Qatar Travel

Ultimate Travel Guide to Qatar (2023) [by an expat]

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup recently held in Qatar, the world learns more about the nation with the smallest area to host the international championship. More tourists come flocking in and with the ever-changing landscape of this Gulf nation, this could only mean that there are more good things to expect from the natural gas-rich country.

If you are planning a visit, here is the ultimate travel guide to Qatar compiled in one post. From things to do in Doha to some of the popular questions about Qatar answered!

Feel free to use this table of contents to skip to your chosen chapter.

Brief History of Qatar

Although inhabited since prehistoric times, nomadic tribes from the Arabian peninsula in the 1700s settled near the coastal areas of Qatar giving way to the rise of the pearling industry in the small country. The state became under the rule of the Al Thani clan in the 1800s.

In the late 19th century, it was then occupied by the Ottoman Empire until the First World War. It was also at this time that the state signed a treaty with the British and became under their protection.

1939 saw the discovery of oil but the exploration was disrupted with the Second World War taking place. After becoming independent in 1971 as a separate state, the country thrived under the Al Thani rule and became the richest country in the world in 2018 with a gross national income of $128,060 per capita.

From 2017 to 2021, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar in what was known to be the longest crisis of its kind in the Gulf for decades.

QUESTIONS ABOUT TRAVELING TO QATAR (What you need to know before traveling):

Weather and Climate: Best time to visit

Cold season (“winter”) is usually from December to February although it is still temperate during the months of April, May, October, and November. If you are planning a visit, better choose from these months.

June to September is usually the hottest months of the year, with maximum temperatures reaching above 40 C. Best to avoid the summer months not unless you are okay with spending most of the day indoors or you’re fine with going around in extreme dry heat.

Annual rainfall is low and only comes when the season is changing, often signaling the start of the next season.

Is it safe to travel to Qatar?

Definitely. Having lived here for years as an expat, I can say that it is a safe country to visit and live in. In fact, it’s even ranked as one of the safest countries in the world.

If you’re traveling to Qatar as a woman, you can rest easy because you can safely visit Qatar even as a solo female traveler. However, like traveling in other countries, make sure that you don’t let your guard down, make use of your common sense and listen to your gut.

Also, be respectful and mindful of the country’s culture and norms.

What language do they speak in Qatar?

Qatari Arabic is the official language and the majority of the population speaks Arabic as well. If you don’t speak Arabic, don’t worry because English is widely spoken and commonly used as a second language.

Where is Qatar located in the world?

The State of Qatar is a peninsula surrounded by the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East.

Its only land border is with Saudi Arabia in the south (Abu Samra). Qatar shares maritime borders with Bahrain, Iran, and United Arab Emirates.

How is Qatar pronounced?

If you know how to roll your Rs, you’ll have no problem pronouncing Qatar. Make sure to also pronounce it with a hard T. But be mindful that the Q isn’t pronounced with a hard ‘ka’ sound.

For non-Arabic speakers, this CNN article states that the closest pronunciation in the Roman alphabet would be ghu-terh.

Are Qatar and Dubai the same?

No. Qatar is a country while Dubai is located in the United Arab Emirates. While the two are neighboring countries in the Middle East, they’re not one and the same. UAE and Qatar are also both members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Dubai is popular for being a luxury travel destination, Burj Khalifa, large shopping malls, artificial islands like Palm Jumeirah and more.

Qatar is famous for being one of the richest countries, in oil and gas, hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar Airways, Al Jazeera, and more.

What is the currency of Qatar?

The official currency is called Qatari Riyal and it is pegged to the U.S. Dollar. Currently, the fifth series of banknotes are circulated. The denominations used are 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, and 500.

You can withdraw Qatari Riyals from ATMs in the Hamad International Airport or around Doha.

Can you drink tap water in Doha?

Is the water drinkable in Doha? Generally, tap water is safe to drink in Qatar as per KAHRAMAA (Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation).

