Doha is a fascinating and varied city with old and new, rich and poor, east and west, north and south. People seem to come from all continents - and the shops and restaurants are as varied as that.
Doha is trying to catch up with Dubai and Abu Dhabi, investing oil dollars in trade and service industries. They still have a long way to go. The old city center is a patchwork of 25 year old high-rises, a couple of modern buildings, lots of building sites blocking streets and sidewalks, wasteland turned into parking lots, a couple of forgotten 50 year old two-story shops – and in-between all of that sit all these cute tiny old mosques. There isn’t a lot of street life, except at night in the side streets with old shops and restaurants for the migrant workers.
All in all it makes a great stop-over or get-away destination. For visitors of most countries (over 80) no visa is required. Winter is the most pleasant time of year: nights and mornings are cool and hazy, afternoons are sunny and pleasant.
On arrival, which will most likely be at the Hamad International Airport, make sure to get some cash from an ATM (there is one behind the luggage carousel). If you plan to use the bus, get a Karwa smartcard from the Mowasalat Information Desk near luggage carousel 5 / 6.
So yes, there are buses into town, from about 5AM till 11PM. To the central area take route 109, 747 (to the city bus stand Al Ghanim) or 777 (via the Corniche).
As most flights arrive in the dead of night, you may end up taking a taxi. You'll find them in the taxi pavilion, left of the arrival hall. All taxis are metered. Make sure you have enough Qatari Rial.
In town you get around on foot, but there is an extensive bus network too. Alas it lacks bus lanes, so buses tend to get caught in traffic.
A Metro system is under construction.
Doha is building lots of new and expensive hotels. Finding a mid-range place to stay is more of a challenge. The area bordered by Banks street, the Corniche and Ras Abu Aboud street is the place to look at. Most hotels are on the eastern side of this area, only just within walking distance of the Souk Waqif.
We were pleasantly surprised by the Tourist hotel in Al Aaliya street.
Somewhat dated furniture but good service. Other midrange options to consider are the Doha Dynasty,
the Green Garden, the Golden Ocean and the Mercure Grand.
Eating vegetarian in the Middle East takes you to an Indian restaurant or Lebanese fast food place. It takes some searching, but then you can enjoy delicious hummus, falafel, foul and pita bread. (All of these can make you something vegetarian, even if it isn’t on the menu)
Without a doubt the best restaurant in town is the Saravana Bhavan, a global chain that originated in Chennai. The most authentic South Indian food you can find.
A more basic place is Nasco in Al Muthaf street. It looks rather run down, but the food is good and there's an upstairs family room. The menu has both Indian and local food.
The Halul Cafe on the Corniche is one of the few places where you find local men drinking coffee and smoking the waterpipe. The sea side and the atmosphere make it a great place to sit and maybe have a snack.
South of Souk Waqif, our favorite restaurant is Zaatar w Zeit, a Lebanese semi fast food restaurant, with great outdoor seating.
Down the same walking street are several other possibilities.
The Corniche is a lovely boulevard to walk, stroll, sit and chat. You have views over the port, the water and to the West Bay across the bay.
Souq Waqif is an example how sometimes recreating something old can actually work. The souk has atmosphere and beauty. Some parts are over-commercialized, other parts feel authentic. Next to it is the Falcon market and the Camel market.
The Museum of Islamic Art is an architectural gem. Both on the outside, looking like a pile of stacked white cubes, and the inside, whith the impressive hall and staircase taking center stage.
The National Museum of Qatar is being rebuild. So far it looks very ambitious with futuristic discs and classic amphorae.
The Pearl is one of those new super deluxe residential areas built on an artificial peninsula,
meandering around harbors full of yachts. There are plenty of fancy coffee shops. Easy to get to by bus.
*will be added shortly*
*last update 2018*
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