The 22nd FIFA Men’s World Cup is finally here, as 32 teams head to Qatar to battle it out for the right to be called World Champions. After a four year wait, the competition finally got under way on November 20th, with the final taking place at the Lusail Stadium in Doha on December 18th.
England, one of the tournament favourites according to the latest world cup odds, are expected to take the most fans to Qatar, but what exactly will life be like for visitors to the small Islamic emirate with a population of just under 3 million people?
The host of this year’s World Cup, Qatar is a peninsular Arab country comprising of arid desert, a long Persian Gulf shoreline of beaches and dunes, and a capital city Doha that boasts modern architecture and huge, glistening skyscrapers.
The World Cup was moved to the winter to avoid the stifling heat of the summer, but average temperatures in November are 26 degrees, with highs of 32C not uncommon.
How do I get there?
Flying is the simplest and easiest way to get to Qatar. Qatar Airway, British Airways and American Airlines offer flights to Doha from Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh and Manchester in the UK. While flights from Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco, are available in the US.
Your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months from the date you arrive. From November 1st, 2022, travellers must also carry an approved ‘Hayya Card’ which also allows access to public transport on match-day. Visitors must possess at least one match ticket for the World Cup in order to obtain this identification document.
Covid entry requirements have been removed for all travellers entering the country for the duration of the World Cup, irrespective of their vaccine status.
What can I bring to Qatar?
Because Qatar is an Islamic country, there are strict rules on what you can bring in. Alcohol, drugs, pork products or non-Islamic religious books and even e-cigarettes are banned. It’s always advisable to double check the rules before you leave.
Places to stay
Around 1.5 million people are expected to visit Qatar during the World Cup, but in 2019, the country only had a meagre 35,000 hotel rooms. A further 105 hotels have been built, along with serviced apartments, tented accommodation and cabins, in order to provide the necessary capacity. Check out the official Qatari accommodation site to discover what’s available but you will need a match ticket to get a room.
Fan Village Cabins
At the budget end of the spectrum, the Fan Village Cabins provide cabin-style and casual camping and caravan accommodation. Fan villages are located in and around the outskirts of Doha but are accessible via public transport or rideshares. There are a variety of on-site facilities as well as food and beverage outlets, but don’t expect luxury or much in the way of sightseeing and culture. This is temporary accommodation.
Lack of suitable accommodation in Qatar has led to some creative thinking. The MSC Poesia and the MSC World Europa are moored at Doha’s Grand Terminal, 10 minutes by shuttle to the heart of the capital. Both ships offer a wide variety of cabin options, from budget to luxury, as well as multiple restaurants bars and entertainment.
Most of the hotel rooms are already fully booked, but as teams get knocked out rooms will become available, so it’s well worth trying again after the group stages and knockout phases of the tournament.
Local Laws and Customs
It’s important to respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. There can be serious penalties for travellers not respecting these rules, therefore, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the local laws and customs before you leave.
Zero tolerance for drugs in Qatar. Potential punishments are severe. If you need to bring in controlled/prescription medication into the country, make sure you carry an official doctor’s prescription or letter.
It is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public in Qatar. Alcohol is available only at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and official fan zones outside the grounds during the world cup. There are also plans to create sobering up areas too.
Swearing and rude gestures are considered obscene acts and may be punished. Showing overt affection and intimacy in public is also frowned upon. Qatari ladies will not shake hands with men, and many men will not shake a lady’s hand as a gesture of respect. Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar, however, the authorities claim ‘everyone is welcome’ at the World Cup.
Modest or conservative clothing is expected in public so pack appropriately. That means women are advised to cover their shoulders and wear long skirts or trousers in public, and when driving. No bikinis on public beaches. Men should avoid toplessness and shorts in public places – something a few England fans may find hard to do!
No matter which team you support, all fans travelling to Qatar can expect to see one of the closest and most exciting World Cup tournaments ever.