Transportation, language, alcohol and everything you need to know before getting on a plane to the next World Cup
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The advice that all fans should take into account before traveling to Qatar to watch the World Cup (Reuters)
It is getting closer and closer to the start of the World Cup in Qatar 2022 than It will begin on November 20 and this edition will be historic as it is the first to be held in an Arab nation, whose customs and ways of life are different from those of the West. Therefore, those who travel to the Middle East should take into account the following basic aspects.
Infobae Belén Hermina, an Argentine who has lived in Qatar for five years and works for a recruitment agency, was contacted, who gave details on how fans who plan to support their nation in the World. In this way, it was possible to create a complete guide for hobbyists.
• Card Hay'ya Card
This card is a must have for fans. It must be presented together with the ticket at the stadium controls to be able to enter without any inconvenience. But it will also be the country's access tool: all fans will need to have an approved Hay'ya Card (Fan ID) application number to enter Qatar.
In addition, it provides easy access to public transport as it will include free bus and metro travel on event days. The first test that was carried out during the FIFA Arab Cup making Fan ID optional was considered a success and became a definite necessity for the upcoming World Cup.
On the official FIFA website a statement was published confirming the need to process the document in question. “Once they have paid for their tickets, the fans will be able to book accommodation and request their Hay'ya card, which will also serve as an entry permit to Qatar for international fans traveling to the tournament. All spectators, regardless of whether they are Qatari residents or foreigners, will need the Hay'ya card along with the match ticket to access the stadium,” the letter explained.
Fans should apply once they have paid for their match tickets and have their ticket request number emailed to them. Applications can be submitted online through the host country's entry portal website (FAC21.qa).
• Hosting and language
The official language of Qatar is Arabic, however about 80 percent of the population is foreign, which is why several languages are spoken, especially in Doha, its capital. That is why those who travel will be able to communicate in English: “Not everyone speaks it perfectly, but everyone makes themselves understood”, explained Belén.
The Arab culture is famous for its hospitality. Thus, the Qataris tend to be kind to tourists, to the point that they can even invite them to eat at their homes to enjoy a talk in which they will seek to tell them about their culture and religion. Precisely for this reason, the government launched the Host a Fan program, in which anyone can sign up to be able to stay in the house of a Qatari during the World Cup for free.
As for accommodation, each fan will look for the place that best suits their economic power, since the variety is very wide. But what must be taken into account is that the ideal is to base yourself in the capital, as Belén recommends: “The best thing is Doha, then there is Lusail, which is the city they set up for the World Cup that is close to the stadiums, but everything is very close. The country is small and most of the buildings are in Doha.”
The Lusail stadium will host the grand final of the World Cup in Qatar 2022 (Reuters)
• How to get around
One of the big questions that always circulates in the heads of fans who travel to the World Cups is how to move between the venues to see their team. In this Cup, this concern will not exist, since Qatar, unlike Russia or Brazil (the last two hosts), is a very small country that ranks 156th in the ranking of countries according to its surface area.
In addition, seven of the eight stadiums are directly connected by a metro network, that is to say that you can travel from one enclosure to another through the train. The only one that was left out of this layout is the Al Bayt stadium, in the municipality of Jor, with a capacity for 60,000 people, which can be reached by public buses or even water taxis. Those who have tickets and the Hay'ya Card can use the metro for free on match days.
In case of using the public transport in Qatar and do not have tickets for a game, it will be necessary to buy a card whose value is 10 riyals (USD 2.67) to which credit can be charged through machines located at stations and stops or through a cell phone application Ehteraz using a credit or debit card. This app also has a payment system queries that allow you to know which transport or connection to take to reach a destination faster. The metro ticket costs 2 riyals (USD 0.53) and includes the combination with buses, if necessary.
Obviously, the use of Uber is also very popular., since although the distances are short, “there is no typical block or street like in South America. There are neighborhoods where you can walk and stroll, but to get there you need to take a highway or one of the huge avenues that exist.”
