Qatari nationals often opt to wear traditional clothing of the Gulf region. Foreign visitors and residents are expected to dress in a style that is sensitive to local culture, with conservative clothing recommended. Men generally wear long trousers and a shirt in public. Close-toed shoes are expected in most establishments. Women’s attire in public should fall below the knee, and cover the shoulders and chest. Western bathing attire is typically permitted at hotel and club swimming pools and beaches.
Shaking hands is the standard form of greeting for non-Arabs, particularly in a business setting. Many Muslim men and women may not be comfortable shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex so it is best to follow the locals’ lead. Refreshments, usually tea or coffee, are commonly offered when meeting and refusal can be considered impolite. It is recommended to ask for at least a glass of water. Giving and receiving anything should always be done with the right hand.
Arabic is the official language. English is widely spoken and understood, although a number of official documents are in Arabic. Given the large number of expatriates in the country, a wide range of languages can be heard throughout Qatar.
The local currency, the Qatari riyal (QR), is made up of 100 dirhams. Notes are denominated as QR1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500. The QR has effectively been pegged to the dollar at QR1:$3.64 since 2001. ATMs and currency exchanges are plentiful.
Private businesses generally operate from Saturday to mid-Thursday afternoon and are open from 8am to noon and from 4pm to 8pm. International companies often work from 8am to 5pm. Working hours for ministries and government institutions are from 7am to 2pm. It is recommended to conduct business before 11am. Malls are often open until 10pm. Local shops are often closed on Fridays.
Tips are appreciated but not expected. A service charge is included in most restaurant bills.
Fixed-line to fixed-line calls within Qatar are free of charge but may be subject to a fee from hotels. SIM cards for mobile phones, both prepaid and postpaid, are available at local outlets but require registration. The international access code for Qatar is +974. Wireless broadband internet access is available in most hotels.
UK-style, three-pin plugs at 220/240 VAC are standard. US and European plugs can also used but require an adaptor.
Foreigners can get emergency treatment for a nominal fee through Hamad Medical Corporation. Private hospitals and clinics also provide a variety of services to travellers.
Public transport is not yet comprehensive; with cheap fuel private cars remain the most popular method of travel. Many hotels offer chauffeur services and rental car companies are plentiful as well. There is a steadily improving bus system in Doha and a government-run taxi service, Karwa, that is modern but can be oversubscribed at peak times. Private hired taxis are the most convenient and flexible mode of transportation to date.
For 33 designated countries, one-month tourist visas are available upon arrival. Although visa costs vary by nationality, QR100 ($27.41) is the standard rate.
Visas must be purchased with a credit or debit card upon arrival at the immigration desk. It is recommended to have a printout of your outbound flight and hotel reservation available for presentation when doing so.
Tourist visas can be extended by one month at the airport visa office. Visa regulations are subject to change so it is advisable to call your embassy, hotel or airline before travelling.
Qataris are of Arab origin and local culture is very much shaped by Islamic religious traditions. While the large influx of expatriates and migrant workers to the country has resulted in an allowance for some foreign customs, Qatar remains keen to safeguard its local heritage and traditions.