It marks the first time the tournament has visited the Middle East, with fans and commentators alike unsure of what to expect from their visit.
In this guide, The Independent explains the legal dos and don’ts when visiting Qatar, including rules on alcohol, clothing and behaviour for the duration of the tournament, as well as what punishments rulebreakers can expect to face.
Some exceptions to regular rules have been made for the sake of the World Cup, but it is important to note that Qatari law gives no leniency to tourists or those ignorant of the law, so fans travelling should take extra care.
The death penalty is still legal in the state, although there has only been one reported case of the sentence being carried out in the past 22 years, according to Amnesty International. Far more likely, given that record and the spotlight that the country will be under while they host the tournament, will be deportation, fines and potentially imprisonment.
Alcohol and drugs
Despite common misconception, it is legal to consume alcohol if you are over the age of 21 in Qatar. Fans can expect to be able to purchase alcohol in “licensed bars or restaurants”.
The state recently announced the relaxation of some of their restrictions on the purchase of alcohol for the duration of the World Cup, with beer being made available to fans after 6.30pm in fan zones and before and after matches in the eight stadium compounds. However, alcoholic drinks will not be available during games themselves inside stadiums.
Despite some relaxation on the licensing and purchasing of alcohol, the actual laws themselves are expected to stay in place. Drinking in public is still strictly prohibited, as is private consumption resulting in intoxication or the “disturbing” of other people, all of which is punishable by up to three years imprisonment and heavy fines.
There has been no relaxation of any description on their drugs policy, with any fans attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into the country expected to face serious consequences. The death penalty is permitted by law for this offence. The use of such an extreme punishment is unlikely; far more probable is a heavy jail sentence, deportation or massive fine.
Fans have been advised to dress “modestly”, with shoulders covered and the avoiding of short skirts. Shorts or sleeveless tops are not recommended, with entry to some official buildings likely be denied if found to be shy of modesty standards, according to the Qatar Tourism Authority.
Whilst smoking cigarettes is legal in Qatar, it is prohibited in all public spaces including museums, sports clubs, shopping malls and restaurants. Violators can be subject to fines of up to QAR 3000 (around £740).
The importation, purchase and use of e-cigarettes has been outlawed in Qatar since 2014, with offenders punishable by up to three months imprisonment and a fine of QAR 10,000 (around £2,400).
Fans travelling with medications are advised to contact the Qatari embassy, as many legal prescription drugs in the UK are banned in the Gulf state. This includes anti-depressants, like Xanax or Valium. Drugs such as these can carry the same severe penalties as other illegal substances. In some cases, those travelling with medications will need a detailed “doctors report” explaining the need for the medication, that is no more than 6 months old.
All visitors to Qatar are also required to have health insurance and fans should expect good quality of healthcare should it be required.
Behaviour and intimacy
Previous World Cups and other football tournaments have been criticised for failing to handle poor fan behaviour, with Qatar keen to avoid this by enforcing their strict policies on obscenity. Swearing and lewd gestures are covered under this section of Qatari law, with deportation or imprisonment likely punishments for these crimes.
Any form of public intimacy, such as kissing, whether heterosexual or homosexual, can lead to arrest in Qatar. The state is also known for strict laws against homosexuality and on members of the LGBT+ community. Anybody found guilty of “leading, instigating or seducing a male by in any way to commit sodomy” can legally face the death penalty, but more likely is a jail sentence or deportation.
Fans are advised to avoid shaking hands with Qatari women; a gesture that can be interpreted as disrespectful.
Anyone wishing to enter the country after 1 November 2022 will be expected to apply for a Hayya card. This form of fan ID allows entry to the country, purchasing of tickets and the booking of accommodation, amongst other things. It is essential that fans keep this on their person at all times.