The inaugural World Cup in the Middle East provided a unique opportunity for football lovers in the region to witness the thrilling action up close.
Dozens of flights depart from Gulf airports each day to provide fans with a flying visit to the tournament.
But that’s not the only way to see a game on the day of departure.
For the adventurous who don’t mind a slightly longer journey, the 2022 World Cup can be an unforgettable road trip.
It is possible to travel from the UAE to Saudi Arabia and hop on a bus to Doha in the same day.
The way to the World Cup
I was traveling with three friends and we decided to park on the Saudi side of the border. You can park for free for up to 96 hours in this special area.
For any longer stay, you would have to pay the much-publicized Dh5,000 fee charged by authorities to control traffic jams.
The parking lot is next to the bus station, police patrol and there are cameras reading license plates.
Buses provided by the Saudi government also take you to the immigration area on the Qatar side of the border free of charge.
Here’s an overview of what else to expect en route from UAE to Qatar:
0020: We leave Al Shahama in Abu Dhabi on Sunday 27th November approximately 20 minutes after midnight. The plan is to arrive in Doha in time for the Costa Rica-Japan game. It’s not every day that Google Maps tells you to drive 200 km further.
0240: We drive past Al Ruwais Industrial City. One of the most important industrial complexes in the UAE is located here.
0310: The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant can be seen some distance from the highway. Even at night, the four domes impress with their red lights.
0530: Arrive at Ghuwaifat, the border crossing to Saudi Arabia. Formalities are quickly settled. There are few cars and we are fortunate to arrive a few minutes before a tour bus taking passengers to Doha, all of whom need their passports stamped upon entry.
0620: We get our fingerprints and other biometrics done on the Saudi side of the border. Our passports are stamped and we pay for short-term car insurance. Once this is all done, customs and security officers inspect our luggage and car. Then we are free to go.
The time difference between the UAE and Saudi Arabia is one hour. It is 6:30 a.m. in the Emirates and 5:30 a.m. in Saudi Arabia and Qatar at this time. The difference gives us an hour.
0530: We leave the border and start driving through Saudi Arabia. Google Maps is handy, but it got us off track at one point. It’s best to have at least one phone that roams data and voice calls.
0730: We reach Abu Samra, the border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. We have not booked parking on the Doha side, however free parking is available for up to 96 hours approximately 5km from the border in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi authorities also provide free buses that take all travelers to the Qatar border.
0735: Get off the bus and into the immigration office.
0815: To smile! We have our faces scanned at immigration in Qatar. Outside, more than 30 buses are waiting to take passengers free of charge to Doha, about 90 km away.
0900: We arrive at the Messila metro station in Doha, which is a hub for trains and buses traveling through Qatar. We’re here four hours before kick-off. We decided to stay in a hotel apartment in Al Wakrah, so we’ll take the metro there. Ubers are also available, usually in less than five minutes.
World Cup 2022 – in pictures
Updated December 6, 2022 at 2:55 am