However, I have always just bought bottled water from grocery and supermarkets.

What can you wear in Qatar? (Dress code in Qatar)

Can you wear shorts in Qatar?

It depends. If you’re planning to visit a mosque or a government building, then the answer is no. However, if you’re just going around the hotel/resort premises or on the beach, then yes feel free to wear shorts.

While it has since become generally acceptable to wear shorts when going to the mall or outside, it’s still best if you refrain from wearing skimpy or too-short shorts.

Are jeans allowed in Qatar? Can you wear skinny jeans in Qatar?

Yes, there’s no problem wearing regular jeans or skinny jeans in Qatar. You’ll see that a lot of people especially expats wear jeans regularly.

Can girls wear pants in Qatar? Can you wear leggings in Qatar?

There is no restriction regarding females wearing pants in Qatar so feel free to wear pants or leggings.

Do you have to wear a hijab in Qatar? Do you have to cover your face in Qatar?

No, you don’t hijab/burqa/niqab/abaya when visiting Qatar. However, to show your respect, refrain from wearing above-the-knee or revealing clothes in public.

Do you need to cover your shoulders in Qatar?

How do foreigners dress in Qatar?

How to dress as a woman in Qatar?

Can you show cleavage in Qatar?

Is Qatar expensive to visit?

Qatar’s currency is Qatari Riyals (QAR) which is pegged against the US Dollar.

It’s up to you how expensive your trip to Qatar will be. For luxury travelers, there are plenty of 5-star hotels and restaurants available while budget travelers also have a multitude of cheaper options as well as free things to do in Doha.

What can you not bring to Qatar?

  • “Haram items” which include pork products, alcoholic beverages, pornographic materials
  • any narcotics
  • any ammunition, weapon, incendiary items, explosives, or fireworks

Qatar National Holidays

What are the days you need to take note of before coming to Qatar?

  • Qatar National Day (December 18) – There are celebrations across the country which usually culminate in a fireworks display at night.
  • National Sports Day (2nd Tuesday in February) – There are sports activities held in different parts of the country headed by different organizations.
  • Eid Al Fitr
  • Eid Al Adha

Qatar Tourist Visa: Visiting Requirements

Do you need a visa to visit Qatar?

Nationalities from 83 countries are eligible for visa-free entry into Qatar. Length of stay allowed and validity of visa differs according to the country. If you are a national of any of the GCC countries, you are exempted from a visa. GCC residents with approved professions may obtain a single entry visa.

If you plan on visiting both Qatar and Oman, there is a Joint Tourist Visa available for citizens of 33 countries.

If your country isn’t eligible for visa-free entry, you can apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) which will allow you to get a visa-on-arrival. Pre-requisite: valid residence permit or visit visa for any of the following:

  • Schengen countries
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • USA
  • UK
  • New Zealand

Online Visa Application

You can apply for and find details on the requirements for the online application of tourist visas at the Qatar Visa Service Website. Check here if your country is eligible for the online visa application.

Doha Stopover: Qatar Transit Visa

Places to visit in Qatar

Things to do in Doha at night

If you arrived in Doha at night, fret not. There are still things to do in the city if you don’t want to stay cooped up in your hotel.

  • Doha Corniche
  • Souq Waqif
  • Parks
  • Museums
  • Desert Safari
  • The Pearl

Looking for a free drink? If you’re a female and you’re of drinking age, there are lots of 5-star hotels that offer Ladies’ Night on certain days of the week!

Things to do at Hamad Airport

There are various art installations, restaurants, lounges, and shops at Hamad International Airport. You can even take a shower and swim via the paid facilities.


Things to do at The Pearl Island

The luxury real estate development is popular with tourists and residents alike. The mixed-use development built on reclaimed land is one of the landmarks you’ll see on the plane’s window when departing and arriving in Doha.

