Whenever planning a vacation anywhere it’s always a good idea to consider a few things to determine when the best time to go is. The same holds true for Doha, Qatar. Over the past decade or so, Qatar has seen a huge influx of visitors. Its popularity as a travel destination has skyrocketed making it one of the top searches for a vacation.
It’s what I would call “charming”, yet full of thrills. The tall buildings that make up their skyline can be dizzying, but the architecture and history is what brings in many tourists throughout the year.
Doha is the capital of Qatar and is comprised of about 85% expatriates making it one of the most diverse cities in the world! This makes it a hotspot for multicultural events, amazing cuisine, and beautiful architecture. Basically, it has become a traveler’s paradise.
Doha offers a wide array of activities, from dune bashing to splurging and haggling at the local bazaar to taking a camel ride through the desert, you can find it here. If you’re like me and always try to seek out cultural activities you will be happy to know that there are plenty of museums in Doha. It even has its own cultural village that you can visit.
When planning a trip to Doha there are some things that you will want to consider, this can include cultural holidays for the area, how busy it will be with other travelers, what the rates for the hotels and airlines are, what the weather is going to be like, and many other factors, which we will discuss here.
What Type Of Trip Is It?
I’ve been to Doha two times in my life. I went once by myself on business and once with my husband. We would have brought our daughter, but we didn’t realize that passports had to be valid for at least 6 months prior to the trip. We even had it rush-ordered, but it didn’t make much of a difference. We ended up having to leave her with my mother-in-law.
Each trip I have taken to Doha has offered a completely different experience. When getting ready to take a vacation it’s important to consider who all is going when you’re ready to hop onto that Qatar Airways flight as that could dictate just when the perfect time to go would be.
Traveling Solo – If you’re traveling alone, whether for business or leisure, you can pretty much go whenever works best for you. Check the weather forecast and do some research to make sure that whatever malls, venues, and attractions you will want to see in your downtime will be open and available and then book your flight and room.
Family Vacation – If you’re traveling with children, then probably the best time to visit Doha would be during one of the major school breaks. I would recommend that you consider either the winter or spring break as this is when the weather will be the best, although it may get a little rainy in April. Sometimes children can’t deal with the blistering heat of Qatar, so if your kids aren’t accustomed to super warm weather you might want to avoid summer break.
Romantic Doha Getaway – Doha, in my opinion, is best traveled with a spouse. While the crime rate is very low there, and I never once felt in any type of immediate danger when I went for my business trip, it always made me feel a bit more comfortable having my husband to lead the way and pay for things.
Although PDA is a big no-no there, even for a married couple, it didn’t dampen our spirits and we still had a ton of fun when we went for our anniversary. So my perfect time to go to Doha was when my husband and I were both able to clear a week out on our calendars at the same time. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that.
Weather In Doha
One thing that I was really worried about before heading to Doha for my first time was what to expect as far as the weather was concerned. I mean I knew it was a desert and that it would be hot, but that was about it. I kept seeing conflicting answers on what to really expect besides just a temperature range. That’s one of the things that made me want to write this guide for you, a possible future Doha traveler!
One thing to know before heading to Doha is that the weather there can vary greatly depending on the month of your trip. Temperatures are known to get as low as 50°F (under 20°C) in the winter months of December through February. Alternatively temperatures can end up as hot as 110°F (about 45°C) in the summer months of June through late September.
With all that being said, if you’re looking for moderate weather, for temperatures that are not too blistering hot and not too frigidly cold, your best bet would be sometime from March through May or September through November. During these months you will find common recreation areas, like the beaches, hotel pools, museums, and parks full of citizens, expats, and visitors enjoying the warm weather.
One thing you don’t have to worry much about is having rain put a damper on your trip. Qatar is a desert country after all, so it seldom rains. In fact Doha gets less than 3 inches of rain per year.
If you’re one that enjoys taking in a thunderstorm while on a trip, you’re most likely to have one in December or April, where it typically rains an average of 3 days out of the month. Other than that it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any thunderstorms. An occasional dust storm might be another story, though.
Below is a little more detailed breakdown of what to expect for the specific months throughout the year.
December Through February – Remember earlier when I explained that December through February is considered winter in Doha? Well, I wasn’t exactly counting those months out as the best time to visit Doha. In fact, some consider this to be the optimal months to go!
