The Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is one of the host cities of the FIFA World Cup 2014, hosting four matches in the tournament’s group phase, one round of 16, one quarter final and the final match on July 13. EPA/ANTONIO LACERDA

The countdown has begun: 15 days until the World Cup!

If you are traveling to Brazil for the world’s most popular sporting event, you are not alone. American fans have bought more tickets than fans in any other country– other than Brazil– which means lots of folks will be headed to  the South American nation for some serious futebol next month.  (187,880 tickets have been distributed in the United States, according to FIFA).

Sorry folks if you were counting on Landon Donovan, who surprisingly was left off the U.S. World Cup roster.  Still, going to a World Cup is a pretty big deal, so for those going to the month-long tournament, here are a few things to know.

Get a visa.  If you haven’t already looked into getting a visa, you’d better hurry up.  Brazil requires Americans to carry a valid U.S. passport and visa when traveling to Brazil.  The Brazilian Consulate, 1030 15th Street, N.W., says visas for World Cup travelers are free, and will be valid for 90 days. Click here for more details about how to get yours.

If you are driving while in Brazil, the State Department recommends you to obtain an international driving permit to carry along with your U.S. driver’s license.  You can get one through AAA.

The State department also recommends travelers to be mindful that road conditions may be different from those in the U.S. and warns Americans to be aware of areas with high rates of carjackings and thefts at stoplights.

“Driving on Brazil’s inter-city roads can pose significant risks. As is the case elsewhere in the region, poor driving skills, bad roads, and a high density of trucks combine to make travel via roads considerably more hazardous than in the United States,” according to the Bureau of Consular Affair.

Public Transit. The Brazilian government has put together a comprehensive list of public transit options in each of the 12 host cities.  Those options range from free shuttle buses available to ticket holders to Metro and bus systems.

For details, click on the city you are visiting: Belo HorizonteBrasiliaCuiabáCuritibaFortalezaManausNatalPorto AlegreRecifeRio de JaneiroSalvadorSao Paulo.

If you plan to use public transit, the U.S. State Department has warned that incidents of theft on city buses are frequent, and Americans traveling to Brazil should be alert and never resist thieves (See some tips about how to avoid crime).  This video shows some of the recent concerns about rising crime, protests and transportation and police strikes:

Bus drivers and fare collectors in Sao Paulo walked out in protest for a second day on Wednesday. Sao Paulo is expected to host the first match of the World Cup in less than a month. (Reuters)

In Rio de Janeiro, where buses are the main form of public transportation, muggings aboard buses and in popular tourist areas are on the rise, the Associated Press reported this month.  Rio is hosting seven World Cup games, including the final match on July 13, and is projected to have the largest number of foreign tourists during the tournament.

If you are going to Brazil’s largest city of Sao Paulo, for one of the six games there, you will find a comprehensive subway system that is among the busiest in South America. They have had some transportation issues lately, however, including a bus drivers strike last week that led to chaos on the subway.

Plan ahead.  Be alert and careful during your travels. And enjoy the Copa do Mundo!