  • Qanat Quartier
  • Medina Centrale
  • Walk along the Marina
  • Look for the Singing Stairs
  • Try the water taxi

Traveling in Doha with kids

  • National Museum of Qatar playgrounds
  • Souq Waqif
  • Doha Festival City theme parks: Snow Dunes, Angry Birds World
  • Aqua Park Qatar
  • Planetarium (Katara Cultural Village)
  • Aspire Lake water activities
  • Katara Beach
  • Parks in Qatar
  • KidZania Doha
  • KidzMondo Doha

Shopping in Doha

What are the best things to buy in Doha?

What souvenirs should you buy in Doha to bring back home? Popular food options include dates, dried fruits and nuts, spices, Arabic desserts, and local honey. Souq Waqif or any supermarket is your best bet on where to find these items.

As for non-food items, Qatar is proud of its pearling past so any product with pearls would be a good option. You can also buy clothing like abaya, perfumes, carpets, decorations with Arabic calligraphy, paintings, or even a coffee/tea set.

Most popular shopping malls in Doha

  • Doha Festival City
  • Mall of Qatar
  • Villaggio Mall
  • Tawar Mall
  • Al Hazm Mall
  • City Center Mall
  • Mirqab Mall
  • The Gate

Best things to do in Doha during summer

Indoor activities are the way to go to escape the summer heat. Here are some ideas:

Best things to do in Doha during winter

Since the weather is now perfect for outdoor activities, here are some ideas:

  • Rock climbing at Aspire Zone – Esqalar Sports
  • Archery Tag
  • Skateboarding and Rollerskating
  • ATV at the desert
  • Desert Safar

What to eat in Qatar

While Qatar offers cuisines from around the world, the first thing you should try is traditional Qatari food.

Here are some dishes to start with:

  • Machboos
  • Umm Ali
  • Saloona
  • Harees
  • Luqaimat
  • Fatayer

Going around in Qatar

  • Mowasalat Bus
  • Doha Metro
  • Ride Sharing Options: Uber | Karwa

If you’re new in Doha, the easiest way to get from Hamad International Airport (HIA) to the city is by hailing a cab right from the airport. Karwa taxi are aplenty and flat rate will be 25 QAR coming from the airport.

To get around Doha if you do not have a booked tour, you can take the Hop On Hop Off Doha Bus or choose to DIY. Download Uber App or Careem App on your phone and get a Qatar SIM (Ooredoo or Vodafone) to book your own car.

Doha Metro Red Line has also opened this 2019 and can be used to access some of the areas of interest in Doha. You can easily purchase tickets at the station. One Standard ride costs QAR 2.

All public buses are operated by Mowasalat. You have to have a Karwa SmartCard to pay for your fare. There is a ticket vending machine at Ground Floor Bus Pavilion at HIA. For more info, please visit Mowasalat website

Qatar Travel Tips

Can you bring and fly a drone in Qatar?

It’s not allowed to fly drones in Qatar unless you have obtained a permit from Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

What kind of plug does Qatar use?

Are plugs in Qatar the same as in the UK? Yes, Qatar also uses type G plugs and sockets. This plug has three rectangular pins forming an isosceles triangle. A US plug won’t work in Qatar so you should bring a travel adapter.

The standard voltage is 240V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

What are the emergency phone numbers you need to remember?

In case of emergency (police, fire, and medical/ambulance), you can call 999.

Make sure to also have the number (main and emergency) of your embassy or consulate ready before you travel.

What days are weekends in Qatar?

Does Qatar work on Fridays? Is Saturday a working day in Qatar? Generally, Sunday to Thursday are the working days while Fridays and Saturdays are considered weekends. However, in some industries/companies employees can be working during the weekend (like hospitality, food, etc).

Why is the weekend Friday and Saturday in Qatar? Friday is the sacred day of worship in Islam. A lot of establishments are closed on Friday mornings and some are closed during midday prayer time.

Have you visited Qatar?

Image by Gustav Brandt from Pixabay

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