Are you planning to visit Doha, Qatar this year? That’s exciting! Make sure you’re prepared for your trip by learning what things to avoid in the country, where to eat, and what places to visit!
Doha is the scenic and very vibrant capital of Qatar. Home to over 2 million inhabitants, it welcomes about the same amount of people every year to showcase its striking attractions, fabulous views, and rich culture and heritage.
Located by the Persian Gulf, there are lovely beaches in Doha and it’s a perfect base for any trip to Qatar, as you could visit the rest of the country on easy day trips from here.
Before you visit Doha, Qatar, read this travel guide to discover all you need to know for your trip.
From the best Doha hotels, to where to go on a day trip, and customs you should take into consideration to avoid getting into trouble – you’ll find it all right here. Check it out!
6 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING DOHA, QATAR
Doha’s tourism has increased over the years; it’s also home to countless expats from all over the world and considered a very modern city – it also is, however, the capital city of an Islamic country, with different customs and traditions to that of most western countries. For this reason, there are some things you should know before visiting.
#1: Drinking Alcohol
You can buy and drink alcohol in Doha, as long as you’re at a licensed restaurant, bar, or hotel, or are carrying a bottle from the supermarket to your accommodation. However, you are not allowed to drink alcohol (or even less, be intoxicated) in public: it’s considered a crime and will be punished as such.
#2: Dress Code
Being an Islamic country, there are some things to consider when it comes to clothing. There is no dress code as such for tourists in Qatar, but it’s advised to dress conservatively out of respect for the culture. You may also be prevented from entering certain landmarks if your clothes are considered inappropriate.
For starters, knees and shoulders should always be covered when in public. This means no tank tops or shorts for either men or women. Women should also avoid translucid and skimpy clothes, and they may have to cover their heads for entering mosques.
#3: Public Displays of Affection
Public displays of affection should be avoided in Doha, or you could get into trouble! Even if you’re traveling with your partner or husband/wife, kissing in public is a grave offense, and while you could get away with holding hands in Doha, that very innocent act is frowned upon in certain places of Qatar.
Therefore, it’s better to restrain from any displays of affection while you’re in public to be on the safe side and avoid a nasty situation.
#4: Summer Heat
The high season for tourism is actually in the winter, from December to February. While you’ll find much better prices and deals during Qatar’s low season, the summer temperatures in the city can be hot. From June to August, the average temperature varies between 95 and 113F (35 – 45° Celsius) during the day.
#5: Taking Photographs
Photographing local people, as well as some religious and military buildings is prohibited, and can be punished with arrest. You should be fine in most touristic places, but if any scene seems sensitive or you’re in doubt, it’s better not to photograph it or to ask for permission.
This also extends to posting material that insults or appears insensitive to the culture of the country!
#6: What You Shouldn’t Bring
All luggage is scanned at Doha’s airport, and while it’s unlikely you’d be taking any of these prohibited items with you (hopefully!) it’s worth mentioning them. It is illegal to import drugs and alcohol into Qatar, as well as any pork product and religious material and books – of any religion.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND DOHA, QATAR
▶️ To get from Doha Qatar airport to the city center, you can book a private transfer in advance. Your driver will be waiting for you upon arrival, and take you directly to your hotel in a hassle free manner, so you don’t have to queue for a taxi or carry your bags around. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
▶️ To move around the city of Doha, one of the best means of transport is the metro. It operates daily from 6 AM to 11 PM and connects most areas of the city. There are three lines: The Red, the Green, and the Gold lines, although you’ll probably use the Red Line the most to access Doha’s main landmarks.
▶️ A more comfortable alternative, however, especially if you want to arrive at the attractions’ entrances and avoid walking from the station, is taking a taxi. It’s very safe to get one directly on the street, but you can also use the Careem app to call them.
▶️ Uber works very good in Doha as well, or else you could rent a car, which will be very practical if you plan on taking day trips from the city.
BEST DOHA TOURS FOR FIRST TIMERS
A great way to discover which are the best places to visit in Doha and be introduced to the city’s history and culture is by joining a comprehensive tour. Below are the best options for first-time visitors, so that you can explore the city’s highlights and get a glimpse of what your time in Doha will look like.
👉 For more ideas, check out this comprehensive list of Doha tours.
➤ The Full-Day Combo Tour includes an exploration of the city and also a trip to the desert. You’ll visit the traditional Souq Waqif, the Katara Cultural Village, the iconic Pearl-Qatar, and also drive along the beautiful Corniche before heading into the desert for some dune bashing and magnificent views. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ The Private 4 Hours City Tour takes you and your group around Doha’s main attractions. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the city from your guide’s commentary, enjoy photo stops, and get to browse Souq Waqif stalls and Pearl-Qatar’s exclusive shops. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
BEST THINGS TO DO IN DOHA
Stroll Down the Corniche
Doha Corniche is a 4.3-mile (7 km) promenade along the bay, offering beautiful views of the water on one side, and plenty of attractions, shops, and cafés on the other.
