In today’s guide, we look at things to know before visiting Qatar like clothing etiquette, currency, top things to do and food to eat in Qatar, and more.
Qatar, a small but wealthy country in the Arabian Peninsula, is rapidly becoming a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a blend of modern luxury and traditional Middle Eastern culture. Known for its stunning architecture, bustling souqs, and world-class museums, the country offers a unique and enriching experience for visitors.
Whether you’re planning to explore the futuristic skyline of Doha, discover the nation’s rich cultural heritage, or simply unwind in a lavish desert resort, there are some important things you should know. This comprehensive guide will cover essential aspects like visa requirements, local customs, what to eat, and much more to ensure that your trip to Qatar is as fulfilling as it is memorable
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Important Things You Should Know – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
A journey to Qatar promises a blend of opulent modernity and deeply-rooted traditions. From navigating the visa process to understanding the nation’s cultural nuances, this guide aims to prepare you for an enriching experience in the Gulf nation.
Visa Requirements – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
Before you jet off to the Qatari shores, understanding the visa landscape is essential. Qatar offers visa-free entry to citizens from around 80 countries, allowing them to stay for periods ranging from 30 to 180 days depending on the nationality. Citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC nations) nations enjoy unrestricted entry and exit privileges.
However, if you hail from a country not on the visa-exemption list, you’ll need to apply for a visa beforehand or obtain a visa on arrival, if eligible. For those eyeing extended stays, work opportunities, or studies, special long-term visas are available, but these often require sponsorship.
Always refer to the most recent guidelines from the Qatar Ministry of Interior or your local embassy to be certain about your specific visa requirements.
Currency & Payment Methods
Currency exchange is typically the first task that awaits you upon landing. Qatar uses the Qatari Riyal (QAR) as its official currency.
While credit and debit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) are accepted in malls, hotels, and most eateries, it’s good to keep some cash handy for smaller transactions. Some smaller shops and remote areas might only accept cash.
ATMs are readily available and are the go-to for most people given their favorable exchange rates.
Contactless payments like Apple Pay are gaining popularity but are not universally accepted.
Weather & Best Time to Visit – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
Don’t underestimate the Qatari heat; prepare to face a desert climate characterized by extremely hot summers and milder winters. For a more comfortable experience, aim to visit between November and early April.
During these months, daytime temperatures hover around a bearable 20-25°C (68-77°F), making it ideal for outdoor exploration. Summers, on the other hand, can be sweltering with daytime temperatures easily crossing 40°C (104°F).
Evenings are more temperate year-round, but don’t expect them to be ‘cool’ by any Western standards.
Local Culture & Etiquette – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
Qatar is a conservative Islamic nation, and visitors should adhere to cultural norms out of respect. Dress code for women includes wearing long skirts or pants and sleeved tops; men should avoid shorts in public. While Qataris are generally friendly and hospitable, there are protocols to be followed, particularly during interactions between men and women.
Physical contact, such as handshakes, may not be appropriate unless initiated by the locals, especially if they are of the opposite gender.
During the holy month of Ramadan, eating, drinking, and smoking in public during daylight hours is prohibited. If you’re invited into a Qatari home, it’s customary to bring a small gift as a token of appreciation. Tipping is not mandatory but is usually appreciated; around 10-15% is the general rule of thumb.
Getting around in Qatar is relatively straightforward. The country has been investing in its public transportation, most notably in the Doha Metro, which connects major parts of Doha and its suburbs. Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Karwa are widely available. Fares start at around 10 QAR and increase based on distance.
However, if you wish to explore beyond the capital, renting a car may be more convenient. Do note that Qatar has strict rules about drinking and driving, and the permissible alcohol limit is zero. Always remember to carry your ID, as you may be asked to show it at different checkpoints.
Health & Safety
Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world, with extremely low crime rates. However, it’s always good to take basic precautions. Keep your belongings close, especially in crowded places like the Souq Waqif. Regarding health, no specific vaccinations are required to enter Qatar, but routine immunizations are recommended. Public and private healthcare facilities are of a high standard but can be expensive, so travel insurance with health coverage is strongly advised.
