Qatar, a peninsula on the shores of the Persian Gulf is a travel destination filled with things to do and experience. Don’t know much about Qatar but feeling curious about what a trip would be like there? With the World Cup approaching in November 2022, we’re sure many of y’all are wondering what it’s like.
We’ve covered all of the basics when it comes to things to know before visiting Qatar in this guide, including:
- How safe it is to travel in Qatar
- What kind of budget to expect
- The best things to do and experiences in Qatar
- The top cultural dos and don’ts in Qatar
Ready to get started? Here are the top 10 things you need to know before visiting Qatar.
How Hard Is It on the Wallet?
Qatar definitely shouldn’t be your first choice if you’re looking to pinch pennies (or in this case, your riyals) on a trip. While it’s not the most expensive destination in the world, Qatar is a place for luxury livin’ for most who come to visit.
That being said, expats love Qatar’s tax-free status. Salaries are high here, so you expect some of the highest prices on rent and food in the Middle East. Here’s a little breakdown of the costs:
Food: The geography of Qatar means that most foods have to be imported, so most food items, especially international dishes, tend to come at a higher price than in the US and even the UK. According to some of the latest data, a three-course meal for two at an average restaurant will typically set you back about QR600 (about $165 USD). A meal at McDonald’s comes out to about $6.50 USD, which is about the same as what you would pay at home.
Accommodation: According to Nomadlist, the average AirBnB in Qatar costs a whopping $8,000 USD per month. But, it’s not impossible to find something on a more modest budget. You can get a 2-star hotel for less than $100 USD a night in Doha, and there are plenty of stylish hotel stays near the city center (with a pool, of course) that you can grab for around 300 QR (about $85). Summer deals are currently available, but note that prices will likely skyrocket when the World Cup comes to town.
Transportation: Most people get around by car, and gas is very cheap in Qatar. If you want to use public transportation, the standard cost is between 3 and 4 QR (about 1 USD) for a one-way fare in the capital city of Doha, and between 4 and 9 QR outside of Doha. If you want to explore the outskirts, book a tour that comes with transportation to and from your hotel.
How Friendly Are the Locals?
Qataris are well-known for their hospitality, and are always eager to welcome foreigners and show them their country. While helpful and hospitable, visitors are also expected to respect and abide by the local customs. So if you read up before your trip and follow the major dos and don’ts, you’ll be just fine.
Customs And Culture: Do’s and Don’ts
This ‘dos and don’ts’ section is probably the most important part of our ‘Things to Know’ post for Qatar. Strap yourselves in, because there’s a lot of things to read up on before your trip. Keep this handy for during your trip so that you don’t forget anything.
- No PDA: Any hugging, kissing, or anything physical in public with the opposite sex is not allowed in Qatar and can get you fined or banned. Holding hands and a cheek peck is okay if it’s between husband and wife, however.
- Dress modestly: Non-Muslim women aren’t required to cover themselves with a hijab or niqaab, but you’ll have to cover yourself before entering a mosque. Even though you don’t necessarily need to cover yourself in public, men and women alike are still expected to dress modestly (no short, no crop tops – having shoulders exposed is a no-no). As for bikinis (but nothing teeny tiny), best to save them for the hotel pool only as public beaches have the same dress etiquette as other public spaces.
- Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar.
- Tipping: If there’s no service fee added to the bill, then a 10% tip is appropriate.
- While some bars and clubs allow for drinking, drinking alcohol in public is illegal in Qatar.
Gestures to avoid. A number of physical gestures are considered very offensive in Qatar and can result in a fine or worse, so make sure to take note of these:
- DON’T do the thumbs up sign. While this is a casual greeting in Western culture, it is considered very rude in Qatar.
- Don’t cross your legs: especially when sitting in front of someone older or higher up.
- Don’t use one finger to gesture for someone to come over, like to call a waiter, for instance. As an alternative, use the palm of your hand. It’s also very rude to point at someone or even something.
