Exploring Qatar beyond a layover in Doha
Bringing you details from this tiny palm-shaped country located just an hour away from our home base, Dubai.
Whether you’re going there independently or on transit, it’s a small country; it is possible to do it justice in 3-4 days, if that’s all you can spare.
On this blog, I’ll be sharing some of the unique places outside of Doha city as well as some gems in the city.
This was my 3 night-4 day itinerary:
Day 0 - arrive late evening. Step out for local dinner.
Day 1 - Relax, work or walk to the new malls. Mid-afternoon, explore the North of Qatar. Back by 6 p.m. Dinner at the Pearl.
Day 2 - Spa. R&R. Late afternoon head out to the south for dune bashing, sand boarding & sunset at the Inland sea. Return at 8 p.m.
Day 3 - Breakfast. Explore Doha city: Souq Waqif, Falcon shops, Katara Cultural Village, Pearl, Doha Skyline
Rest in the afternoon. Explore Souq Waqif in the evening. Local dinner & later in the night, fly back
You may be asked proof of vaccination to enter Qatar
Flights, Visa and Immigration (if traveling with an Indian passport from Dubai)
I flew with Air Arabia from Sharjah to Doha. It was a short one hour flight.
Since I am a resident in the GCC, I was eligible for a free Visa On Arrival, provided I fulfilled certain travel requirements, which are as below:
- Your occupation has to be approved by the Qatar Ministry
- You have to have reservation stay for a minimum of two nights in the hotels listed on Visa On Arrival hotels on Discover Qatar
- You have a travel health insurance from the list of pre-approved Qatar companies. I went with QIC.
This is an Arabic speaking country - though in the capital city, you will find people being able to converse in English.
Best time to visit
Between November to March is a good, rather mild time to visit the desert.
Since my trip was short, I carried dollars and exchanged some for local currency - but dollar is accepted and so are cards.
Using the metro + renting a car
This is not a country where you need a guide. If, like me, you don't drive, you can easily get around Doha city using the metro or hail a local taxi. Just buy yourself a metro card, it is said to be very cheap.
Now, if you plan to venture out of the city you can just rent a car.. and if don't want to rent, then you can find a lot of tours here. I found two that best fit my timeline and budget.
How much time to spend in the country?
This depends on whether you're traveling independently or on a layover. Either way, I would suggest three for our days if you want to cover different parts of the country.
In two days, you can cover the major highlights of Doha city.
Where I stayed in Doha
I stayed at the Four Points Sheraton in Doha, which was very conveniently located close to the Souq, metro and a whole bunch of restaurants. Since I am a Marriot Bonvoy member, I also got an upgrade to a bigger room. The room was huge, with a comfortable bed and great views of the city at night. The breakfast spread is also generous.
Things to do:
South of Qatar - dune bashing + Inland Sea
If you have the chance to leave Doha, then definitely plan on combining a desert safari with the unique Inland sea.
Bordering Saudi Arabia, this is one of those rare places in the world (like in Namibia) where the wide sea meets the vast desert sand.
The turquoise blue water and the golden hue sand together make for an incredibly beautiful scenery. Highly recommend.
After the Inland sea in the South, I also went up North to cover these three places; these are mostly amalgamation of the old meets the new, which as you can tell is a favorite theme of mine.
📌 Shadows Traveling on the Sea of the Day by Olafur Eliasson, who designed these to show people live in the present, soak in the moment, and then are invited to drown out the noise and be in nature.
📌 Al Zubara Fort: a great place to visit and spend time if you are fascinated by the history of this region!
📌 The old abandoned village of Jumail, where there are still remnants of life here in the form of government buildings and minarets.
Katara Cultural Village
A huge complex with concert halls, a Greek-style amphitheater, restaurants, galleries all designed with so much detail.
What I loved about it was the intricately designed Golden Mosque and the traditional Qatari alleyways. You will also find so many stellar murals all over the place. You can’t miss this one when in Doha.
This was my favorite place in the city. I think is the heart of Doha city, the Souq Waqif. Souks are Arabian markets, while Waqif means ‘standing’. The conventional Qatari style architecture characterizes these winding alleyways. You will find mounds of spices, shimmery chandeliers, camels, & there is even a falcon hospital.
While the mornings are peaceful, it’s at night that this place truly comes alive, with locals and tourists covering every square inch of the place.
It’s also one of the best smelling places in Doha, with a riot of delicious smells coming through from the hundred something restaurants (local & international). It’s a delight to experience this place both times of day. If there is only ONE place you can explore in Doha, make it this one.
Pearl Qatar & Qanat Quartier
A series of colorful buildings adorn these high-end streets. It's a great place to take photos, think Notting hill.
‘Why would you go there? What is there to see here? Eh, it’s boring’. A slightly misunderstood country that is often overshadowed by its glitzy neighbor, this tiny nation is one of the richest in the world yet it never felt over the top.
So many people incorrectly assume that ‘all Middle East countries are the same’ but that isn’t true; not in the slightest. Culturally, yes, they are similar, but they still offer a unique experience for people willing to travel with an open mind. For instance, in Qatar, along with the modern structures, I found Qatari traditions steeped in historical forts, abandoned villages and gorgeous Arabic markets & that is what out stood for me.
Thanks for reading. Leave your comments or if you have questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram