Information & Facts
Visitors to Qatar will discover an Aladdin's cave of attractions and sightseeing treasures. Whether you're interested in shopping at the traditional souqs(markets), marvelling at the Museum of Islamic Art or the Moorish style buildings and forts, watching herds of graceful Oryx or the powerful beauty of Arabian horses and horsemanship, Qatar has something on offer for all visitors. Children will be delighted by the rides at Aladdin's Kingdom and enthralled by the animals at the Doha Zoo. A little further afield in the south-east of the country, Khor Al Adaid, is an inland sea, surrounded by seemingly endless sand dunes. Doha's Palm Tree Island is the perfect place to relax at the end of a holiday packed with adventure, beauty and excitement.
Since nearly 80 percent of the country's population is comprised of foreign nationals, the customs and protocols for doing business in Qatar will depend on the business contacts that you make over there - you might find yourself dealing exclusively with other expats, in a corporate milieu that you are familiar with. However, the following advice pertains to Arabic business culture, to help prepare westerners for that eventuality. It is important to bear in mind that Qatar is an Islamic country - and that you should always remain sensitive and respectful of the large influence that these religious beliefs have on ordinary social life. The business culture of Qatar could be described as 'typically Arabic', in that a great emphasis is placed on personal relationshipsbetween business associates - Qatari businessmen will always prefer to do business with people they are familiar with, and who they feel they can trust. For this reason, you will probably be required to engage the services of a local agent (or sponsor) in Qatar, who'll be able to provide you with important introductions and recommendations. Furthermore, you will also have to remain patient during your first dealings with your new Qatari business partners - especially in the beginning, your new business partners will be far more interested in you, as a person they are looking to befriend, than your corporate expertise or qualifications; and a good amount of time will be devoted to 'getting to know each other', beforeany 'actual business' is discussed. Don't get impatient: long-term, personal business relationships in Qatar are certainly worth the investment of your time and energy. The management style that predominates in Qatar is strictly hierarchical - decisions are made at the top level, and clear, direct instructions are given to staff, who are expected to follow them to the letter. Note that it is unusual to hear the word 'No' outright in Qatar - a more polite, indirect method of refusal is usually preferred. Business etiquette in Qatar reflects the close relationship between personal and professional life mentioned above. Use Arabic titles where appropriate, such as Haji and Sheikh, to indicate your respect for your associates - however, also be prepared to engage in long, personal discussions with them. Make sure that when discussing business, you can deliver everything you promise to - verbal commitments are treated as solemnly (perhaps even more so) than written contracts in Qatar. Business meetings in Qatar will most likely be lengthy, and subject to numerous personal digressions, and perhaps even unexpected visitors. Dress conservatively for business meetings (especially women), and remain patient, even if the meeting's agenda becomes abandoned - do notresort to hard-sell tactics, as they will be interpreted as aggression on your part. Do not publicly criticise or undermine any associates - if you feel the need to say something, do it in private. It is common to exchange business cards when meeting new associates for the first time. Make sure your details are printed in Arabic on the reverse side of your card, and always spend a little time regarding someone else's card before putting it away. Business dress is smart, formal and conservative - especially for women, who must take care not to wear anything too revealing. The official language of Qatar is Arabic, though English is widely spoken and widely understood in the business world. Business hours are generally, 7.30am (or 8am) to 12pm, and then 3.30pm (or 4pm) to 7pm, from Saturday to Thursday. Friday is a day of rest.
The sun shines virtually every day in Qatar and rainfall is almost non-existent, averaging about three inches (80mm) a year, and this falling only in winter. Summers are sizzling hot by day, and warm at night, temperatures often hitting the 104°F mark (40°C) or above. Winters are only slightly cooler by day, but can be very chilly at night. The best time to visit Qatar is between November and March, when daytime temperatures are bearable, and there is no threat of sand storms.
The international access code for Qatar is +974, and the outgoing code is 0, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 027 for South Africa). City/area codes are not necessary. There are numerous Internet cafes in Doha. The country is well covered by the Q-Tel GSM 900/1800 mobile phone network. As of July 28th 2010, telephone numbers in Qatar gain an extra digit by repeating the first number (ie. 522-2222 becomes 5522-2222).
Qatar is an Islamic state, which prohibits drinking alcohol in public other than at licensed hotel restaurants and bars. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking in public are forbidden by Muslim Law. Intimacy between men and women in public can lead to arrest, and homosexuality is illegal. Visitors should dress modestly and respect local customs. The right hand should be used for everything, including eating and the giving and receiving of things, as the left is considered unclean. The import of pornographic material, non-Islamic religious material, alcohol or pork products is strictly prohibited.
Travellers to Qatar do not have to pay duty on tobacco products and perfume for personal use. Alcohol may not be imported under any circumstances. Prohibited items include wild birds, without an import authorisation from Ministry of Agriculture and Municipal Affairs (MMAA). Travellers are also prohibited from importing pork-related products and pornographic or sexually explicit material.
Electrical current is 240/415 volts AC; 50Hz. Round pin plugs with grounding and rectangular blade plugs are in use.
Visitors to Qatar will find getting around relatively simple. Doha is easy to navigate either by bus, hired car or taxi. For those wishing to travel beyond the city, hiring a car or (better yet) a car with driver is recommended. Driving over the dunes is not recommended: if you do decide to experience the dunes it is essential to travel in convoy or as part of a guided tour. Be sure to take extra water and always notify your hotel as to where you are going and how long you will be gone for, it is easy to get stuck out in the desert and some stretches remain quite isolated.
No vaccinations are a health requirement for entry to Qatar, but it is recommended that visitors be up to date with routine vaccinations. Modern medical care and medicine is available in Doha. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for medical services, and treatment is expensive; it is advisable for travellers to hold comprehensive medical insurance. Traveller's diarrhoea is a risk, therefore visitors should drink bottled water and avoid under-cooked food and unwashed fruit and vegetables, particularly outside of the hotels and resorts.
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely used.
The official currency is the Qatari Riyal (QAR), which divides into 100 dirhams. The Riyal exchange rate is pegged to the US Dollar at QR 3.65. Money and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks, the airport and exchange dealers. To avoid additional charges it is best to take travellers cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. The main bank branches are on Grand Hamad Street in Doha. Banks are open Saturday to Thursday 8am to 1pm and some are open into the evening. ATMs are available on the main streets of the cities and towns, at banks and in shopping malls and most shops, hotels and restaurants accept international credit cards.
Visitors should have tickets and documents for return or onward travel and sufficient funds to cover their stay. If on a tourist visa, visitors should have proof of confirmed hotel reservation and a minimum of USD 1,400 or a major credit card. Those without diplomatic representation in Qatar require passports valid for at least six months upon arrival. If holding a visa for Oman an additional visa for Qatar is not required. As of 1 May 2010 Qatar has decided to remove visas on arrival for the citizens of 33 countries. All visitors staying in Qatar for more than one month need to obtain a Residence Permit after arrival. The government of Qatar does not accept temporary passports. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Safety in Qatar is generally not an issue but the country, like most in the Gulf Region, is rated as being under high threat of indiscriminate terrorist attacks against western interests. Visitors should therefore be vigilant in public places. There is a low incidence of crime, but women are advised to take care when travelling alone at night.
A service charge of 10% is usually added to hotel and restaurant bills in Qatar, in which case tipping is not necessary. However if there is no service charge a 10% tip is appreciated. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but it is good to round off the amount due.