It’s a great spot to go for a stroll, either during the day or at night (I’d say try both!), and you’ll also get to check out the Pearl Monument and the viewpoint facing the bay. Arguably the best Doha sightseeing can be enjoyed at the Corniche, so don’t miss it!
Get Lost in Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif is one of the most iconic places to visit in Doha. Formerly a traditional market where livestock and spices were exchanged, nowadays it boasts a great number of stalls and shops selling everything from souvenirs to homeware, food, and textiles.
This very bustling souk also grants you the opportunity of meeting falcons from up close, as well as to interact with the Arab horses and camels at the stables, learn about Qatari art, and sampe some local delicacies.
Go on a Desert Safari
South of Doha is Qatar’s largest desert, where you can enjoy activities such as dune bashing, camel riding, shisha smoking at a desert camp, and sandboarding. Going on a desert safari from Doha, therefore, is pretty much a must when in the city!
Depending on the tour you choose you’ll also get to visit the Inland Sea, right on the border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which provides a magnificent natural spectacle.
➤ The Private Half-Day Desert Safari takes you to the vast dunes of the Qatari desert, where you’ll get to ride a camel, go dune bashing and sandboarding, and enjoy a photo stop at the magnificent Inland Sea. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ The Sunset Desert Safari offers spectacular scenery for your desert adventures, which include sandboarding, dune bashing, and camel riding. You’ll also get to visit the Inland Sea, which divides Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and watch the sun set behind the sand dunes. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Visit the Doha Museums
Qatar is a country with a very rich and interesting history, spanning from the early days when its main source of income came from pearl diving to the oil boom and the fast development of the futuristic cities you see today. Spending some time in the astounding Doha museums is very recommended to understand the city and country better.
The National Museum of Qatar is impressive from the very moment you set eyes on it, as the building is inspired in, and resembles, a desert rose. Here you’ll get to immerse in Qatar’s heritage and culture, gaining insights into its past and enjoying the exhibitions on display.
You also shouldn’t miss the Museum of Islamic Art, which showcases more than a thousand years of Islamic art from a wide variety of countries.
Go Shopping at The Pearl
The Pearl-Qatar is a high-end destination and residential area built on a man-made island. It’s considered a shopping paradise for the number of luxurious brands you’ll be able to buy, that go from Armani to Stella McCartney and Hermes, and it’s mainly visited for this purpose.
The Pearl also features waterfront cafés and eateries and charming neighborhoods to explore. The highlight for insta-pictures? The Venetian Bridge!
👉 These are the most famous attractions, but this is certainly not a comprehensive guide to all you can do in Doha. Check out my post about the best things to do in Doha for more ideas and inspiration!
BEST DAY TRIPS FROM DOHA
Doha might be the main destination when it comes to Qatar tourism, but there’s so much more to see beyond the city! That’s why one of the best activities in Doha is actually going on a day trip and discovering some of the best places to visit in Qatar.
Find the ultimate day trips from Doha below.
Explore Al Khor Island
Al Khor Island is a very lush location, featuring mangroves where you can kayak, hiking trails, fishing spots, and a wide variety of wildlife that made it a particularly famous attraction among birdwatching fans.
It’s an ideal day trip destination for nature lovers, especially for those looking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle for a while.
➤ The Private North of Qatar Tour includes a visit to the beautiful island, as well as to some other iconic landmarks of the region. The historic Al Zubara Fort and the Al Thakhira Beach are among the places you’ll get to explore with your knowledgeable guide. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Visit West Qatar
The west of Qatar is a vast and relatively arid place with the most magnificent natural sculptures, caves, and attractions. The Ras Abrouq Rock Formations, which are mushroom-shaped rocks eroded by the wind and the sand over millions of years, are a must-visit in the area! Here you’ll also get to see the very interesting 18th-century Zekreet Fort.
Other picturesque attractions in West Qatar are Film City, a movie set built as a traditional Qatari village, and the West/East, East/West sculptures in the desert.
➤ The Qatar West Coast Tour is a half-day trip to the area’s most popular attractions, including Richard Serra’s sculpture, the astounding mushroom-shaped rock formations, Zekreet Fort, and Film City, with a brief stop at the Al Shahniya Race Track to see the camels train. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
See a Camel Race
Camel racing is Qatar’s most popular sport, but you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s not human jockeys riding the camels, but robots!
The races take place in Al Shahniya Race Track every week during the high season, and it’s a very lively and atmospheric event you shouldn’t miss. Attending a race is indeed one of the best things to do in Qatar.
