UAE football fans set to flock to Qatar as World Cup entry rules eased

Flight prices ease and more hotel rooms now available

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UAE residents are hoping to fulfil their footballing dreams after Qatar eased entry rules for the remainder of the World Cup.

Doha is braced for a new wave of visiting supporters after dropping the requirement for Gulf citizens and residents to obtain a Hayya card — which has acted as an entry visa for the event — to travel to the country.

Authorities had already moved to allow fans without tickets to soak up the carnival atmosphere in Qatar in time for the start of the knockout stages.

The decision is expected to prompt a travel boom — with the quarter-finals getting under way on Friday.

I had given up on the idea of travelling to watch the tournament but it would be a dream for me to watch the matches live
Munaf Al Taee, Iraqi engineer in Dubai

With countries with large followings, such as England, Brazil, Argentina and France, still in the thick of the action, many fans will likely want to sample a taste of the World Cup in person.

Supporters with tickets are still required to use the Hayya system, as this prevents fraudulent entry to stadiums.

Munaf Al Taee, a 44-year-old Iraqi engineer based in Dubai, had given up hope of attending the global spectacle until hearing of the latest announcement.

“Previously, I had given up on the idea of travelling to watch the tournament after hearing about Hayya card requirements," said Mr Al Taee, whose love of Diego Maradona inspired him to follow Argentina.

"Now I’m seriously thinking to travel to Qatar for the knockout stages to enjoy the atmosphere.”

Munaf Al Taee, 44, is hoping to experience the World Cup in Qatar in person. Photo: Munaf Al Taee

He has already begin his search for match tickets, safe in the knowledge he will be able to enter Qatar freely.

“Although I know the tickets will be expensive now, it would be a dream for me to watch the matches live," he said. "I will decide later whether to travel by car or fly.

“The last eight qualified teams are the top ones. I support Argentina because of Maradona. I can’t wait to get a match ticket for Argentina against [the] Netherlands on Friday and support them. Thanks, Qatar.”

Morocco win inspires journey

Mounir Shaltony, a 39-year-old Arab-Canadian, is planning a Doha trip after Morocco's remarkable penalty shootout success over Spain.

He told The National prior to Tuesday's dramatic match he would travel if the Atlas Lions came out on top.

“I’m excited about the prospects of attending the World cup as I was trying to avoid flights and the logistics behind them," he said.

Awad Najaro, a Sudanese resident in Dubai, is eager to sample the drama in Doha.

“I've never been to the World Cup before and now I’m super-excited to go and fulfil a dream. I was not sure to be able to go because of the long waiting period and busy live schedule,” said the 32 year old.

“I have never been to Doha before and now I can go for a special occasion.”

Flight and hotel prices

Fans hoping to be part of the festival of football need to act fast with the showpiece final taking place on December 18.

Return flights on Saturday, when England take on reigning champions France, started from Dh1,670 ($454) for a flydubai flight, according to Skyscanner as of Tuesday.

The cheapest direct flights from Abu Dhabi on the same day cost Dh2,935 with Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Flights from Sharjah on the same day are available from Dh2,814 with Air Arabia.

The official fan accommodation website for the World Cup shows apartments available from about Dh1,428 for the same night.

Accommodation at the fan villages starts at slightly under Dh730 while three-star hotel rooms are available from Dh830.

The website advises that availability is limited.

Tickets are being sold in phases on a first-come, first-served basis with an online queuing system in place for those hoping to buy on the official Qatar World Cup website.

The website states that current ticket demand is "very high" and long waits in the queuing system are expected.

Tickets are being sold on the secondary market for England's match against France for as much as Dh16,477.

Qatari authorities have warned anyone who sells or exchanges tickets for the tournament without permission from world football's governing body Fifa faces a fine of up to 250,000 riyals ($66,000).

Driving from Dubai or Abu Dhabi

GCC citizens and residents hoping to drive to Qatar will be allowed to enter without a Hayya card from Thursday.

To do this, you need to apply for a vehicle entry permit through the Qatar Ministry of Interior website 12 hours before crossing the border.

There are no fees to pay, officials said.

Fans still have an option of crossing land borders and leaving their car in a designated car park on the Saudi Arabia side, before taking buses to Doha. We have a full guide on that here.

To register for a permit, visit here.

Updated: December 07, 2022, 1:07 PM