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All kicking off; insiders expert advice & money-saving tips.

Byline: NIGEL THOMPSON, WITH TRAVEL EDITOR NIGEL THOMPSON AND DEPUTY MARJORIE YUE

The next round of qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup in Russia starts at the end of the month - but travel plans for fans of the home nations and Ireland teams have kicked off.

We won't know who's made it through to the finals until November 14, and flights and hotels will start to be booked in earnest once the draw is made on December 1. But hopeful fans are already preparing for what will most likely be a daunting task, following their team round a vast country, and one which can be a challenging but fascinating place to visit.

There are 12 host cities (all in western Russia) including famous places such as Moscow, St Petersburg and Volgograd and lesser known destinations including Adler, Samara and Saransk.

The longest journey would be Kaliningrad to Yekaterinburg, nearly 2,000 miles and a 40hr drive or 3hr30min flight. (Of course, for England fans there are usually only three group stage matches before coming home!) The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has now launched its Be on the Ball campaign, which offers simple advice to help reduce preventable World Cup problems.

Top tournament tips include:

Once tickets are issued, ticket holders should apply for a FIFA tournament FAN ID, which will give them free local travel on match days and also act as a tournament visa.

Fans travelling to Russia without tickets must apply for a visa - which can be expensive and slow.

Sign up for World Cup official email alerts to get news updates ahead of and during the tournament.

Start looking at healthcare and insurance cover, passport validity and emergency contact numbers.

Get more info about FAN ID, tickets and news alerts at welcome2018.com; FCO World Cup advice is at gov.uk/travelaware.

Foreign Office Minister Rory Stewart said: "The World Cup is set to be a fantastic spectacle. I hope fans find this advice helpful."

CAPTION(S):

HOST CITY Catherine's Palace at St Petersburg

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Aug 13, 2017
Words:338
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