Prepare for your trip to Qatar with these practical tips. Learn about currency, tipping, weather and visa info. Then you’re ready to go!
Hamad International Airport
Opened in April 2014, the state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport is conveniently located just south of Doha city. Named Best Airport in the Middle East in the 2015 Skytrax awards, it can handle 8,700 passengers per hour and will gradually increase annual capacity from 30 million passengers to 50 million on final completion. Immigration formalities, baggage reclaim and other passenger services are designed to be ultra-efficient. In addition to its role as Qatar Airways’ home base, HIA also serves more than 50 other international airlines. The taxi transfer time to the city centre is some 30 minutes.
The national carrier Qatar Airways has won numerous awards for quality and service. Most recently, it was named as Airline of the Year (World’s Best Airline) for the third time in the annual Skytrax industry audit for 2015. Qatar Airways’ rapidly expanding network now covers more than 140 destinations worldwide, including most major cities throughout the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia and North and South America.
The attitude to dress in Qatar is quite relaxed, but visitors (men as well as women) should show respect for local culture and customs in public places by avoiding excessively revealing clothing. Lightweight summer clothing is suitable most of the year, but some warmer garments may be needed for the winter evenings. Context is important. Bikinis and beachwear are acceptable by the hotel pool but not in public places in the city.
The monetary unit of Qatar is the Riyal (abbreviated to QR or QAR) and the exchange rate is fixed at US$1 = QR3.64. There are no foreign exchange restrictions and the currency is freely convertible. ATMs can be found in shopping malls, hotels, the airport, petrol stations and other locations around the urban areas. Cards accepted include American Express, Cirrus, Global Access, MasterCard, Plus System and Visa. Most shops, hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards but cash may be preferred in smaller shops in the souq.
The official language is Arabic and English is widely spoken and understood. A wide range of European languages are spoken within the hospitality industry.
There are no major health risks and no special inoculations required by visitors. The quality of healthcare is generally very high and visitors should have no problem obtaining appropriate treatment and advice. There are many well-stocked pharmacies, with English speaking staff, throughout Doha city, including some open 24 hours. Most pharmacies can be easily identified by the symbol of the Red Crescent encircling the Bowl of Hygieia (snake and chalice). Travel health insurance is advisable.
• Many restaurants include a service charge with the bill but, an extra 10-15% will be appreciated if good service is received
• Tipping in hotels follows the same pattern as the rest of the world. A tip of about QR10-20 ($2-$3) for porters and doormen is appropriate, and the same per day for housekeepers too
• Around QR80 per day is suitable for tour guides and drivers and QR20-40 per journey for taxi drivers
• There are many local and international car hire firms operating in Qatar, including several with branches at the airport. Hirers will require a credit card, passport copy and a valid driving licence from their home country
• An International Driving Certificate may also be requested, depending on the country of the hirer’s driving licence (though not necessary for most western countries)
• Qatar has a first class well signposted road system; finding your way around is easy
• Doha’s main streets are mostly wide dual carriageways
• Driving is on the right hand side of the road as in continental Europe and USA
• Most visitors rely on taxis to get around, but there is a good bus service throughout most of Doha and across the country
• Doha Bus offers visitors a planned city route where passengers may purchase a 24- hour pass and hop-on and hop-off at any stop throughout the 24 hours
• The West Bay bus service is free of charge and available through the West Bay District. Buses run two routes operating from 06h00 every 15 minutes to 23h45 daily
• Currently under construction and extending over 186 miles, with a total of 98 stations and four lines, Doha Metro will connect all of the city’s major commercial and residential hubs via underground, over ground and elevated lines. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2019, with the whole network operational by 2026
US Nationals may enter Qatar on the free visa waiver program. The waiver will be valid for 30 days from the date of issuance and entitles its holder to spend up to 30 days in Qatar, during either a single trip or on multiple trips. This waiver may be extended for an additional 30 days. Passports must be valid for 6 months from date of travel.
Qatar has a desert climate with year-round sunshine, hot summers and mild winters. Mean monthly temperatures range from 62°F in January to 97°F in July, sometimes reaching highs of 104°F+ during the summer months. Rain is infrequent, averaging 70 mm per year. It falls mainly in brief showers between October and March.