Qatar is Now Visa-Free: Discover Beautiful Doha

Falcons, folklore and pearl-hunting meet stratospheric skyscrapers, five-star hotels and blazing commerce in dynamic Qatar.
As of last week, Qatar is visa-free for South Africans (and citizens of more than 80 other countries). You no longer need to pay or apply for a visa. Instead South Africans will be issued with a 30 day visa-waiver at their port of entry into Qatar. This waiver allows the holder to spend up to 30 days in Qatar, either on a single trip or on multiple trips. You can also apply to have it extended for a further 30 days.

Header image courtesy of @javz_ via Instagram

What you’ll need:

  • a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months
  • a confirmed onward or return ticket

Good to know

Doha’s fantastic Hamad International Airport garnered 6th place in the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards, making this an excellent travel hub on your way to almost anywhere in Europe, America or Asia.

But given the new visa-waiver you would be crazy not to take a few days to explore this dynamic city, filled with everything you expected and more.

Find amazing flights to Doha here.

When is the best time to visit?

Summer (June to September) is high-season and temperatures hover around 40°C, sometimes spiking to an eye-watering 50°C! Air-conditioning comes standard, but spring (March to May) is a great time to visit with temperatures a little milder. Winters (December to February) are mild with temperatures averaging around 23°C in the day.

Don’t have enough time?

Qatar Airways offers a complimentary Doha city tour to passengers with between 5 and 12 hours before their next flight.

Tours are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The tour lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes and takes in Doha’s iconic sights such as Dhow harbour, Museum of Islamic Art and the Corniche with a visit to the Katara Cultural Village, The Pearl-Qatar, and Souq Waqif.

The tour includes an English speaking guide and a free mineral water. Arabic is the official language in Qatar but with so many expats you’ll find English widely spoken.

Amazing things to see and do in Doha

Take an insta-pic under the arches at the beautiful Museum of Islamic Art

The museum has free admission and is home to a collection spanning 1400 years. Taking a walk around the adjacent MIA park is also a must as it boasts the best views of the skyline in the city. The museum is currently hosting an exhibition showcasing motifs and artisans from Turkey, Iran and India.
Closed on Tuesdays. Free Wifi and no admission fee.

Find the heartbeat of the city at Souq Waqif

Image courtesy of @hinnaqazi via Instagram

There has been a souq on this spot longer than anyone can remember, its current incarnation is a series of beautifully recreated and restored traditional Qatari buildings. This is a wonderful spot for a wander, explore the market stalls and grab a bite to eat. The Falcon souq is a must-visit, especially on Thursday evenings when you’ll catch a glimpse of Qatari culture with Qatari patrons and shopkeepers discussing the birds. If you ask nicely you may be allowed to take a peek at the specialised falcon hospital. Souq Waqif is the perfect way to get to know this dynamic city. Souq Al Wakrah-Qatar by the sea is another great spot to visit.

Image courtesy of @life_is_beautifullllll via Instagram

Image courtesy of @visitqatar via Instagram

Experience the historical Qatari culture at Katara Cultural Village

Image courtesy of @wanderlust_travelling_3/ via Instagram

The village showcases historically-accurate Qatari architecture and is a business centre and cultural space with an amphitheater. Katara beach offers fun summer promotions like specials on jet-ski rides.

Image courtesy of @kataraqatar via Instagram

Take a dip in the big blue Persian Gulf

Image courtesy of @visitqatar via Instagram

563 km of coastline means there are many beaches to enjoy. Picnic, swim or jet-ski, just remember to respect the modest dress code especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

Image courtesy of @buenaphotos via @visitqatar via Instagram

Get to know Doha’s hip coffee culture

Image courtesy of via Instagram

Aptly named Flat White, this cool coffee spot is run by two caffeine enthusiasts aiming to take specialty coffee in Qatar to another level.
Opening Hours: Sat-Wed 7 am -11 pm Thu-Fri 7 am – 11:30 pm

Unit 346, 27 La Croisette, Porto Arabia, The Pearl, Qatar
(+974) 4029 1965

Image courtesy of via Instagram

Splurge on a spa and pool day at the 5-star hotel the Torch, Doha

Image courtesy of @thetorchdoha via Instagram

Also known as Aspire Tower this 300 metre tall skyscraper hotel has a fantastic Saturday special where you can check in to your own Deluxe Room, enjoy full access to the sky-high swimming pool, sauna and steam room for R1636 (450 Qatari Rial). The special also entitles you to getting a 25% discount in their restaurants.

Image courtesy of @thetorchdoha via Instagram

The many 5-star hotels that grace Doha’s skyline are a monument to Qatar’s recent history and stratospheric economic rise. Qatar boasts the highest per capita income on the world and correspondingly is a playground to wealthy elites with many elaborate shopping malls. Look a bit closer and you’ll be entranced by Qatar’s contradictions.

Grab a cold-pressed juice at Qatar’s 100% vegan café Evergreen Organics

Image courtesy of via Instagram

For traditional middle-eastern food there are numerous restaurants at Souq Waqif offering up a plethora of dishes from the region and elsewhere but dynamic Doha also has exciting restaurant developments such as the recently-opened Evergreen Organics. The café focuses on health and nutrition and is a lovely oasis in the city.
Modern meets ancient in this middle-eastern hub. We’d love to hear your thoughts on dynamic Doha in the comments below.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Awesome post! Thanks for sharing! Indeed QATAR is a very beautiful place and definitely a must to visit.

  2. I forgot to mention:
    “Qatar Airways offers a complimentary Doha city tour to passengers with between 5 and 12 hours before their next flight.”
    Our next flight is after 7 hours

  3. I am South African, leaving on 20th September, from Johannesburg, and has a 7 hour layover at Hamad International airport (to Thailand). Our arrival time is 11.30 pm. will there be a free tour to tourist destinations that time of the night, as we will depart at 6h30 am thenext morning.

    • Hi Linda,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      For this you will need to contact the airline direct to see if this is an optional extra they offer on the side.

      Their contact details are:

      Qatar Airways: 011 267 7700 or 0861 861 868

  4. Hi ,our group of 5 want to travel on Qatar airlines from Durban to Phuket during mid December 2017 .how do we qualify for a complementary stay and transfers on a layover in Doha ? Kindly advise .we are 3 students and 2 parents and are on a budget

    • Hi Fatima,

      Great to hear from you.

      You welcome to contact our call center on 0214684300 and speak to one of our agents. Please provide them with your Travelstart booking reference, this way they will have access to your booking and be able to assist.

      If you have booked directly with the airline I’m afraid we will not have access to your booking and you will need to contact the airline direct. They will be able to see if you qualify. A couple of things in order to qualify is:

      Your layover needs to be more then 8 hours and if it is there should not have been an earlier Qatar flight which you could have flown on, you need to be booked in a certain booking class (if you have purchased a discounted ticket) usually one does not qualify and the neutral unit of currency needs to be a certain amount, the airline can calculate this for you.

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