There has a lot of confusion between Dubai and Qatar. Both are in the Middle East, set along the coastline of the Gulf of Persia. They both boast similar industries, monarchies, cultures, and religious affiliations, and they are home to two of the world’s biggest airlines and transport hubs.
But these areas have a lot that makes them different, too. In fact, while Dubai is a city in the UAE, Qatar is an independent nation. Dubai is a popular tourist destination, while Qatar is more oriented toward its oil and gas industries.
Luckily enough, Dubai and Qatar are just a short flight or drive from each other, making it possible to visit both within one trip. However, if you only have the time or budget to visit Dubai or Qatar, this article should help you make your decision.
In this article, I’ve unpacked what makes the city and region unique, comparing them in terms of the most common travel questions.
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Dubai vs. Qatar
Although similar in many ways, there are some intrinsic differences between Dubai and Qatar. The differences range from the activities you can do in each destination to the hotels you can book. Let’s take a closer look.
- A city spanning 620 square miles with a population of 3.5 million.
- Famous for being home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the world’s largest mall. Known for its modern architecture and infrastructure and vibrant multinational cultures.
- Easy to get to via Dubai International Airport (DXB), one of the world’s largest international airport hubs serviced by Emirates Airlines.
- Dubai has an efficient public transport system and well-maintained roads. The Metro is the most convenient way for tourists to get around, connecting all major sites.
- Urban accommodation is common, with many brand-name hotels and resorts.
- The entire region spans 4,471 square miles and has a population of 2.8 million people.
- Famous for housing the world’s largest petroleum and natural gas reserves and its high standards of living.
- Easy to get to via Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH), one of the world’s largest international airport hubs serviced by Qatar Airways.
- Doha, the capital city of Qatar, has metros, busses, and cabs that run extensive routes. If you want to explore more outside the city, hiring a car or private driver is recommended.
- Accommodation in Doha consists of high-rise hotels and resorts. There are also some low-key Bedouin campsites you can stay at in the desert.
Is Dubai or Qatar Better
Dubai and Qatar are both so different it can take time to decide which is best for your vacation. Let’s unpack the main tourism aspects of both Dubai and Qatar.
For Things to Do
Since Qatar is an entire state with a significant-sized city inside it, and Dubai is just a city, this may seem like an unfair comparison.
Doha is the capital city of Qatar, which sits along the same Persian Gulf as Dubai. The city is Qatar’s fastest growing, with over 90% of the population of Qatar living here. The city is particularly well known for its sporting stadiums, hosting all sorts of international matches throughout the year. This makes it the best option for sporting fans, who can spectate their favorite teams at the Khalifa International Stadium and Al Janoub Stadium.
While both cities boast an incredible skyline, Dubai is most well known for its modern architecture. Here, you’ll find the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – and the incredible artificial islands of Palm Jumeirah and The World. Built to impress, these architectural feats will do just that if you’re a fan of the art.
History is abundant in both places, with Dubai and Doha offering unique historical centers and museums. One of the best places to explore in Dubai is Dubai Creek, a historic saltwater sanctuary where the Bani Yas tribe was established. Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood along the Dubai waterways is a gorgeous maze of winding alleys and nostalgic views.
Qatar has a thriving art and culture scene for culture lovers, with tons of galleries showing the country’s incredible history and local art.
If you’re trying to pick between Dubai and Qatar for retail therapy, shopaholics will fare best in Dubai, which is home to the world’s largest mall – The Dubai Mall as well as the Mall of the Emirates. The Dubai Mall features its own aquarium bordering the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain.
Those with young kids will love Dubai, which is a child-friendly city with tons of things to keep your kids busy. The Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark is one of the most impressive parks, while Ain Dubai has a Ferris wheel bigger than the London Eye.
With an indoor ski resort and the world’s deepest diving swimming pool, adventurous travelers don’t have to leave the center of Dubai to get ‘outdoors.’ You can also leave the city center and enjoy jeep rides through the desert, camel rides, and hop on a hot air balloon.
Qatar is the better destination for those who enjoy being outdoors. Visit the Corniche for a stroll along the waterfront, or stay in an overwater villa at an island resort. The country also has some of the best beaches, including the Inland Sea and Fuwairit Beach.
For Budget Travelers
Neither Dubai nor Qatar is a particularly cheap travel destination, with both Doha and Dubai being two of the fastest-growing metropoles in the region. However, there are a few more affordable places to visit in Qatar vs. Dubai.
- Accommodation is urban in Dubai, while Qatar has some rural and urban places to stay. The average cost of a mid-range hotel in Dubai is $135 for one person or $95 in Doha for one person, and a double-occupancy hotel room in Dubai averages around $270.
- You can expect to pay around $10 in Dubai or $20 in Qatar per person per day on transport, using taxis and the metro, and taxis are always more expensive than public transport.
- A meal in Dubai will cost you around $18 per person. A restaurant meal in Doha will set you back around $20, while breakfasts are a bit cheaper. The average daily food cost is about $45 in Dubai and $50 in Qatar.
- Alcohol is forbidden for locals of both places. However, there are places where tourists can enjoy a drink at a high price. In areas where alcohol is allowed, you could spend around $10 on one beer in Dubai and Qatar.
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Where to Stay in Qatar: The Victory Hotel
Doha is overflowing with gorgeous luxury accommodations, but it can be tricky to find affordable accommodations in the city. The Victory Hotel is a very affordable hotel with clean and comfortable rooms in a modern setting. Modern Arabia inspires the interiors, and the hotel has a rooftop swimming pool to lounge around after a busy day.
