Can I leave Doha airport without a Hayya card?
Q It seems the World Cup is causing a real headache for transit customers on Qatar Airways who are not going to watch the football. It’s not possible to leave Doha airport unless you have a Hayya Card – and to have this you need to have World Cup tickets, which seem extremely rare.
Qatar Airways sold me a flight well before the tournament with a 15-hour layover in Doha, arriving at 5pm and leaving at 8am the next morning. Since we have friends in Qatar it all sounded rather civilised. We would meet them for dinner, stay in one of the reasonably priced hotels (ahead of the football), and check in for the morning flight. But instead, it turns out that we will be stuck at the airport for 15 hours.
The transit hotel in the airport costs £200. Do you have any solution?
A I feel your pain – because I am in a similar position. With multiple flights to British airports at various times of the day, booking an Asia-UK trip on Qatar Airways is generally a good plan. I was planning the opposite to you, ie arriving first thing in the morning from Singapore and leaving mid-afternoon. I know from experience that it allows a fulfilling few hours in Doha, followed by a relaxed journey back to the airport when the heat really starts to rise.
Unfortunately for us, the Qatari authorities decided that they had enough of a challenge on their plate managing all the football-related visitors during the tournament between 20 November and 18 December. Mere tourists like you and I cannot come in (though I am still periodically trying to find a ticket for a random match to allow me to qualify for a Hayya card). It’s an effective way to annoy travellers and make them consider other Middle Eastern hubs.
Belatedly, the authorities have realised that after the group stage is over (last matches 2 December) a huge number of fans and hangers-on such as the press will immediately leave the country, with no one to replace them. A few days ago the tournament organisers suddenly decided that “non-ticketed fans with a Hayya Card will be allowed to enter Qatar after the completion of the group stage on 2 December”.
For those of us travelling in November, there is one more slim possibility: asking on arrival. I will happily troop up to passport control, clutching my boarding pass for later that day, and hope
for the best. It almost certainly won’t work, but as with football: all we can do is dream.
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