Make the most of a short visit to Doha by booking one of these top-rated Qatar tours. This curated list includes the best Doha city tours, desert tours, and day excursions.
Most people’s first experience of Doha will be similar to mine – a brief glimpse of the city during an extended layover with Qatar Airways.
Even if you have just one day in Doha, you can still experience a good chunk of the highlights, try plenty of local cuisine, and get a good overall taste for Qatar. Doha is big, but the tourist area is quite compact and easy to navigate using public transport.
If you’re on a short stopover (under 36 hours) and want to venture beyond the airport hotel, a city tour is usually a better choice than trying to explore DIY. If it’s summer, a guided excursion is a great way to secure your transportation and minimise your time outside.
If you have a bit longer in Qatar and plan on exploring beyond Doha but you don’t want to hire your own car, a tour is pretty much the only way to go. Guided excursions to the north, west coast and Inland Sea are efficient and affordable.
This curated list of 12 fantastic Doha city tours, desert tours and cultural experiences has something for every traveller.
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Doha cheat sheet
Find cheap flights to Doha: Use Kiwi to find the best price on Doha flights (they’ll even give you a refund if you miss your connection). Remember you may have to book direct through Qatar Airways if you want to take advantage of the free stopover.
Do you need a visa for Qatar? Qatar offers visa-free entry for citizens of more than 80 countries Check to see if you need a Qatar visa on iVisa.
On a short layover? This Doha transit tour starting and ending at the airport is a great way to see the city when you have limited time.
Travel insurance for Qatar: Click here to get a quote from SafetyWing, my preferred insurance provider for long-term travel.
How to get from Doha Airport to the city: Take the newly constructed metro or organise a private hotel transfer (recommended if you’re arriving late at night or early in the morning).
Doha car hire: Keen to explore more of Qatar? Use Discover Cars to find the best price on a rental car in Doha.
5 essentials to pack for Doha: Universal travel adapter;an insulated water bottle and LifeStraw (Qatar is one place you definitely want to stay hydrated!); a travel scarf with hidden pocket (handy for visiting mosques or covering up in the sun); sun protection gear – including a wide-brim hat and sunglasses at a minimum; a copy of the latest Lonely Planet guidebook for Qatar.
Things to consider before you book a Doha excursion
- Religious holidays and festivals. Tour schedules often change if there’s a festival on and during the Holy Month of Ramadam. Keep this in mind when you’re planning your trip.
- Day of the week. Many major attractions in Doha (including the souq and the IAM) are closed every Friday morning for prayers. If your tour falls before 1.30pm on a Friday, these places will probably be excluded from the itinerary.
- Does the price of the tour include entrance fees? If your tour visits a museum, you should double-check to see whether the cost of your ticket is included.
- Group size. If it’s not a private tour, is there a cap on group size?
- Is there hotel pick up, or do we rendezvous at a set location? If pick up and drop off isn’t included, you’ll have to make your own way to the meeting point. Doha is very spread out, so this will probably mean having to take a taxi or the metro.
- Is airport pick up an option? If it is, you can essentially turn any tour into a transit tour – great if you’re on a short layover.
- Can I get a refund if I change my mind? Plans change, things come up. That’s why I always prefer to book through a third-party agent such as Get Your Guide instead of going direct to the tour company. If you need, you can get a full refund provided you give enough notice (usually 24 hours).
Camel riding – is it ethical?
A few of the Qatar desert tours on this list include an option for camel riding. I am always the first person to condemn elephant riding and most forms of animal tourism. But camel riding can be done ethically, provided you do your homework on the company. Here are some great tips and things to look out for.
If you don’t feel comfortable riding a camel but your itinerary includes it, remember you can always request to sit out.
What to bring on your Qatar tour
- A reusable water bottle. Absolutely essential in Qatar for staying hydrated. I love my S’Well water bottle – it’s vacuum insulated to keep water icy cold for the whole day, and it doesn’t sweat.
- Rehydration tablets or sachets. If you’re out dune bashing or hiking, your body will be crying out for electrolytes by the end of your tour (believe me!). I prefer Hydralyte tablets because they come in a handy tube.
- Sun protection gear. Qatar is hot, and the sun is strong even in winter. Pack a wide-brim hat and sunglasses, and remember to cover up with long, light clothing.
