Qatar is an innovative country developing at a blinding pace. While some countries take decades to develop an efficient public transport system, Qatar is effectively constructing theirs in a matter of years.
Just a few short years ago, public transport infrastructure was not as well organised, but their wealth of resources and determination to advance have changed that. As one of the richest countries in the world, Qatar is constantly undergoing great transformation, implementing the newest technology, modern equipment and grand infrastructure.
Public transport in Qatar
Buses are one of the main forms of public transport around Qatar, but the metro, tram and train systems are also expanding and integrating online resources. Commuters using Qatar’s public transport can use online resources and apps to plan and book their trips.
Qatar’s transport network offers clean and comfortable electric Karwa (also known as Mowasalat) 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. These buses 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 unlimited and rechargeable, or limited to 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 constantly developing theirs. 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 easily 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 ongoing project by Qatar Rail, aiming to connect Doha to other cities and even other Gulf states.
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 van, a limo, or a vehicle for passengers with reduced mobility. Taxis, known as Karwa taxis, are largely publicly operated by Mowasalat, and 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 cash on hand in the local currency when taking a taxi.
While Qatar is a safe country, we recommend that women do not travel alone at night and expats should always ensure the taxi they use 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 report the dangers and unpredictability of driving in Qatar, proving road safety is a concern in the emirate.
We’d advise that expats always drive defensively, 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 into the desert may require a 4x4 vehicle, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Most expats will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Qatar. Expats staying less than a year can use their home licence along with the IDP, but those staying 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 rental process is easy, and cars can be collected through walk-ins, pre-booked online or arranged by phone call. Expats should have the necessary documents and information on hand. Payments can usually be made via credit card or cash.
Cycling in Qatar
Qatar’s heat may have health and safety implications for cycling commuters. That said, cycling for recreational, competitive and fitness purposes is growing in popularity, and avid cyclists can access cycle routes across the country.
Expats can find a range of resources, routes and special events for road and mountain biking 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, bring enough water and sunscreen, and dress appropriately.
Sea travel in Qatar
Qatar’s location in the Persian Gulf offers refreshing sea views that contrast with its arid desert interior. Expats can take advantage of the shoreline by enjoying cruises, tours, fishing trips and water sports. Day trips, dinner cruises and even corporate events take place on boats.
Expats are advised to always review the company 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.