If you are considering visiting or moving to the Middle East, your top choices are likely to be Dubai or Doha (Qatar).
Note: Since majority of the Qatar population lives in Doha, that is why we are comparing Dubai (an Emirate) with Doha (a city). In this article, we will use the words Doha and Qatar interchangeably.
Dubai and Doha, both offer a wide range of attractions and activities, and they are both very welcoming to tourists and expats.
As Dubai and Doha continue to grow in popularity, with many luxury hotels and new flagship stores being built, travelers are beginning to compare the two. Both are rich, Islamic states with modern skylines. But there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Doha is a relatively new tourist destination, but with half the world’s population living within a two-hour flight, a lot more people visiting or moving to Qatar.
Despite many similarities, there are some differences between the two places that you should be aware of before making your decision.
Dubai is a bustling metropolis with a cosmopolitan atmosphere. It is home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers and most luxurious hotels, and there is always something new and exciting to see and do.
Doha, on the other hand, is a more traditional offering authentic middle eastern experience with a strong cultural heritage. It is an excellent place to learn about Arabic culture and history, and it also has some great beaches and outdoor activities to offer.
In terms of population, in 2016 Dubai had an estimated population of 2.5 million. This makes it the most populated emirate in the UAE, surpassing Abu Dhabi which, despite having a larger area, has the third largest population in the UAE that is estimated at just over 1.1 million. Dubai’s ratio of males to females is skewed, with approximately 75% of the population being male. The population is also composed of just 15% native residents, with the remaining 85% being composed of expatriates. (source link)
The current population of Qatar is 2.6 million based on projections of the latest United Nations data. Both Dubai and Qatar have same demographics. Both of them have majority of the residents belonging to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Philippines. Expatriates from Western countries make up a small proportion, however, they are more financially privileged as compared to others.
Doha is less loud than Dubai – this could be seen as a good or bad thing depending on what you are looking for. If you are young and single and want to go out clubbing on the weekends, then Dubai is probably a better choice. However, if you have a family with young children, you might prefer Doha’s more relaxed vibe.
The weather in Doha and Dubai is very similar. Both places are extremely hot during the summer months, but the winters are much more pleasant.
Airports – main point of entry:
Dubai has a well established Dubai International Airport, many airlines operate and fly to Dubai like Emirates Airline, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia etc. Whereas Qatar’s Hamad International Airport is relatively young. Qatar Airways is the best choice to travel to Qatar.
Tourist spots and Leisure activities:
Both Dubai and Doha have beautiful beaches along the coastline, water sports, water parks, architectural masterpieces, desert safari, forts, museums, swimming pools, spas, man-made islands, luxury hotels and resorts, theme parks and much more. These places are a playground for those who love the outdoors and the water. With so much to see and do, visitors will never be bored. If you don’t know already, Dubai has Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, whereas Doha has the Torch Tower with largest 360 degree LED screen in the world.
Quality of living:
People coming from South Asian regions find better standard of living. Unlike Indian subcontinent, there is no electricity / water shortage or load shedding. Low level of air pollution has a good influence on people’s health and quality of living.
Cost of living and Purchasing Power:
The cost of living in Dubai has increased significantly, with rental prices consuming a greater proportion of your salary than before. Additionally, the price of fuel to power your car is now considerably more expensive. Unfortunately, salaries have not kept pace with this inflation.
Prices of rental accommodation in Doha are slightly lesser than Dubai. However, fuel prices are quite low in Qatar. As of July 2022, the petrol price of Special (95) in UAE is 4.52 AED (1.23 USD) whereas, the petrol price of Super (95) in Qatar is 2.1 QR (0.58 USD).
Traffic and Roads Infrastructure:
Both Doha and Dubai have bad traffic during peak hours.
They have well established Roads network. However, Roads in Doha are mostly ring shaped, means you can go to your destination from either side (take the one with less traffic).
Dubai and Doha both have good public transport system, which includes Metro train, trams, buses and taxis. Both have Uber and Careem operational and can be easily hired. Check our detailed article on: Public transport in Qatar.
Dubai has museums and galleries available; however, some may find the experience to be superficial and inauthentic. Whereas Qatar has stunning art galleries and museums that provide visitors with a more authentic Middle Eastern experience. Traditional garments, spices, and handicrafts can still be found at the souqs (market) in Doha, which is indicative of Qatar’s efforts to maintain its Islamic culture. Also check: Souvenirs to buy in Qatar
In terms of Food, as compared to Doha, Dubai has way more options if you want to “Dine with the stars”. The fine dining options in Dubai are next level. Whereas Doha although it also has many fine dining options; it is far better when it comes to traditional dishes. You will find a lot of traditional Qatari food being served everywhere so if you like middle eastern food then don’t worry, you will get your fix of lamb, fish, beef, and more all served up with spices, wonderful bread, vegetables, hummus, and more.
Many people are concerned and ask about alcohol drinking. Alcohol isn’t illegal in Qatar, but there is zero tolerance for drinking in public and being drunk in public is a crime. Alcohol is available to buy for over 21-year-olds from licensed hotel restaurants and bars. Same laws are applicable in Dubai also, but generally they are more lenient in the implementation.
Doha or Dubai, both of them have a quite vibrant nightlife. Since summer is long and hot, these places come to life at night. Qatar has changed a lot in recent years, nightlife in Doha has become a popular part of the entertainment scene. The nightlife in Doha and Dubai offers something for everyone. There are many types of cinemas to watch movie in 3D or 4D, go for bowling, drink Shisha, dinner in cruise ship, or party at nightclubs. Check our detailed article on: Nightlife in Doha
Doha vs Dubai Wrap up:
If you could visit only one place, it should be Dubai. The experience is unlike anywhere else.
However, if you need to pick a place to live or travel to every year, choose Qatar. It is a more authentic Middle Eastern experience with the added bonus of a modern city like Doha.
Hope you enjoyed our article on Doha vs Dubai comparison – similarities and differences. If you are planning to travel to Doha, checkout our article on: hotels in Qatar.