Therefore, it is not unreasonable to opt for the rent a car. Although this is the most expensive option, those who prefer it should be aware that Qatari cities have extensive camera monitoring to detect possible traffic violations: “You must be careful with speeding because there are many cameras and at traffic lights they take photos of you. Also, at most traffic lights there are exclusive lanes for turning left, so if you use that lane to go straight or you use the lane to follow to turn left, they will fine you. And also if you stop the car on the pedestrian path, the cameras record everything immediately”, warns Belén.
• Exchange rate
For those who are concerned about the exchange rate, there are not too many drawbacks in Qatar. In any place like restaurants and supermarkets, US dollars are accepted, as well as debit and credit cards. Although it is best to use the Riyal, the local currency, to avoid being affected by the exchange rate. In turn, both currencies are dispensed at any ATM.
Doha is preparing to receive millions of tourists from all over the world (Reuters)
Traditional applications such as Whatsapp they work perfectly for exchanging messages, however, when it comes to making video calls, these tend to be constantly interrupted. Ideally, download a VPN from the Playstore on your cell phone and change the location, choosing any other country than Qatar, before making a call.
• Unmissable places and gastronomic offer
While soccer will be the main attraction during the World Cup, fans will also take advantage of their stay in Qatar for sightseeing. As Doha will be the city where the vast majority of those who travel to the Arab country will stay, it is obvious to talk about the huge buildings that have been built there in recent years, such as the Aspire Tower, the Palm Tower or the National Library .
Beyond these architectural works, there are also less modern places worth visiting, such as the Souq Waqif, an old market that has resisted the changes of the city and has kept its style.“It is very similar to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (Turkey). It was the original market of Qatar that they preserved and maintain. There you can get souvenirs and things to haggle. You have to negotiate because if they see you as a tourist they will raise the price. They sell spices, chocolates, yiya, which is what they smoke, clothes, everything. There are many places to eat that are cheap and it is close to the Corniche, which is like the waterfront of Doha. As a point to go look and take photos, it's really nice”, recommends Belén. “Then you have the most modern part, West Bay, with the colorful buildings and then there are some more neighborhoods, but further away.”
Qatar has tried in recent years to become one one of the largest tourist centers in the world, which is why it has developed a wide variety of gastronomic offer. Thus, those who want to can enjoy local food, but they will also easily find more common western options in restaurants, supermarkets or in food trucks. The latter are the cheapest option, where you can get a shawarma for less than USD 4.
There will be tourists who will choose something even cheaper and for that they can opt for chains hypermarkets such as Carrefour or Lulu, the most accessible. “A package of noodles will cost you 5 riyals, (USD 0.91), more or less. But there is everything, if you want to eat organic pasta, maybe it costs USD 10 per package. There is a lot of variety because there are foods from all over the world.”
The skyscrapers of Doha are an unmissable tourist spot in Qatar (Reuters)
• How to pack the suitcase and what time to set the alarm clock
For the first time in history, FIFA modified the calendar to play the World Cup between November 20 and December 18, to avoid the summer in Qatar and, consequently, the high temperatures. For this reason, the fans will not suffer from the heat of the desert, since at that time of the year the thermometer can oscillate between 12ºC (at night) and 25ºC (during the day). When packing the suitcase, it is advisable to wear fresh, spring clothes and “a sweatshirt or a thin jacket, but not more than that”, recommends Belén.
It is worth remembering that in the Arab country it rains a little more than one week a year and in general this happens in January, so the chances of precipitation during the Cup are practically nil.
Because before 5:00 p.m. it is already night, Qataris start their day early and at 7 AM -or even earlier- public offices, supermarkets and some shops are already open. Therefore, those who want to enjoy the sun on the beach or do daytime activities should start very early.
On the other hand, most office work ends between 2 and 3:00 p.m., which is why nightlife starts very early and lasts for several hours. The matches will be played at 1:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. local time, so by then the main tourist spots and fan fests will not only be full of foreign fans but also local ones.
“Everything is open from early to late, except on Fridays between 11:00 and 13:00. Almost everything closes there because it's like our Sunday and that's the main prayer time of the week, so almost everything closes you, even the supermarkets. Maybe for the World Cup it won't be like that, but for now it's like that”, warns the Argentine who has lived there for five years. “There are neighborhoods where prayers are heard. They pray five times a day and the mosques call for prayer, so it is less than a minute before the call is heard, which is a prayer in Arabic, and then nothing else is heard”, he adds.
