No matter where you go, respecting local customs and laws is essential. Before you head to Qatar, there are a few things you should know before your first trip to Doha. For that reason, I have put together some practical tips I wish I knew before travelling to Doha. Knowing the following 10 things will help you make a seamless stay in Doha.
1. Extreme temperatures in Doha
Doha is hot as heck, especially during the summer months when temperatures are routinely around 50°C. During my visit in June temperatures were up at 43-47°C and not one cloud in the sky. I come from a cold Nordic country of snow and ice (Finland) where we rarely get to experience temperatures above 30°C, so it was evident that these extreme desert temperatures were way too much for me, even though I love things hot and sunny. In Doha’s hot desert climate sightseeing gets exhausting pretty quickly and you don’t feel like spending any time in the scorching sun.
My strategy to beat the heat was drinking plenty of water and walking under my pink umbrella. I also covered my head with a light scarf and wore white clothing. Hey ho, umbrella on a sunny day? Not even in my wildest dreams did I consider doing this before my visit to Doha. This is what many Asians do on a sunny day and I have always found it super hilarious seeing Asian tourists sightseeing with an umbrella even in my hometown Helsinki. I did feel like an idiot walking around Doha with an umbrella as in my country we only use umbrellas when it is raining… But oh well, I guess I am getting old and didn’t really care what I looked like. And to be honest, it was the best survival hack against the scorching sun after all. And moreover, my pink umbrella makes such a cute and colourful accessory, don’t you agree?!
2. Dress code in Doha
Qatar is a Muslim country and there is a certain expectation on dress code for both Qataris and foreigners. Local Qatari women are seen everywhere wearing abayas and local men wearing long sleeve, ankle-long white thawbs. The general rule for foreigners is to dress modest and not show too much skin in public places. Both men and women are expected to cover shoulders, upper arms and knees at least. Respectful clothing is particularly important during in the holy month of Ramadan. Beachwear and swim suits are for hotel beaches/swimming pools only. I would also recommend having a light long sleeve or a scarf on hand, to use for example when visiting a mosque (to show respect), shopping malls and restaurants (strong air conditioning).
3. Ramadan in Doha
If you travel to Doha during the month of Ramadan, there are a couple of essential things to know. First and foremost, eating and drinking in public places from sun up to sun down is not allowed. Secondly, all shops, supermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants are closed during the day. This adds an extra challenge to sightseeing as food and cold drinks are not easily available. Some hotel restaurants however are open. Furthermore, some restaurants and coffee shops in Doha’s business and expat district of West Bay stay open all day.
4. Alcohol in Doha
Qatar does not allow you to bring any alcohol into the country. Alcohol is not available in regular shops, restaurants or bars, but you can enjoy alcoholic drinks at hotel bars and restaurants, however, it is fairly expensive.
5. Getting around in Doha
Car is king in Doha. The absence of public transport means that getting from one place to another mostly involves jumping in a taxi or Uber. Or renting a car. There is however, a public bus service throughout most neighbourhoods in Doha. I was in Doha for 2 days only and didn’t want to spend my time waiting for local buses, so I mostly used blue Karwa taxis to get around. Taxis are affordable and easy to find particularly nearby hotels and shopping malls. But hailing a taxi on the go may take forever. Walking is not a common mode of transportation in Doha and I cannot recommend getting around on foot since Doha is not very pedestrian-friendly and the hot desert climate is super exhausting.
6. Doha feels like a ghost town during the day
During the day when temperatures reach sky-high, the streets of Doha are empty and there is no single soul in sight. The atmosphere is eerie, and Doha feels like a ghost town. But as soon as the sun goes down in the evening people crawl out of their dens and the city comes alive. Streets, shops, bazaars and restaurants are suddenly teeming with people. In particular, Doha’s waterfront promenade Corniche is a popular place for an evening stroll and outdoor activities.
7. Free 5-star hotel nights in Doha when flying Qatar Airways
When you fly Qatar Airways you can enjoy a visa free stopover up to 96 hours and a complimentary 5-star hotel stay in Doha offered by Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority via their +Qatar stopover programme. This applies to both economy and business class tickets. Read more: How to Book a Free Doha Stopover with a Complimentary 5-Star Hotel when Flying Qatar Airways. If you wish, feel free to take advantage of this 10% discount link for Booking.com.
8. World-class shopping in Doha
Shopaholics will keep happily busy swiping their credit cards in Doha. There are dozens of world-class shopping centres scattered around in Doha, all easily reachable by taxi. Some of the most famous shopping malls in Doha include Villaggio Mall, Hyatt Plaza, Landmark Shopping Mall, Lagoona Mall, City Center, Mirqaab Mall, Mall of Qatar and Doha Festival City.
During my stay in Doha I visited Hyatt Plaza and Villaggio Mall, not for the shopping experience but to take a look around and escape the summer heat. Hyatt Plaza is just an ordinary shopping centre but Villaggio Mall is something a lot more. Villaggio Mall is an Italian wonderland with Venetian-inspired theme. Walking the colourful streets under blue sky and scattered fluffy clouds feels like as if you really are in Venice. You can even take a romantic gondola ride along the grand canal.
9. Record riches in Qatar
In international comparisons Qatar holds the pole position when it comes to GDP per capita, which is mainly thanks to its oil and gas reserves, together with some good investments. In Doha you can surely see that these Sheiks got some cash to splash. Fancy cars, luxury seaside living, high-end shopping and so forth.
Qatar’s wealth, however, is not equally spread. Many Qataris are rich enough not to work at all, while there is a large labour market for immigrants. People from all over the world, especially India, Pakistan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia, come here to work as maids, construction workers, taxi drivers etc.
10. New developments are everywhere in Doha
Doha is a city that is developing at a rapid pace. Many areas of this desert city are currently huge construction sites as new residential areas, business districts, shopping centres, hotels, cultural and sports venues, parks, tourist attractions etc. are being built. Doha is also getting ready to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 for which the country will build 12 eco-friendly stadiums, some of which will be able to host up to 80,000 people. So, having said that Doha is quickly becoming a city that is on everyone’s lips more than ever.
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