With the World Cup starting in just a few weeks thousands of football fans will be getting ready to travel to Qatar. But as the first kick-off draws nearer, England and Wales team bosses are urging fans to check foreign travel advice before they travel.
Some laws which might sound shocking to the average Brit are in full force in Qatar, so if you’re heading out there make sure you’re swatted up on the rules and regulations of the country. Whether browsing the duty-free shops for cheap booze on your way out to your vacation destination is one of your favourite holiday past times, or you find yourself grabbing for a puff on a vape, these simple parts of British life could land you a hefty fine or even jail time in Qatar.
England Manager, Gareth Southgate said: “I know how much our fans look forward to watching England at major tournaments. With only 1 month to go, I would suggest anyone travelling to the World Cup signs up for the UK Government’s travel alerts. As well as keeping them across all the information they need, they will get important tips too for getting the most out of following England away. We look forward to seeing them all at the finals.”
Fans should also remember that they need to apply for a Hayya Card before they set off. This is a form of Fan ID, which you will need to be able to enter the country during the tournament period.
You will need to hold a Hayya Card to enter Qatar from November 1 to December 23, , according to the UK Government website, even if you are not intending to attend a World Cup match. You’ll be able to use it for multiple entries to the country during this period and once entered you’ll be able to stay until January 23, 2023.
Items you should avoid taking to the World Cup in Qatar
There is zero tolerance for drugs in Qatar and you can expect a severe penalty for possession of even residual amounts. The penalties for the use, trafficking, smuggling and possession of drugs can include lengthy custodial sentences, heavy fines and deportation.
Supporters should avoid purchasing duty-free alcohol when entering Qatar, as the importation of alcohol is illegal. Anyone found taking it into the country will have their stash confiscated and can face imprisonment.
Alcohol is currently only available to visitors at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, with additional availability expected at certain fan zone sites during the tournament. It is not possible to buy alcohol in shops.
There is only one distributor in the country, and this is restricted to residents with a valid permit. While organisers have arranged for fans to be able to consume alcohol legally within the stadium and fan zones, the legal drinking age remains at 21.
Islamic law prohibits travellers from bringing pornographic material, including sex toys, into the country. Officials will confiscate items upon arrival and, if caught using one, you could face a prison term of six months to three years, according to Article 294 of Qatar’s Penal Code.
Taking pork or products containing pork into the country for personal use is illegal - and any items will be confiscated. While this might not result in jail time, offenders will receive a stern warning and the act will be considered disrespectful by locals and airport staff.
As Islam is the state religion, public observance of any other religion is prohibited, and books or materials will be seized.
Vaping Brits will have to leave their Elf bars at home for the tournament, as it’s illegal to import, sell or purchase them. Anyone caught with one is in violation of article 7 of law no.10 on the control of tobacco and its derivatives and could get a fine of up to 10,000 riyals (£2,200) or three months in prison.
Over-the-counter remedies and prescription drugs like sleeping tablets, painkillers, antidepressants, and hormone replacement therapy drugs are banned in Qatar. To avoid having them confiscated, getting arrested or even facing jail time, you should ensure you carry an official doctor’s prescription and a letter from your GP or hospital with details of the drug and the quantity and dosage prescribed.
This will then need to be legalised for use in Qatar and approval can be granted for a maximum of 30-days. Also, double-check your medication ingredients as narcotics and psychotropic substances are prohibited, such as Codeine, Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium), Zolam, Clonazepam, Zolpidem, Methadone, Pregabalin, Tramadol and Lyrica.
Before setting off, you must ensure all medication has been certified by the Embassy for approval.
Items you can take into Qatar for the World Cup
You might not be able to take your vape with you, but you can take nicotine pouches. Not only are they legal in both the UK and Qatar, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction, but they are tobacco-free, which is favoured in football stadiums in the country.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation partnered with the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar to ban smoking and the use of tobacco products in stadiums ahead of the World Cup. Anyone found smoking cigarettes or with any other form of tobacco products in the stadium could violate article 17 of law no.10 on the control of tobacco and its derivatives and face a penalty of between 1,000-3,000 riyals (£235-£710).
As a Muslim country, supporters travelling to Qatar should pack a suitcase of clothing that protects their modesty. While it may be hot, avoid wearing anything too revealing outside your hotel out of respect for the locals, such as see-through or sleeveless tops and ensure shorts and skirts fall below the knee.
And, aside from providing UV protection, a pair of oversized sunnies might also be required to stop sand from getting in your eyes in the rare event of a sandstorm.
Money and precious materials
Of course, fans are allowed to take money and other precious items, such as personal jewellery or rings with them when they visit the country. However, if passengers are in possession of money or precious metals (gold, silver, platinum etc.) or stones (diamonds, emeralds, rubies etc.) greater than 50,000 riyals (£11,878), they must fill out a declaration form and hand it over at customs.
Qatar customs policies state that a failure to declare could result in the money/item being seized, a fine of 100,000-500,000 riyals (£23,000-£120,000), or jail time of up to three years.