The excitement of attending the Sochi Winter Olympics is palpable: Hair-raising, gravity-defying stunts performed by world-class athletes on snow and ice raise our heart rates and leave us wanting more.
But like any major sporting event, going to Sochi will cost you a pretty penny.
When you factor in the added costs of a visa, overseas travel, and multiple events, the cost could be a real shocker.
Here’s how it breaks down:
Let’s assume you can’t take 2-3 weeks off just for the Olympics, but that you do want to enjoy at least several days’ worth of events.
For this hypothetical example, let’s say you’re gone for a week, including two days of travel.
A search conducted a few weeks ago shows average economy-class airfare from NYC to Sochi of around $2500 for the dates Feb17-24.
That’ll give you five days in Sochi to enjoy, amongst other things, the closing ceremony.
Airfare from other U.S. cities is considerably higher, although travelers who booked well in advance probably snagged better deals. So, let’s call it an even $2000.
You’ll also need a rental car to get around the city, however, and recent searches show economy vehicles averaging $500 for that time period.
Visitors who booked in advance or use a different class of vehicle can expect price variations.
For our purposes, let’s say airfare + rental car = an average transportation cost of about $2500-3000.
Hotels in Sochi, like many tourist destinations, vary widely in price, comfort level and convenience.
Our search showed an average nightly price of about $200 for mid-range accommodations.
Higher-end hotels, if not already sold-out, easily exceeded $500 per night.
5 nights hotel at a mid-range hotel: $1000.
An expedited Russian Visa can average approximately $200.
Food & Entertainment
Making the most of the Olympics means taking part in the fun and games – both on and off the slopes.
Partaking in the festivities means sampling the local culture and nightlife, in addition to the cuisine.
Mid-range travelers can expect to part with an average of $50-150/day for food and non-sports entertainment expenses.
That budget, however, likely won’t afford you access to the most star-studded clubs or cafes.
Mid-range food and non-sports entertainment budget for five days: $500
Sporting Events Tickets
Surprisingly, unless you’re springing for the best seats, the actual Olympic sports events tickets aren’t likely to be your biggest expense.
Let’s say you’d like to attend short track speed skating, figure skating, speed skating, and the Olympic Closing Ceremony in mid-level seats.
These will run you (converted from Russian Roubles), anywhere from $86 to $345 per event, averaging a total of about $650 in “C” class seats.
Mid-range tickets for four sporting events/ceremonies: $650
Total Sochi Price Tag: $4,350
This is just a mid-range estimate, of course.
You may want to stay longer, eat more cheaply or lavishly, and attend more events or in better seats. The total cost you pay would vary accordingly.
Still, attending Sochi – or nearly any global sporting event, such as next year’s World Cup – is likely to set you back several thousand dollars.
But there’s more to it than that.
Did you have a better use for that $4000-5000?
Could it have been used to pay down high-interest credit card or student loan debt? Could it have been invested, instead?
If you estimate an 8.5% return (not atypical for stock investments over the long-term), over 30 years that $4350 could’ve added up to over $50,000, if you’d stuck it in an index fund, instead.
Going to Sochi would undoubtedly be a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Some might even say it’s priceless.
But every opportunity has its costs, and going to Sochi might cost more than you bargained for.
Janet Al-Saad is the founder of the Five Ten Twenty Club, a website designed to help you improve your finances $5, $10 or $20 at a time.