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Doha Things To Do & Travel Guide (Perfect for a Stopover!)

On a peninsula in the Persian Gulf sits the small nation of Qatar. Its capital city, Doha, rises up as a shimmering wall along the cost. In this post, we’ll help you plan a trip to this Middle Eastern capital. Whether you are planning a Doha vacation or you’re just adding a short stopover, we’ll explain what Doha is like, where to stay, what to do, and more. Keep reading to learn more about Doha, Qatar!

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Meet Doha, Qatar

Doha is the capital and largest city in Qatar. The small nation is located in the Middle East on a peninsula along the Persian Gulf. (Fun fact, “Al Jazeera” actually means “the peninsula” and the news network was named after Qatar’s peninsula.) It shares a land border only with Saudi Arabia to the southwest, but it’s close by way of sea to both Bahrain and United Arab Emirates.

The city of Doha feels very new and modern — because it is. Doha was founded in the 1820s after it split off from a slightly more historical city built a few hundred years before. Oil was discovered in the 1950s which triggered an economic boom for Qatar, and the city of Doha expanded rapidly in size and population. In 1971, Qatar declared their independence from the British and Doha was named the capital.

In the early 2000s, Doha started to enter the global stage. It began hosting major sporting events and conferences, and tourism started to steadily increase. That culminated in 2010 when it was announced that Doha would host the 2022 World Cup. This trigged a massive surge in construction and tourism to the tune of $220 billion (with a B), making Doha one of the fastest growing hospitality markets in the world.

In 2022, Qatar welcomed 2.53 million tourists, nearly all of which arrived in Doha. That was almost 4x higher than 2021 (thanks in large part to the World Cup), but still shy of its peak year for tourism which came in 2016 and saw 2.94 million (source). For comparison, nearby Dubai welcomed 14 million tourists in 2022.

Qatar is not free from controversy. In 2017, several Middle Eastern countries cut ties with the Qatar over their alleged support of terrorism. The blockade halted the economy and tourism until it was lifted 2021. The country also received great criticism for their labor practices and anti-LGBT policies (among other things) during the World Cup.

What is Doha like?

Because Doha was built up so recently, everything is very new and modern. Even the things that look old or traditional are new. It’s very curated and planned out, and that results in a beautiful city that is pretty easy to get around.

Most of Doha’s tourism is centered around the corniche, the land that borders a small bay of the Persian Gulf. The north end of the corniche is the main business district and is home to the tallest buildings in Doha’s skyline. The south end is more touristy with the main concentration of museums, markets and shopping malls. There are clusters of hotels on either end.

Qatar experiences a desert climate, so it gets really hot during the day. Many of the city’s top attractions are indoors and include things like museums and shopping malls. Outdoor attractions, like the corniche and souks, tend to be most popular in the evening when the sun sets and it cools down.

The state religion in Qatar is Muslim, as is most of the population. People tend to dress very conservatively here. You’ll see lots of men and women in traditional dress, and it’s not uncommon to see dress codes in public places like malls, museums and beaches.

Muslims do not drink alcohol, so you’ll find that many restaurants don’t serve it. There are of course bars and restaurants that do, but many of these establishments are located in hotels where foreiners tend to congregate. Coffee shops, malls/markets and hookah bars are instead central to the muslim social scene and night life.

Overall, I would say that Doha feels like Dubai’s younger sibling. While Doha is smaller and less popular than Dubai now, they share a similar story of concentrated wealth and rapid growth in the Middle East. If Doha continues this trajectory, I believe it will become a tourist hot spot in the next ten years.

Plan your visit to Doha

Here are a few things to consider before you book your trip to Doha. In this section we’ll cover Visa requirements, where to stay, how long to stay, when to go and what to wear.

Doha visa requirements

Qatar offers tourist visas on arrival to travelers from over 95 countries, including the US and most of Europe. You can view the full list of countries here.

To receive your VOA, you will need a passport valid for at least 6 more months and an onward ticket exiting the country. There are no additional fees or steps required.

NOTE: Visitors from Thailand, India, Iran, Pakistan and Ukraine must also have a hotel booked through the Discover Qatar website.

Where to stay in Doha

There are three primary areas to consider for tourists in Doha, two around the corniche and The Pearl island.

Many of the best ultra-luxury hotels are located on Doha’s manmade island, The Pearl. Similar to Dubai’s The Palm, this island was constructed as a luxury residential and commercial destination. On and around The Pearl you’ll find 5-star hotels including St. Regis, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Hyatt and the Four Seasons.

