We lived in Qatar for three months and we can say that the Desert Safari Qatar is one of the best tourist attractions in the country!
If you have at least three days of travel in Doha, be sure to take the desert tour. Besides its beautifulness and yielding great pictures, going on a desert safari in Qatar is a way to get in touch with a much less explored and authentic side of the country: its origins.
Before the country was recognized as a destination of luxury and sophistication, the small Arab nation was basically a desert inhabited by nomads and pearl fishermen. It was only after natural gas was discovered off its coast that Qatar began to develop into one of the richest countries in the world.
The safari in Qatar is therefore an essential part of Qatari culture and history. The guided 4×4 tour through its dunes is a wonderful way to get to know a little bit of it.
Below, we will explain how it is the Qatar desert safari, how much it costs, what to expect and more.
When is the best time for the Qatar desert safari?
As with everything in Qatar, the best time for this tour is from late autumn to early spring – October to April. All other months are too hot for any kind of tourist activity in Qatar, especially those that involve contact with nature.
Desert Safari in Qatar vs. Dubai
As we mentioned, we have also done the desert safari in Dubai . Both are very cool and similar, but, honestly, I think we liked the Dubai one better. This is because the UAE included a final stop at a camp, where there were cultural presentations and a delicious dinner.
Tourism in Qatar is still in its infancy when compared to Dubai. So, I believe there is still a lot to develop there. Who knows, maybe in a future visit to Qatar there will be more complete alternatives to the desert safari. For now, for those who are planning a trip to Doha, the Qatar desert safari is definitely worth doing!
How is the Desert Safari Qatar
The Inland Sea
The Qatar desert tour is very similar to the desert safari in Dubai, which we have also done and wrote a complete article about the experience. The big difference is that the safari Qatar tour, however, you see where the desert meets the sea. That’s a place called the Inland Sea, which is on the border with Saudi Arabia.
To be able to see the vastness of the dunes ending in the blue sea of the Gulf is a really spectacular scene. The place is very beautiful and attracts even locals, who usually spend the late afternoon there and even camp. There are other options for Qatar tour packages, but the one we recommend is the Inland Sea tour.
The before of going to the desert
As the desert safari tour lasts about 5 hours, you can decide if you prefer to do it early in the morning or in the afternoon. The first one you catch the sunrise, the latter the sunset. We opted for the sunset and it was beautiful. By the way, this is one thing we will miss from our time in Qatar: the sunsets, which never disappoint.
The driver/guide will pick you up at your hotel at the agreed time in a 4×4 with capacity for seven people – one in the front, three in the back, and another three in the compartment right back.
Tip: avoid the far back seats as they are the ones that jump the most during the maneuvers on the dunes. Or just go for it!
The first stop
With everyone on board, the driver goes towards the desert. In about half an hour, he makes the first stop: a very touristy camp where you can go for a camel ride. The camel ride in the desert doesn’t last more than five minutes.
You can also take pictures with a falcon, for a fee and have tea, free of charge. As we are not big fans of interacting with animals on tours, we just enjoyed the tea.
The adventure in Qatar desert safari
Next, we set off for the safari in the Qatar desert. This is when the adventure really begins. With the driver turning the music up loud and sliding on the dunes for about one hour. It was a very intense and cool experience, and we loved it! The car bounces non-stop, but at no time we felt unsafe.
After maneuvering on the dunes in the desert in Qatar, we reached the highlight of the tour: the visit to the Inland Sea. That is a portion of the sea that marks the border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
As we did the tour in December and it was cold, we did not go into the sea. But I believe it is possible at warmer times of the year. Just be careful, because I heard that in certain seasons the sea is full of jellyfish.
After a few moments enjoying the Inland Sea, we boarded the car again for more adventures through the dunes, until we stopped at a specific place to watch the sunset and sandboard on the dunes of Qatar. Then, the driver returns to Doha and leave each passenger in their respective accommodation (find yours here).
The tour, as you can see, is very dynamic and fun. The desert safari Qatar is well worth it!
Where to stay in Qatar
Qatar is a country of one city: Doha. Well, to not be totally unfair, there are some other villages and small towns scattered around the peninsula. But, the only destination really worth visiting, where all the Qatari society and sights are concentrated, is Doha.
Although the city is expensive, public transportation and Uber are cheap. So, if you don’t want to spend too much on accommodation, one option is to stay in a less central area and use either uber or public transport to get around.
Below we give you some options of accommodation in Qatar in different locations, worth looking at, for your trip:
– Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel by Tivoli ($$$): super charming boutique hotel located in Souq Waqif, the oldest bazaar in the city and one of the most central and touristy spots in Doha. From there, you can easily get to other parts of Doha by metro, bus, and cab.
– The Wyndham ($$): A great hotel with a more classic design, located in Westbay, one of the most modern and sophisticated areas of Doha. This is where many of the city’s bars, shopping malls, and international restaurants are located. Westbay is on the coast and also has a subway.
– Premier Inn Doha Airport ($): Basic classic hotel, close to the airport and the metro. This is a great option for those who have only one night in Doha, for example.
How much does the Qatar desert safari cost?
The Qatari desert tour costs about R$ 350, and there is also the possibility of private tours!
We did our tour with OceanAir, which we already knew from our desert tour in Dubai. We really liked their service!
Traveling with children and/or seniors
If you are doing this trip as a family, I recommend choosing a car just for your family. That way you will have much more control over the level of maneuvering.
Although we did not feel in danger at any point, some of the drives down the dunes were quite steep. One of our friends, for example, had already been in a car accident and was a bit apprehensive at times because of the trauma.
Therefore, if you are travelling with small children and/or the elderly, it might be worthwhile to reserve an entire car just for your family so that you can decide the level of the adventure. With other unknown people in the car, it is more difficult to dictate the pace of the tour.
How to dress and what to bring for the desert safari in Qatar
Comfortable clothing for walking through the dunes (baggy pants and t-shirt/sweatshirt)
Hat or cap
Sneakers (but since the sand was not hot, we took them off every time we walked on the dunes)
Some snacks, if you think you will get hungry during the tour.
Water is offered during the tour.
Other deserts to visit in Qatar
Another desert tour in Qatar, more alternative, and that we loved doing, was to the art installations by the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The work, called “Shadows Travelling on the Sea of the Day“. It is located in a desert portion of northern Qatar, 1.5 hours from Doha.
The artwork is on the side of the road. It is possible to rent a car in Doha and visit by your own, without the need for a guide or a 4×4. Just put “Shadows traveling on the sea of the day” in your GPS. Take the opportunity to visit the Al Zubara Fort on the way. For those not driving in Qatar, it is possible to hire a tour to visit the place.
Travel insurance for Qatar
But first, let’s talk about medical care in Qatar, which is very expensive. Therefore, you should not forget to take out travel insurance before you set off. We never want to count on incidents, but unfortunately they can happen – as it happened to us a few times.