Getting Around in Doha
Driving is the most common way for expats and locals to get around in Doha. The public transport system is limited, but it is improving as the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaches. Taxis are used extensively by residents, but most expats who move to the city have private vehicles and often their own driver, too. All of these drivers are fortunately accommodated by the extensive road network in Doha, but heavy, chaotic traffic does continue to be a problem.
The emirate's capital also has a bus service, although many expats claim that buses are rarely seen and say they're unlikely to take one. Construction on the Qatar metro system started in 2013, and it's scheduled to be at least partially completed in time for the World Cup.
Public transport in Doha
The main complaint expats have about the city is its lack of public transport. Most people who live here drive their own cars or use taxis. However, efforts are being made to improve the system of public transport in Doha, especially with the huge influx of people expected in 2022.
Most Qataris who use public transport are likely to either take buses or Karwa taxis, while expats tend to prefer the latter.
Public buses in Doha were introduced to the city in 2005 by a company called Mowasalat. They can be used to get around the city or to commute to work, although it is fairly uncommon for expats to do so.
The buses are turquoise in colour and most start and end their routes at the main bus depot in the city centre, although other routes that go to the outskirts of Doha are available. Buses are fairly infrequent and only leave every 20 to 30 minutes. They are, however, inexpensive.
Bus fares can also be paid with a Karwa smartcard; the Smartcard Classic is the most popular card for regular commuters. These can be recharged and purchased at bus stations.
Taxis in Doha
People who don’t have cars in Doha often use the city’s turquoise taxis as their primary form of transport. The problem with taxis, however, is that there aren’t enough to accommodate all of the people needing to use them. Taxi drivers also often don’t know their way around the city, which can make it difficult for new expats to find their way around.
Taxis tend to congregate at shopping malls and can be difficult to hail from anywhere else. One good option for expats is to try and get a taxi driver's business card and call them when needing to get somewhere quickly. Expats who do manage to get a taxi will find that they are mostly clean, metered and well-regulated by the government.
Ride-hailing services such as Uber are also available and offer a safe and convenient means of getting around Doha.
Driving in Doha
Many people believe that the most unsafe place in Doha is on its roads. Driving in Doha can be a harrowing experience, with locals and foreigners alike tending to drive fast and recklessly, which is why many expats choose to hire drivers instead of braving the roads themselves. Traffic is at its worst from 6am, when most people start commuting to work, even though police are often present at roundabouts to help control the morning traffic.
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of fatalities in Qatar and expats should exercise extreme caution when driving on the emirate's roads. Drivers tend to be aggressive, speed and take risks, so expats should take care to drive defensively. They should also obey traffic laws – the government is trying to combat the problem and heavy fines apply to those caught speeding or jumping a red light.
Many expats choose to drive in Doha, despite the danger, because of the independence it gives them and because petrol is so inexpensive. Expats who take to the roads should be aware of other drivers behaving badly. If someone is unfortunate enough to be involved in a traffic accident in Doha, they should always remain at the scene of the collision or they will risk not receiving any insurance payments.
Expats who want to drive in Qatar will need to apply for an international driving licence or a Qatari driving licence two weeks after arriving in the country. Expats can change their driving licence to a Qatari one at the Madinat Khalifa Traffic Department without having to take a driving test. Qataris drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Cycling in Doha
Cycling in Doha isn't really an option for expats because of the lack of cycle paths in the city. The reckless drivers make getting around by bicycle dangerous and unwise.
Walking in Doha
The lack of pavements in Doha makes walking around an often difficult and frustrating experience. Expats can, however, walk around the centre of the city quite easily. There are many places of interest close together and walking is the quickest way to travel between them. Another good place to walk is on the promenade along Doha Bay, which is especially popular over weekends.