For a wider selection of hotels, look to the West Bay area which is north of the corniche. West Bay Doha is the central business district, and has a high concentration of skyscrapers including hotels and office buildings. There are plenty of 5-star hotels here too, including the Waldorf Astoria, JW Marriott Marquis and Sheraton Grand, but also a handful of more approachable options like the Crowne Plaza, Mövenpick and Hilton.

And lastly, there is Msheireb Downtown Doha and the area south of the corniche. This neighborhood is closest to the airport and home to some of the most popular tourist attractions including Souq Waqif and the main museums. There are several nice hotels to choose from including Park Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental and one of the most highly rated, Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels.

We personally stayed at the Alwadi Hotel Doha – MGallery. We really enjoyed our stay and would definitely recommend it. Our room was nice and had a great view of the water and downtown, plus it was close enough to walk to Souq Waqif nightly. The hotel had a rooftop bar with an even better view, a few restaurants and rooftop pool, with a kids pool. It was also close to the train, so it was easy to get around town and to the airport.

How long to stay in Doha

We had a great visit to Doha, but you definitely don’t need that much time here. One full day in Doha is all you really need, but two days is nice. Two days in Doha is the perfect amount of time to see a few museums, enjoy the souk, and walk the corniche.

You may want to add a third day if you want to plan a beach day, theme park, or take an excursion to another city in Qatar. The only reason you’d want or need to stay more than three days is if you’re planning a resort stay. If you’re looking to post up in a fancy resort, of course stay as long as necessary.

Personally, we’d suggest two days with either two or three nights, depending on your flight schedule.

When to go to Doha

Doha is hot all year and really hot in the summer. The average high is over 100°F from April through September with lows in the 70s and 80s. Winter is milder, but still sees highs in the 70s and 80s.

Doha is used to the heat, so most of the best things to do are indoors or are best experienced in the evening. For that reason, I would stay that there’s no time that you should rule out completely simply due to weather.

More importantly to planning is Ramadan, since Qatar is a Muslim country. Even if you are not a practicing Muslim, this can impact your experience as a tourist. Most notably, in Qatar it is illegal to eat or drink in public between sunup and sundown during Ramadan.

While you are not required to fast, you will find that most restaurants and cafes are closed during the day. Your only food options will be grocery stores, a handful or restaurants that offer takeaway, or some hotel restaurants that serve in an isolated room. Ramadan will also impact the hours for public transportation, museums and more. I’d recommend checking out this guide for a detailed look at what Doha is like during Ramadan.

And lastly, its important to note that weekends in Doha are Fridays and Saturdays — not Saturdays and Sundays. Fridays might be more bustling than you think at your hotel and the beaches, while Sundays will be busier downtown and in West Bay.

All that said, the best time to visit Doha is probably the winter between November and March, as long as that doesn’t overlap with Ramadan.

What to wear in Doha

Doha is a modern city and is more liberal than other parts of the Middle East, but it’s still located within a Muslim country that tends to err on the conservative side.

Around Doha you’ll find Qatari nationals and many tourists from nearby Gulf Countries, so there is a very high concentration of Muslims. As you’d expect, many of the men and women in Doha wear full-length robes, with women wearing hijabs or full face veils.

Non-Muslim tourists are not required to meet this dress code entirely at all times, but they should be sensitive to it and it sometimes there are actual rules and dress codes.

In public places, both men and women should keep their knees, shoulders and upper arms covered. Men should wear jeans or trousers with short sleeves, polos, or light button-up shirts. Women should wear pants or capris, long dresses or skirts, and shirts that are short-sleeve or longer. Tourists should not feel obligated to cover their head.

Many of the museums and shopping malls in Qatar have a dress code. Short dresses, tank tops, crop tops and shorts are not allowed. You may be denied entry if you are not properly dressed.

Personally, I wore the following outfits during my visit and felt comfortable (socially and physically).

  • Maxi skirt and long sleeve shirt or t-shirt
  • Sleeveless maxi dress over a t-shirt or under a jean jacket
  • T-shirt and jeans

As far as swimwear goes, it depends where you’re swimming. Public beaches in Doha have a dress code, and bikinis and typical one-piece swimsuits are not allowed. At minimum, all genders must wear long board shorts and a short sleeve shirt or rash guard. At private beaches and hotel pools, you can typically wear whatever you like.

Lastly, these rules also typically don’t apply to private places, like hotel restaurants and bars. In these areas, you can usually wear whatever you like.

