England and Wales’s World Cup campaigns kick-off in ten days time and fans following both teams through the tournament will be heading out to Qatar next week.
With Doha likely to be the central hub for all World Cup activity, today we’re publishing an excerpt from our upcoming edition of Free Lions and FSA Cymru booklet, which provide a comprehensive guide to Qatar ahead of the Iran and USA fixtures.
We expect to publish our first World Cup Free Lions and FSA Cymru guides early next week so keep an eye out for them – until then have a browse of our advice below and safe travels!
Welcome to Doha
Welcome to Doha, the capital of Qatar. The city and its suburbs are where the vast majority of the population live. Estimates suggest that the current population of Qatar is around the three million mark – and of that three million it’s estimated that only one-tenth are Qataris!
The remainder are made up of ex-pats, around 22,000 of them British passport holders, so our numbers in the stadium could well be swelled significantly.
Due to its position as a port on the Arabian Sea the Brits have been in and around Qatar for a while, and in 1916 Qatar became a British protectorate until they claimed independence in 1971. The country’s wealth is built primarily on its oil and gas reserves, the last 30 years have seen huge changes as the land was developed both outwards and upwards.
If you’re reading this in advance of travelling, or if you’ve just landed, you are probably asking, so what’s it actually like? Well, firstly, according to the World Safety Index, it’s a very safe country, in fact, one of the safest in the world. Crime of all types is low, so their police force has certainly never had to deal with anything like the noise, partying and celebrations of a World Cup crowd.
You will no doubt read that access to alcohol is limited, and you will find absolutely no offsales of alcohol over the counter in the country. Only residents with a particular permit can buy alcohol for home consumption and it’s only available from one place. Don’t even think about trying to take alcohol into the country or trying to find someone else to buy it for you, frankly it’s just not worth the hassle that could follow. Don’t panic though, there are bars and licensed restaurants which are generally in upscale hotels and you’ll find more detail about those in the Places to Eat and Drink section.
Getting around Doha outside of a tournament is easy, the metro system is clean, cheap and efficient, although it doesn’t quite go everywhere you might need it to go. Uber and the local equivalent app Careem are also cheap and efficient but the expectation is that during the tournament all forms of transport will be stretched.
English is well spoken across the country, both by the locals and many of the migrant workers in the service industries whom you are likely to interact with. Free Lions has been assured that English will be spoken by those working inside the grounds as well as at the security checkpoints.
There is no shortage of shopping malls, and some of them are ridiculously big. Once inside you could be anywhere in the world, with the food courts full of global fast-food chains, and a selection of local alternatives also available. Some of these malls also have supermarkets, Carrefour seems to be the main brand, so if you are self-catering keep an eye out for those, prices aren’t too dissimilar to home.
Mobiles & medical issues
UK mobile networks do not tend to have agreements with the Qatari ones, so do check what your provider is offering. If you are here for more than a few days you are probably best to get yourself a local SIM. There are two main companies, Ooeredoo and Vodafone.
Both have plenty of shops around and they always seem to have a presence in the malls. It is likely that both will do some sort of World Cup special, for example, we are aware that Ooeredoo is offering a free three-day SIM which can be collected using your Hayya card at the airport or a number of other sites. You should then be able to top up to keep it going.
Hopefully you won’t need medical assistance but if you do you can attend Hamed Hospital, show your Hay’ya card and you will supposedly receive basic medical care for free. However, this is not a replacement for travel insurance so we do still recommend that you are covered for medical emergencies.
Finally, lost passports. This is particularly of note for those travelling in from other countries in the region on day trips. Of course no one sets out to lose their passport, but it’s incredibly important for day trippers to keep them safe. Unless the FCDO have been successful in negotiating something, it is likely that if you require emergency travel documents your only option is to travel back to the UK. It doesn’t matter if your hotel and luggage is in Dubai your only choice will be Qatar or home.
Our England Fans’ Embassy
As always at an England away game, or at a tournament in this case, the FSA’s Fans’ Embassy will be on the ground to offer any information, advice and assistance you might require during your stay.
It’s a free and confidential service, and if you need any help, we can be contacted around the clock on +974 5998 6036.
You can find our Fans’ Embassy team outside the Gate Mall, in the West Bay area of central Doha, beside the metro exit for the DECC.
As normal, we will be operating from 10am to 4pm on Sunday 20th November, and then on matchday (Monday 21st November) from around 9am through to about 12.30pm.