- A travel scarf (ladies). Very useful for sun protection or if you end up visiting a mosque or local market. This one is perfect for travel and even has a hidden pocket.
- A sturdy day pack. Pop it all in a day pack and you’re ready for your Qatar tour! I always go for a minimalist backpack when I’m travelling.
Should you tip your tour guide?
Tipping is not mandatory in Qatar, but it is appreciated. If you’re happy with the service your tour guided provides, a tip of 10 percent is considered appropriate.
If you have a driver, it’s a nice gesture to also offer them a small tip of a couple of dollars.
Note that local currency (QAR) is preferred, but tips in USD are also welcomed.
Check out my Doha travel video!
Top-rated Qatar tours: Quick reference
- Best transit tour: 4-hour city tour with airport pick up and drop off
- Best city tour: City tour and dhow boat cruise with Falcon Tours
- Best desert tour: Private dune bashing and Inland Sea excursion
- Best combination tour: 7-hour city tour and desert safari
- Best tour for foodies: Food tour of Souq Waqif
12 best Qatar Tours for Culture, Food & Adventure
These 12 wonderful Doha excursions and Qatar tours are the perfect way to get a deeper look at the Gulf nation in a short period of time.
Best Doha city tours
Doha City Private Tour
If you’re a first-time visitor to Qatar and your priority is to check off the must-sees, this private tour with leading operator Falcon Tours is the way to go.
The tour lasts for 4 hours, and start times are flexible so you can coordinate your pick up with your arrival/departure. The itinerary is paced well, with plenty of time for exploring Souq Waqif and the Museum of Islamic Art. You’ll be accompanied by an expert local guide who can narrate Doha’s history as you walk and drive around the city.
If it fits with your schedule, I recommend taking one of the later time slots so you can end at the Falcon Souq after dark.
City Tour and Dhow Boat Cruise
Also offered by Falcon Tours, this 4-hour tour visits Souq Waqif along with 2 attractions in the northern part of the city: Katara Cultural Centre, and The Pearl. After experiencing Doha’s modern side, you’ll board a traditional dhow boat for a cruise around the harbour.
Transportation and pick up is included, but note that this tour is only available in the afternoon between 2pm and 6pm.
Private Night City Tour
Doha has a totally different feel after dark. If the weather is hot or your flight gets in late, an evening tour of the city can give you a totally unique perspective on the Qatari capital.
This tour by air-conditioned car starts at The Pearl, the ultra-modern man-made island in the city’s north, before continuing to Katara Cultural Village and Souq Waqif. You get a private guide, pick up and drop off, and your choice of departure time between 4pm and 7pm.
Best specialty Qatar tours for history, culture & food
Doha Multi-Museum Cultural Tour
Tailored for travellers who love to immerse themselves in local culture, this morning tour lasts for 4 hours and covers 4 of the city’s top attractions.
First stop is the Museum of Islamic Art, a must-visit in Doha, where you’ll be greeted by a museum guide who will walk you around the exhibits. Next, you’ll visit the Islamic Centre at Al Fanar for an introduction to Qatar’s state religion, followed by a stop at Msheireb Museum to view a set of restored heritage houses.
At the National Museum of Qatar, you can view a vast collection of artefacts and historical objects that piece together the nation’s history.
Katara Cultural Village Tour
This quick 2-hour tour is a perfect introduction to Doha’s main cultural precinct. When we visited Katara Cultural Village, we didn’t really know what to look out for – having a local guide with us would have been extremely helpful. On this walking tour of Katara, you’ll have someone there to point out the main attractions and explain their significance.
You’ll also have time to explore 3 nearby sites: The Pearl, the Porto Arabia Boardwalk and the Marina. Hotel transfers are included in the price.
Food Tour of Souq Waqif & Cultural Tour of Msheireb
Foodies are in for a treat – Doha offers a wonderful mix of international cuisines thanks to its many influences and diverse expat communities. This walking tour of Souq Waqif – arguably the best place to eat in Doha – includes a chance to sample no less than 3 Qatari delicacies.
Walk off some of those calories with a stroll around Msheireb, Doha’s intriguing ‘green city precinct’, before heading back to the market to visit the famous Falcon Souq.
One of the best things about this tour is that it’s limited to small groups. Note that transfers aren’t included (rather, you rendezvous in the souq).