Doha stopover program

One convenient way to add Doha to your travel plans is with a stopover. It’s actually perfect for that because you really only need a day or two to see and experience Doha.

What is a Doha stopover

Think of a stopover as a long layover. A stopover allows you to leave the airport and explore Doha for 12 hours to 4 days in the middle of your trip without booking separate flights. Basically you can have two destinations instead of one, for roughly the same price.

Let’s say you’re flying from New York to Delhi. You could book through a US or Indian airline and fly direct. Alternatively, you can book through Qatar Airlines and connect in Doha. You can then spend a few days in Doha on your way there or your way back, without spending extra money on your flight.

TIP: If you are traveling transatlantic and like the idea of a stopover, be sure to look into visiting Iceland! They basically invented the stopover and its credited for Iceland’s massive tourism boom.

How to book a Doha stopover

The Doha stopover program is run by Qatar Airways, the flag carrier and government run airline of Qatar that is based out of Doha. You will need to book a stopover directly through the airline and the package includes flights and hotel.

Start by navigating to the Doha stopover booking page. Enter your departure airport and then your final destination — don’t include Doha. Then note how many days you’d like to spend in Doha. Depending on your route, I’d suggest 2 or 3. You’ll also have to select whether you want to stop in Doha on your way there or your way back.

Once you’ve entered all the info, you’ll be presented with flight options for the three legs of your trip, including the stopover in Doha. Unless you happen to luck into a Fifth Freedom route, you will also likely connect through Doha even on the leg that doesn’t include the stopover.

The cost of the flight with the stopover should be the same as booking two regular connecting flights. There will be an additional cost for your hotel, which is required for the stopover package. Passengers flying from select countries including most of Europe (full list available here) can book their hotel at the same time as their flight. Travelers from all other countries including the US, will have to book their flight first and then add their hotel after.

Here is a look at the hotel prices available with the Qatar stopover program.

NOTE: If your stopover is less than 24 hours, you will not be able to retrieve and access your checked bag during that time, so everything you need will need to be in your carry-on.

Getting to and getting around Doha

The best thing about a newly developed city like Doha is that it usually has a pretty good train system. That’s definitely the case in Doha. Here’s a look at how to get to Doha from the airport and then how to move around the city center.

How to get to Doha from the airport

Hamad International Airport (DOH) is located on the southeast side of Doha along the water. It’s easy to get from the airport to central Doha via a variety of transit options.

The fastest way to get to downtown Doha from the airport is by car. Uber is available in Doha or there is a traditional taxi stand at the airport. (Don’t forget you’ll need to either connect to the airport free wifi or use cellular data to use Uber.) A cab or rideshare from DOH to city center will cost about 50 QAR ($14 USD) and take about 20 minutes.

The cheapest way to get from DOH to downtown Doha is to take the Metro. From the arrivals area, follow posted signs to the Metro. It is a pretty long walk, about 10-15 minutes, but it’s all indoors.

You can buy your ticket from the kiosk at the station, and there is often an attendant there to help you out. They don’t sell point-to-point tickets, so the best bet is to buy a standard day pass for 6 QAR.

Enter the station and then follow signs to the Red Line toward Lusail. The train to city center is 15 – 25 minutes, depending on where you are going.

Getting around Doha

There are several easy ways to get around central and downtown Doha.

Doha Metro

The Doha Metro is a convenient way to get around Doha. You can full the full Metro map here. The metro opened in 2019, so all of the stations and trains are new and clean. They’re also very well staffed with attendants who can help answer questions or point you in the right direction.

A day pass for unlimited rides on the metro costs 6 QAR and you can purchase them at kiosks at every station. You need to tap your pass every time you enter and leave a station. Also take note of the car you enter. On each train there is a Gold Car, which requires a more expensive ticket, and a family car for families traveling together, women and children.

The Doha Metro typically operates Saturday through Wednesday from 6 AM to 11 PM, Thursday from 6 AM to midnight, and Friday from 2 PM to midnight. The most notable thing here is that they don’t operate on Friday mornings, which might be unexpected for non-Muslim travelers.

Doha tram service

A few regions of Doha are also connected by tram. There is a point-to-point tram route in Lusail, which is north of The Pearl, and a loop route around Msheireb Downtown Doha. The later is most practical for tourists.

The downtown Doha tram is free to ride and runs from 10 AM to 10 PM Saturday to Thursday, and 2 PM to 10 PM on Friday. Trams run every 15 minutes during most of the day, but jump up to every 6 minutes during peak hours between 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM.

