Things to know before visiting Qatar

50 Interesting Things You Should Know Before Visiting Qatar

Qatar is a small Middle Eastern Arab country located on the coast of the Arabian Gulf. It has been politically stable since its independence in 1971. It serves as a popular transit or layover destination for people traversing between the east and the West. It’s also a prominent destination for business travelers.

If a trip to Qatar is on your to-do list then it would be helpful to be aware of the cultural norms and rules that prevail in the country. These pointers may seem trivial, but they can make or break your experience. Peruse the informative tips listed below, as they will help you make the most of your stay in Qatar.

Also read: Top 10 free places to visit in Qatar

Facts About Qatar

  1. The political structure of Qatar is a Monarchy (ruled by a king) with the Emir (Amir) of Qatar as head of the state and government. The Thani family has been ruling since 1868.
  2. The official currency of Qatar is QR (Qatari Riyal). It is divided into 100 Dirhams.
  3. Qataris, the native people are only 15% of the total population. This is largely due to the vast number of male migrant workers (Indians dominate the immigrant work scene). Qatari citizens get a lot of benefits such as free food, free electricity & water, guaranteed employment, and free health care.
  4. 99% of the people reside in the capital city, Doha. The rest of the country is mostly desert.
  5. Since Qatar is a desert, this country is also subjected to climate adversities like Sandstorms, infrequent and heavy rainfalls, and extreme fog during winters. 
  6. Qatar is a small peninsula that stretches 563 Km of coastline. Sightseeing is possible in 3-5 days as most of the tourist attractions are in Doha.
  7. The richest country in the world by GDP per capita. Qatar exports large quantities of oil and natural gas from its reserves. 
  8. Fuel/gas stations are situated at several places spread across the country. Given that the country’s primary resource is oil, fuel prices are extremely low. Petrol and diesel cost around QR 1.95/- per liter.
  9. The country and its residents strictly adhere to Sharia law. Meaning that alcohol and pork are forbidden. Alcohol is served only in licensed luxury hotels and is found to be relatively costlier due to added taxes. A permit or license is needed for the consumption of alcohol. You cannot get alcohol anywhere during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
  10. Owing to the desert topography, Doha experiences extreme temperatures. It is too hot and humid during summers and too cold during winters. The best time to visit Qatar would be between November and April when the climate is mild.
  11. Although Arabic is the official language, English is spoken among the majority. All signboards are in both languages.
  12. Qatar Airways is one of the largest in the world and it serves six continents connecting more than 160 destinations every day. Besides, it has won Best Airline of the Year for a record-breaking 5 consecutive years. If you are flying in Qatar Airways, you can utilize the free Wi-Fi services at the airport.
  13. Those who have transit (between 8 and 24 hours) in Doha when traveling by Qatar Airways will get free accommodation, entry visas, airport transfers, and meals for passengers. (Note: these perks are only applicable when bookings are made before 72 hours of departure).
  14. One of the safest countries for solo female travelers ranking #31 in the global peace index with very few crime rates.
  15. Qatar promotes accessibility for disabled visitors. There are provisions to ensure that the differently-abled face no discomfort during their access to entry and exit across the country.
  16. The country has only two telecommunication companies – Ooredoo and Vodafone. A passport with a valid visa or residence permit is required to buy a SIM card in Qatar. You can opt for prepaid services that start as low as QR 10.
  17. Qatar sets a world record for laying the longest continuous Olympic cycle path at 33 Km long and 7 m wide. Setting the speed up to 50 Km/Hr without having to worry about cars. It has 29 underpasses and 5 bridges with 1450 lighting poles set along the route.
  18. Qatar National Day is celebrated on the 18th of December every year. With parades, air shows, fireworks, and flags hoisted across the country. The national day is a huge occasion where the whole nation indulges in several special activities.
  19. It is advisable to wear outfits that are not too revealing or tight. Dress appropriately covering the legs and shoulders. Wearing a beach dress or swimsuit is not allowed in this conservative Islamic country. Also for women, it is not mandatory to cover their heads or wear an abaya.
  20. Although the government claims the tap water to be safe, we recommend against it. Even the majority of the locals buy bottled or canned water from the nearby shopping centers.
  21. Al Zubarah Archaeological Site is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the country.
  22. Working days of the week are from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being considered weekends. Primarily because Friday in Muslim tradition is a day for prayers and introspection.
  23. Know the common timings of public places. Qatar remains a ghost town during the afternoons because of the humidity.
    • Banks: 7.30 AM to 1 PM from Sunday to Thursday. Closed during weekends.
    • Restaurants: 11.30 AM to 1.30 PM, 5.30 PM to midnight from Saturday to Thursday, and 5 PM to midnight on Fridays
    • Shopping malls: 10 AM to 10 PM Saturday to Thursday, 4 PM to midnight Friday
    • Shops: 8.30 AM to 12.30 PM and 4 PM to 9 PM Saturday to Thursday, 4.30 PM to 9 PM Friday
  24. You need an international driving permit or a valid Qatar driving license if you want to drive in the country.
  25. Public transportation systems – Buses and metro cover most of the city and are the best way to get around. If you wish to explore the outskirts, cars are the best option.
