Wednesday, August 10, 2022

What to know about visiting Qatar during the World Cup

With over 800,000 match tickets already cut and England’s final draw against Iran announced on 1 April, the first day of competition on 21 November, the race continues for fans to consolidate Qatar travel plans. Here’s what to expect in the host nation.

Habitat

It is no secret that the availability and cost of accommodation in Qatar has been one of the biggest challenges for the organizers during the World Cup. Of the 130,000 rooms promised by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, about 80 percent are bookable through the Qatar 2022 website (qatar2022.qa), but most of the cheaper rooms have now been taken over, and a basic room is needed. The average cost of a shared apartment on Airbnb is currently listed at £300 per night, with ticket holders without accommodations needing to move quickly to secure an affordable option.

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All connected by metro, Qatar’s four main housing hubs are headed north from Hamad International Airport: central Doha, West Bay, The Pearl-Qatar and Lusail, which will host the grand finals on 18 December. Each location has its benefits: Central Doha is home to cheap eats and attractions including Souk Waqf, Qatar’s National Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art between matches, while West Bay is home to the lion’s share of Qatar’s bars.

Qatari policemen ride horses in their traditional clothes called Dishdasha at Souk Waqf in Doha, Qatar (Photo by Nadine Roop/Getty)

A marina bulging with multi-million-pound yachts, the artificial island development known as The Pearl-Qatar features mostly apartment-style accommodation and a good range of restaurants, while Lusail – technically for Doha An independent city, if still in -making – is home to the brand new Place Vendme Qatar Luxury Mall.

getting around

Prices for most things in Qatar are generally higher than what you pay in the UK, but transport is a notable exception.

Ticket holders get free public transport on match days (download the Haya to Qatar app to plan your trip). At other times, trips on Doha’s efficient, state-of-the-art metro system opened in 2019 cost just two riyals (40p) per trip (also from the airport), with a maximum daily cost of six riyals (£1.30). The Railcard (which, like Oystercard, can be topped up online or at stations) costs 10 rials (£2.10). There is also a free tram in central Doha’s charming Mashireb downtown district.

The maximum distance between World Cup stadiums is only 41 miles, but with only four of the eight stadiums within easy walking distance of metro stations (Ahmed Bin Ali, Education City, Khalifa and Lusail), fans moving to other locations need to factor in. May require additional travel time – especially if you have tickets to an England vs USA Group B match on November 25 at Al Bayt Stadium, 31 miles (about an hour’s drive) north of central Doha.

Qatar’s bus network is also good. Karva Smartcard is required for all journeys; The Unlimited Card (20 riyals/£4.20) gives you unlimited trips within 24 hours of purchase.

Uber and Careem are the main ride-sharing apps and both are cheap as chips; An Uber from central Doha to Lusail Stadium costs just 40 riyals (£8.50). Metered turquoise-colored Karva taxis (which take cash or card) are more expensive but still affordable by UK standards.

You can drive in Qatar even with a valid UK license and an international drivers permit, but amid poor road discipline and a high incidence of accidents, you may want to reconsider renting a car. Accidentally turn on a red light, and you’ll be 6000 riyals/£1,265 poor.

Eating out (and in)

While pork is off the menu, Doha has a diverse culinary scene due to its multicultural makeup – Qatari citizens comprise less than 12 percent of the country’s population.

Most of Qatar’s fine-dining restaurants (from Nobu to Cut by Wolfgang Puck) and all of its pubs are found in international hotels. Mid-range western restaurants and cafes can be found in hotels as well as malls City Center Doha (where you’ll also find Jamie’s Italian – remember them?) all have English menus.

A short walk from Mashireb, Buzzy Souk Waqif is packed with tourists, mostly Middle Eastern restaurants. Slightly more affordable food can be found from the downtown core, with top picks including Mama Rosie for Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino cuisine and Bombay Chowpatty for authentic Indian favourites.

Self-caterers will find a huge Carrefour supermarket in the West Bay as well as Monoprix supermarkets in Mashirab, The Pearl-Qatar and Lusail. Indian supermarket chain LuLu’s many outlets are less central but cheaper.

where to drink

Currently licensed hotel bars and restaurants are the only places in Qatar where visitors over 21 can buy alcohol. At around £10 for a pint of Stella Artois, it’s not cheap to drink here, but there is a good range of watering holes to choose from, many with discounted happy hours. Some of the popular bars with sports screens include Belgian Cafe, Shots, Champions Sports Bar, Boston, Irish Harp, Hudson Tavern, and Mulberry Tavern. Qatar also has a state-controlled off-licence, but it is not open to tourists.

Lusail National Stadium, host venue for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup and final (Photo by Matthew Ashton/Getty)

Good news for thirsty fans, there will be extra space to drink during the World Cup. Liquor will be available in (but not inside) stadiums, but so far only for those purchasing a hospitality package.

Alcohol is also expected to be available in fan zones, including the main FIFA Fan Fest site at Al Bidda Park, north of central Doha, which local sources say will be turned into a temporary entertainment complex with a capacity of 80,000 fans.

Know the local laws and customs

All ticketholders must apply for a Haya card through the Qatar2022 website, which acts as an entry permit to Qatar as well as stadiums (with your match ticket).

The Qatar work week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with many businesses closed until at least noon on Fridays, although this may change during the World Cup.

Being intoxicated in public is a crime in Qatar with a prison sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to 3,000 riyals (£634).

As a general rule, men’s and women’s clothing should cover the shoulders and knees when you step out of your hotel

English is widely spoken in Qatar

Nation World News Desk
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