In the opinion of the Real Travel Blog is Qatar not really a tourist destination. At least not at the moment. We sometimes literally felt like the only tourists, while April should be high season. We went to Qatar as there were both good offers on flight and hotels with either miles or points. Mainly as it is not touristy you got a real flavor to the life in Qatar. We liked it, but the chance we will go back is rather small.
For the money you have to spent on flights and hotels, there are better options to spent your vacation. If you have not been in the Middle East we would advise the United Arab Emirates above Qatar. There is way more to do and to see.
Qatar has a long history of control by different empires (Ottomans, Seleucid, Parthians). In 1916 Qatar became a British protectorate Around 1950 Qatar discovered the oil. From this point onwards Qatar started to develop rapidly. In 1971 Qatar declared independence.
The head of state in Qatar is the emir. The 1st emir, Mohammed bin Thani was assigned back in 1850. Hamad bin khalifa al thani became the emir after the independence. The present emir of Qatar is Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of the Al Thani Family.
The most famous tv network, Al Jazeera is located in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Al Jazeera and Qatar played an important role in the Arab Spring.
They for example provided weapons to rebels in Syria and Libya. At the moment the relation between Qatar and other countries in the Gulf area is troubled. Some countries even completely banned Qatar.
Things to keep in mind
- Taxis are very cheap in Qatar. You therefore don't need to worry about tour transportation. Most drivers will try to agree on a fixed fee without meter but this is most of the times 2 or three times the fare on the meter. Also Uber is in general about 25% more expensive than a metered taxi fare.
- Qatar is a very expensive country, as most of the Gulf states. Especially prices in the hotels and then specifically alcohol is very expensive. A bottle of Heineken will set you back like 10€ and a gin & tonic about 17€. And that with a relatively favorable exchange rate at the moment. But also two ice creams at the city mall was about 17€.
- There is not much to do in Qatar. For example, one of the sightseeing recommended is the Pearl. This is in fact nothing more than a new area, with some shops and restaurants together with a marina. Nice for a walk on a cloudy day but not really special.
- Qatar is definitely more conservative than for example Dubai, but not the most conservative in the Arab world. Alcohol is only available in 4 & 5 star hotels.
- There are many constructions going on. If you take a hotel in the city center you are most likely surrounded by construction areas. Although the hotels are sound proof, it is not really the view you want to have during a vacation.
- When booking a hotel, verify what is the extra you need to pay for a room with executive lounge access. With the prices in Doha it might be worth to pay the extra. All the hotels we stayed had a happy hour included with free alcoholic drinks.
- You see a lot of people saying that traffic is crazy in Doha. In our experience it is not that bad, and during weekdays it is even quite calm. The only time we faced heavy traffic was when went to the Souq on Friday evening.
Hotels and accommodation
There is a big choice of hotels in Qatar and there will open a lot of new hotels in the coming years, We found Hotel prices above average.
A good 5 star hotel will start around 150€. This might be lower during Ramadan or in the summer. We actually stayed at 3 different hotels in Doha.
Our first hotel was the Hilton Doha. We loved this hotel. It is on the beach in West bay, facing the Persian Gulf. In the front of the hotel you have the city of Doha with the constructions and the busy city life. In the back of the hotel you have a nice swimming pool and beach.
Staying on the beach or pool gives a relaxing feeling and you don't realize that you are in the middle of a busy city. We had an executive room, which was very large and quite new. As we arrived quite late we did not use the executive lounge that much, but staff was friendly and helpful.
The second hotel was the Melia Doha. This is a business hotel and not a hotel to stay for your vacation. The pool is very small and the biggest part of the day in the shade. The hotel itself is nice and the level room we had was huge and well maintained.. Also the executive lounge is quite large.
Our last hotel where we stayed was the Marriott Doha. There are two wings. The pity is that the old wing has a small balcony and the new one not. But the rooms in the new wing are way better. In the old wing it is quite noisy and as especially during the weekend there are a lot of children we moved after the first night to the new wing.
