Falcons, folklore and pearl-hunting meet stratospheric skyscrapers, five-star hotels and blazing commerce in dynamic Qatar.
Qatar is visa-free for South Africans (and citizens of more than 80 other countries). You don’t have to pay or apply for a visa. Instead, South Africans will be issued 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.

What you’ll need:

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

    Hamad International Airport is the World’s Best Airport for the second year in a row at the SkyTrax Airport Awards 2022, making this an excellent travel hub on your way to almost anywhere in Europe, America or Asia.

    But given the visa waiver, you would be crazy not to take a few days to explore this dynamic city, filled with everything you expect 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 during the day.

    Don’t have enough time?

    When travelling through Qatar, longer transit times are a breath of fresh air. If your transit is 8 hours or more, you can turn your stop into an extended holiday by joining a city tour of Doha, or a desert adventure taking in the incredible Inland Sea. For transit of 3 hours and less, opt for tours and activities within Hamad International Airport.

    The tour includes an English speaking guide. 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

    Temporarily closed

    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.

    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 @flatwhite.qa 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 @flatwhite.qa 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.
    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 @flatwhite.qa 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.

    This article was originally published on 19 August 2017

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