The State of Qatar is reopening its borders to ticketless FIFA World Cup fans after virtually sealing off the tiny country during the preliminary stages of the football tournament.
From December 2, Qatar’s Ministry of the Interior says fans will be able to enter Qatar without a ticket in a shakeup of temporary entry restrictions that barred ticketless fans and tourists from coming to Doha.
While the measures are designed to attract football fans who want to soak up the World Cup atmosphere, the relaxed border rules could presumably be used by tourists who don’t necessarily have an interest in football.
To get into Qatar without a World Cup ticket, however, visitors will still have to abide by several rules, including applying for Qatar’s Hayya card, providing evidence of hotel accommodation and paying a fee of 500 Qatari Riyals (around US $136).
As a result, ticketless entry to the State of Qatar might still not be possible or worthwhile for passengers passing through Doha Hamad International Airport with long transit times.
The Haaya card was designed as a World Cup fan ID which World Cup attendees must have in order to be permitted entry to Qatar and into stadia during the tournament.
To apply for the Hayya card, fans must hand over their personal details and download an app into their smartphone. The app has been criticised by privacy campaigners and several regulators in Europe who claim the app could be used to hoover up personal data.
The German regulator has even suggested visitors to Qatar use a burner phone to install the Hayya card app and Qatar’s contact tracing Ehteraz health app, and completely wiping the phone after leaving the country.
Fearing that the country would be otherwise overwhelmed during the tournament, Qatar initially restricted entry to its own citizens and fans who had already secured match tickets.
Even with these restrictions in force, however, the tiny Persian Gulf country still didn’t have nearly enough accommodation for the expected surge in visitors and many fans have been arriving in Doha on special match day charter flights from Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Dubai.
Dubai has been particularly popular with Western fans due to the emirate’s looser alcohol and partying rules.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.