Communication & Language
Arabic is the official language of Qatar, but English is widely spoken and understood, especially in Doha and other urban areas.
Many signs are also in English. For mobile connectivity, Ooredoo and Vodafone are the main providers. Free Wi-Fi is generally available in hotels and some public areas, but the speed can vary.
Food & Drink – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
A quintessential Qatari dish, Machboos is a flavorful combination of rice, meat (usually chicken, lamb, or fish), and an assortment of spices. Saffron and turmeric give the rice its distinctive color, while a mix of Arabic spices adds complexity.
Particularly popular during Ramadan and other festive occasions, Harees is a dish of wheat, meat, and a touch of cinnamon, cooked until all components are fully integrated. It’s a comfort food often enjoyed with a dollop of ghee.
Falafel & Hummus
While not uniquely Qatari, these Middle Eastern staples are widely available and enjoyed throughout the country. Falafel is usually made from ground chickpeas or fava beans, deep-fried and often served in a pita. Hummus is a creamy dip made from blended chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic.
A lesser-known but traditional dish, Jareesh is made from crushed wheat that is cooked until soft. Depending on personal preference, it can be sweet or savory.
A popular drink that you’ll find everywhere from cafés to roadside kiosks. It’s a strong tea combined with condensed milk and spices like cardamom and saffron.
Top Places to Visit
The capital city is the epicenter of all activity in Qatar. The skyline, dominated by ultramodern architecture, can be best admired from the Corniche, a waterfront promenade. Must-visit attractions include the Museum of Islamic Art, the Aspire Zone, and the bustling Souq Waqif.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Al Zubarah provides a glimpse into an 18th-century Gulf merchant town, complete with a large fort and archaeological ruins.
Khor Al Adaid
Often referred to as the ‘Inland Sea’, this natural wonder is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert. Accessible only by 4×4, it’s an adventurer’s paradise.
Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre
Qatar takes its horses very seriously, and this facility is a testament to the country’s equestrian heritage. Even if you’re not a horse enthusiast, the architecture of the facility alone is worth the visit.
Katara Cultural Village
This sprawling complex houses an amphitheater, an opera house, galleries, and a range of high-end dining options. It serves as the focal point for arts and culture in Doha.
How Expensive is Travel in Qatar – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
Accommodation: Luxury hotels can cost upwards of 800 QAR per night, while budget options start around 200 QAR.
Food: A meal at a mid-range restaurant can set you back about 80-100 QAR per person, not including drinks.
Transport: Taxi starts at 10 QAR, and each kilometer is an additional 2 QAR. A day pass for the Doha Metro is around 20 QAR.
Attractions: Entrance fees to most museums and historical sites are minimal, often under 50 QAR.
Overall: Qatar is a relatively expensive destination, especially if you opt for luxury experiences. Budget travelers can get by on around 500 QAR per day, but a more comfortable budget would be around 1000-1500 QAR per day.
Digital Nomad Scene – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
Co-working Spaces: Doha has a growing number of co-working spaces equipped with high-speed internet and other amenities.
Internet Speed: Connectivity is generally good, with average speeds suitable for most online work requirements.
Community: While not a traditional hotspot for digital nomads, the expat community in Doha is quite large, offering some networking opportunities.
Visas: Qatar doesn’t offer a specific digital nomad visa yet, but with its new initiatives to attract long-term visitors, this could change.
Quality of Life: With its excellent healthcare, low crime rates, and cosmopolitan lifestyle, Qatar offers a high quality of life, albeit at a higher cost of living.
Final Thoughts on – Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
Qatar is a country that marries traditional Arabic culture with towering skyscrapers and ultramodern amenities. Whether you are interested in history, eager to try Arabic cuisine, or simply want to enjoy the luxury that the country has to offer, Qatar promises a rich travel experience.
From its stunning sand dunes to its cutting-edge architecture, it’s a land of contrasts that is continually looking toward the future. Your trip here will be both eye-opening and comfortable, thanks to the country’s investments in tourism and infrastructure.