Best Qatar desert tours from Doha
Half-day Private Desert Safari & Inland Sea Tour
With the benefit of a private guide and flexibility to start the tour whenever you want, this 4-hour desert tour is a great choice for couples or families.
The highlight is 2 hours of dune bashing with an experienced driver. Speaking from personal experience, rolling up and down massive dunes is an exhilarating and slightly terrifying experience! You’ll also get to experience a short camel ride around Sealine Beach on the way.
Once you reach the Inland Sea (Khor Al Adaid), you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Qatar’s most iconic natural landscape. You’ll then drive a bit further for a view across the border to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Hotel pick up and drop off are included, as are refreshments.
5-hour Safari, Sandboarding & Inland Sea Tour
This 5-hour tour by Land Cruiser covers a similar itinerary to the tour above, with a stop at Sealine Beach camel station for a short ride before the dune bashing commences. You’ll also get a chance to try sandboarding – essentially sliding down the dunes with your feet strapped to a flat board.
After the adrenaline rush has settled, you’ll visit Khor Al Adaid, then kick back for the 2-hour return drive to Doha.
Sunset Desert Safari with Camel Ride & Sandboarding
Sunset over the dunes – could it get any better?
Featuring a dune bashing session described as ‘goosebump-inducing’, plus a chance to go sandboarding, this tour is definitely for the most adventurous traveller! After the hands-on activities, you’ll be transferred to Khor Al Adaid to watch the sunset. The changing light paints the dunes and water an unreal palette of colours. It’s really an unforgettable experience.
Unlimited water and soft drinks are provided, but alcohol is not permitted.
Best day tours beyond Doha
Zekreet Film City & Desert Sculpture Tour
Located 80km (60 minutes’ drive) from Doha on the country’s western coast, Zekreet isn’t like most Qatari villages. It’s claim to fame isn’t its 18th century fortress, but rather an artificial Arabian village built on the outskirts of town. Film City, as it’s known, was purpose built as a TV set for an Arabic series. It’s since served as a backdrop to several movies and commercials.
On this 4-hour tour departing Doha, you’ll visit the Zekreet Peninsular, tour one of Qatar’s most obscure attractions, and stop off at Brouq Nature Reserve to photograph EAST-WEST / WEST-EAST, a monumental sculpture by American artist Richard Serra (you might have seen his work in the Bilbao Guggenheim in Spain).
Transport is by air-conditioned 4WD; choose from a morning or afternoon departure depending on the season.
Private Tour to the North of Qatar
Northern Qatar is a panorama of rugged desert landscapes and important archaeological sites. If you’re into history, a day trip from Doha to the fortresses and beaches in the north is the perfect excuse to escape the city for a few hours.
This private tour runs for 4.5 hours and packs a lot in. First, you’ll tour the 19th-century Umm Salal Fortress before continuing to the fortress-museum at Al Zubara. The final destination is Ruwais Beach, where you can kick back on the seafront and enjoy a local snack. Before returning to the city, there’s one final stop in the harbour town of Al Khor.
Best Doha transit tour
From Doha Airport: Qatar Transit Tour
While you’re waiting for your next flight, you can take advantage of a transit tour to see a small slice of Qatar. This transit itinerary is available any time between 9.30am and 7pm, so you can time it to fit with your flight schedule and not have to stress about making your plane.
Over 4 hours, you’ll be whisked around some of the city’s top sights by air-conditioned car. The Pearl, Doha’s ultra-modern apartment and office development, is the first stop. Take a stroll through nearby Katara Cultural Village, then spend the rest of your short stay in Qatar exploring the enigmatic Souq Waqif.
Once you’ve had your fill of tea and finished your souvenir shopping, you’ll be dropped back off at the airport in time for your next flight.
Where to stay in Doha
We stayed at Saraya Corniche for 2 nights during our Doha stopover. Our room was comfortable but a little dated – however, we really loved the central location walking distance from the waterfront and souq.
If we had our time again, we would choose either the InterContinental or Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel. The latter is set right in the heart of the souq and features roomier, more luxe suites than Saraya.
If you’re on a shorter layover and you prefer to stay near the airport, Oryx Transit Hotel is the top choice.
Which of these Qatar tours takes your fancy?