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 provisions are made for the visually or hearing impaired.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Bargaining is expected in the souqs; while malls have fixed prices, it’s still worth asking for a discount in boutiques and smaller shops.
Dangers & Annoyances
Qatar is safe, and petty crime is minimal. However, it's worth checking government travel advice before your trip, in light of the Gulf-Qatar diplomatic crisis.
- Drivers in Qatar are aggressive. If you're driving, you may be tailgated and beeped at. Cars may flash their lights at you to get out of the way.
- Speeding and dangerous manoeuvres are common. Pedestrians beware: drivers are unlikely to stop.
- Off-roaders beware of pockets of soft sand, which your 4WD may get stuck in.
- Women travellers may find men staring at them, though dressing modestly can alleviate this to a degree.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Qatar's country code||974|
|International access code||00|
|Fire, police and ambulance||999|
Entry & Exit Formalities
No alcohol, narcotics, pornographic materials or pork-related products may be brought in through customs. Goods originating in Israel may also pose problems.
Entry to Qatar is visa-free for citizens of 83 countries, including Australia, many EU nations, New Zealand, the UK and the US. Visa waivers are issued on arrival and are single entry.
Visitors from some of these countries will be granted a 30-day visa, while others will be issued a 90-day visa. Check the Visit Qatar page for your country: www.visitqatar.qa/plan/visas-requirements.html.
Additional Information on Visas
Visitors from countries for which visa requirements have not been lifted can apply for a tourist visa online (https://portal.moi.gov.qa/qatarvisas) for QR100.
Multi-entry tourist and business visas are applied for through a Qatari embassy or consulate.
Applications to extend a 30-day tourist visa for another 30 days can be made at the Ministry of Interior at Hamad International Airport.
Fines for overstaying your visa are high.
Every visitor to Qatar, except those from GCC countries, must hold passports valid for six months after the time of entry and have a confirmed onward ticket. GCC citizens may use their ID cards to enter. People from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are currently banned from travelling to Qatar by their governments.
- Conversation Steer clear of politics and religion, two contentious and sensitive topics in the Middle East.
- Hospitality Graciously accept refreshments when offered by Qatari hosts.
- Taboos Don't show the soles of your feet (or shoes) in public, or use your left hand when passing food – these things are considered rude.
- Clothing Women should cover their shoulders, upper arms and knees in public. Men should cover their shoulders, torso and upper legs.
- Greetings Men and women don't usually shake hands. If a hand is offered and a Qatari doesn't feel comfortable, they may instead put their hand over their heart.
- Ramadan Never eat or drink in public during this religious holiday; this is bad etiquette and is also illegal.
There's wi-fi (usually free) at most coffee shops, hotels, some restaurants and malls in Doha. Outside of the capital, opportunities for internet access can be few and far between.
Check the law before you go to Qatar: taking alcohol into the country, engaging in extramarital relationships or public displays of sexuality, nudity, consuming pork products, homosexual behaviour and blasphemy are all illegal. Qatar has the death penalty for certain crimes (including apostasy), although execution is rare.
Breaking the law can have severe consequences. In the case of an arrest, if the detainee requests it, Qatar must notify the embassy for the detainee. Your embassy should help you contact a lawyer, contact friends and family on your behalf and will check on your welfare. Consular staff cannot get you out of prison, give you money or give you legal advice.
LGBT+ travellers should avoid public displays of affection and being open about their sexuality in Qatar, where homosexual acts are illegal. Men who engage in homosexual behaviour may face up to three years in prison. People committing adultery, fornication and any speech considered offensive (including LGBT+ activism) could also be arrested and punished under Qatari law. Cross-dressing is also considered a sin and may be an arrestable offence.
In 2017, The Danish Girl – a movie in which Eddie Redmayne plays a transgender artist – was banned after public outcry. The Ministry of Culture thanked the public for their 'unwavering vigilance' in bringing the matter to their attention. Interestingly, though, openly gay people have been invited to perform in the country, including pop singer George Michael in 2008.
- Magazines The quarterly Marhaba (www.marhaba.qa) is an excellent source of information regarding events in Qatar and includes some interesting feature articles on local life and culture. It costs QR20. Time Out Doha has comprehensive listings for dining and entertainment; it costs QR9, with some content online at www.timeoutdoha.com.
- Newspapers Qatar’s English-language newspapers are the daily Gulf Times and the daily Peninsula. International newspapers and magazines are available one or two days after publication at major bookshops in Doha.
- Radio Programmes in English are broadcast on 97.5FM and 102.6FM. The BBC is available on 107.4FM.
