More than one million fans are expected to descend on Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup – but concerns remain over where they will all stay.
Since Qatar was controversially awarded the tournament in 2010, the authorities have been engaged in a huge construction project, building hotels and apartments, as well as eight stadiums in five cities to host the matches.
Gareth Southgate’s England have booked their place, while Wales and Scotland are in the play-offs to determine whether they will play in the tournament.
FIFA has already sold 800,000 tickets for the competition with thousands more due to be allocated to supporters of the 32 competing nations in May.
Qatar plans to have 130,000 rooms available for the 28-day, blue riband tournament. But European fan groups have expressed concern about the availability of accommodation and the cost, with the possibility some supporters may have to base themselves in neighbouring countries and fly in.
There will be further opportunities to buy World Cup tickets later this year, so if you are hoping to follow the fortunes of England, Wales or Scotland in the Middle East this winter, here is everything you need to know….
England qualified for 2022 Qatar World Cup and thousands of fans are heading to Middle East
England are in Group B and will play Iran, USA and one of Wales, Scotland or Ukraine
Eight stadiums have been built to host matches, including the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor
Can I still buy a ticket?
Yes, although ticket sales are closed at the moment, there will be further opportunities to bag a seat at the 2022 World Cup.
The first round of sales closed on March 30, with 800,000 tickets sold. The second sales period concluded at the end of April, in which 23.5 million requests were made.
Most applications came from Qataris, followed by fans living in Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the USA.
FIFA is still verifying these requests and supporters will find out if they have been successful on May 31.
After that, tickets not allocated will be made available up to and throughout the tournament. But you will have to keep your eyes on the FIFA website, as tickets will go fast.
England fans who have not applied for tickets will have another chance in months ahead
Eight stadiums in Qatar are based in five cities – pictured is the al-Janoub Stadium in Doha
But even if I get a ticket, will I have somewhere to kip?
Firstly, you need a match ticket to book a place to stay, which can be done through the Qatar 2022 World Cup portal.
Fan groups say there is still a lot of uncertainty around accommodation. The Qatar authorities have said there will be 130,000 rooms available to supporters, but whether that will meet demand, or provide enough at the cheaper price points many will be looking for, is unclear.
We will only know the true picture when the next batch of tickets have been allocated on May 31 and travellers start booking.
Accommodation is currently available through the portal in fan villages, apartments, hotels and on two cruise ships, the MSC Europa and MSC Poesia, which will be moored at the Grand Terminal in Doha.
Accommodation will be in hotels, apartments, camps and on two cruise ships near Doha
The MSC Europa can accommodate 6,700 passengers in luxurious surroundings
If you can afford it, the ships are surely the way to go. They have almost 4,000 cabins available and offer a deluxe experience. Qatar is a Muslim country so alcohol is not widely served, however, the bars will be open onboard.
The Poesia is the smaller and more affordable of the two, with cabins starting at £150 per night. It boasts three swimming pools, poolside cinema, tennis court, waterfall a and a Zen Garden. Or, you can just relax in one of the many bars. There is even a dedicated Cigar Room, where you can light up and reflect on England’s success… or failure.
The Europa is brand new and offers state-of-the-art luxury; it is more expensive and cabins start at £294 a night. The ship, which can accommodate 6,700 passengers, has a 100-metre promenade, a slide scooshing down 11 decks, a water park, bumper cars, seven swimming pools, 13 restaurants and bars, and its own microbrewery.
There is luxury on land, too. The world’s biggest hotel chains are well represented in Doha with all the usual pampering, or for couples and small groups there are apartments and villas ranging from basic to very comfortable.
But there are budget options including pre-fabricated cabins for £175 per night for two people
Not fancy, but you will receive two bottles of ‘free’ water each day, during your stay
Qatari authorities are planning to offer tents, too, but the camps are not yet completed
At the bottom end of the market is the purpose built, Soviet style, Barwa Barahat Al Janoub Cluster A, where a room for £67-a-night will get you the use of a bed, hairdryer, iron, microwave and fridge. If you want a cooker, you’ll have to pay more. If you wish to be at the heart of the action, Ain Khaled Villas, are in central Doha and will set you back £737-a-night.
Qatar is building fan villages, too, which are the budget option, where Football Supporters Europe expect there to be 9,000 beds available.
Currently, the tented communes are not completed, but there are cabins ready to book on the portal. For £166 per night two people can bunk up in their own pre-fab, where they will be provided with two ‘free’ bottles of water per day, a fridge, bed linen and bathroom towels.
Doha has a wide range of international hotel chains and five-star accommodation
What if I cannot secure accommodation in Qatar?
Neighbouring countries are gearing up to pick up any slack.
