Qatar Travel Tips and Tourist info
Here are some general tips that may help you in taking care of all that you need before planning a travel to Qatar.
Facts about Qatar:
Full Name : State of Qatar
Capital City : Doha
Time Zone : GMT/UTC +3 ()
Languages : Arabic is the official language, but English is also widely acknowledged. Urdu is also spoken.
The national currency is the Qatari Riyal (QR). 1 Riyal is equivalent to 1.01 Dirhams. Bank notes are available in denominations of QR500, 100, 10, 50, 5 and 1. Coins are found in denominations of 25, 50, 10, 5 and 1 dirhams, although only 25 and 50 dirham coins are widely circulated.
Currency exchange can be done at the airport, currency exchange dealers and banks. The least favourable exchange rates are seen with facilities at the airports, while competitive rates are usually found at city centre financial establishments. It is better to avoid exchanging money at your hotel, as hotel rates are among the worst affected. The main bank branches in Qatar are located on Grand Hamad Street, Doha.
There are no currency restrictions on import or export of local or foreign currency, except Israeli currency, which is prohibited. Check Riyal currency converter
Electricity : In Qatar the standard voltage is 240 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Qatar, if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa).
As for electrical sockets, British Style Plug with one grounding blade and two flat blades are used. Even Indian/South African style plugs with two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin can be used.
Weather: Qatar has an arid climate with mild and pleasant winters and hot and humid summers. Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly. In case of any natural disasters, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for up-to-date information.
Telephone: The country code for Qatar is +974. City or area codes are not used.
Emergency: The emergency phone number is 999.
Internet: Majority of five-star hotels in Qatar offer internet accessibility to guests with cheaper rates between 7pm and 7am. Internet access is very widespread in Qatar. Both Ooredoo and Vodafone offer fiber broadband services.
Weights and measures: The metric system is the legal standard, although some British measures are still in use.
Best time to plan visit to Qatar
Qatar has hot and arid climate, with maximum heat experienced in summers. To avoid climatic extremities, the best time to visit Qatar is between November and early April. These months are winter and early spring season. Such climatic conditions permit outdoor activities and sight-seeing across the country and these are regarded as peak-tourist season in Qatar.
Points to consider before travel
- Organize travel insurance and check activities covered under your policy.
- Register your travel and contact details to contact during an emergency.
- Visa rules change constantly. Contact nearest Embassy or Consulate of Qatar for latest information. Ensure that your passport has at least six months of validity from planned date of travel to home country. Also carry copies of your latest passport photographs, in case you need a replacement passport while you are in Qatar.
- Organize several ways to access money in Qatar, including credit cards, travellers’ cheques, debit cards, cash, or cash cards. Consult your bank to find out details about the most appropriate currency and ATM cards.
- Make photocopies of valuables such as tickets, visas, passport, and travellers’ cheques.
- Contact your General Physician one month before travel, to check about vaccinations and other preventive measures.
- Emergency medical treatment is excellent in Qatar, but expensive. Routine treatment is available, but may be expensive for tourists. Hence, ensure that you have adequate travel health insurance and other accessible funds to cover the cost of medical expenses, if any. In case of any emergency medical treatment, if required, during your trip, dial emergency medical assistance at 999 and seek help.
- Do not carry surplus cash, expensive jewellery, watches, cameras, and as a sensible precaution, ensure to lock your luggage.
Local customs and etiquette
Local laws in Qatar reflect the fact that Qatar is an Islamic country, and the laws here should be respected at all times. You will have to ensure that your actions do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, particularly, during the holy month of Ramadan, when visiting religious areas.
Importing alcohol, pornography, pork products, narcotics and religious books into Qatar is illegal. All passenger luggages are scanned for its contents at Doha Airport Arrivals Hall. DVDs and videos are subjected to scrutiny and may be censored. However, travellers entering Qatar may bring in reasonable amount of perfume for personal use, without paying duty. The penalties for possession of or trade in drugs are severe, often resulting in imprisonment. Similarly, it is a punishable offence to drink alcohol in public.
While in Qatar, you will have to dress modestly in public. Women should wear dresses that cover their arms and legs, as it is considered a respect to local culture and traditions. Local women are often completely veiled. Any intimacy between men and women, in public, can lead to arrest. In general Qatari men and women do not socialize frequently outside families. Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar.
Although it is acceptable to cross your legs, it is not acceptable socially, to show the sole of your foot or to point your foot at anyone.
At social and business functions, traditional Qatari coffee is served, in very small cups, as a gesture of welcome. Guests are usually served in the order of seniority.
During Ramadan eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims. Non-Muslims too, are expected to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. There are some large establishments, including five-star hotels that cater to non-Muslims during these times. But, you may have to check arrangements beforehand.
