World Cup procrastinators, you’re in luck.
Thousands of new hotel rooms recently became available for the 2022 FIFA men’s World Cup in Doha, Qatar’s capital city. Choices had been artificially limited: About 80% of rooms had been blocked by the football organization and the Qatari government, while some resorts still under construction hadn’t opened reservations.
Things are loosening up. People making last-minute plans have a wide range of options — from all-inclusive, five-star hotels to hostel-like rooms for $80 a night. Want to come just to experience the fun without buying a ticket? Too bad: Tiny Qatar will be all but shut down for anything other than soccer for the period around the tournament, which runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18. Officials are saying that only ticket holders and their guests, media personnel and other tournament-related visitors will be allowed to enter the country during that period.
That gives you a sense of how tight things are going to be. The government has been encouraging residents to turn homes into short-term rentals, and some rentals are still available on the country’s official booking platform.
For some properties, there’s a two-night minimum stay, though that might change. If you book a room and later decide to upgrade to a different property, you can get a refund only in limited circumstances, excluding a fee of 100 riyals ($27).
There’s more space to come, though. As teams get knocked out, players, coaches and others traveling with them will check out, freeing up rooms.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the best options at varying price points.
These are mini neighborhoods, purpose-built for the World Cup, that consist largely of tents or mobile home-like structures. Some — not all — have air conditioning, which could get uncomfortable if temperatures are in the F80s range (high C20s). On a flight into Doha in September, I spotted what I thought were shipping containers; they were a partially complete fan village. On the high end, tents are being offered on a farm that promises to put guests “back in touch with nature,” offering an organic kitchen, yoga, an outdoor gym, and more.
You’d choose this if you’re willing to take a chance on a new product for a bit of adventure and want to feel as if you’re at a camp or festival.
It’s a dealbreaker if you want to be sure you’ll get a good night’s sleep.
Price: Rooms are readily available at 407 riyals to 1,512 riyals per night, mostly for two guests. On the high end, the Heenat Salma Farm has spots for 7,300 riyals nightly.
Need a hotel, quickly, for thousands of guests? Lease a cruise ship or two. Or three. That’s what Qatar is doing: bringing two ships to Doha’s Grand Terminal. One will be a brand-new, five-star vessel — the MSC World Europa — straight out of a French shipyard, with six swimming pools, more than a dozen places to eat, a spa and shopping areas. The second, the MSC Poesia, is a four-star vessel with three swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, a movie screen, spa, and various bars and restaurants. And a third, MSC Opera, was just added to the lineup. Terms and conditions warn that guests can’t bring booze (or food, for that matter) aboard, but you can purchase alcoholic drinks on the ship.
You’d choose this if you want a fun, Instagrammable experience, as well as the amenities of a hotel for less money.
It’s a dealbreaker if you need more space or hate ships.
Price: The MSC World Europa’s 2,633 cabins start at 1,240 riyals a night. Cabins on the MSC Poesia start at 640 riyals a night.
Sorry, luxury seekers. Some of the city’s best hotels are completely booked by sponsors, or set aside for VIPs and royals. The W Hotel, for example, is booked by Budweiser, while the Mondrian is taken by Visa Inc. The Mandarin Oriental, in the city’s chic Msheireb district, will be unavailable throughout the tournament.
But several brand-new hotels will be opening doors to some, or all, of the properties. For example, the Rixos Gulf Hotel will start welcoming guests on Oct. 23 to an all-inclusive resort with seven restaurants, a 24-hour bakery, a spa, meeting rooms, and more; rooms are available starting at 3,655 riyals per night for up to two adults and two children, and up to 33,405 riyals a night for a suite encompassing up to four adults and two children. The hotel will also host Serbia’s team.
You’d choose this if you want a predictable, high-quality place to stay, with a few restaurants downstairs, a pool, beach access, and full-service staff.
It’s a dealbreaker if you’re on a budget.
Price: On the low end, a recent search on third-party sites showed rooms starting at 2,240 riyals per night during the early part of the tournament, with prices multiplying from there.
Come for the Day
Thousands of people are expected to fly in and out of Qatar for a single match on shuttle flights. The distance between Doha to Dubai is slightly more than those of New York and Washington, or London and Paris.
On the one hand, making the day trip offers a ton of flexibility: Fans will find a vastly wider selection of places to stay in Dubai, Riyadh, Muscat, or several other nearby cities. They’ll be limited, too. Day trippers can stay in the country for only 24 hours and can’t bring any checked baggage.
Moreover, unexpected delays or traffic could make for a potentially very long day of traveling. Passengers are encouraged to book flights that will arrive four hours before kickoff and depart four hours after the match ends. One of the largest operators, Emirates-owned FlyDubai offers changes, when available, for $50.
You’d choose this if you want to combine some football with a broader vacation, or if you want more choice in hotels and shopping.
It’s a dealbreaker if you’re the kind of person who would miss a flight.
Price: Dubai’s hotels are more expensive than usual, though significantly less—and with more selection—than those in Doha. Three- and four-star hotel rooms start at less than 200 dirhams ($54), while a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton has been listed at 576 dirhams per night at the start of the tournament. Your shuttle flight to Doha would cost about $258. Still, it might add up to less than the alternative.