Bargaining is expected in the souqs and, although Western-style shopping centres have fixed prices, it’s still worth asking for a discount in boutiques and smaller shops.
Dangers & Annoyances
Many Western visitors have been deterred from coming to the Gulf on account of the hostilities in the Middle East and unrest in neighbouring Bahrain. Qatar, however, is one of the safest and most politically stable countries to visit and it experiences minimal crime.
The poor quality of driving is the only danger worth pointing out, especially as intolerant local drivers are not very cautious about pedestrians.
For those hiring a 4WD, beware the pockets of soft sand and sabkha (salt flats) around the coast and in the interior that are not always apparent until it’s too late. Drivers should always stick to tracks when going off-road and make sure they have all the necessary equipment (water, tow rope, jack, spare tyre etc) for an emergency, as passing cars are sometimes few and far between, especially in the interior.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Fire, Police & Ambulance||999|
Entry & Exit Formalities
No alcohol, narcotics or pork-related products may be brought in through customs – and no pornographic magazines from back home. Goods originating from Israel may also pose problems if you're stopped by customs.
Visa-free for citizens of 80 countries.
In August 2017, Qatar removed visa requirements for citizens of 80 countries, including Australia, the European Union, New Zealand, the UK and the US. Visa waivers are issued on arrival.
Multi-entry tourist and business visas are applied for through a Qatari embassy or consulate. Three passport-size photos, an application form filled out in triplicate and a letter from the hosting company is required. These visas are issued within 24 hours.
Visa extensions valid for two weeks can be obtained through your hotel or a travel agent.
Charges for overstaying are high.
There's (usually free) wi-fi at most hotels, some restaurants, and the Museum of Islamic Art.
Breaking the law can have severe consequences. For more information, consult your embassy.
- Magazines Marhaba, Qatar’s Premier Information Guide, published quarterly, is an excellent source of information regarding events in Qatar, and includes some interesting feature articles on Qatari life and culture. It costs QR20. Time Out Doha gives the most comprehensive listings for dining and entertainment.
- Newspapers Qatar’s English-language newspapers, the Gulf Times and the Peninsula, are published daily, except Friday. International newspapers and magazines are available one or two days after publication at major bookshops in Doha.
- Radio Programs in English are broadcast on 97.5FM and 102.6FM each afternoon from 1.15pm until 4pm. The BBC is available on 107.4FM.
- TV Channel 2 on Qatar TV (QTV) broadcasts programs in English, and international satellite channels are available at the majority of hotels. The renowned Al Jazeera Satellite Channel is broadcast in English and Arabic from Doha: it has become one of the most watched and most respected news channels in the Arab world.
ATMs widespread; credit cards widely accepted.
ATMs & Credit Cards
All major credit and debit cards are accepted in large shops. Visa (Plus and Electron), MasterCard and Cirrus are accepted at ATMs at HSBC, the Qatar National Bank and the Commercial Bank of Qatar, which also accepts American Express and Diners Club cards.
The currency of Qatar is the Qatari riyal (QR). One riyal is divided into 100 dirhams. Coins are worth 25 or 50 dirhams, and notes come in denominations of one, five, 10, 50, 100 and 500 riyals. The Qatari riyal is fully convertible.
The riyal is pegged to the US dollar. For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
Currencies from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are easy to buy and sell at banks and moneychangers. Travellers cheques can be changed at all major banks and the larger moneychangers. Moneychangers can be found around the Gold Souq area of central Doha. There is little difference in exchange rates between banks and moneychangers.
A service charge is usually added to restaurant (and top-end hotel) bills. Local custom does not require that you leave a tip and, although it is certainly appreciated, there is a danger of escalating the habit to the detriment of the workers involved (some establishments reduce wages in anticipation of tips that may or may not be forthcoming). It is therefore recommended that local custom is followed, unless exceptional service or assistance warrants an exceptional gesture.
Qataris love their ‘siesta’, and Doha resembles a ghost town in the early afternoon. These opening hours prevail throughout Qatar.
Banks 7.30am to 1pm Sunday to Thursday.
Government offices 7am to 2pm Sunday to Thursday.
Internet cafes 7am to midnight.
Post offices 7am to 8pm Sunday to Thursday, 8am to 11am and 5pm to 8pm Saturday.
Restaurants 11.30am to 1.30pm and 5.30pm to midnight Saturday to Thursday, 5pm to midnight Friday.
Shopping centres 10am to 10pm Saturday to Thursday, 4pm to midnight Friday.
Shops 8.30am to 12.30pm and 4pm to 9pm Saturday to Thursday, 4.30pm to 9pm Friday.
There is a general post office in northern Doha and another in central Doha. For a full list of postal rates, see www.qpost.com.qa.
In addition to the main Islamic holidays, Qatar observes the following public holidays:
Accession Day 27 June
National Day 3 September
All communications services are provided by Ooredoo (www.ooredoo.qa). Local calls are free, except from the blue-and-white phone booths, which charge a nominal fee. Phonecards (which come in denominations of QR10, QR30 and QR50) are available in bookshops and supermarkets around Doha and can be used for direct international dialling.
The cost of an International Direct Dial call is cheaper between 7pm and 7am, all day Friday and on holidays. At peak times international calls cost around QR2 per minute.
SIM cards widely available.
Qtel operates a prepaid GSM mobile phone service called Hala Plus. Cards in a variety of denominations are widely available in shops.
Important Phone Numbers
There are no area or city codes.
- Country code: 974
- International access code (to call abroad from Qatar): 0
- Local directory enquiries: 180
- International directory enquiries: 150
Travel with Children
Qatar is a safe, easy-going, family-oriented country, and children are welcome and catered for everywhere. Even the Gulf, with its gently sloping shores and flat, waveless seas is more conducive to paddling about and building sand castles than it is to extreme sports. The large resorts all have plenty of activities for young children, and Doha has a heap of attractions to keep even the most overactive kids amused.
Travellers with Disabilities
Little provision has been made in Qatar for travellers with disabilities, although the new resorts have tried to make accommodation wheelchair accessible. The corniche area of Doha and the new malls are easily accessed, but many of the other sights and souqs are not. No provision is made for the visually or hearing impaired.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Qatar uses the metric system.
Qatar is a safe place for women to travel and women can move about freely, without any of the restrictions that are often experienced in other parts of the region. Harassment of women is not looked upon kindly by officials. Dressing conservatively (especially covering shoulders and knees) is not only respectful of local sensibilities but brings less unwanted stares.