Common Arabic phrases mostly used in Qatar
Naám = Yes
laá = No
min fadlak = Please
marhaba = Hello
shukran = Thanks
Common greeting words
assalmu alaikum = peace be with you
Reply to this common greeting
wailakum assalam = and with you be peace
Travelling with children, women
Single parents or adults travelling alone with children should know that some countries require documentary evidence or parental responsibility prior to allowing lone parents to enter the country, or, in some cases, prior to permitting the children to leave the country. For more such information, contact your nearest Qatari embassy.
Travelling will be easier if children know what to expect. Check-in early and reserve a window seat, as watching the world from as high as 35,000 ft could be fascinating for a child. Although, majority of the airlines supply kids entertainment onboard, you children may find it more enjoyable when you bring in some books, games, toys and other necessities.
Women travellers should take care when travelling alone in Qatar, particularly at night. Single women travellers are sometimes vulnerable to harassments, and may sometimes experience incidents of unwanted attention, but they may not be of threatening nature. When travelling alone, the taxi used should be from one of the reputable taxi/limousine companies.
In comparison to western countries, driving standards in Qatar are lower, and at times speeds are high and minor accidents to happen. If you are involved in a motor accident, remain with your vehicle, as it is an offence to leave the scene of accident, although no one has been injured in the accident. A Police report may be required before you proceed with repair works on your vehicle or claim against your insurance.
Driving on rural roads could be dangerous in Qatar, due to unsafe driving practices, insufficient lighting and presence of wandering animals. Hence, take the help of a reputable tour organizer to deal with risks associated with trips to such places.
Tours should be undertaken only in well-equipped four-wheel drive vehicles with food provisions, sufficient water and a mobile phone. Travellers entering Qatar by sea should be aware of the fact that there are several areas that are sensitive in relation to territory and security.
Significant penalties have been introduced for traffic offences, including not wearing a seatbelt. The law stipulates that driver and the front seat passenger should wear seat belts all the time. Even minor expressions of road rage, can draw significant penalties. Penalties are also levied for use of mobile phones. Drinking and driving is strictly not permitted in Qatar.
Visitors can drive for a week (7 days from the date of their arrival in Qatar) using approved licenses from certain countries. But, for individuals planning to reside in Qatar for more than six months, it is necessary to apply for a temporary or permanent Qatari Driving License. For GCC residents, the Gulf license will remain valid for 3 months from date of arrival in the country. But, if you are a resident of Qatar, then you need to hold a Permanent Qatari License. A temporary Qatari license with three month validity is a must before applying for a permanent driving license.
Banks are open every morning, except for Fridays, and credit cards and traveller’s checks are widely accepted. They are open from 7.30 to 11.30 Saturday through Thursday.
Qatar serves variety of international cuisine, including Pakistani, Western and Indian. Curries are common, as is rice, biryani, chicken, potato plate, fruit juices and soft drinks readily available, as is gahwa, strong and spicy Turkish coffee. If you like a European cuisine in a fancy setting, a hotel like the Ramada or the Marriott would be ideal, while for true authentic Thai cuisine, try Thai twin or Thai snacks. Indian and Pakistani food, are found throughout the city. Even the Middle Eastern cuisine is found everywhere, and can be purchased cheap from take-outs too. Sometimes, a meal at the Souqs would also be a unique experience in an authentic setting. Here you can find few popular restaurants in Doha.
Tax and Tipping
At restaurants, usually a service charge is added to the bill. If your bill does not include 10% service charges, then you could follow the standard tipping rules, and add it for good service.
Usually, simple taxi fares do not need a tip. However, drivers sometimes trek into the backyards of the country, and such drivers should be given the same 10%.
There are no taxes levied on personal or corporate income, and no withholding tax, and no VAT in Qatar.
Visitors to Qatar do not require any specific vaccinations, but immunisation against Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. Doha has good medical standards and care and medicines are readily available. Usually hospitals and doctors expect cash payment for the services rendered. Comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended to cover any unanticipated medical expenses or emergencies. To avoid risk of Traveller’s diarrhoea, carry bottled water with you. For any medical emergencies in Qatar, call 999.
Terrorism / theft / crime
When planning your activities in Qatar, be aware of the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and security levels provided. Usually public and commercial areas, frequented by westerners and key transport installations such as airport premises, hotels, clubs, cinemas, theatres, supermarkets and shopping areas, schools, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas are vulnerable to theft and terrorism.
Qatar has comparatively low incidents of crime, including pick-pocketing, petty crime etc. Although incidents of card skimming etc are low, you should observe precautions.
In general, Doha is a safe city, and visitors usually do not encounter many problems with petty crime. However, the threat of terrorism is ever-present here, though it does not seem to have an impact on day-to-day life. An ‘Abaya’ (the headscarf worn by local women here), which can be purchased easily in Doha, is one of the methods of avoiding the annoyance of any unwanted attention for women. However, wearing an Abaya is not a must.