget airline.”

How to travel to the 2016 Summer Olympics
The beaches are an amazing place to hang out that won't cost you a dime.TripAdvisor

6. Find free activities.

There are ways to explore the city and immerse yourself in the culture for free. Take for example, Copacabana Beach. This gorgeous shoreline is among the most searched attractions in Rio on TripAdvisor during the August 5-21 time period, and is an ideal place to mingle with the locals and tourists. "You’ll find children playing soccer, vendors selling local goods and sunbathers relaxing on the sand," noted Cassetina.

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7. Ask a local.

No guidebook can top the knowledge of the people who spend their days and nights experiencing the ins and outs of a city. They know where to find the best meals for under $20, the secret beaches, top activities and attractions that are free or require a small entry fee. This is something that Airbnb touts as part of their offerings. "By staying on Airbnb, guests don't just get a unique place to call home during their time in Rio," an Airbnb spokesperson told TODAY. "But also a local host, who can enhance the experience, providing personal recommendations of local attractions and off-the-beaten-path destinations, and even inviting guests to share in meals and activities with them and their family and friends."