The modes of travelling in Doha are varied and its public transport is developing at an astonishing rate, yet driving remains the most common way for both expats and locals to get around. Of course, one of the main drivers behind the quick development and expansion of the city's public transport network is the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Taxis are used extensively by residents, but many expats who move to the city have private vehicles and often a personal driver too.
Public transport in Doha
Described as a futuristic city, Doha's rapidly expanding amenities and its quickly developing transport infrastructure promise exciting prospects for the city, Qatar and the Gulf region at large.
Public transport consists of buses, the recently established metro, plans for a light railway system and taxis.
Public buses in Doha were introduced by the state-owned company, Mowasalat. They can be used to get around the city and commute to work but, for the moment, many expats still opt for their private car and driver.
The buses are turquoise in colour and many start and end their routes at the main bus depot in the city centre, although various routes that go to the outskirts of Doha are available.
Bus fares can be paid with a Karwa smartcard and there are three main options, namely the Classic card, which can be used long-term and recharged when necessary; the Limited card, which is limited to two journeys within 24 hours; and the Unlimited card, which allows limitless journeys within 24 hours.
Smartcards can be topped up and bought at Doha Bus Station, the airport, Qatar Mall and various other locations.
Doha began opening and operating the metro system in 2019 for more efficient transport around the city and suburbs, and to avoid the chaotic traffic on the roads above.
The lines branch out from the largest station, Msheireb in Downtown Doha, and connect with Hamad International Airport, and continuous plans for extension aim to connect the city centre with surrounding suburbs.
Doha’s metro is efficient, air-conditioned and clean, while the regularly-updated Qatar Rail app and website are useful references for information on schedules (which are subject to change), as well as allowing passengers to register and top up their travel cards.
The Lusail Light Rail Transit system is very much a work in progress but watch this space. Lusail, which is a planned city itself, not yet complete, aims to be reached by Doha’s metro and the proposed railway network.
Taxis in Doha
People who don’t have cars in Doha often use the city’s turquoise taxis as their primary form of transport. They are mainly publicly managed Karwa taxis, but Uber and other private taxi companies also operate in Doha.
The problem with taxis is that there aren’t enough to accommodate all the people needing to use them. Expats who do manage to get a taxi will find that they are mostly clean, metered and well-regulated by the government. Unfortunately, taxi drivers don’t always know their way around the city, which isn’t helpful and can make it difficult for new arrivals to find their way around.
While hailing a taxi off the street may not always be possible, the Karwa app and website provide ride-hailing services and contact numbers.
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 in the early morning around 6am and late afternoon as most people commute to work and back home.
Motor vehicle accidents are unfortunately common, 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. If someone is unfortunate enough to be involved in a traffic accident in Doha, they should always remain at the scene of the collision. Always obey traffic laws – the government is trying to combat the problem and heavy fines apply to those caught speeding or jumping a red light.
With that all said, many expats still choose to drive in Doha, despite the danger, because of the independence it affords them and because petrol is so inexpensive. Expats who take to the roads should note that Qataris drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Residents who want to drive will need to apply for an international driving licence before arrival in Doha or a Qatari driving licence two weeks after arriving in the country. Regardless, all expats residing in the country longer than 12 months will need a local license.
Expat employees often find a vehicle and possibly a driver as part of their employment package, otherwise, cars can be bought or rented. Both local and large international car rental agencies, including Hertz, Avis and Europcar, have services Doha, making car hire easy.
Cycling in Doha
Despite the heat, cycling in Doha is growing in popularity and is promoted for its various health benefits. Reckless drivers make getting around by bicycle dangerous and unwise on main roads, but there are spaces and parks dedicated to cycling and the Qatar Cycling Federation provides information, maps and advice to avid and new cyclists, families and individuals.
Expats can also find cycling groups through social media platforms while several bike shops dotted around the city offer rentals.
Walking in Doha
Doha isn’t exactly walkable, but certain areas make for pleasant strolls and there are many leafy jogging environments too.
Oxygen Park has paths for walking and cycling while Al Bidda Park and Aspire Park offer a refreshing green space for running and picnics. Walking along the Corniche promenade and around the Museum of Islamic Art Park are other great areas to unwind and take in the view.
Sea travel in Doha
Qatar's shoreline affords cruises, tours and fishing trips as well as all sorts of watersports. Boats offer more than just travel: relax on a dinner cruise or spend an exciting afternoon on jet skis, or various other watersports.
It's important to check the company that is providing the service, enquire about their safety standards and wear a life jacket.