Qatar Travel Guide
From a small fishing and trading country to one of the richest (by GDP per Capita) in the world, that's the story of Qatar. The rise of Qatar is fuelled by oil and natural gas revenue and the Asian country is about to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the greatest sporting event in the world.
Incredible architecture, skyscrapers, incredible restaurants, and waterfront line cafes are some of the reasons to visit Qatar. The country's natural beauty is another reason why tourists come in droves. From gorgeous beaches to spectacular dunes, salt flats, and large expanse of mangroves, Qatar has its own fair share of natural beauty.
I like that Qatar is refreshingly tolerant. Yes, it's an Islamic country but expats are free to practise their religion. Alcohol is served in hotel bars and licensed restaurants. Also, females don't need to cover their hair although they must dress modestly in public. Bikinis and beachwear are limited to hotel pools.
This article is your complete guide to visiting Qatar but first, some quick information about the country.
Capital city: Doha
Currency: Qatari Rial (QAR). 1 USD = 3.64 QAR
Electricity: Power voltage is 240 Volts. Power socket type G.
Language: Arabic is the official language and the country’s local dialect.
10 Handpicked Highlights of Qatar
Below are some of the best places to visit in Qatar:
Souq Waqif in Doha
The Souq Waqif, a beautiful local market, is one of the top tourist attractions in Doha. Exploring the market is interesting as there’s.a large variety of things to see. Spices, souvenirs, antique shops, dry fruits shopping, and so much more are available at the market.
There are also several restaurants in the market so you can always take a break to enjoy a meal or even try a shisha. I recommend you explore the market after sunset, especially in the summer when the temperature is usually extremely high.
Museum of Islamic Arts in Doha
If I were to describe the museum of Islamic art, I’ll refer to it as a work of art housing incredible pieces of art. The exterior of the museum will leave you stunned and the interior will leave you completely speechless. But that’s not all the museum has to offer. You’ll see masterpieces of the Islamic art inside. From rare gold and silver coins dating as far back as the 17th century to ceramics, textiles, woodwork, metalwork, and amazing old writings of the holy Quran.
There is an excellent gift shop where you can buy souvenirs. You don’t have to be a Muslim or even religious to go to the museum. Just keep an open mind and you’ll enjoy the incredible art inside.
Kayaking in the mangroves of Purple Island near Al Khor
Just about an hour drive from Doha, Bin Ghannam Island, also referred to as Purple Island, is one of the best natural attractions in Qatar. It offers a break from the city life in Doha and allows you to enjoy the view of lush greenery and mangroves.
You can hike around the island and if you are a kayaking enthusiast like me, explore the mangroves on a kayak! You also get to spot different bird species and marine animals. And if you are really looking for a rustic experience, you can camp on site.
Al Thakira Mangrove Forest near Al Khor
Most people don’t think of kayaking through mangrove forests when they visit Qatar. The image of towering skyscrapers easily comes to mind but even if you are not a nature lover, you’ll appreciate the contrast the surreal mangrove forests provide to the modern city of Doha.
Kayak through the Al Thakira mangrove forest, discover the flora and fauna in the area, and take stunning photographs. There is much to learn about the white and gray mangroves of Qatar and their ecosystem.
Al Dhakira Mangrove
Yet another mangrove forest near Al Khor. You are spoiled options when it comes to exploring mangrove forests in Qatar. You can spend time by the beach, explore the forest on your yak, or even go on a camping trip.
Al Karaana Lagoon for birdwatching
What Qatar did with the Al Karaana Lagoon is inspiring. Once a highly polluted body of water, authorities have transformed the former dumping ground into a beautiful oasis. The Al Karaana lagoon is now an important tourist attraction and offers the opportunity to see different bird species, flora, fish, and local wildlife. There are also endless photography opportunities here so you’ll want to take advantage of that by bringing along your camera or using your smartphone to take pictures.
Zekreet Peninsula and its limestone rock formations and hiking
There are many reasons to go to Zekreet in Qatar. For one, the beaches in the area don’t get a lot of visitors (compared to the most popular beaches in the country) and are wonderful for people looking for less crowded beaches. But for true outdoor lovers, the rock formations here are the real MVPs. There are opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and of course stunning photography.
Khor Al Adaid, or the Inland Sea
The Khor Al Adaid is renowned for its panoramic beauty. If you think you know how beaches are supposed to be, the Khor Al Adaid will change your perspective as it’s oddly located inland. Yeah, you read that right. You’ll have to travel across the desert on a safari to reach the beach which is an experience in itself. You have the opportunity to explore the majestic sand dunes and see the wildlife and fauna of Qatar that thrives despite the harsh conditions of their habitat.
Sealine Beach and sand dunes, near Mesaieed
Sealine Beach is one of the most fun beaches you’ll have the pleasure of visiting. From swimming to jet skiing, dune bashing, kitesurfing, and barbecuing, there’s so much to do and enjoy at this beach. You can also enjoy camel rides and see some beautiful jellies. There are several kiosks and restaurants nearby so there’s no shortage of food and refreshments.
Falcon Souq, Doha
Falcons are a symbol of prestige in Qatar and are treated with a lot of respect. The fact that there are dedicated falcon hospitals here should tell you just how much Qataris value falcons. If you want to see a falcon up close, then the place to be is the falcon souq, the local market where falcons are sold. You will even be allowed to hold a falcon for free or for a small fee.
Qatar's Geography & Landscapes
Qatar consists mostly of low-lying desert. However, there’s an elevated limestone plateau in the middle of the country. There are no fresh water lakes or rivers in Qatar.
The East coast of the country mostly consists of mangrove forests while there are salt flats towards the southeastern end. The northern parts of the country have small pockets of agricultural lands while oil fields, the source of the country’s wealth, dominate the west coast.
Best Time To Go To Qatar
Qatar has two main weather conditions – hot and cold. The hot or summer season is between May to October and temperatures can get as high as 50°C. Sandstorms and hot northern wind tend to accompany the extremely hot temperature of Qatar’s summer.
The cold season runs from December to February and temperatures during this time are generally mild, ranging between 10 and 25 °C. March, April, and November are transitional months. While the weather is hot during these months, it is usually tolerable.
The cold or winter season is the best time to visit Qatar. Traditionally, the months of November and March are also a good time to visit the country. It’s advisable you avoid visiting Qatar during the hot season because of the extremely high temperatures.
Traveling in Qatar
Crime levels are low in Qatar and violence is rare. Still, you have to be careful and follow the following safety tips:
- Use only registered taxis. If you are using apps to book a taxi, ensure the information on the app match that of the driver.
- Take extra care when traveling at night, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
- Prostitution and homosexuality are illegal in Qatar.
- Public displays of affection are also frowned upon.
- Don’t do drugs.
- Purchase good travel insurance.
- If you won’t do it at home, don’t do it in Qatar.
Getting to & Around Qatar
Doha International Airport is the primary airport in Qatar. The few major cities in the country are well connected through domestic flights.
Public transportation in Qatar is fast, affordable, and reliable. Trains and buses are available and are one of the best ways to get around.
Taxis are available and you should only use officially marked taxis. Negotiate fares in advance or insist the driver use the meter. If one or more people are already in a taxi, don’t get in. Find another taxi.
Ridesharing applications are available and a popular method of transportation.
You have to arrange your accommodation for your stay before visiting Qatar. There are several platforms where you can book hotels, hotels, and Airbnb.