They have a very good Executive lounge with a dinner buffet. From the balcony at the Executive lounge you have one of the best views of the skyline of Doha, which is nice while enjoying a drink during the happy hour. The property is not the most luxurious, but the staff was more than excellent. They did more or less everything to make sure we were happy.
During the weekend, which is Thursday and Friday, the pool at the hotel gets very crowded. A lot of local of families come to enjoy the pool. There will be many kids and it will be noisy.
Food & drinks.
Obviously the Middle Eastern kitchen is predominant. You also find seafood and Italian but not as many as in other countries. In the malls there is in general also a food court where you will find all the well-known chains. A dinner for two in a more upscale restaurant will cost you easily 200€. Especially the restaurants in the hotels are expensive. All-inclusive is not available in Qatar. The food served in the Executive lounges varies. The Melia had more appetizers were the Marriott Doha served a real dinner with different main courses and a salad bar.
Things not to miss.
The Souq Waqif is something you have to go. There you will get the real Middle Eastern feeling. Especially at night it is nice to walk around and then sit on a terrace enjoying a Shisha (if you don`t, you are the only one). At night a walk at the corniche watching the skyline of Doha is another thing you should do. A third one, is a visit to The Pearl. Not really spectacular but still nice for a walk.
When you are into museums the museum of islamic arts would be your option.
For beaches it is the best to use beaches at the big international hotels. There are some public beaches, but women cannot go in bikini or bathing suit on these beaches. At the hotels this is not an issue at at all.
Is Qatar safe?.
As long as you obey the local legislation, Qatar is most likely one of the safest countries in the world. You can easily walk around late at night, which you should for example not do in certain areas in the United States.. Terrorism is so far also not a concern in Qatar, despite the fact that the Al Udeid air base is housing the US air force.
On the other hand it is a country where you don't want to get into trouble. So keep in mind that you are in a muslim country, and obey the local laws.. For example, be careful with alcohol and don`t go drunk on the streets. For woman is is advisable to have the knees and shoulders covered when going on the street, although it is not an absolute must like for example in Saudi Arabia. You still see women in short skirts on the street.
Travelling to Qatar is easy. There are many flights to Doha, but these are quite expensive. We had a direct flight with KLM to Doha, but for example Qatar Airways offers 3 daily flights from Ams to Doha. A direct flight with KLM is like 700€. The land border is only with Saudi Arabia, so the easiest is arrive by plane. Otherwise you need to obtain a visa for Saudi Arabia.
The spring and autumn months are the best. In summer it can get over 50 degrees Celsius. It is also advisable to avoid the ramadan period, as many places will be closed and it will be very quiet.
Don`t forget that the air is very dry. Even if it is like 32 degrees celsius, once you step out of the pool it feels chilly until the moment you dried up. Also quite early in the afternoon it will already cool down.
To enjoy the pool or beach you should have at least a temperature of 30 degrees, otherwise you will feel cold.
If you want to experience the real Middle Eastern culture, then Qatar is a good option. Tourism is not playing a big role in Qatar, which means that you will experience the real Middle Eastern culture.
For a week of beach vacation, it is interesting as you can do a good mix of sightseeing and enjoying the pool and beach. However, after a week we also got a bit bored. In the evenings you don't have many options and your arrive every evening at the souk.
On the other hand you could combine Qatar with other gulf region countries. Flights are short and cheap. Combining for example Qatar and see the best at Dubai or a vacation in Abu Dhabi might be a good option.
But for example from Qatar is it also not a long flight to visit The Maldives, where you can relax on the most stunning beaches in the world. It is also like halfway between Europe and Asia. If you hate long flights you can take a few night on your way to see Amazing Thailand.
Given that things are very expensive in Qatar, there are way better options to spent your vacation. On the other hand when you live in Europe and you are looking for a beach