➤ The Half-Day Camel Race Tour takes you behind the scenes, so you can meet the camels before the race. You’ll then enjoy it the way locals do: driving along the road parallel to the race track until the finish line! ➥ BOOK IT HERE
WHERE TO EAT IN DOHA
Qatar has many culinary delights to offer, and you’ll find it very easy to sample the traditional dishes while in Doha.
Some of the most iconic items of Qatari cuisine include balaleet, which features a combination of sweet and savory flavors, the heavily-spiced thareed, luqaimat for dessert, and Qatar’s national dish, machboos.
Shay Al Shoomos
For traditional Qatari food, look no further than Shay Al Shoomos. Owned and run by a local lady, this restaurant is situated in the popular Souq Waqif, and serves all the staple dishes of the country. From the controversial balaleet to machboos, which is considered the national dish, and authentic breakfast options, this is a must-stop when visiting Doha.
Address: Souq Waqif
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday from 7.30 AM to 1 PM, and from 6.30 PM to 10 PM. Friday from 7.30 AM to 11.30 AM
Evergreen Organics is a 100% vegan healthy cafe, and has a large selection of hearty breakfasts to start the day energized. It also has lunch and dinner items, and while fresh fruit juices and smoothies are their most popular drink, you can also get your favorite coffee with plant-based milk to pair with your pancakes.
Address: The Gate Mall, Ground Floor
Pearl-Qatar Branch: Palazzio 1, Qanat Quartier
Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday from 7 AM to 11 PM, Friday from 7 AM to 11.30 AM and from 12.30 PM to 11 PM
SMAT is located in the iconic Doha Corniche, and specializes in Arabic cuisine with a modern twist. It’s one of the most popular places to have breakfast in Doha, and it’s renowned for the incredible aesthetics of every dish.
Address: Corniche Road
Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 12 AM
Parisa Souq Wakif
This Persian restaurant boasts a very impressive and opulent interior decor, and specializes in Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s vegetarian-friendly, and its dishes are substantial and beautifully presented.
Address: Al Souq Street
Opening Hours: Daily from 1 PM to 10.30 PM
👉 Not what you’re looking for? No worries, you won’t go hungry in Doha. Check out a few more incredible restaurants in Doha that should be on your itinerary.
WHERE TO STAY IN DOHA
Now that you know all the places you have to visit, and in which restaurants to enjoy dinner, is time to answer one vital question: what’s the best area to find your accommodation in Doha?
The best location in the city to visit its main locations, make use of transportation, and go on day trips is the West Bay Area.
Spanning from the Corniche to the West Bay Lagoon, this area encompasses many attractions, like the Doha Tower, the mall, and the Katara Cultural Village. It’s a very luxurious part of the city, mainly considered a business area but featuring plenty of hotels, restaurants, and shopping opportunities.
These are some the best hotels in Doha, Qatar – all of them situated in the West Bay Area:
LUXURY: Mondrian Doha – This 5-star hotel has very elegant decor, and features ample rooms with seating areas, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and fitness center, and 4 restaurants.
MID-RANGE: Marriott Executive Apartments City Center Doha – This hotel offers fully-equipped studios and apartments with a kitchenette and seating area, 2 swimming pools, a fitness center with sauna, and room service.
ON A BUDGET: Millennium Central Doha – Featuring spacious rooms with a fully-equipped bathroom, seating area, and coffee/tea making facilities, this hotel also has a swimming pool, a fitness center, a spa, and 2 restaurants on-site.
👉 If you’re looking to be right by the ocean, check out this list of the best beach hotels in Doha as well.
IS DOHA SAFE?
Doha is a very safe city. In fact, it was ranked the world’s second safest city in 2020 and has a very low crime rate.
It’s also considered a safe destination for women, even if they’re traveling solo, and while common sense and precaution are advised (as in any place in the world!), you should have no issue at all traveling through Qatar, especially in its capital city.
VISIT DOHA, QATAR: FAQ
Doha is a very picturesque city, and the perfect place to visit to immerse yourself in Qatar’s culture and heritage. Featuring sandy beaches, astounding views of the bay, and plenty of attractions, you should definitely spend some time in Doha while in the country!
You should restrain from public displays of affection, and also avoid drinking in public, which is considered a crime in Qatar. Dressing conservatively is also highly recommended to avoid any trouble.
3 to 4 days in Doha should be enough to explore the main sights, relax at the beach, and even go on a day trip.
Yes! English is widely spoken in Doha due to the number of tourists and expats living there.
You can drink alcohol in restaurants, bars, and hotels in Doha, but it’s entirely prohibited to drink in public areas.
The best time to visit Doha and Qatar is during the winter months, between December and February.
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