A Qatar Guide for Tourists and Residents
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Monday, October 23, 2006

Qatar: Essential Information

Basic information which will be of use to anyone considering coming to Qatar.

Electrical System The electrical system is the same as in Britain, with the same kind of plugs (240 volts, plugs with three square pins). American devices cannot be used in Qatar (although laptop computers, shavers and other devices designed for travel usually adjust their voltage automatically).

Safety Crime is almost non-existent in Qatar, although it does seem to be on the rise, and the police are honest. Qatar has suffered only one terrorist attack, and feels very safe.

Money The local currency is the Qatari riyal (QR) which is fixed to the dollar at a rate of $1= QR3.64. This is theoretically divided into 100 dirhams, although in practice only 25 and 50 dirham coins are available. There is sometimes a shortage of these coins, so expect to be given change in the form of chocolate or chewing gum.

There are no currency controls, and money can be freely taken in or out of the country.

There is a comprehensive and reliable network of cash machines (ATMs), and they are connected to international networks. They are free to use, although your bank may charge.

Credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted, although travellers cheques might be less necessary here than other places because of the very low crime rate.

Major credit cards are widely accepted.

Driving Cars drive on the right in Qatar. Visitors can drive for one week using driving licences from their country. Hire cars are widely available.

Transport Buses are available. They are modern and air-conditioned. They are used mostly by (male) immigrant workers, as most Qataris and ex-pat professionals have cars.

There are modern and cheap (and honest) taxis (Tel: 458 8888). Until recently it was extremely difficult to get a taxi; this has now changed, and you can usually hail a cab in a few minutes. Another alternative is to use ‘limousine’ services. These are effectively unmetered upmarket cabs. They cannot be hailed from the street.

Emergency Number The emergency number is 999 for all services.

Telephones and Internet The international dialling code is +974. There is only one phone company and calls to and from Qatar are very expensive. It may be very expensive to use a foreign mobile phone here. Check with your operator. It is possible to get a pay-as-you-go phone here relatively cheaply, and you only need your passport to get one. You will find more information at www.qtel.com.qa Qtel.

Internet It is easy to find an internet cafe and they are cheap to use. The internet is censored for pornography, but not for politics.

Language English is almost universally used in Qatar. Indeed, as most shop assistants and taxi drivers are not Arab and cannot speak Arabic, the locals need to use English.

Clothing Clothing should be modest, but the required level of modesty is often exaggerated. Covering heads is definitely not required; low cut dresses are probably pushing it a bit too far. A more conservative attire may be required at work.

Weather It can hit 50ºC in Qatar in the summer, and it can also be extremely humid. The weather is much more pleasant during the spring and autumn, and a light jacket will be necessary during the winter.

Weekends and working hours The weekends are Friday and Saturday. On Friday morning all the shops are closed except for a few in the large shopping malls. Saturday shop opening hours are normal.

Shops are frequently open from early in the morning until late in the evening, although many of those outside the shopping malls close in the afternoon.

Working hours are approximately 7.30am-1.00pm, and then 3.00pm-7.00pm, although government departments usually work only in the mornings.

Food and Restaurants There is a huge variety of restaurants with cuisine from all over the world. All the main international fast food restaurants are present. Vegetarians are well catered for in Indian restaurants, although their choices may be limited in other restaurants.

Tipping Tips are necessary but are very much appreciated in taxis and restaurants.

Time Qatar is three hours ahead of GMT. The time is the same throughout the year.

Television and Radio There are two local television stations: QTV1 in Arabic and one in QTV2 in English. On the radio, QBS broadcasts in English and French on 1233AM / 102.6FM

Also see:

Qatar Travel

Residents Guide

Buy Books on Qatar from Amazon UK