The Lusail tram operates on roughly the same schedule as the Metro and uses the same fare card system and pricing.

Rideshare or Taxi

If you’re traveling somewhere that is not close to a train or tram station, have a lot of luggage or are simply in a hurry, you may want to take a car. Uber is available in Doha and standard taxis are regularly available and trustworthy.

Walking in Doha

Most of Doha is very walkable. Downtown Doha has some pedestrian only areas in addition to great sidewalk coverage, and there is a walkway around the corniche that is pedestrian only as well. There are walk signals at nearly every light, and there’s also some underground tunnels where pedestrians can safely bypass major intersections entirely.

The only problem with walking in Doha is that it’s really hot and there’s not a ton of shade. You can walk places, it’s just not super pleasant midday. So you’ll probably want to take public transportation or cars to get around during the day, and then walk more in the evening when it cools off.

Things to do in Doha

Here’s a list of some of the best and most popular things to do in Doha, Qatar. The items noted with an asterisk (*) are the very best attractions that you should prioritize if you are short on time. In the next section, we’ll help you string these things together into a sample itinerary.

Museums & Mosques in Doha

  • National Museum of Qatar*: This museum opened in 2019 and is located inside a stunning building that was built around a former palace. The museum explores Qatar’s national history, from prehistoric times through the blockade that ended in 2021. It also has some great exhibits for kids. (Hours: Saturday through Thursday 9 AM – 7 PM, Friday 1:30 to 7 PM | Cost: QAR 100)
  • Museum of Islamic Art*: This is an art museum that showcases (you guessed it) Islamic art dating back 1,400 years. There are lots of cool works inside, including many ancient and beautiful Qurans, textiles, jewelry, weapons, and of course paintings. (Hours: Saturday through Thursday 9 AM – 7 PM, Friday 1:30 to 7 PM | Cost: QAR 100)
  • Museum of Illusions: Here you’ll find a collection of optical and physical illusions that you can interact with and take photos with. It’s not a traditional museum, but it’s popular with kids and families. (Hours: Saturday through Thursday 9 AM – 10 PM, Friday 1 to 10 PM. Cost: QAR 80)
  • Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque: Non-Muslim tourists are welcome to visit the state grand mosque in Doha. The mosque is the largest in Qatar, and showcases 93 beautiful domes and marble floors. (Hours: Saturday through Thursday 9 AM – 7 PM, Friday 2 to 7 PM | Cost: free)
  • Katara Mosque: This mosque is smaller than the grand mosque, but also completely different in style. It has a colorful blue and gold facade with intricate patterns. It’s free to enter and walk around. The Gold Mosque is also nearby.

NOTE: These museums have a dress code, so be sure you cover your shoulders and knees. At the grand mosque, women will be provided an abaya to wear free of charge.

Doha neighborhoods & markets to explore

  • Souk Waqif*: This is the main souk, or market, in Doha. The main strip is lined with restaurants, cafes and large souvenir shops, while the smaller windy market lanes sell everything from clothing to housewares to birds. There’s also a large open square with lots of seating and fun things for kids like a small train and animal rides. The souk is most popular as the sun sets and into the evening.
  • Msheireb Downtown Doha: This area has lots of hotels, great coffee shops (% ARABICA is our favorite) and restaurants. There’s also a mosque, shopping mall, Msheireb Museums and shaded town square to keep you busy.
  • Corniche*: This is a pedestrian pathway the follows a crescent shaped inlet of the Persian Gulf. There are a few different parks and statues, including the iconic Pearl statue (not to be confused with The Pearl island) along the way. Most importantly, it has great views of the skyline. It gets really hot during the day, but it’s great for an evening walk.
  • The Pearl: Similar to Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, The Pearl is a man-made island that is home to high-end residences and luxury hotels. There are several beaches, many of which are private, as well as shops and restaurants. Check out this post for a great guide to exploring The Pearl even if you’re not staying there.