The fact that it does get a bit cooler during this time doesn’t mean that it’s unbearable – far from it actually. The sun shines for 7 to 8 hours per day. Remember, the lows only get into the 50s or 60s. If you’re coming from North America, you’re probably already used to these temperatures around those months anyway.
Although it may be too cold to enjoy the beaches and pool, you will likely find some great flight and hotel deals around this season, too. Plus, who wouldn’t like to be able to say they spent Christmas, New Year’s, or Valentine’s Day in Qatar? The rates for flights and hotels will be a little higher than usual during this time, but it may be a small price to pay for some cooler weather in the desert country.
March Through August – The springtime can actually be pretty hot and humid in Doha. Summertime is even worse. The temperatures in this date range can vary wildly being as low as 80°F (27°C) all the way up to 110°F (43°C). With that being said, if you’re planning to spend most of your time down at the beach or by the pool, this may be the best option.
You will encounter somewhere between ten to twelve hours of daylight during these months. If you’re not one to enjoy really (really) hot unabated weather, I would definitely recommend avoiding July and August. Even spending the day in the water at the beach may not be good enough to keep you cool during this time of year.
Bear in mind that spring and summer are the slowest seasons when it comes to Doha. Slow travel seasons equal sweet deals on airfare and hotels. If you can handle the heat hop on the plane!
September Through November – Two words describe this time of year in Doha: Cool and Humid. The sun beats down for a solid ten hours every day for this timeframe. Temperatures usually range between 68°F (20°C) to 104°F (40°C).
This time of the year is considered to be the second busiest season for Doha specifically, which means it’s not good for the last minute travelers. If you’re able to book well in advance you can actually secure some really good deals on your lodging and transportation.
Mind The Cultural Holidays
If Doha is on your mind as your holiday hotspot this year, keep in mind that most of the Qatari population is Muslim and that certain religious holidays are observed. You should be aware of the meaning and customs of these times so you can act accordingly and know what to expect during your visit. The month of Ramadan is an example of one such period.
Ramadan is considered the holiest of months for Muslims and entails a month of fasting, along with much prayer and reflection. It requires fasting for the daylight hours (no food, no drink – not even water), no smoking, and no “sinful behavior” in general from sunrise to sunset.
The exact start day for Ramadan changes every year, as the lunar Islamic calendar is what is used to determine the date, so you will need to check online to find out exactly when it is due to take place for the year you want to visit.
The first time I went to Doha for business it happened to be in June 2018. I arrived on June 15th, to be exact, and found myself entering the country right at the tail end of the month of Ramadan. It was my first trip there and to say it was a culture shock might be a little of an understatement.
Besides the fact that I had to adhere to the strict dress code, which I knew ahead of time and was completely ok with, I was also greeted by some of the hottest and most humid heat I’d ever felt in my life. I like to joke that it was “sauna weather”. Then, to top it all off, I had to wait until the restaurants opened to get something good to eat. Luckily I only had one day of Ramadan to make it through and the Eid al-Fitr made it all worthwhile.
During Ramadan many restaurants, bars, parks, malls, and other venues will effectively shut down during the day, maybe even for the month. A lot of the venues do open up at night, after the sun has set, and then feasts and fun are available again for a short while.
This practice can have a major impact on your trip, possibly prohibiting you from visiting somewhere you wanted to go. Unless you specifically want to visit Doha to observe Ramadan, you may want to avoid visiting during it so you can make sure that you are able to fit in as much as you want and that you can get the most out of your trip.
If you happen to find yourself in Doha during the month of Ramadan, like me, try to stick around for the Eid al-Fitr, which is also commonly referred to as “the Festival of Breaking the Fast”. This is the festival that occurs immediately after the completion of Ramadan. It’s a multi-day event and generally involves much revelry and great food all around – trust me I was there!
Other Special Events
Besides these special religious holidays and events, there are also many other festivals that occur throughout the year in Doha. There is the Art Festival of Qatar which generally takes place in December, the Doha Tribeca Film Festival usually in October, and the Qatar Masters Golf Tournament in February, to name a few.
If you are the type that enjoys attending one-of-a-kind festivals and fun sporting events while out on holiday make sure to check out the various events that will be hosted throughout the year. You might catch something really special and you’ll be glad that you did a little research before your trip.
