Qatar may be a small country, but it has big ambitions for tourism. It hosted the football World Cup at the end of 2022, and the long term aim is to welcome 6 million visitors by 2030. If you are planning to visit Qatar, what can you expect and what do you need to know? And what is there to see and do?
Qatar Prepares For Tourism
When I visited Qatar in 2012, tourism seemed very much like a work in progress. On a trip to the north of the country my guide kept saying things like, “it is closed for redevelopment”, or “it is the biggest airport in the world, but not finished yet,” and so on… And I was disappointed to find that the award winning heritage museum in Doha was now a building site, presumably due to emerge from the rubble bigger and better than before.
Back then most of the visitors to Qatar were business trippers, expat workers, or visiting friends and relatives. It was also favoured by American service personnel taking short breaks from Afghanistan. However, even in 2012 attempts were being made to boost tourism by building hotel complexes along the coast. And recent developments will make it a much more welcoming place for tourists.
New Tourist Developments For 2022
The aim is now to open 105 new hotels and apartments (both luxury developments and more budget-conscious establishments) before the start of the World Cup.
A welcome development since my visit is the new metro system (opened in 2019), making it much easier to get around. It is also now possible to use Uber in Qatar, and a fleet of electric scooters and bicycles is planned.
An added incentive to your visit is that in 2021 Qatar was ranked the third safest country in the world!
What To See And Do In Qatar
Although Qatar is small (comparable in size to Northern Ireland or the island of Jamaica), it manages to combine a range of tourist attractions, both in Doha and elsewhere. You can enjoy traditional Arabic culture, modern buildings and facilities, museums and restaurants. There is a surprising amount of wildlife and – of course – desert adventures. And a range of activities for families.
The country is dominated by Doha, its capital city. Many of the tourist attractions and hotels are along the Corniche, the 7 km waterfront promenade where you can stroll and watch the dhows (traditional fishing boats). Elsewhere in the city you can visit the Souq Waqif, which manages to combine traditional shopping with a cosmopolitan feeling restaurant area.
A highlight of my visit was the Museum of Islamic Art. Other museums in Doha include the National Museum of Qatar (exploring the country’s history and heritage) and the galleries of the Katara Cultural Village. And there are lots of options for eating out in Doha.
It is worth either hiring a car or taking a tour to explore outside the city. I took a half day trip and enjoyed some forts, an old mosque and lunch in a remote fishing village. We even had an unscheduled stop to a camel farm!
One site not to miss is Al Zubarah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site around 100 km from Doha. In the 18th century it was a walled coastal town, and the archaeological site includes remains of its streets and houses. However the main attraction is the 20th century Al Zubarah fort, the best preserved fort in Qatar. It has a museum and plenty of space to explore.
Practical Information For Your Visit To Qatar
The visa requirements depend upon where you live and the length and purpose of your stay. For many visitors a short leisure trip will not require any pre-authorisation and a visa waiver can be obtained on arrival. Have a look at the Qatar government site for details.
If you do need a visa you can apply for a Qatar eVisa on this website. The online application process is very easy and straightforward. Fill the online application form by providing your basic details like name, passport number, nationality, etc. Your entry permit will be delivered to your email address after 2-3 days of applying.
Flights To Qatar
Wherever you live it is easy to fly to Qatar (it is estimated that 80% of the world’s population can reach Doha within a six hour flight). The national airline, Qatar Airways, flies to destinations across the world, making it an ideal place for a stopover.
Hotels In Doha
The luxurious Banyan Tree and the Pullman Doha West Bay are both new for 2021. However more mid-market options are available – options rated well on TripAdvisor include the Millennium Hotel Doha and the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels.