When I was going on my second trip to Asia, I had the chance to visit Qatar. The plans were not to fly to Qatar, but we were lucky to find the cheapest tickets to Thailand just through this unexplored country, where we have to wait 20 hours in Doha before our next flight!
We decided to buy tickets and walk around the capital of Qatar, which is Doha. Since, I knew absolutely nothing about this Muslim country, I decided that we’ll figure it out where to go and what to see when we arrive. Since in August 2017 Ukraine and Qatar signed an agreement on a visa-free regime (I found out about this a bit later when tickets already were bought).
Visa to Qatar for Ukraine
So, Qatar Airways tickets were bought, and the only thing was to figure out about visas. There was some information about the visa for Ukrainians, but it was a bit unclear! Also, we found that there are several types of visas:
- Tourist Visa (free for 80 countries, for the rest the cost is 100 riyal = $27.5, can be issued online);
- Transit Visa (free of charge, issued online);
- Tourist Visa Upon Arrival;
- And a couple other types of visas for some countries
So, this information led us astray which exact kind of visa we need, and if it is required at all! In addition, you can only apply for an online visa no later than 7 days before your flight. Just before departure we decided to let everything go…
Believe it or not, but everything is connected! While we were flying from Istanbul to Doha, we met a lovely stewardess from Ukraine, and she told us that Ukrainians do not need a visa to Qatar! So, we will get a stamp upon arrival and we can stay 30 days in the country.
UPDATE: We have a visa-free regime, started from November 2, 2018! As a result, you can travel all around Qatar up to 90 days! 🙂
Doha Airport looks like it is a spaceship
Our plane arrived around midnight, and we decided to stay overnight right at the airport.
Doha Airport was incredibly huge and a bit confusing! You can use the high-speed unmanned train and quickly move from one end of the airport to the other.
We had a lot of time until morning, therefore, having settled down comfortably on soft benches, we plunged into the “Kingdom of Morpheus“, and one of us decided to check the Internet. The access to the World Wide Web is password protected at most airports. You can get the right password either through SMS confirmation code, or using the code from the boarding pass.
Doha Public Transportation
The main part of the attractions of any city is most often located in the center, so we decided to go there.
There are a huge number of buses standing behind each other just at the exit of the airport! I suppose, you can get to any place of the capital from the airport. After asking a couple of drivers which particular bus suits us, we bought a round-trip ticket (Airport-Center Doha-Airport) to the bus with the number “777”. The price is 10 riyals (about $2.75). This price includes a subscription for 2 trips within 24 hours.
The bus driver briefly told us about the old and new parts of the city, as well as what would be recommended to visit. He wished us good luck, and dropped us off in the center of the new part, which was built on an artificially-sprinkled island. Most of all I was struck by several things.
The City of skyscrapers
When I was traveling around Hong Kong, I was very surprised by a huge number of various skyscrapers. The same feeling was in Doha. It is unbelievable, to build such really huge city just in the desert. Doha is a real oasis with the perfect roads, parks, fountains and any kinds of skyscrapers. The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is watching you everywhere. (The “Big Brother” is watching you 😉 )
The first thing that catches your eye, very much, except the largest skyscrapers, is the complete absence of people on the streets. The main part of the country’s population lives in Doha, but the streets of this deserted city are literally deserted. This is probably due to the hot climate, so most of the people use cars or buses, excluding walking around the city.
Very long traffic lights
If you need to cross the road at a pedestrian intersection – be prepared to wait for the green light about 7-10 minutes. The traffic of the cars is so dense, so the high-speed flow moves continuously! It’s interesting, that the pedestrian traffic light “Button” does nothing. It’s weird, very weird for highly developed city, but it was a real mystery to us.
The city is actively developing
It would seem that everything has already been built in Doha – skyscrapers with business centers, hotels, hypermarkets, residential areas, park areas, a very long seafront… However, at the same time, everything is being actively built. You can see construction cranes are everywhere, as well as enclosed areas with posters which show these future buildings. It’s incredible! The fact that the territory of Qatar was increased by man-made islands and peninsulas, where the airport, and so on, is located! My thoughts were – “it’s good when you have a little bit of oil underground …” 😉
Local food and supermarkets
I really wanted to try something “local”, and check the prices for the “consumer basket” in Qatar, so we decided to go to the local supermarket. Most of the attendants in stores and in the other areas (petrol stations, park cleaners, builders, etc.) are workers from different Asian countries – the Philippines, India, Pakistan, etc.
The prices in the supermarket for the local people probably should not be excessively high! There are two kind of prices – for one piece, and for the whole package.
Here are a few examples:
- Juice 1.5 liters – 13 riyals;
- Water 1.5 liters – 1 – 4 riyal;
- Cakes (5-6 pcs.) – 1 riyal;
- Mandarins, bananas – 5 riyals per 1 kg
The exchange rate on that day of was 1 riyal = $0.2765
The most products in Doha as it turned out are imported, because it’s almost impossible to grow fruits or vegetables in the desert, and it is quite difficult and economically impractical. I was surprised by the product on the shelf in the supermarket, our Ukrainian cottage cheese “President” was there 🙂
We bought some food and went to the park to have a snack there with an amazing view to the Persian Gulf.
After taking a rest, we continued our route to the old historical part of the city along the seafront. The desert leaves its mark everywhere – everything seems to be beautiful, slightly dusty, but there is absolutely no shadow! Therefore, we decided to try some juice or a local drink. A huge glass of fresh juice cocktail costed us only 12 riyals.
The Museum of Islamic Art
The bus driver, highly recommended us to visit the Museum of Islamic Art. He was on our way to the museum, so we decided to learn a little more about Qatar, its traditions and history.
Surprisingly, the entrance to the museum turned out to be free, and this fact added more emotions to our mood 😉
A huge hall, coolness and six floors with expositions are located in the museum building. Each exhibition is dedicated to the milestones of the Qatar history, crafts and military affairs.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures. I was mostly watching, studying and enjoying but my friends made, a more extensive excursion into the world of Islamic Art.
We also made a short video about traveling to Qatar.
After visiting the museum, it was time to rush to the airport to continue our way to Thailand. What I can advise in the end – of course, one day is not enough to plunge into the atmosphere of the whole country and learn the traditions, but enough to look behind the curtain and learn something new about this amazing oasis in the desert sands, on the Persian Gulf.