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Qatar, as with other Gulf states, is an incredibly innovative country, developing right before our eyes. While some countries take decades to develop an efficient public transport system, Qatar is effectively constructing, establishing and growing theirs in a matter of years.
Just a few short years ago, public transport infrastructure was not so well organised, but their wealth of resources and determination to advance have changed that. As one of the richest countries in the world, along with the push for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar is constantly undergoing great transformation, with the newest technology, and modern equipment and infrastructure.
Public transport in Qatar
As networks advance and adapt with innovative technology, those wishing to get around by Qatar’s public transport must use and regularly check the online resources available to them. Buses are one of the main forms of public transport around Qatar, but the metro, tram and train systems are also expanding.
Qatar’s transport network offers clean and comfortable electric Karwa buses. These are easy to locate with the help of the Mowasalat website and social media pages that give up-to-date info on schedules and routes, though they are largely limited to the capital city.
To ride the Karwa buses, passengers will need a travel card, known as a Karwa smartcard, these can be on a rechargeable, long-term basis or limited or unlimited for 24 hours. It’s easy to purchase and top up the smartcard at various locations including Hamad International Airport, The Pearl Qatar, Qatar Mall and Doha Bus Station.
Metro systems are one of the quickest ways to get around in major world cities, and Qatar is developing their system in the capital city. Doha recently began operating its metro system which connects major areas around the city, including Hamad International Airport as one of the metro stations.
It is easy to use and navigate, and expats can easily find more information, register for and top up their travel cards online through the Qatar Rail website and app.
The metro is not just fast, it is air-conditioned and clean with up-to-date timetables available on the Doha Metro website. Metro lines can also be found on Google Maps so that new arrivals can track and plan their journey.
While the railway network is currently limited and not yet functioning, schemes for transport modernisation encompass a greater railway system for passengers and freight transport. This is an on-going project by Qatar Rail aiming to connect Doha to cities that are not even fully complete yet – namely Lusail – as well as reaching the other Gulf states. Lusail is a planned city that Qatar aims to build north of Doha along the coast and hopes to be reachable from Doha via the metro and Lusail Light Rail Transit system.
This is very much a ‘watch this space’ situation as the rail networks and urban infrastructure continue to develop.
Taxis in Qatar
Taxis are one of the most convenient ways of getting around in Qatar. Drivers are well trained and vehicles are clean. Expats can arrange a sedan-type car, a larger van, a limo, or a vehicle for passengers with reduced mobility. Taxis, known as Karwa taxis, are largely publicly operated, like the bus and metro system, by Mowasalat. They can easily be ordered through the Karwa app or a call centre. There are also several privately-run taxis in the country, and Uber operates in Doha.
All taxis have meters and new arrivals will enjoy the low fare. It’s important to have local currency in cash on hand when taking a taxi.
While Qatar is a safe country, we recommend that women do not travel alone at night and always ensure the taxi is registered.
Driving in Qatar
While the public transport network is developing, many residents still travel by car and find this the best way to get around.
As a driver, it is critical to follow the rules of the road and remain vigilant. While crime is low, road accidents and related fatality rates are frighteningly high. Time and again, expats discuss the dangerous and unpredictable nature to driving, making road safety in Qatar a concern and driving defensively essential.
Always wear seatbelts, remain calm and never use a phone while driving – expats who fail to follow these regulations can face heavy fines. Certain trips, such as those out to the desert may require a four-by-four vehicle, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Anyone from age 18 and above can drive in Qatar with a valid license, and most expats will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) translating their license. Expats staying less than a year can use their home license along with the IDP, but those wishing to stay longer must get a Qatari driving license.
Renting a car
Several major international car rental agencies operate in Qatar, such as Hertz, Avis and Europcar, as well as local agencies.
The process is easy, and cars can be collected through walk-ins or pre-booked online or by phone call directly through the rental company. We urge expats to check the documents and information necessary, which usually requires a valid credit card, though cash payments in person are also possible.
Cycling in Qatar
Many foreigners – and locals alike – may see cycling as impossible given the extreme weather. Qatar’s heat may dissuade those potentially interested in cycling, and may have health and safety implications for those who insist. Needless to say, cycling is not a popular a method of getting around.
Don’t be fooled, though, cycling for recreational, competition and fitness purposes is growing in popularity. Avid cyclists can access cycle routes across the country, not just in the capital.
Expat families and individuals can find a range of resources and routes for road and mountain biking as well as special events through the website of the Qatar Cycling Federation.
Walking in Qatar
Due to the heat, we don’t advise walking to get around in Qatar. Leisurely strolls are possible around certain areas in Doha and are pleasant in the cooler months, but hiking is not common.
When venturing out into the desert to experience some of Qatar’s landscape and lifestyle, do bring enough water and sunscreen, and as always, dress conservatively.
Sea travel in Qatar
Thanks to its geographic location jutting out in the Arab peninsula, Qatar’s refreshing sea views contrast the arid desert interior. Expats can take advantage of the shoreline by enjoying cruises, tours and fishing trips. Day trips, dinner cruises and even corporate events take place on boats, while water sports are also possible.
Boats come in all shapes and sizes, including traditional dhows as well as speedboats. Always review the company that is providing the service, enquire about their safety standards and wear a life jacket.
Air travel in Qatar
Qatar’s main international airport is Hamad International Airport in Doha. Qatar Airways is the national flag carrier and is a publicly-owned company that provides excellent service and connects with flights and airports worldwide. Many airlines fly in and out of Hamad International Airport, including British Airways and Ethiopian Airlines as well as several smaller budget airlines.