- TV Channel 2 on Qatar TV (QTV) broadcasts programmes in English, and international satellite channels are available at the majority of hotels. The widely respected Al Jazeera Satellite Channel is broadcast in English and Arabic from Doha.
ATMs are widespread, and 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 of 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 one, five, 10, 25 or 50 dirhams, and notes come in denominations of one, five, 10, 50, 100 and 500 riyals.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tips are not expected in bars, hotels or taxis.
- Restaurants A service charge of 10-15% is usually added to top-end restaurant bills. If no tip is included, 10% is appreciated, but be discreet, as some establishments have begun to reduce wages in anticipation of tips.
Qataris love their siesta, and Doha resembles a ghost town in the early afternoon.
Banks 7.30am to 1pm Sunday to Thursday
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 are post offices all over Doha and a few out of the city. Postal rates differ depending on the size of the parcel and the destination. For a full list of postal rates, see www.qpost.com.qa. A small letter to the UK costs around QR10.
In addition to the main Islamic holidays of Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr, which are set based on the lunar calendar and thus rotate throughout the Gregorian calendar, Qatar observes the following public holidays.
National Sports Day 12 February
Accession Day 27 June
National Day 18 December
- Smoking Popular in Qatar, but new laws prohibit smoking tobacco in covered public places, with hefty fines for offenders. Shisha is an exception to this rule in establishments with the proper permits. The ban includes smoking in cars where there are children under 18 years old.
Taxes & Refunds
There is no tax on purchases in Qatar, however a tax of around 5% is being mulled for the future.
All communications services are provided by Ooredoo (www.ooredoo.qa) and Vodafone (www.vodafone.qa).
Internet calling services, such as Skype and WhatsApp, are blocked.
SIM cards with various data and call packages are available at the airport with a passport.
Qatar has a fast 4G data speed.
Qatar is three hours ahead of GMT. The time does not change during the summer. Not taking daylight saving into account, when it’s noon in Qatar, the time elsewhere is as follows:
Paris & Rome
Perth & Hong Kong
Most toilets are the sit-down kind, and are free to use in shopping malls and restaurants. You may occasionally encounter squat toilets, though this is rare. There are very limited or no toilet facilities on beaches. Some toilets may be available in newer parks.
Visit Qatar (www.visitqatar.qa) is the best source of local information. There is also a Visit Qatar call centre, which cal be reached by calling 440 69921.
Travel with Children
Qatar is a safe, easygoing, family-oriented country, and children are welcome and catered for in most places, especially malls, where there are changing facilities and activities.
There's an animal-themed Jungle Zone in Hyatt Plaza, a trampolining wonderland inside Tawar Mall, an ice rink and den of activities in the basement of City Center Doha and the Gondolania amusement area filled with fairground-like games in Villaggio Mall.
Outside of the malls, kids can burn off steam at Katara Beach, with its inflatable play structures, or the Megapolis Entertainment Center on The Pearl, with bowling and arcade games, and the water rides at Aqua Park.
Large resorts also have plenty of activities for young children, and sometimes kids clubs with daily schedules. At brunch, some Doha hotels offer kids entertainers, face painting and other activities so parents can catch up with friends.
Doha is not a pedestrian-friendly place, and visitors with prams may struggle on the streets' uneven surfaces and big curbs. Nearly all public attractions have ample parking facilities, however, and the parks and Corniche are buggy-friendly.
The Qatar Volunteers community group is always up to something good, whether it be a beach clean-up, yoga for people with special needs, or a pink afternoon tea meet-up for breast-cancer awareness. Events posted on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/groups/Qatarvolunteers) are open to all.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & measures Qatar uses the metric system.
Qatar is a safe place for women to travel and women can move about freely. Harassment of women is not looked upon kindly by officials. However, leering and unwanted attention is a daily occurrence for some women, especially those with fair features. It's a sad reality that the more conservatively women dress (the minimum being covering shoulders and knees) the fewer unwanted stares and less attention they will receive from men in Qatar. Although it's not necessary, women travelling solo may prefer to wear a headscarf in more rural parts of Qatar, simply to better blend in.
People wishing to work in Qatar should first secure a job before travelling to the country. Websites such as www.qatarliving.com/jobs and www.gulftalent.com/qatar/jobs post jobs in various industries on their websites. Upon securing a role, your employer will issue you with a temporary visa, and then help you convert it to a Work Residency Permit once you have entered the country, a process that takes around four weeks. Once you have a Work Residency Permit you can apply for your immediate family members to join you in Qatar. Visit http://portal.www.gov.qa for more advice on work visas.