Also, if you would look forward to visiting a couple museums while in Doha, you ought to check out the museum’s website prior to your trip. They should keep their site updated with their current and future exhibits and you will be able to see if they will be hosting any special events that would be of interest to you and maybe plan your trip around that.
Don’t think I forgot about the soccer fans of the world. Keep in mind that the FIFA World Cup will be hosted in Qatar from November 21st through December 18th of 2022, so mark your calendars and start planning and saving for your trip early. Flights and rooms are bound to fill up quickly (if they haven’t already)!
The general consensus dictates that as long as it’s not the dead middle of summer or the month of Ramadan, it’s pretty much always a great time to visit Doha. Of course there will be more people during the cooler months, but if you can withstand a little sweltering heat, don’t count Doha out completely during the summer.
Some people out there may say that the best time to visit Doha (or any location for that matter) is the cheapest time. I’d have to second that motion. I’m all for saving money!
One thing that I will have to admit is that I regret not going to Doha sooner. I thought it was a location that was out of my league. It was too exotic, too international, and thus far too expensive for me to ever be able to afford. Honestly, I think if my job hadn’t sent me over there, I would have never gone.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be a millionaire to travel to Doha. There are ways to save money on everything that you will need to have a great trip there. It turns out, as is the case with most international locations, the most expensive part about a vacation to Qatar will be your flights and boarding.
So, how do you save on that? The easiest way to save on your transportation and lodging would be by traveling when it’s the low season.
For Doha that would mean traveling in June or September, the hot summer season. Since there is always a huge dip in visitors during those times it means the hotels and airlines will lower their prices to lure you in. Not only do they need to be less expensive because of the season, but they also have to compete with each other.
More often than not you will only end up staying at one hotel during your stay and flying with one airline, so in order to gain your business they have to offer competitive pricing among each other or give their clients something exclusive. Once you get there you will find that the restaurants and even items you may want to buy as souvenirs are very affordable.
While it may be a little hotter in Doha during those months, the money you save on your lodging and travel expenses will more than pay for a nice cold beverage to keep you cool!
From The Locals
I was a little curious to find out from the locals what they thought would be the best time to visit Doha. I had my husband ask a few people throughout our trip, just for kicks. While there wasn’t one unanimous answer, most agreed that the peak of summer ought to be avoided at all costs.
One gentleman that my husband spoke with worked at one of the hotels along the Corniche. He said that he’s seen his fair share of people pass out from the extreme heat and has found that some people just can’t handle it.
Thinking back to my experience when I came in June, I could definitely relate. The desert heat in Doha is no joke. I encountered a few dizzy spells myself on my previous trip. After the first one I made sure to always keep a bottle of water with me.
My Personal Experience In December
Since I’d already experienced the summer in Doha when I went for work, when my husband asked if I’d like to go back for an actual vacation, I was all for it, but with one caveat; that we go when it was cooler. We decided on December for a few different reasons: 1.) Our daughter would be out of school and able to stay with her grandmother, 2.) We could both get the time off from work, and 3.) We were going to be celebrating our 20th anniversary.
Another big factor that made us decide to travel in December is that we found out we could visit Qatar’s Art Festival during that time. Since this was to be a more romantic vacation I figured we should make it as fun as possible and fit in and see as much of the culture as we could.
Arriving in December was such a different experience from before. The plane was way more packed with people, there were Christmas lights up all over the place and best of all the weather was amazing! It never got too cold that it actually prohibited us from doing anything we wanted to do.
Another plus is that having to bundle up a little made it a lot easier to deal with their strict dress code for women. I never once had to worry about my shoulders or knees being exposed since I kept a light jacket on and wore simple jeans every day.
What Does Best Even Mean?
Besides factoring in costs, weather, and other cultural events, it’s important to remember when planning for a trip to Doha that many things will ultimately come down to personal preference and your own situation. The “best” always depends on perspective and can mean one thing to one person and a completely different thing to another.
Some people enjoy extreme heat, while others like it a bit on the chilly side. Some like to be immersed in huge crowds and others like a little solitude on vacation. That’s just the way that the world works, and it’s a good thing, too. If you read this guide in full you should now have all the necessary information needed to be able to determine your own “best time” for a trip to Doha. Maybe I will see you there!