The World Cup will begin on November 20 and the final will be held on December 18 (Reuters)
• What not to do in Qatar to avoid problems
Those who travel to the World Cup will be able to completely stop worrying about suffering from insecurity. The Asian nation's crime rates are paltryand that is why those who live there are used to not constantly being aware of their belongings. “We have the door of our apartment without a key and on the outside it has a latch. It's too safe. In a mall you can leave your wallet and cell phone on the table while you go to order food in the food court and when you come back it's all there,” commented Belén.
On the other On the other hand, although the Muslim religion is sexist, women who travel will not have any type of prohibition or special regulation. Although, everyone should take into account -both women and men- that In public offices, ministries, hospitals and other types of buildings there is a “dress code” that everyone must respect: “It is in some places where shoulders and knees are required to be covered in general, you cannot wear a tank top or shorts short. But that's in some particular places (…) You can go to the beach however you want. You can wear jeans, leggings, short sleeves, even now there are many tank tops, no problem”.
In turn, for Qataris religion is very important, which is why respect is vital in places such as mosques or delimited sectors that are exclusive for praying. Although you can take pictures and visit these spots to learn more about Qatari culture, they are not places where it is appropriate to place flags, sing or jump, as fans usually do during World Cups.
At the same time, there are attitudes that are highly frowned upon. In this type of tournaments some conflicts between followers of different teams are often seen in the streets, and although the clamor and passion will be well received, any type of verbal or physical confrontation “is very serious”. Also “fuck you or those kinds of gestures, shouting or arguing in the street too. I'm not even talking about fighting on public roads, that's tremendous”, warns Belén.
The young woman explains that local citizens will receive all foreigners with affection and will even enjoy the fans who sing in the street and cheer on their teams, but local citizens must always be approached with caution, since they are one more people ” cold” than Latin. “You have to be careful when you go to greet a Qatari or a Muslim. Do not go directly to give him a hug or a kiss, but wait to see what the other does. Some shake your hand, others hug, but always wait for what the other does. More than anything with Muslim women. You have to be careful. It is always advisable to wait to see what they do because there are some who don't even come into physical contact to greet you, but only make a gesture of peace with their hands on their chests. There are others who do, who kiss you, but in general they are not very affectionate.”
Alcohol is prohibited in Qatar, so those who are planning to carry bottles in the suitcases should rule out that idea. Those who do it anyway will be retained at the airport, where their suitcases will be opened, their alcohol will be taken from them and then, when they leave the country, they will be able to claim to have the confiscated returned.
By Muslim law, citizens cannot consume alcohol, but international hotels are allowed to sell it, although only in special spaces, and special areas will also be set up in stadiums and other sectors to be able to consume only there.< /b>
“It's not sold in supermarkets, there aren't any,” explains Belén, who also warns that drinks are very expensive in hotels (the most accessible are above USD 10). Foreigners who live in Qatar and are not Muslims can buy alcohol, although “the only place there is like a wholesaler in Doha that also sells pork. But the bottle of fernet costs about 30 dollars.”
Those who travel to the World Cup do not need to be immunized against the coronavirus. Although everyone should download the app Ehteraz on their phones, in which they will have to upload all the information related to their stay and vaccination.It has a QR code that generally looks green, with a gold box (indicating that the user is vaccinated and that their last dose was no less than nine months ago). In the event that the person tests positive, the code will turn red and, in the event that they have close contact (the app has GPS and detects if they were close to a COVID-19 carrier) it will turn yellow, until a test is carried out. Those under 50 years of age who are close contacts and whose antigen is negative should not be isolated and their QR code will turn green again.
Thus is Ehteraz, the app for the coronavirus that must be used in Qatar
“They ask you for this app in all places with closed spaces”, comments Belén, who adds: “The rapid test is sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, it costs 25 riyals, (USD 6.6). You do it to yourself. If you have symptoms, they do the PCR for free in the clinics and if you want to do it for control, a PCR can cost you 25 dollars”.
Those who test positive must comply with the isolation that is impose on them: “They catch you walking through a mall with the app in red, they give you a fine, they are very strict about that. Here the rules are met.”