World Cup fans disillusioned by beer limits and prices

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Travel at this World Cup After the three previous tournaments, fans had to fly long distances between cities to get to the Qatari host country.

The eight stadiums of Qatar are in or near the capital, so fans don’t have to go too far to get to matches — in theory. The compactness of the country’s World Cup meant that it was environmentally sustainable. But the reality is very different.

Tens of thousands of foreign fans are turning to shuttle flights between Doha and neighboring Dubai for a number of reasons — high hotel prices, a scarcity of accommodation and alcohol limits.

Although it might sound extreme, costly, and environmentally unsound, daily flights have become a popular choice for fans who want to sleep in other countries than Qatar.

Dubai, the free-wheeling commercial capital in the United Arab Emirates, has been named the Doha is the top destination in the region. FlyDubai, an emirate-owned budget airline, is able to marshal resources and operate 10 times as many flights to Doha than usual.

To capitalize on the World Cup tourism boom in their respective countries, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi have also set up air shuttles. Every few minutes, a Boeing / Airbus rumbles above Doha’s old Airport.

The idea of air shuttles isn’t new to the Gulf. Many people who live in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, which are extremely conservative, travel to Dubai to enjoy a weekend of free drinking and fun in the glittering metropolis.

In most cases, the Dubai-Doha route takes less time than those who had to fly long distances for the World Cups, in South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014).

Because of the amount of fuel used for takeoff and landing, short flights are often shorter than long ones.

More than 12 World Cup fans who were interviewed Thursday said that it was cost. Many couldn’t find affordable accommodation in Doha or anywhere else. The tournament saw hotel prices rise in the months before it. Fans who aren’t wealthy fought for spots in Qatar’s remote fan villages, which were filled with shipping containers and canvas tents..

“We wanted to stay for five days in Doha. It was too expensive. We didn’t want those fan zones,” Ana Santos (a Brazilian fan) said to Ana Santos on Thursday, as she arrived at Doha’s Airport with her husband.

“In Dubai, we found a fancy hotel for not too much money. … The flights are so crowded so we’re not the only ones.”

Doha’s old airport is now alive again after eight years of inactivity. Doha’s shuttle flight passengers now squeeze through its halls. Qataris in traditional dress handed out Arabic coffee and juicy dates Thursday to arriving fans. They cheered on and took photos while waving their national flags.

Other shuttle flight passengers were also turned off by Qatar’s alcohol restriction. The city’s few hotels are almost all allowed to serve alcohol. After a last-minute ban on beer being served in stadiums. Doha’s only liquor store is available to Qatari residents who have an official permit.

Meanwhile Dubai’s pulsing nightclubs, pubs, bars and other tourist spots are awash with spirits — and at lower prices than in Doha, where a single beer goes for $14 at the official fan festival. Even Abu Dhabi (the United Arab Emirates’ conservative capital), is open to spirits. Tourists can buy alcohol in liquor shops without a license.

“We want to have a Dubai experience. “That’s more interesting to us,” said Bernard Boatengh Duah (a western Ghanaian doctor) who purchased an all-inclusive Dubai hotel deal that includes match-day flight and unlimited food and alcoholic beverages. “We wanted more freedom.”

Many fans described the shuttles as a fairly seamless process — arriving at the Dubai airport less than an hour before takeoff, zipping through lines without luggage and flying for about 50 minutes before landing in Doha just in time for their game.

Others found it stressful, draining.

“These are long days. It’s exhausting,” said Steven Carroll, a lab technician from Wales, whose flight back to Dubai was delayed an hour, returning him to his Dubai hotel worn-out at 4.a.m after a 24-hour day.

“The problem is you have to arrive in Qatar a good while before the match and you have to allow even more time to go through the airport.”

Fernando Moya (65-year-old Ecuadorian supporter from New York) said that he regretted flying into Abu Dhabi. His companions were left in Abu Dhabi after a technical issue with their Hayya cards, which are Qatar entry visas.

Moya spent Thursday talking to customers at Doha airport. He spent nearly $2,000 to fly them on a new flight.

“The logistics of this whole system are very complicated for people,” he said.

Thursday’s airport was jam-packed with fans from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian citizens have purchased more World Cup tickets than any other nation, except Qatar and the Untied State. More excitement was sparked by the shock win of the Saudi team over Argentina this week.

Riyadh, a potential tourism destination, sought to reap the regional boost and offered Hayya cards to those who have them. Two-month visas for the Kingdom. Nawaf Mohammed, a Saudi student said World Cup fever is strong in Riyadh. He noted that more Westerners are visible at Riyadh’s airport and carnivals.

There is the possibility of flying shuttles from Saudi Arabia or the UAE It was unimaginable just a few years ago. The boycott was imposed by the two Gulf Arab countries, along with Egypt and Bahrain, on Qatar’s energy-rich economy. It also cut off travel and trade links due to the support of political Islam and ties to Iran by the emirate. Qatar refused to back off The embargo was lifted last year.

Even so, tensions linger. Bahrain, located 45 minutes away from Doha continues to fight over politics and maritime border with Qatar. Fans who sleep in the island kingdom do not enjoy such easy flights.

Eyad Mohammed, who opted to stay on a beach in Bahrain, was able to make a stop in eastern Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

“This region is not always convenient,” he said.


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