Don’t get “too” excited – yet…
This desert city will soon play host to the Soccer World Cup and it’s quickly becoming one of the most talked about cities on earth. Before you and the floods of other travelers venture into Qatar, there are a few things you should know before your first trip to Doha. Here are practical tips to help you make a seamless journey.
Qatar Airways is one of the best airlines in the world, with direct flights to Doha from countless countries around the world. We recently voted their business class the best in the business. But when you get to Doha, you’ll need a visa. Qatar recently expanded its Visa On Arrival program to citizens of over 80 countries. Previously, most people hoping to enter the country needed a Visa arranged in advance – now you can simply receive one upon arrival. Confirm your nationality is eligible for Visa On Arrival – here.
Uber works in Qatar. However, the airport taxi companies are owned by the government and Uber drivers are often threatened or dissuaded from picking passengers up at the airport. Absolutely fire up the Uber app, but just be aware of this. Taxis will also work just fine, from approved taxi ranks. If you’re unsure – arrange transportation via your hotel in advance.
In our opinion, Doha is not quite ready for business. That’s not to say you won’t have an amazing time basking in the abundant sun – but the city of Doha is currently a huge construction site. The downtown area is gorgeous, but many of the attractions for tourists such as the Katara Cultural Center are being built and are not fully ready. If you’re coming to relax at a resort pool, you’ll have a wonderful time. If you’re coming for anything else, perhaps hold off for a couple years.
There are two ways to earn free hotel nights in Qatar. First: Qatar Airways offers a free night on all flights which stopover in Qatar via their +Qatar stopover program. This applies to both economy and business class tickets. Second: Starwood Hotels has partnered with Mastercard to offer free nights in Qatar all year for multiple night stays. Full details here.
Common sense would be the rule of law here. Especially when visiting amazing museums such as the Museum of Islamic Art, respectful clothing is advised. Hijabs are not required in most of the city, but dressing conservatively is the smartest way to be. At the hotel pool however, go crazy – within reason.
Spoiler alert: the souks are almost entirely tourist traps – especially Souq Waqif. Though they’ve been built to resemble something ancient – they’re brand new. Do not get any Arabian fairy tale ideas while buying mass produced goods here. The food however, is solid. Katara cultural village will eventually be an upscale place to hang out – but for now, it’s under construction.
You can buy alcohol in Qatar – but only in hotels. And you can’t bring it into the country with you – though you can purchase some on your way out, at Duty Free. You won’t be able to grab a drink at standard restaurants. Expect prices to be inflated to account for the strict import of alcohol. Many Qatar Airways tickets also include Duty Free discounts, just FYI.
Almost all the cultural things you may want to do are along the waterfront either on the city or Corniche side. The view from the Museum of Islamic Art is stunning. The waterfront is calm, peaceful and offers nice walks – perhaps once the sun has cooled down a bit.