Driving in Qatar – Basic Guidelines and Tips. Got your driving license! Really excited to steer across Qatar, right? Just hang on; there are certain rules and regulations everyone should follow while driving in a developed country like Qatar. Make sure you know and follow them quite humbly.
Even if you hold a valid license to drive in Qatar, before you start driving, make sure you have a clear knowledge about the roads, traffic rules, regulations, and other important aspects concerning driving in Qatar.
The Ministry of Interior’s Traffic Department, located on Khalifa Street, Madinat Khalifa is handling everything related to vehicle license and traffic violations stringently.
Moreover, all the roads and junctions are under CCTV surveillance. Hence, it is critical to follow their rules and guidelines to avoid any consequences regarding driving in the country.
Most noted traffic violations include
- Over speed.
- Using Mobile Phone while driving.
- Driving without a valid license.
- Breach of parking laws.
- Driving without a seatbelt.
- Wrong side driving.
- Drunk driving and more.
- Driving a vehicle that is not registered.
Traffic Rules are quite tough
As a matter of life and asset, the government of Qatar is pretty rigorous over the traffic rules. It has been reported that in 2017 the Qatari government has tightened its rules to get a license there.
Under these rules, those from the countries such as the UK, Europe, and Australia were also required to take a driving test to get a license.
However, later in 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced these countries along with some other like South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and more are exempted from the driver’s license test. Nevertheless, the remaining rules stay the same for all.
If you are a car owner, you have to register your vehicles, and should renew your registration annually. The driving license in this country is based on a point system.
For each traffic violation, the driver will collect points that lose the life of the driving license. Once you reach 14 points, your license will be suspended for the next three months.
However, repetitive violations can result in long term license suspension and even cancellation of license.
Using mobile phones while driving is expensive
As usual around the world, cell phone usage is strictly prohibited while driving in Qatar. Strict laws and fines varying from QR300- QR6, 000 in Qatar are keeping the motorists from using phones while driving.
According to an official in the General Directorate of traffic in Qatar, any kind of engagement like playing mobile games, checking mobile apps or even texting message while driving will be considered a violation.
However, earlier only speaking over cell phones while driving was considered a violation. The recent statistics by the General Directorate of Traffic has highlighted that usage of mobile phones while driving has caused.
• 44.1% of minor injuries
• 52.2% serious injuries and
• 51.6% of the overall traffic accidents
Maj Muhammad bin Jassim Al-Thani, Head of traffic at South Security Department has said that after over speed, mobile phone usage is causing more traffic accidents.
Article (55) of the Traffic Law No. (19) / 2007 prohibits the use of the mobile phone or any other device while driving. Also, the law has fixed a fine of QR 500 on the phone user while they are driving.
You can pay fines for traffic violations either online or by attending MoI collection office or the Traffic Department in person through the Ministry of Interior website.
Speed limit matters here
Beware of the speed cameras across the roads. The government has set the speed limit at Qatar roads as between 60-100 kilometers per hour on most city roads and the maximum speed on highways is 120 kilometers per hour.
The recent news from The Peninsula Qatar is that the Ministry of Interior has begun the mobile radar plan in certain locations such as Shamal Highway, The Pearl, Abu Hamor and more. This helps to encourage road safety by forcing motorists to follow the recommended speed limits.
Driving without a license is punishable
On June 2018, Traffic Department officials have announced that those driving without a license will be charged with heavy fines and strict punishment.
Visitors in this country can also obtain a temporary driving license which is just valid for three months. To reduce the number of accidents, the Traffic Awareness Department has conducted a traffic awareness lecture on September 2018 at the General Directorate of Traffic.
In this lecture, the department has recommended the family as well as the schools not to allow teenagers to drive before getting a license. The department also recommended them to conduct awareness sessions for school students about safe driving.
Other Safe Driving Practices You Should Always Keep in Mind
- The eligible age to get a driving license in Qatar is 18.
- Always carry your driver’s license, insurance papers and car registration documents along with you while driving.
- Passengers in the front seat must wear a seat belt.
- Never allow children less than 10 years ages to occupy the front seat.
- Make sure not to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
While driving during rain or fog
- Focus on road conditions.
- Do not sudden brake, as it can result in accidents.
- Try not to drive through flooded roads, as your vehicle’s engine may get stuck with water.
- Do not use high beam or hazard headlights.
- In fog, use fog lights to improve road visibility.
- Make sure your wipers and tires are in good condition.
- Keep your car in good operating condition.
- Fill your fuel tank and keep tires at normal pressure.
- Carry drinking water, tool kit, recovery rope etc.
Hope you got a clear picture of ‘how to steer around Qatar, decently’? These few tips can keep your commute safe and secure. Not just for you, but also for others.
Many of us are already aware of it. However, let’s brush up and tell to others who are not aware of any of these must-have facts. Just keep all these tips on your mind, because it is a matter of several lives and our hard earned money.
Road signs in Qatar
Road signs in Qatar are bilingual (Arabic and English). In 2019, work began on assigning numbers to all highways and internal roads in Qatar.
Traffic information in Qatar
Qatar is small and, outside Doha, traffic is generally light, especially outside peak times. Google Maps is the ‘go-to’ navigation and information source for drivers in Qatar. The Waze smartphone application also provides real-time traffic reports. The Ministry of Interior’s Twitter account has regular traffic updates, as does QBS, the state English language radio station.
