If all you picture when thinking of Qatar is deserts, think again. Sure, there is desert (and the climate is pretty arid), but there are also fantastically modern skyscrapers, amazing architecture, tons of art and history, and a thriving economy.
In fact, though Qatar wasn't seen as much of anything in recent decades, it's sprung up as one of the most advanced Arab economies and has begun to beckon to tourists. The thing is, you need to know where to go, what to see, and how to get around—and we have the details to help you plan the best trip possible to Qatar.
While In Qatar, Check Out The History (And Art)
Qatar has a rich history, both religious and otherwise. You can see beautiful mosques, architecture through the ages, historical museums, and even modern art installations. Bibliophiles will love Qatar (especially Doha, but more on that later) because of its abundance of libraries, too (like the Qatari Book House and the National Library, notes Skyticket).
Head To Qatar In Fall And Winter For The Best Weather
Since it is mostly desert, you'll want to time your visit to Qatar carefully. TripSavvy suggests an itinerary somewhere between October and April to avoid high humidity and catch the most comfortable temperatures. Summers are super hot, which tends to drive away tourists, so you will be in good company in winter through early spring. Of course, if you enjoy scorching heat, by all means, take advantage of deals and barren tourist attractions mid-summer.
Visit The Enchanting Capital City Of Doha
Staying in Doha is an absolute must: it's the hub of Qatar and has seen so much growth in recent years. Its arts and culture are not to be missed, but the city vibes offer nightlife and entertainment, too. Plus, Doha lies on the coast of Qatar—and you really can't argue with beach access given the toasty daytime temperatures. Even better, there's an island just off the east coast of Doha (Pearl-Qatar) that offers key tourist attractions and adventure.
Stay At Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl — Doha
Our top choice for accommodations in the Doha area is Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl. It's a five-star property on the island of Pearl-Qatar and won't totally break your budget at under $200 per night. The hotel has nearly 4k excellent reviews on Google, with its coastal location enchanting visitors from across the globe. A private beach adds to the perks, of course, but the rooms are elegant and ornate—just like Doha itself.
Enjoy Qatari Cuisine Like Rice, Seafood, And Mutton
Qatari cuisine features an array of Arabic dishes with some special twists. One national dish is Machbūs, which is basically rice, meat, and veggies. Seafood is also big in Qatar for obvious reasons, and you'll also be able to try mutton with yogurt, roast lamb with rice and nuts, and goat with seasoned rice, says Visit Qatar.
And don't forget dessert—Qatari specialties include mehalabiya (pistachio pudding with rose water), umm ali (bread pudding), and esh asaraya (cheesecake and cream), explains The Culture Trip. You can also find Japanese, Lebanese, and American food everywhere, including on Pearl-Qatar.
Use Taxis To Explore The Metropolis
As advanced as Doha is these days, getting around in Qatar will require modern transportation methods of taxis, hired cars, or limousines. You can walk plenty around Pearl-Qatar, but in other areas, the size of the city makes it impossible to reach some attractions by foot (it could take all day).
Also, bear in mind that while Uber works in Qatar, the government owns airport taxis, which means they tend to discourage Uber drivers, says God Save the Points. So, be aware of the transportation climate and choose accordingly!
Bring Your USD (And Some Qatari Rial)
World Travel Guide says that US dollars are widely accepted, but there's a catch. If you convert your currency once you arrive, you'll experience higher charges. In contrast, if you use traveler's checks to pay, that avoids the need to convert as you pay. Or, you can swap for some Qatari Rial before leaving home. One rial is about 27 cents in USD.
Tipping 10 to 15 percent in restaurants is standard, but not necessary if you're dining in at a hotel eatery. In total, Budget Your Trip says to expect to pay around $60 per person per day while traveling around Qatar.
See All The Sights, From Animals To Cityscapes And More
While we suggest staying at the hotel on Pearl-Qatar, there's more to see there than the beach. It's so-named because there are pearl diving sites here, so you can explore that intriguing industry during your travels. Skyticket also notes it has some Venice vibes, which offers a contrast from the modern city aesthetic in Doha.
Doha Corniche is another attraction Skyticket recommends, as it's a walk along the waterfront of Doha Bay. Ocean views? Yes, please. The Museum of Islamic Art and Rumaila Park are in the same area, so you can explore all three. The National Museum of Qatar—which houses a botanical garden and lake, a maritime museum, and more—is an itinerary highlight.
And finally, Doha Zoo is an unexpected addition to Doha, but it's worth a visit so you can see over 1,500 animals that arrived from all over the world. This is an excellent spot for families, too, since there's a play area for kids (and food onsite).
Pay A Bit More For Flights In The Cooler Months... Please.
Though Kayak cheerfully reports that flights to Qatar are cheapest in July, we strongly recommend avoiding those "deals." Yes, you'll save money, but wandering around the city of Doha will be practically unbearable—average temps in July are 106 degrees Fahrenheit, per Weatherspark. Clearly, it's not worth the extra cash in your pocket. Pay a bit more for more tolerable weather, and you won't regret it.
Or, Travel In July And Spend Your Entire Visit On The Beach!
Since Doha is a coastal city, you may go ahead and book that frugal flight in July and just sink into the water the entire stay. If you stay at Marsa Malaz Kempinksi, The Pearl, you'll have a private beach to enjoy.
But there's also Strand Qanat Quartier, a Venice-reminiscent area with luxe beaches. Or, you can head to mainland Doha to visit Katara Beach (the main beach is near the city center) or Bahriya Beach farther south. A summer trip to Qatar isn't sounding so terrible, after all!