Doha-based news network Al Jazeera reported last month that Iran is preparing to welcome visitors on the island of Kish, a 40-minute flight from Doha.
Understandably, given the six-year detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe by Iranian authorities, which only came to an end this year, British fans might not fancy it.
In fact, don’t even think about it. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says the ‘same risks apply to British nationals as in mainland Iran’ and ‘you could still be the target of arbitrary arrest and detention’. The government advises against all travel.
Other options? Saudi Arabia, which is a 90-minute flight from Doha, Abu Dhabi, a one-hour flight and Dubai, 70 minutes by air, have all been mentioned as possibilities.
That’s the way to travel… the MSC Europa will be on her maiden voyage for the World Cup
How much is all this going to set me back?
[Sharp intake of breath…]
OK, so assuming you travel return from London, follow England’s glorious run to the final and attend all eight matches along the way, sit in the cheapest seats and stay in the least expensive accommodation, the Football Supporters’ Association has calculated you will part with £5,000, before you pay for any food and drink.
But don’t forget, you will receive two free bottles of water in your pre-fabricated cabin, so there is a saving to factor in there. Every little helps…
If the Three Lions bomb out in the group stage and you leggit home, it will come down to just over £2,000.
However, that’s nothing compared to staying outside Qatar.
If you have relocate to cities in the region, the cost is going to sky-rocket. The FSA have checked out prices for 24-hour returns to Doha during the group stage of the tournament… The cheapest flights from and to Dubai are £814, Abu Dhabi £703 and Oman £714.
And we don’t know you’ll be saving with the two bottles of free water in those locations, either… Costs are going to mount up.
Fan groups believe that when the next tranche of tickets is approved some supporters may decide not to take up their allocation, once they calculate the cost.
If you were to follow England all the way through to the final it would cost at least £5,000
FIFA controversially awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar back in 2010 to worldwide surprise
So, I bag a ticket, I book some accommodation, I empty my piggy bank and I’m good to go…?
Not quite. You then have to apply for a Hay’ya card through the Qatar 2022 World Cup portal.
The Hay’ya card is not a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘must have’. Essentially it is your visa to enter the country and you must have completed an application and have approval, before you travel to Doha.
Fans will receive a notification on their phone when their application is successful and on arrival they can use that to enter Qatar and obtain an actual card for use during their stay.
The card is required, along with the matchday ticket, to enter the stadiums. It also gives free access to the metro and buses to attend matches.
If England make it to the final, they will play at the Lusail National Stadium in Doha
After all that I’ll need a drink, any chance of a beer when I get there?
The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Islam and is not part of local culture in Qatar.
However, alcohol is served at some licensed hotel restaurants and bars and it is expected to be available at official fan sites, although the details have not been finalised.
When Liverpool won the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup in Doha, beer was served in fan zones and cost £5-a-pint and a similar approach is likely now.
But don’t let the beer go to your head. High standards of behaviour are expected and swearing and rude gestures are considered obscene acts, for which you could be jailed or deported.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office suggest that you should ‘take particular care when dealing with the police and other officials’.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the legal drinking age in Qatar is 21, and it is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in a public place. If you go down that road, you could be looking at up to six months in jail.
Fair to say, this is not going to be a boozy trip, unless you’re on the cruise ships.
While we are on the subject of vices, UK government travel advice states that e-cigarettes cannot be brought into the country, regardless of quantity and intended use.
And don’t try to bring in any illicit drugs. Qatar operates a zero tolerance policy and that could end badly in a heavy fine or long-term prison sentence.
Fans with easy access to a bar will be those staying on the cruise liners moored near Doha
MSC Europa includes its own microbrewery and a traditional pub in which to discuss the game
What about my wardrobe?
Temperatures range from 70F to 80F in November, but can reach 90F, so play it cool.
But not too cool. The advice is to dress modestly and perhaps keep your shirt on (unless you are at the beach).
‘Women should cover their shoulders and avoid wearing short skirts,’ suggests the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
‘Both men and women are advised not to wear shorts or sleeveless tops, when going to government buildings, health care facilities or malls.’
The authorities have said people should feel able to dress comfortably.
Visitors are advised to dress modestly in Qatar and cover up at official buildings and malls
And in Qatar, will I be able to easily travel from one stadium to another?
Most countries we do not know well appear to equate to the size of Wales. Well, Qatar is half the size of Wales, and at 11,000 square kilometres it has a similar area to the Falkland Islands.
So, it is small. The biggest distance between two stadiums is 46 miles, the smallest is just four miles.
What’s more there is a new metro system connecting major cities, including five of the eight stadiums. Shuttle buses will be laid on to take you to the other three. And your Hiy’ya Card means you can travel to games for free.
Sustainability was one of the (few) selling points of Qatar. The only flights fans will have to take are when they arrive and leave from Hamad International Airport, unless they have to base themselves in the region.
A metro rail service will connect five of the stadiums and a shuttle bus will service the rest
Can I travel and sleep with my partner if we are not married and what if we are an LGBT couple?
Yes. On the Qatar 2022 website this question is posed explicitly in the Q&A.
‘Are non-married friends of different genders or couples (including LGBTQ+) allowed to stay in the same room?’ it asks.
‘Yes. There are no restrictions,’ is the reply.
While private life in Qatar is largely respected, behaviour in public is closely observed. Intimacy is not considered acceptable, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. No kissing.
Qatari authorities have warned against demonstrations and may remove rainbow flags
What reception can we expect in Qatar as an LGBT couple?
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and according to Amnesty International, same-sex relationships can lead to criminal charges and a prison sentence of up to seven years.
But the authorities have repeatedly stated ‘everyone will be welcome’ during the tournament, although it seems not everyone has had that memo.
In May, Swedish and Norwegian journalists contacted 69 hotels in the Middle Eastern state, which were listed on the official World Cup website, approved by FIFA, posing as a newly-wed gay couple seeking a room.
Three hotels refused to let the couple have a room and a further 20 hotels advised them to modify their behaviour to avoid public displays of affection during their stay, suggesting the pair ‘don’t dress gay’.
FIFA and Qatar insist everyone is welcome at the World Cup, but groups are concerned
In April, LGBTQ+ supporter groups joined forces to condemn FIFA and the Qatar World Cup Supreme Committee for their failure to reassure members of the community over their safety travelling to the tournament.
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, a security chef in the Qatari government, has also warned visitors against demonstrating in support of LGBTQ+ rights.
He suggested rainbow flags could be taken off fans, to protect them from being attacked.
In response to recent controversies, the Qatar Supreme Committee, responsible for the delivery of the 2022 World Cup, issued a statement.
‘Everyone is welcome in Qatar, regardless of their race, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality,’ said the Supreme Committee.
‘All fans should feel welcome to book accommodation with the knowledge that the private lives of individuals living or visiting Qatar are respected.
‘Qatar is a conservative country and public displays of affection are frowned upon across the board – regardless of sexual orientation. We simply ask for people to respect our cultural norms, but also emphasise the strong culture of respect for individual privacy which exists throughout Qatar.’
The Supreme Committee said it would be monitoring 100 hotels, which will accommodate teams and fans, to ensure they meet the standards of service agreed with FIFA.
Migrant workers have suffered in the construction of stadiums, hotels, and other infrastructure
And what about migrant workers… how many people died preparing for the tournament in Qatar?
The figure is hotly disputed, but human rights groups and lawyers are clear that people have died and have been exploited in building the stadiums, hotels and infrastructure in Qatar.
Since 2010, when FIFA awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup, more than 6,500 migrant workers have perished in the Middle Eastern country as it has fashioned cities out of the desert sand.
Young people from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan signed up for Qatar and research by human rights groups has revealed they paid large sums to recruitment agencies, often up to £3,000, to be put to work for £8-a-day in searing heat and terrible conditions, bonded to their employer with little prospect of escape.
Norway’s players and fans have been in the forefront of protests over treatment of workers
The fact that many have died cannot be disputed. The workers’ own countries keep and publish records of those who perish while working overseas. The Guardian analysed those records to establish the figures.
However, Qatar has failed to record the particulars of the deaths, such as where a person was working when they died, or the details and cause of their passing.
Families rarely know where their loved ones were working and researchers say workers are often shifted from a World Cup project to the supply chain to another construction scheme from one week to the next.
In addition, in seven out of ten deaths of Nepalis, Indians and Bangladeshis the cause is given as ‘natural’. There were no details from a post mortem.
As a result, the picture is blurred. How many deaths can be attributed directly to the World Cup? How much blame can be pinned on the competition, and the organisers?
Unable to legally tie the death to their work, the families cannot claim compensation.
Workers received just £8 per day and many are feared to have died from heat stroke
FIFA has celebrated progress it says has been made on workers’ rights in Qatar, since the 2022 World Cup was awarded more than a decade ago.
Since 2017, Qatar has introduced several reforms aimed at benefiting migrant workers, including the removal of the Kalafa system, which tied workers to their employer meaning they could not leave their job regardless of abuses they suffered.
And in 2019, FIFA developed a sustainability strategy for the tournament, which ‘set out the ambitious plans to maximise the tournament’s contribution to people’s well-being, economic development’.
But Amnesty among other rights groups insist the reforms have not been properly implemented and ‘thousands of migrant workers continue to be exploited’.