The countdown is on for the big World Cup 2022 kick-off in Qatar next month.
Anticipation is growing as the Middle East prepares to host the sporting spectacle for the first time, with an estimated 1.5 million football lovers expected to flock to the region to soak up the carnival atmosphere.
Securing tickets for a memorable match-day experience has been top of the agenda ahead of the start of the event, which runs from November 20 until December 18.
But once you have a seat in one of the eight state-of-the-art stadiums, there is the small matter of finding a place to stay, with huge demand for accommodation.
The historic first winter World Cup is understandably the hottest ticket in town, but there are still options, on land and sea, available.
Where to stay in Qatar
Qatar is home to numerous luxury hotels, but scoring a reservation ― particularly at an affordable price ― will be far from easy during the tournament.
Many high-end properties are already fully booked, some by corporate sponsors, but there are still some options available if you don’t mind splashing out.
For example, a one-night stay at the four-star Mövenpick Hotel Doha on November 20 ― for the opening clash between hosts Qatar and Ecuador ― will set you back $1,955 (Dh7,180), as of Wednesday.
Your money will get you a deluxe king room, the only selection available, at what is described as a special event rate.
A one-night reservation for the same date is a little more palatable at the five-star Dusit Doha Hotel, with room rates starting at 3,500 Qatari riyals (Dh3,530, or $961).
Searches of third-party booking sites uncovered reservations available from about Dh2,000 for the opening day of the event, with prices climbing as the tournament goes on.
If money is no object, then there are hotel rooms still to be found if you put in the legwork and do your research.
But if hotel prices prove prohibitive, there are other ways to go to support your footballing fix.
If you don’t mind your World Cup accommodation not being in the lap of luxury, these mini-neighbourhoods of tents and cabins for football fans could be the way to go.
The villages are on the outskirts of Doha and offer a wide variety of prices.
Cheaper options include the Qetaifan Island North Fan Village, which is comprised of 1,800 tents containing two single beds and a night stand. Rates start at QR740 (Dh744, about $200) per unit, per night. Wi-Fi and laundry are available at an additional charge. The facility is seven kilometres from Lusail Stadium and 8km from the Place Vendome Shopping Mall.
At the higher end, the Heenat Salma is currently priced at QR7,312 (Dh7,377, or $2,008) per night and promises a rural escape. The eco-farm offers workshops and focuses on well-being. Guests can dine at the organic kitchen, limber up for yoga or enjoy a dip in the swimming pool.
Imagine doing a Mexican wave on the waves as you prepare for your World Cup voyage.
Because of the huge demand for accommodation, three floating hotels will accommodate fans in Qatar.
Two cruise ships, scheduled to reach Doha Port on November 10 and 14, were originally intended to provide beds for some of the 1.5 million visitors expected to travel to Doha for the tournament.
This week a third vessel was added to the football fleet as MSC Opera joined the line-up.
The 1,075-cabin MSC Opera will be available from November 19 to December 19.
Prices for the Opera were posted on the MSC website on Monday, with a two-night minimum stay starting at QR1,710 (Dh1,722, or $469) per person per night during the group stages.
The others ships are the MSC World Europa ― a new five-star vessel with six swimming pools, an array of dining options and a spa and shopping areas ― and the four-star MSC Poesia, featuring three swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, a cinema and more.
Serviced apartments and villas
The World Cup official website lists private dwellings for those eager to enjoy their stay in style, and who have enough spare cash to do so.
Options include the 3690 Madinat Khalifa South Apartments, at QR1,296 (Dh1,307, or $355), which includes housekeeping every three days, 24/7 reception and guest services and free Wi-Fi.
The 3211 Al Gharrafa Villas are available for QR2,765 (Dh2,789, or $759) per night. Guests can expect a fully furnished property with car parking facilities, housekeeping and reception services.
The villas are equipped with amenities such as an oven, refrigerator, washing machine and a flat-screen TV.
Fly in for a game
Many fans are expected to set up camp in the UAE during the tournament and jet in to Qatar for games.
A recent report by online travel agency Musafir showed UAE hotels will record an up to 40 per cent increase in demand for accommodation and price inflation with occupancy rates likely to hit 100 per cent during the tournament.
Data also showed an 80 per cent growth in advance bookings for travel between Dubai and Doha.
Are you eligible to travel?
Visitors must apply for a Hayya card, the fan ID that offers free public transport around Doha and acts as an entry visa to the country.
Earlier this week, World Cup organisers in Qatar announced that the rule dictating that only fans with a ticket to see a match would be allowed to enter the country was being modified.
Each ticket holder can now bring up to three people with them for the general experience.