  26. Visit Mowasalat’s official website to get familiar with the bus route, fares, and frequency. Purchase Karwa smart cards for using buses. If you have boarded the bus without the rechargeable Karwa card, you will have to pay a “no card fee” of QR 10 in cash. The purchase and top-up of Karwa Smart Card could be done at the vending machines provided at the airport, Doha Bus Station, Qatar Mall, Pearl Qatar, and at Partner Merchants outlets (visit Mowasalat website for locations). However, for the metro, you can pay either in cash or using a Metro card.
  27. Careem, Karwa, and Uber are popular taxi services that can be booked through their official website or mobile applications. You can also rent cars in Doha.
  28. Taxis are metered. If you are traveling in the city, the meter points to 1 and 0 if you are traveling outside of Doha. If the driver fails to turn on the meter, do remind them. If he is hesitant, call the contact number that is pasted in the window of all the taxis.
  29. Given the geographical scarcity of the nation, Hamad International Airport (Airport Code: HIA) is the only operational airport in the country.
  30. During the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, it is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in public places. All restaurants are closed during the fasting hours.
  31. The Qatari healthcare system is the costliest when compared to other Middle East countries.
  32. It is important to have emergency contact numbers handy.
    • Ambulance/Fire/Accident: 999
    • Worldwide emergency: 112
  33. Qatar is the second flattest country in the world with a total elevation of just 28 m or 92 feet, after the Maldives.
  34. Qatar is one of the six countries in the world that does not have any natural forests.
  35. Falconry is a traditional sport. You can purchase a falcon and carry it in the economy class cabins of Qatar Airways which permits six falcons in one plane.
  36. Pearl Qatar, an artificial island is the only area where foreigners can purchase the property.
  37. Qatar is the world’s biggest buyer of art in the art market, where value is considered. The galleries and museums portray their rich culture in art forms. You can find art installations in popular public places like East-West West-East by Richard Serra in Brouq Nature Reserve, Ponce’s Thumb in Souq Waqif, and Gandhi’s three monkeys in Katara, next to the amphitheater, to name a few. 
  38. Regardless of being an Islamic country, the nightlife is still vibrant. Culture-centric shows are always conducted on special occasions in crowded places like malls, and souqs. The Al Hazm (the higher ground), Mall of Qatar, and Villagio are just some of the famous that the country houses. The malls here, especially the ones mentioned, are truly some of the most unique in the world. The country is also home to some of the most eccentric souks like the Gold Souqs, and the Souq Waqif Al Wakra.
  39. Violations of traffic rules lead to hefty fines. The license will be suspended based on the deduction of points for each infraction. If suspended, then you have to apply for a new driving license after passing the driving test, which you will be permitted to take a year later.
  40. Couchsurfing is available in Qatar. However, there are only limited options for hotels. Due to the comparatively high cost of living, the migrant workers usually prefer to share their accommodation in a rented room.
  41. The power plugs and sockets are of types D and G. The standard voltage is 240 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
  42. Despite the progressiveness, it is still a Muslim country. Public displays of affection are undoubtedly off-limits.
  43. LGBT rights are so taboo in Qatar that it doesn’t even feature in public discourse, yet true to the fact that it’s not a life choice, but rather an inherent nature, it does prevalently exist. However, Qatari law concerning marriage, divorce, and other family matters is influenced by traditional Islamic morality. Unfortunately, this makes cohabitation illegal for the LGBT community.
  44. Always drive on the right side of the road. Children below 12 years of age are not allowed to sit in the front of the car. Offenses like drunk, driving, using a phone while driving, not wearing a seat belt, etc., are all penalizable.
  45. Toilets in public places and accommodations are of a Western type.
  46. The cars should be kept neat and clean. You will be fined if the car is covered with dirt. As a consequence of this law, you will tend to find many workers in parking lots and the streets, willing to clean care for a nominal fare.
  47. You can order food online in Qatar and have it delivered to your doorstep. Talabat, Zomato, and Carriage are a few popular options.
  48. The telephone number in Qatar has eight digits. The country code is 974. To call people of Qatar from another country, dial with a + or 00 before the access code, 974.
  49. Apart from the holy Ramadan season, the restaurants here are always packed to capacity. You have to ensure that you taste the national dish Machbūs, a meal consisting of rice, meat, and vegetables. You also have the opportunity to taste Middle Eastern cuisine as intended. On the whole, the cuisine is a must-taste. 
  50. There is no tipping etiquette in Qatar. It is left to your discretion whether to give or not for their service. However, tipping is a global social etiquette, and we recommend that you practice it regardless of the restaurant you eat in any part of the world. Locals usually give a couple of rials or 10.

Qatar, much like Dubai, is very hospitable to tourists, foreigners, and immigrants. It is one of the most tolerant countries in the Middle East. It is one of the most highly recommended Middle Eastern countries for amateur and veteran travelers alike. With its hospitable residents, picturesque scenery, and comparatively progressive laws, Qatar is truly an oasis in a continent of deserts. We cannot impose on this enough, Qatar is a must-visit!

If you are a first-timer or if you have already been there, we hope the above facts and tips fascinate you to visit this amazing country (again, for some). Let us know about your travel experience, or if we have missed out on anything in the comments below. For more travel tips and tricks, subscribe to our newsletter and stick with us, the wandering twins.

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