Qatar reopens to vaccinated tourists, including Americans
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As of July 13, Qatar has reopened its borders for fully vaccinated international travelers, Qatar Tourism, the official government tourism body, announced this week.
The country considers travelers to be fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving their second dose of a two-dose series or after a single-dose vaccine. Additionally, all visitors, regardless of age, must show proof of a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of arrival in Qatar.
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Qatar, a peninsula in the Arabian Gulf situated in the center of the Middle East, is perhaps better known for its location next to the United Arab Emirates, home to Dubai. The country is part desert, part shoreline. Doha, its capital city, lies on its eastern coast. Home to nearly 3 million people, Qatar was ranked the safest country in the world in 2020 by Numbeo, based on visitor surveys collected by the website.
Who’s allowed to enter?
As mentioned above, all international travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by a Qatar Ministry of Public Health-approved vaccine are permitted to enter the country.
Vaccines currently approved by Qatar are:
- Johnson & Johnson
Entry requirements for those under 18 depend on their age and departure country:
- For those 0–11 years old: Unvaccinated children in this group can enter the country if accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent from a “green” country and are exempt from quarantine. If coming from a “yellow” country, which the U.S. is currently designated as, a seven-day hotel quarantine applies.
- For those 12–17 years old: Vaccinated visitors can enter as normal; unvaccinated visitors in this age group, along with their accompanying parents, must quarantine based on their country of departure, regardless of whether or not the parents are vaccinated.
Unvaccinated adult visitors remain prohibited from Qatar at this time.
More information on entry requirements can be found here, along with current country color codes, determined by their level of COVID-19 risk.
How Americans can visit
As mentioned above, Qatar has designated 88 countries, including the United States, as “yellow” countries.
For U.S.-based travelers, here’s what to do before departure:
- At least 12 hours before departure, apply for a mandatory travel permit, which will require you to upload your passport, hotel booking confirmation, travel details, vaccine certificate and negative PCR test results to the Ehteraz app. The app only works with Qatari-approved SIM cards from two local providers (Ooredoo or Vodafone). SIM cards are available for purchase at Hamad International Airport in Doha (DOH) and Abu Samra Port.
- Upon approval, print your travel permit and have it accessible during travel, as you will be asked to show it upon checking in at the airport.
Despite the 12-hour window for submitting your travel permit application, Qatar Tourism advises travelers to apply early.
Note that most people (85-plus countries) do not need a visa to enter Qatar, including U.S. citizens, who can spend up to 30 days in the country, either during a single trip or on multiple trips. Double-check visa requirements here.
Upon arrival at DOH:
- Expect to undergo thermal screening and temperature checks.
“Qatar is a fantastic destination for every type of traveler. It is the safest and one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in the Middle East, rich in art, culture and tradition,” Berthold Trenkel, chief operating officer of Qatar Tourism, said. “With a range of assets including world-class hotels, restaurants, stunning beaches and a bustling atmosphere, Qatar offers the best of the Middle East all in one place.”
For first-time visitors, Trenkel recommends kayaking through the Al Thakira mangroves, paddleboarding around the Pearl-Qatar marina or soaking up the sun at [the] Khor Al-Adaid [beach]. Recently opened attractions include the Desert Falls Water & Adventure Park at Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas and the Quest theme park, home of the tallest indoor roller coaster in the world.
How to get there
“Hamad International Airport is open and operational, with a number of safety measures implemented to protect the safety and health of international travelers, residents and citizens,” said Trenkel. “HIA was the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a five-star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating by Skytrax, following an on-site audit.”
International travelers may also enter through the Abu Samra Port, where the aforementioned travel policy requirements still apply.
Transiting passengers who need another PCR test for their final destination can do so for 300 Qatar riyals ($82.39) at DOH.
As you might expect, last-minute flights for the 7,629-mile, nearly 14-hour flight to Qatar tend to be expensive, costing upward of $1,500 round-trip, but you can find some relatively less expensive flights if you book in advance.
For example, round-trip flights as low as $799 from New York-JFK to DOH are available as soon as late August and into September.
Fares drop even more in October, as shown below.
The $723 round-trip fares continue into November, and prices start to increase in December, from $791–$1,300, before dropping again in January 2022.
“Good weather is guaranteed in Qatar, so while ongoing travel restrictions impact other summer holiday destinations, travelers do not need to wait another year and should consider Qatar for some winter sun,” said Trenkel.
There are multiple round-trip flights between the U.S. and Qatar each week from multiple airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
Of course, the flag carrier is Qatar Airways. Lots of folks at TPG rave about Qatar for its hard product, service, airport and lounges.
If you are looking to book a mileage award, it’s generally going to cost you between 80,000-140,000 AAdvantage miles though you’ll sometimes be able to find web specials at better rates.
For example, an economy round-trip JFK-DOH flight on American would cost you 40,000 miles each way.
Business-class priced at about 140,000 AA miles, but you are likely to find better options if you dig around.
Where to stay
There are more than 184 hotels to choose from, including French designer Jacques Garcia’s Banyan Tree Doha, which opened earlier this year. Anticipated openings for the remainder of 2021 include the Pullman Doha West Bay (a five-star Accor property), the JW Marriott West Bay and the Steigenberger Hotel. New dining options include Coya Doha, Dante Cucina Italiana, vegan/gluten-free market Mylk and Meatsmith, a new restaurant by chef Dave Pynt, the winner of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Chef’s Choice Award 2017.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of State are advising U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Qatar due to high levels of COVID-19. The country has reported approximately 224,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, 221,000 of which have recovered, and nearly 600 deaths, according to data from the Ministry of Public Health.
“For Qatar, the safety of all citizens, residents and now international visitors is the absolute priority,” Trenkel said. “Qatar’s successful vaccination campaign is well underway and over 78% have been inoculated with the first dose.”
Earlier this year, Qatar was ranked the third safest country in the world by Global Finance, based on their management of COVID-19.
The country recently launched the “Qatar Clean” program to implement uniform hygiene and cleanliness measures across the tourism and hospitality sectors. All of Qatar Tourism-licensed hotels have been certified for their “daily sterilization of facilities; frequent cleaning; disinfectant in all rooms, air conditioning systems, toilets, and water tanks; contactless check-in and check-out procedures and daily staff temperature checks.”
“We will continue working with relevant parties to monitor COVID-19 in Qatar and ensure that the right measures are in place to protect travelers, residents and citizens,” said Trenkel. “For now, we look forward to welcoming back international travelers who have been fully vaccinated with vaccines approved for use by the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar.”
As most of the world looks to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, the country expects to add 105 new hotels and hotel apartments.
We would be remiss if we failed to mention the effects of large-scale world events we’ve seen on host cities for events like the World Cup.
An investigation by the Guardian last year revealed that more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since December 2010, when Doha received the bid to host the World Cup.
Still, Amnesty International says in 2020, “New laws were passed offering migrant workers better legal protections.” While the country’s human rights record is imperfect, it’s good to see they have acknowledged some of the progress that needs to be made on that front.
Featured photo courtesy of Qatar Tourism.
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