Forget about malls, tall sky skyscrapers, sunset boat rides, and boardwalks. You can do that anywhere.
Have you ever wondered how it looks when the desert meets the sea? How sand feels in your feet when you walk? How does the sky look in the desert at night?
Wonder no more, go ahead and experience it, as it has never been so easy before. Many countries worldwide are offering free and hassle-free online VISA for a few hours or a few days stopover in their county. QATAR is one of them.
Honestly, I get limited holidays for vacation every year. In 2022, I spent most of my holiday attending my family’s wedding. Same story for the year 2023. But this time me and my husband, Kisan, booked a one-night, two-day stopover at Doha, Qatar, on our way to a family wedding destination in Nepal. This was my first stopover travel experience. Oh boy! Let me tell you, I had been wasting my visit by not adding such epic city stops for so many years.
Give it a try. When you book your next international vacation, look for a stopover in amazing cities around the world. Stopover travels are the best hacks to mark countries off our bucket list in less time and less money. It’s by far the best way to get a taste of a new place, its culture, its landscape, and people that you can cherish for your whole life in just about a day or less.
Have a quick look at my last post here for more details on Stopover and how to add them to your itinerary.
If you have only 24 hours ( 1 day and 1 night) stopover, I would recommend Desert-only tours and stay away from City tours altogether. This will give you enough time to enjoy each activity and relax without any hassle. The city is something that you see all the time. But while in Doha, the Desert is something that you should not miss.
If you really want to experience the city, have at least 2 days in hand.
Suppose your transit is 6 hours and more. In that case, you can turn your stop into an extended holiday by joining a city tour, a desert adventure, or any number of exciting Doha excursions.
You can spend your few precious hours discovering Qatar and exploring its unique Arabian heritage before connecting to your final destination.
With a new visa waiver upon arrival, nationals from more than 80 countries* can now take advantage of visa-free entry into Qatar. Citizens of these countries will not need to apply or pay for a visa. Instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued at the airport upon presenting a valid passport (valid for a minimum of six months) and a confirmed onward or return ticket.
For others, a pre-approved transit visa is needed. We had to apply. It was a relatively easy online application and got approved within just 5 days. You can check the essential links at the bottom of the page to check if the visa is required for you and where to apply.
Due to covid and new restrictions, we recommend that you check the latest information here before booking your flight.
For short stays of 8 hours or 2 days, booking some activity will be best. Most sightseeing tours and safaris have the option of pick-up and dropoff.
If you are staying longer and exploring on your own, taxis are the best option, but they take only cash.
Uber is available but be aware that uber drivers are often threatened from picking up passengers from the airport as airport taxis are owned by the government.
If you want to book a car, there are several branches at Hamad Airport like Hertz, Budget, etc.
A bus network connects Hamad International Airport to various destinations across the city. Bus fare can be paid only with Karwa Smartcard’s available help desk near baggage claim.
Cost: Metered Taxi starting at QAR 25 (7 $) . Transfer time across the city can be 30 minutes on average.
TIP: Get cash when you head out from the airport as you might have to pay in cash for specific activities like quad bikes, taxi rides, etc.
HALF-DAY Desert Safari :
This one-day activity is all you need to experience dessert to the fullest and get enough time to soak in all that vibe of the desert. All these activities below come in almost any Desert Safari package you take, and it is all done in an off-road SUV. These simple packages run from 65$ to 200$. The one we got included everything below from activities 1 to 6 and was 100$ per person.
- Camel Ride:
Also called “Ships of Dessert “, camels have been used for transport in the desert for 1000s of years.
You can ride solo or in a group; either way, it’s just one camel per person. It was about an 8 to 10 minutes ride, but it was fun.
Many people are reluctant to ride on animals, and so am I. I did my own research before the trip and realized that camels are enormous animals and can carry 375 to 600 lbs. Their body is built to support a tough life in harsh desert conditions. The locals also told me that camels tend to make their discomfort known by expressing it. And guides will not let you ride if the camel shows signs of distress. They also don’t use any sticks to hit or control the camel.
The camels we met seemed happy and were getting cozy when we pet them. They even posed with a smile when we took a picture.
