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Qatar 2022: travel advice for World Cup fans

The biggest football tournament on the planet is due to begin on 21 November 2022 in the Gulf state of Qatar.

These are the key travel questions and answers for fans hoping to see one or more of the matches.

What’s the plan?

After the 2018 football tournament was held in the world’s biggest nation, Russia, the host of the World Cup 2022 is tiny Qatar: a thumb of territory barely half the size of Wales protruding from the Arabian peninsula into the Gulf.

Unlike previous hosts of the global tournament, Qatar has no footballing tradition. It also has extreme temperatures, which is why the normal June/July timing – designed to dovetail with the football season in northern hemisphere nations – has been moved to November/December.

The opening match – and Qatar’s first-ever World Cup game – kicks off at 10am local time (7am GMT) on 21 November 2022 at the Al Bayt Stadium, one of eight venues.

Many people have expressed concern about the treatment of migrant workers involved in building facilities, with Amnesty International saying employees from Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been abused and exploited.

Just remind me who’s qualified so far?

England will definitely be among the final 32, along with a lot of the usual suspects including Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Croatia, the holders France and, as host nation, Qatar – who previously have never qualified for the World Cup Finals.

Scotland and Wales are seeded in the play-offs for places in the finals, but face tough competition that includes Italy, Portugal and Russia.

How do I get there, and how much will it cost?

Direct flights will certainly operate from London and Manchester, and are likely to be augmented with departures from Birmingham, Edinburgh and possibly Cardiff. They will touch down at Doha – one of the big Gulf hubs.

A year out it’s impossible to say how much fares will be, because tickets don’t go on sale for another few weeks. But with fans from all over the world converging on Doha, and a limited supply of flights, fares are likely to surge.

Fares towards the end of the tournament may increase because of demand for normal people – not football fans – flying long-haul via Doha for Christmas.

Even now, fares for nonstop flights late next year are high. A test booking for an economy class Manchester-Doha return flight early in November 2022 is priced at £737.

That sounds expensive. Any alternatives?

Cheaper routes are likely to be available via Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai – Etihad, Gulf Air and Emirates will be competing for fans’ money. But because lots of supporters will be staying outside Qatar and just flying in for matches, that will put pressure on prices.

What about somewhere to stay?

The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is the Qatari body organising the tournament (rather than an invention of the BBC comedy W1A), expects 1.5 million visitors during the World Cup.

In 2019, Qatar had 35,000 hotel rooms – but the Qatari government says it is adding 105 new hotels and serviced apartments, and says there will be more than 100,000. To put the number in context, though, that will still be fewer than the city of Sochi – just one of the dozen venues for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Some supporters will be able to camp in the desert, in what’s called “Fan Village desert camping” while others will find cabins aboard cruise ships moored in Qatar for the event.

Given that FIFA officials, media and sponsors will take up a good proportion, many fans are likely to end up staying in nearby countries.

What are the choices outside Qatar?

Dubai has the most hotel rooms, with Abu Dhabi not far behind. But to save cash I recommend Bahrain – particularly if a ferry link is re-established across the short sea crossing to Qatar – or Saudi Arabia, which has a land frontier, but accommodation options anywhere near the border are limited.

How do I get tickets?

The world governing body for football, Fifa, is selling the tickets.

Well-heeled fans are invited to “curate your Fifa World Cup 2022 experience by following the team of your choice”.

To guarantee a seat at each of England’s group matches, plus the round of 16 and quarter-final, costs $11,250 (£8,334).

Alternatively you will be able to try your luck when tickets go on sale in January. Another tranche of tickets will be released after the final draw on 1 April.

The match ticket will appear on the Hay’ya Card (meaning “let’s go”, and equivalent to the Fan ID in Russia 2018) – which will also incorporate permission to be in Qatar, and act as a pass for free public transport. There could be also be documentation for Covid, depending on the global situation a year from now.

Will I be able to get a drink?

Yes. The Supreme Committee says: “Alcohol is not part of Qatari culture, and may not be available everywhere, but it will be available in designated areas.

“Fifa will work with Q22, as it does with all Fifa World Cup™ host nations, to find a solution that satisfies everyone concerned.”

Alcohol is currently available in hotels, and will be served at fan zones during the tournament.

It is illegal to drink alcohol in public – or be drunk – with the Foreign Office warning drunkeness “could result in a prison sentence of up to six months and/or a fine up to QAR3,000 (over £600).

Anyone staying in Saudi Arabia will not be able to drink in the kingdom.

Is there a dress code?

Yes, according to the Qatar Tourism Authority. It says: “Visitors (men as well as women) are expected to show respect for local culture by avoiding excessively revealing clothing in public.

“It is generally recommended for men and women to ensure their shoulders and knees are covered.

What about behaviour?

The tourism body says: “Showing overt affection and intimacy in public is 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.”

The Foreign Office warns: “Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar.” Article 296 of the Qatari legal code stipulates imprisonment of between one and three years for “leading, instigating or seducing a male by in any way to commit sodomy”.

How do I get around?

Easily. The maximum distance between any of the eight stadiums is 45 miles (75km), and all public transport will be free on match days to fans. The Doha Metro has a flat fare of QAR2 (£0.40), with an all-day pass costing QAR (£1.20).

Is there much to keep me occupied?

The main cultural attraction is the stunning new National Museum, telling the Qatar story from pre-history to untold wealth from oil. Also worth a visit is the Museum of Islamic Art. Both are spectacular structures close to the waterfront, with engrossing exhibits.

Doha’s approximation to a historic centre, based around the Waqif souk, is pleasant enough, but not a patch on the markets in other Arabian locations such as Muscat, Bahrain and Dubai.

Isn’t there a fair bit of tension between Qatar and its neighbours?

Yes. In July 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut military and diplomatic ties with Qatar, alleging the country had been supporting extremist groups – a charge that the Qatari government denied.

The blockade has now ended.