A Qatar Guide for Tourists and Residents
Home   Qatar   Doha   Contact   Qatar Jobs   Qatar Map   Request

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Qatar Basics

Essential information for anyone thinking of 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 usually adjust their voltage automatically).

Crime is almost non-existent in Qatar, and the police are honest. Qatar has suffered only one terrorist attack, and this appears to be an aberration. Qatar feels very safe.

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.

Cash machines (ATMs) are widely available, and are connected to international networks. Major Credit cards and travellers cheques are also widely accepted, although travellers cheques maybe less necessary here than other places because of the very low crime rate.

Cars drive on the right in Qatar. Visitors can drive for one week using driving licences from their country. There are a huge number of place to hire cars. See Driving in Qatar

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. Buses cost 2 riyals within Doha, and 7 riyals for intercity journeys.

There are modern and cheap (and honest) taxis. These start at at less than and a dollar and then cost 25 cents a kilometer. 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.

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. Many people use internet calling to reduce their bills.

Internet cafes are widely available and cheap to use. The internet is censored for pornography, but not for politics. See Qatar Surprise .

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 should be modest, but the required level of modesty is often exaggerated. See Living in Qatar: Myths and realities.

It can hit 50ºC in Qatar in the summer, and it’s also extremely humid. The weather is much more pleasant during the spring and autumn, and a light jacket will be necessary during the winter. Recently, there has been an increased amount of rain.

Weekends and working hours
The weekends are Friday and Saturday, although some workers are required to work 6 days a week. 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 8am-12pm, and then 4pm-8pm, although government departments frequently work only in the mornings. Workers should not be required to work more than 8 hours a day without over time, although this doesn't always happen in practice.

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.

Also see our Resident's Guide to Qatar