Qatar has a good system of modern roads and well-maintained highways, and the extraordinarily cheap price of fuel makes driving a very attractive option. However, driving standards can be erratic, so drivers who are new to Qatar are advised to be cautious. In Qatar, you can learn to drive at the age of 18 and you drive on the right-hand side of the road. Unlike some countries in the Middle East, there are no restrictions on women driving. Qatar has a zero-tolerance policy in relation to drinking and driving, and if you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol you are likely to be arrested, fined and banned immediately. Driving without insurance is also illegal.
For short visits, foreign nationals may be allowed to drive on a valid licence issued in their home country or apply for a temporary Qatari licence for up to three months. People who hold an international driving permit can drive on it for up to six months, but if you intend staying for longer or taking up permanent residency you must apply for a Qatari driving licence and will usually have to take the country’s driving test.
If you want to take your car with you to Qatar, be aware that any motor vehicle that is over five years old cannot be imported to the country. Many expats choose to buy cars in Qatar, and the large transient workforce in the country means there can be some really good deals on used cars as people leaving the country sell theirs on. If you buy a new or used car, you will need to register your ownership and renew it on an annual basis.
Taxis and limousines
The state-owned public transport operator Mowasalat operates a fleet of distinctive turquoise-coloured taxis across Qatar under the brand name ‘Karwa’. These reasonably-priced metered taxis can be pre-booked, hailed in the street or found at taxi ranks in all the main towns, or for a more luxurious experience the same company also offers a limousine service. Tipping is considered optional in Qatar.
Mowasalat is also responsible for the bus network that was introduced in 2005. Providing public routes and school services, the air-conditioned buses are very modern and comfortable to travel in. Bus services now connect most towns and offer a cheap and convenient way of getting around, with the Faresaver card a popular option for regular travellers.
Qatar currently has no rail infrastructure. Early development work is in progress for the construction of a railway network, with the first phases scheduled for completion in 2019.
Although there is no underground railway in operation at the moment, the ambitious Doha Metro project aims to give Qatar’s capital a four-line underground metro system in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Qatar has two international airports: Doha International Airport and the new Hamad International Airport. Hamad International opened in 2014 and most major airlines serving Qatar are in the process of transferring their services to this modern new hub. Good connections are available to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia, but Qatar’s small size and lack of domestic airfields mean there are no internal commercial flights within the country.
Other ways to get around
Water taxis offer an alternative way to travel in Qatar’s coastal areas and out to its island territories. Although not a primary form of transport, they are a novel way to miss the traffic in Doha and provide a different way to see The Pearl-Qatar artificial island. Mowasalat plans to expand its water taxi operation over the next few years.