This is not a comprehensive list of all the culture and customs in Qatar. If you plan on moving here or staying for a longer period of time, we suggest reading a guidebook that’s specific to Qatari culture to get the full picture of what to expect.
Top Trending Things to Do in Qatar
From world-class shopping malls to museums and mangroves, a trip to Qatar is filled with wonders. Here are some of the top trending things to do for your trip:
- Al Thakira mangroves: Two hours away from Doha is this beautiful region of mangroves and other wildlife in Al Khor. Once there, you can rent a kayak to explore the area!
- Museum of Islamic Art in Doha: This gorgeous museum holds one of the largest collections of Islamic art in the world. You can also get some of the best views of the city’s skyline from the museum grounds (the MIA is currently closed and set for a big relaunch this fall.)
- Hit the beach: Being mostly seaside (and super hot most of the year) Qatar is a great place to explore the gorgeous beaches that stretch along the peninsula. Try Al Maroona and Fuwairit Beach for beautiful views, and Katara Beach for water sports that the entire family will love.
How Safe Is It in Qatar?
If you follow the rules and local customs, traveling in Qatar is relatively safe.
While there are still some reports of pickpockets in certain areas (maybe watch your bags and don’t bring out anything flashy if you’re in a large crowded space) know that Qatar has a low crime rate and you’ll be safe if you stick to the main areas and don’t venture out alone at night.
Travel Insurance Tips for Your Trip:
Travel insurance is always a good idea when going on any type of trip. Get yourself covered (at a super low cost) with the right health insurance in case you get sick or if your belongings get stolen or lost at some point during your trip to Qatar.
Local Eats and Drink
Mouthwatering meat dishes with rice and fresh veggies, fragrant coffee and tea, and spices galore, a visit to Qatar will no doubt be tempting for your tastebuds. Here are some of the top eats and drink to try when visiting Qatar:
- Waraq enab: Traditional stuffed grape leaves that come as a great side dish.
- Machboos: Spiced rice with just about any type of meat (camel, cow, lamb, chicken).
- Kousa Mahsi: Stuffed zucchinis with red sauce.
- Saloona: A stew made with a spicy broth and a bunch of local veggies.
- Karak chai: A strong tea
What Are the Top Apps to Use?
There are some handy apps that will be worth downloading before your trip to Qatar, including:
- Talabat: The nation’s main food delivery app.
- Karwa and Uber: Qatar’s main ride-sharing apps.
- The Entertainer: To get deals for local attractions, spas, and restaurants in Qatar
- Babbel and Duolingo: Great language apps for practicing some basic Arabic phrases for your trip!
How’s the WiFi in Qatar?
Even though the WiFi in Qatar is very fast, we are giving it a 4 out of 5 because lots of websites and searches are blocked with Qatar’s internet. The average internet speed is about 11 Mbps.
What Are the Best Cultural Experiences?
There are so many opportunities to experience Qatari culture and learn a bit of history on your trip. Start your adventure off by booking a once in a lifetime glamping trip to the nearby desert where you can sleep under the stars in a five-star, full-service campground. So you’ll be living just like the bedouins do, but with WiFi.
Your trip to Qatar will most likely start in Doha, which is the perfect place to dip your toe in Qatari local culture. The city’s main market, the Souq Waqif, is the perfect place to people watch and pick up some handicrafts and gorgeously colorful textiles. Save room in your suitcase!
How Long Can I Stay?
At the time of writing, travelers from over 95 countries don’t need to apply for a visa if planning a short visit to Qatar. Travelers from the US, UK, and most of Europe will be given a visa on arrival which will allow them to stay for up to 30 days in the country, with the possibility to renew once to get 30 more days.
You just need to make sure your passport’s valid for at least six months from arrival and show an onward ticket (return ticket or to your next destination) at immigration. Check the Hamad International Airport immigration page for more detailed info.
While Qatar is a new player on the global travel scene, a trip here won’t disappoint. There’s plenty of amazing experiences to be had, food to eat, and things to learn. Arrive with an open mind and be welcomed by the unique sights and sounds of this beautiful region.
Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com