Qatar is home to some of the world’s most romantic beach hotels and spa resorts, making this city the best for couples looking for a pampering experience.
If you’re wondering whether Dubai or Qatar is best for shopping, Dubai is best for couples looking to buy jewelry or browse a new wardrobe, with some of the best shopping in this city.
Both places are great for adventure lovers who can engage in watersports along the Gulf of Persia, enjoy jeep rides or camel rides through the desert, or venture into the Arabian desert on foot. Since Qatar is an entire country with much more area to explore, this place has more for adventurous couples to do.
Foodies will appreciate the world-class cuisine when visiting Dubai, which features incredible local restaurants, street food vendors, and high-end Michelin Star-rated establishments. The top restaurants in the city usually have unrivaled city views, which make the experience all the more exciting.
When it comes to gorgeous settings, Qatar offers more in the sense of natural landscapes, while Dubai has a more impressive city skyline and architectural beauty.
Where to Stay in Dubai: Royal Central Hotel and Resort, The Palm
Book a room at the Royal Central Hotel and Resort, The Palm, for a romantic treat. This five-star hotel is set on the Palm Jumeirah overlooking the sea and includes private beach access and an incredible breakfast each day.
For Getting Around
As two of the world’s most up-and-coming metropoles, both Dubai and Qatar’s Doha have some of the most modern public transport systems on the planet.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite UAE city. Dubai is a large city with a sprawling suburban area. However, the inner city is compact, and major attractions are usually pretty close to each other. That said, it’s not the most walkable city, primarily due to the unbearable heat that plagues the city during warmer months.
The best way to get around Dubai is by taxi or metro. Metro is the more affordable option and connects most of the areas you’ll want to visit on vacation without having to navigate any traffic. The airport is just a short metro ride from the city. Taxis are cost and time-efficient if you’re traveling with luggage or need to travel to areas where the metro doesn’t reach.
Getting around Qatar is a bit more tricky. While Doha is well connected with modern public transport infrastructure, including trains, metros, and buses, the rest of the country can only really be explored by car.
Renting a car is possible, but navigating the traffic around Doha can be overwhelming. So, most choose to use taxis or hire a private driver to get them from A to B in Qatar.
For a Weekend Trip
If you only have a weekend to visit the area, I recommend spending your time in Dubai. Although there is enough to do in the city to keep you busy for a good couple of weeks, you can also easily fit the top activities into a short stay.
If we compare Dubai and Qatar, Dubai is also a lot smaller, which makes it easier to get around and see the best places during a quick stay. A weekend in Dubai is the perfect introduction to the city without getting too overwhelmed.
During a weekend in Dubai, you could visit the Dubai Mall or the Mall of the Emirates for some retail therapy, as well as to check out the dancing Dubai Fountain and marvel at the Burj Khalifa.
You could also spend some time strolling the traditional Dubai Spice Souk (market) and visiting old Dubai and some unique museums and galleries.
I recommend relaxing at one of the city’s elaborate beach clubs, which gives a great impression of the country’s wealth. Even if this isn’t your scene, it’s a cultural experience just to be in this environment.
For a Week-Long Trip
If you have a whole week to spend in either Dubai or Qatar, there is undoubtedly more for you to do in Qatar. Since this destination encompasses an entire region, you’ll be able to explore the buzzing city of Doha and more remote parts of the state.
The city of Doha is easy to get around using public transport and has a bunch of galleries, beach clubs, high-end restaurants, live sporting matches and races, and shopping to keep you busy.
I recommend spending a few days soaking up the modern city culture before venturing into the desert, where you can experience an authentic Bedouin camp. The Qatari desert has a variety of low-budget to five-star luxury experiences that are bound to widen your view of the place and its people.
There are also loads of outdoor activities in Qatar, from jeep rides over the sand dunes to watersports (sailing, swimming, kayaking) on the Gulf of Persia. The desert landscape even has its fair share of rock formations that have become popular rock climbing locations. Within the city of Doha, there are many parks and gardens that host boot camps for the active traveler.
Visiting Dubai and Qatar
It is pretty easy to travel between Dubai and Doha, the capital of Qatar. The cheapest route would be to drive via the E11 highway, which takes about six and a half hours along a semi-coastal road.
The quickest way to get from Dubai to Qatar is to fly. The flight between Dubai and Doha is just over one hour long, with routes departing multiple times per day. However, this trip is expensive and can cost between $180 and $500 for the short haul journey.
In my opinion, the cost and travel time to travel between Dubai and Qatar is not really worth it. Since both Qatar Airways and Emirates Airlines connect their major international routes through the cities, chances are you’ll have another opportunity to visit each city if you fly with either of these airlines.
FAQs About Dubai vs. Qatar
While it can be tricky comparing Dubai and Qatar since one location is a city, and the other is an independent state, these two destinations get a lot of attention from international travelers. They both house major international airport hubs and run expansive airlines which connect them with the four corners of the world. Because of this, many people end up visiting the city and country on their way elsewhere.
Dubai is noted for its incredible architecture, high-end shopping, and world-class food scene. It’s a top travel destination for those who enjoy a fancy beach club with bottle service and those who aren’t afraid to drop some serious dollars on quality food and drinks. With many child-friendly amenities and hotels, it’s also great for young families.
On the other hand, Qatar is home to the city of Doha. Doha packs a punch for sporting matches, home to an array of futuristic stadiums and racetracks. It’s also a hotspot for romantic vacations, with luxury hotels and overwater villas similar to what you’d find in a tropical location.
Both are great options for a holiday, so either is bound to offer you a great experience.
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