There is no escaping the fact that enjoying tournament football is expensive. Travel and tickets will cost a small fortune, to begin with, let alone the prospect of weeks worth of sundry expenses at often inflated prices. What may have been a $1 drink last week will become a $5 mug during the tournament. That’s to be expected, after all – who can blame the barkeeps of Russia for not cashing in when they can?
However, when it comes to accommodation rules, Russia is a little bit different to most other countries. Hotels are obliged to stick to a set pattern of pricing determined by their classification. It doesn’t matter if you fancy splashing out on five star or bunked up in a hostel, the rules stick regardless of demand. So when the World Cup happens to come around, those hoteliers have to charge the same price for a room/bed as they would normally.
Much like the aforementioned barkeepers, plenty of hotel owners are flouting the law by massively overcharging visiting fans for accommodation. From their perspective, it’s a risk worth taking because the additional money they make will more than cover the cost of the fine. These guys aren’t enjoying a Mr Green VR Bonus, they’re just looking to make as much cash as possible – and most are already booked out.
Where fans need to be very careful is figuring out exactly what a ‘hotel’ is. The Rospotrebnadzor (Russia’s consumer champions) found that 113 ‘hotels’ are operating without certification. These are mostly ad-hoc bunkhouses that have been charging well over $100 a night to visiting fans. Across the board, there are well over 500 such cases of established hotels inflating their prices way beyond the standard pricing limits.
Surely such violations should be prosecuted and fined? Absolutely, and they have been – to the collective figure of around $90k. That’s peanuts compared to the amount that fans are paying for even basic accommodation, which is why rogue hoteliers are still looking to rip off fans. After all, who wants to spend the night sleeping rough in Yekaterinburg?
In previous World Cups host cities have gone out of their way to make sure that fans are well accommodated. Remember the fear for the safety and well-being of supporters in Brazil last time around? The solution for many guests was to open up and temporarily license homes in favelas. Instead of paying through the nose for a dingy hotel bedroom, for a fraction of the price visitors weren’t just more comfortable – they were catered for. Meals, guides, advice, and good humor – which is why many football fans pledged to go back.
Russia is obviously not Brazil, but it still begs the question of why such essential details haven’t been sorted out well in advance. Slapping naughty hotel owners with a tiny fine isn’t going to recompense those who have already been stung/ripped off.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are notoriously expensive cities for visitors, so inflated prices are pretty much to be expected. But Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod? With all due respect, these are hardly typical tourist destinations, and ought to have plenty of cheap accomodation at legal rates. Instead, the vast majority have decided to adopt Moscow pricing for the matches that they are hosting.
Fans are the victims here. It’s estimated that the average visitor will spend around $3k/week while in Russia following the World Cup. It would have been nice for the Rusian authorities to have taken a little more care in organizing where their guests will be staying. Advice for those who have yet to book – shop around and email directly to see if you can get the real price instead of the inflated one. This will work for large groups planning on staying for a week or longer. Other than that, there’s not much we can do about it.