Malls & Amusement Parks

  • Villagio Mall: Did you even go to the Middle East if you didn’t go to an elaborate themed mall? This one is Venetian themed, complete with an indoor Gondola. It also has an indoor ice skating rink, amusement park, and of course a wide array of stores and dining.
  • City Center Mall: This is the main mall in West Bay. It’s a massive shopping complex that also has a large inflated kids play area, arcade, movie theater, and more. If you’re interested in malls, you might also want to check out of Mall of Qatar, which is a bit further but is the largest mall in Qatar.
  • Quest: Doha Quest is an indoor amusement park that has real and virtual rides and attractions for kids and adults. There are several roller coasters and drop rides, kiddie rides and arcade games, plus some food and beverage options for purchase.
  • Lusail Winter Wonderland: This is a seasonal outdoor amusement park in Lusail, north of Doha. It includes rides, character greetings (including Cocomelon), ice skating and more. It is typically held from November to March. You can learn more and buy tickets here.

Beaches & Parks in Doha

  • Aspire Park: This park is a bit of a hike from the corniche and downtown Doha, but if you’re craving green this is where you need to be. It has lots of open space, green grass, and some shade trees. There’s a large lake with a bridge that has fountains over it, which is a popular place for kids to run around and get wet.
  • Katara Beach: This is the most popular beach for tourists in Doha due to its central location between The Pearl and West Bay. There is a small fee to enter (10 QAR), and other activities such as boating and standup paddle boarding are available for an added cost.
  • Al Safliya Island: This is a small uninhabited island just off the cost of Doha. There are no stores or restaurants, but it’s perfect for a serene beach experience with skyline views. To get there, you’ll need to take a boat from either The Pearl or the corniche.
  • MIA Park: This large park is located on the south end of the corniche near the Museum of Islamic Art. It’s mostly open green space, with several walking paths. The highlight of this particular park is the large children’s playground and great views of the skyline.

Sample Itinerary

We spent two days and three nights in Doha. It wasn’t technically a stopover because we booked two separate tickets (one in Qatar Economy and one in Qatar Qsuites), but we did stop in Qatar as a break between Delhi and New York City.

Below is a sample itinerary modeled mostly after our actual trip. It’s a good example of how you can schedule two days in Doha.

Arrival day

  • Doha Metro from Hamad International Airport to our hotel (Alwadi Hotel Doha – MGallery)
  • Evening stroll through Souq Waqif
  • Dinner at Alnema Cafe in the souq (famous for their chapati)

Day 1

  • Coffee from % ARABICA
  • Walked from our hotel to the Museum of Islamic Art
  • Visited the Pearl statue for some photos
  • Lunch at Anis
  • Spent the afternoon swimming at our hotel.
  • Walked to dinner at The Rice And The Noodle Doha (though if you eat meat, you should go to Usta Turkish Kebap & Doner)
  • Enjoyed another evening walk around Souq Waqif

Day 2

  • Coffee from NOMAD Coffee
  • Took the Dubai Metro to National Museum of Qatar
  • Lunch at Thalatheen
  • Metro to Villagio Mall
  • Spent the afternoon at Gondolania (the amusement park inside the mall)
  • Dinner at Nourlaya
  • Final stroll through Souq Waqif
The cafe inside the museum has a great skyline view … and also yummy smoothies!

Departure Day

Our flight was early, so we left our hotel at 6 AM after our third and final night.

Is Doha worth visiting?

Doha is easily overlooked. The stop in Doha is simply a toll people pay in order to fly Qatar Airways between two other points. Doha is trying to change that — particularly in light of the World Cup. (Though to be honest, they got as much bad press from that as they did good.)

The Qatar Airways stopover program has definitely helped with that goal. But based on how few people got off our plane in Doha, it feels like not many people are taking advantage of it. Which leaves one wondering … is Doha worth visiting?

The short answer? Yes, Doha is worth visiting on a stopover, but I would not plan a trip to Doha as my only destination.

If you have a chance to add a stopover in Doha, it’s worth visiting for at least one full day. I say that mostly because the city is so easy to get around. It isn’t difficult or expensive to add a stop here, and I think it has enough to enjoy that it’s worth the small amount of effort to experience it for a day.

If you can see one of the two main museums, explore Souq Waqif, and take an evening skyline stroll along the corniche, I think that is a day well spent. If you’ve already flown Emirates and been to Dubai, flying Qatar Airways and seeing Doha is a great way to experience a different city in the Middle East.

Doha isn’t a must-visit city (yet) and it’s easy to feel like the city lacks a culture and history, but it’s a nice place to be. It’s pretty, it has some interesting things to see, and it’s easy to get around. For that reason, I’d say Doha is worth visiting for a day or two on a stopover. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to come here again, but I’m glad I was able to experience it while I was here.


Friday 23rd of June 2023

hey,Emily & Kenny How lovely! You both look GREAT together Seems like you both are made for each have written great article .