2. Flying Raptor in the Arabian Desert:
The feeling that you get when a giant bird of prey lands in your hand just a few inches from your face and stares you right in the eye. Wow! I get goosebumps even when I write about it. You will be given a leather sleeve to put on one of your arms and asked to put it forward. Then, on the guide’s signal, a huge bird will fly over you and land in your arms.
3. Arabic tea behind colorful curtains:
Unwind yourself and relax, soaking in all that 360-degree desert view with a sip of Arabic tea. All those colorful hands-weaved curtains, gold-like embroidery, relaxing chair; right after falcon landed on my hand. I sure felt like a badass Queen.
4. Sand Dune Bashing:
It’s called bashing for definitely for some reason. This bashing is like that fun when you are super drunk in a club filled with a crowd, and fantastic music, and you get all pumped up. Yeah. Something like this but in the desert, with an unknown crazy driver, no music, and no drinks. We laughed, giggled, and screamed when our 4*4 drive luxury car climbed up the high sand mountains and came bashing down. No speed limits, and no stop signs. I sure felt that adrenaline getting triggered all over my body. This is the White water Rafting of not a river but a Desert.
Note: Please check the website and make sure it’s safe for you if you have heart, neck, or back problems or have kinds smaller than 6 years old. The driver will drive you directly to your next destination without bashing.
5. Sand Boarding:
Like snowboarding but in the sand. Mighty sand dunes with varying heights and slopes make it perfect for sliding down and entirely safe for people of all ages. I saw a lot of kids do it as well. There were two kinds of boards, one where you need to put your feet locked in and stand while you slide down. Another is a simpler one, where you sit down and hold the board with your hands. Later one is from slopes with smaller heights.
6. Swimming in the middle of the desert:
Imagine driving in the desert for 2 hours, and all you see are vast infinite sand dunes in all directions. You finally get a glimpse of something shiny far on the ground. It’s not a mirage but an actual body of water. It is an inland sea, Khor Al Adair. Listed for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it said that “There is no comparable lagoon system of this type known anywhere in the world.”
Sand, Sun, and Sea. Stunning views. The water is calm and safe to swim.
This is usually the last stop for most the Desert safari package. After an inland sea visit, you will be dropped off at your choice of location at the airport or hotel.
We had booked a sea-facing luxury tent to spend the night at Regency Sealine Camp. The activities below onwards are not included in the desert safari package. We booked it separately.
7. Quad biking:
Four-wheeled biking over sand dunes. Wild 30 minutes ride in unrestricted terrain and speed with a sunset backdrop. We had these bikes in a place where we stayed, and it cost about $25.
8. Arabic Swag with BBQ, fire camp, Shisha, and Belly Dance:
After all this adventure, relax in front of a fire camp with everyone and enjoy the vacation vibes. Take pictures in Gagegbos lighted like a Christmas tree. Smoke Shisha, eat kebobs, and falafel, drink, and dance to Arabic music. Where we stayed did not have a fire show or belly dance. Make sure to call and check if you are interested. The place where we stayed was perfect in terms of location, but it did not offer night shows.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are several options. With Discover Qatar, you can enjoy a luxurious holiday in a 4 Star, 5 Star, or 5-Star Lux-rated hotel in Qatar for just USD 86 / QAR 313 per person.
But we decided to fully experience desert life, so we chose to get a luxury tent in the desert (also called Bedouin camping ) and live like a Royals for a day. This was a huge tent, almost like a 5-star hotel suite. We stayed at Regency Sealine Camp.
The location was the selling point for us. It was right in the middle of the desert, with total isolation all around. View of the sea on one side and sand dunes on the other. My husband and I strolled for hours, walking barefoot all evening in the desert and soaking in all that setting sun.
Since we booked a few weeks in advance, we got a Royal tent for 350$ a night. It had 1 king bed, and 3 twin beds. Breakfast was included.
TIP 2: Based on where you decide to stay, even if you get a cheaper deal at Booking.com,GetYourGuide.com do check their own website. They have several bundled packages, including a stay along with a desert safari and dinner. We got ours from getyourguide.com, and it turned out to be a few 100 dollars expensive while paying for dinner separately.
TIP 3: If you like particular activities more than others like sandboarding, or quad biking, you can get a package that focuses on these giving you more hours to enjoy. But you will NOT miss out on activities like camel, sand bashing, inland sea visits, etc. Most of the desert package includes such activities.