Parking in Qatar
Doha is a busy, bustling city and parking space can be at a premium (especially during the working day). There are multi-story car parks across the city, and parking facilities in shopping malls and hotels. There is also metered street parking. The majority of residential and commercial buildings in downtown Doha will have underground parking, normally reserved for permit holders.
Parking fees (payable by the Q-Parking app, as well as card and cash at machines), are reasonable, with downtown rates around QR3/hour. Parking fines can be paid via Hukoomi.
Road accidents and breakdowns in Qatar
Road accidents in Qatar
A total of 168 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in Qatar in 2018. That’s down from 177 in 2017. There were also 7% fewer accidents in 2018, compared with 2017.
If you are in a minor prang (and uninjured), pull over to a safe area. It is, in theory, possible to be fined QR1,000 fine and get three points on the license by obstructing traffic in the event of an accident. In addition, put the hazard lights on. Take photos of the accident scene. If both (or all) cars in the accident can be driven safely, then head to the nearest traffic police station, along with the driver of the other car(s).
It would help to bring an Arabic speaker. As well as the car and photos, submit your driving license, ID, vehicle registration document (istimara), and a copy of the insurance policy. The police will then prepare a report (in Arabic) determining culpability. The relevant insurance company will then advise which garage to use for repairs.
For accidents where a car is incapacitated, call the police (999), who will attend the scene and prepare the accident report. If there are any injuries, call the ambulance service (999) first, advising of location.
Vehicle breakdowns in Qatar
Breakdowns may be annoying, but you are rarely far from help in Qatar. If you find yourself stuck, get the car safely off the road, and put the hazard lights on. Use a warning triangle if you have one. And then call a breakdown recovery service. Reliable breakdown and recovery services in Qatar include Arabian Automobile Association (AAA), Qatar Car Towing, MG Car Towing, or Alawn Roadside Assist.
While waiting for assistance, seek shade and drink plenty of water.
Cars in Qatar
Having just landed at Hamad International Airport and hitting the highway, you’d be forgiven for thinking that every other car on the road is a Toyota Landcruiser. It’s true that the country has an enduring love affair with chunky, gas-guzzling Japanese SUVs, but in Qatar your choice of wheels is limited only by your budget. Here, supercars vie for road space with sensible family saloons. As throughout the Gulf region, Japanese cars are valued for their reliability (and good aircon) in harsh conditions. German makes are popular among expats, too.
Importing a car into Qatar
Unless you’re moving to Qatar from a neighboring Gulf country (and that’s unlikely at the moment due to an economic and trade embargo on Qatar), it’s unlikely you will be importing a car. But, if you’re determined to do so, consider this: the car will have to be less than five years old; a customs duty of 5% of the current value of the car will be payable; and you will need to already be a resident in Qatar. Also, find out if spare parts for the car you are importing are readily available in Qatar.
Once the vehicle is in Qatar, it will need to be registered. This involves an inspection, and you will need to submit documents including the car’s home country registration certificate, it’s purchase invoice (detailing the car value), and insurance papers. Once registered, a local certificate (known locally as istimara), will be issued.
Buying a car in Qatar
Many expats in Qatar, especially those on longer contracts, buy a car for the duration of their stay. The purchase and on-the-road costs of a car are reasonable, and the procedures are relatively straightforward.
To buy new, head to a dealership; all main car brands are represented by a local distributor. Here you can test drive the car, and they will handle registration formalities and also help arrange finance via a local bank.
For second-hand cars, there are auction houses and showrooms across Doha, or online traders such as Q Motor or Qatar Sale.
Even though Qatar remains a nation of petrol heads, there are big plans to roll out electric cars. Launched in 2017, the national ‘Green Vehicle Initiative’ aims to have electric cars make up 10% of the total number of cars on Qatar’s roads by 2030.
Selling a car in Qatar
Selling a car in Qatar is easy. You can use an online trader such as Q Motor or Qatar Sale to upload vehicle details and photos. Expect to haggle with interested parties, so factor that into the advertised price.
A key consideration when selling a car in Qatar is the transfer of ownership. This can be done either in person (by submitting documents at the Traffic Department at Madinat Khalifa), or by subscribing to Metrash; an online service provided by the Ministry of Interior. Note that you will need to obtain a Vehicle Ownership Transfer Certificate (details on Hukoomi).
Hiring a car in Qatar
Hiring a car (lease hire) is popular in Qatar, and most international rental companies (for example Avis, Hertz, Budget, Enterprise, Sixt, and Europcar are reliable local outfits) offer this service to resident expats. These are a popular and hassle-free option as you won’t be lumbered with maintenance costs. Rental stations are located in Doha, including at the international airport. Online booking is a normal practice in Qatar.
One-off rental costs are reasonable: you’re looking at $40 per day for a compact and up to $150 per day for a large sedan. And SUVs are available too: $150 per day for a Toyota Prado, for example. More competitive rates are available for longer-term leases.
To hire a car in Qatar, you generally need to be at least 21.
Carpooling/car sharing in Qatar
Many expats who car share in Qatar organize it privately through friends or work colleagues. But professional carpooling and car-sharing networks are increasingly popular in Doha and across Qatar. Carpool World, for example, has its own Qatar section. Check out social media, too, such as the Car Pooling Doha Facebook page.
Car repair in Qatar
If your employer provides a car, or if you are on lease with a rental company, then you will mercifully avoid the headache (and expense) of getting repairs done. If you are on your own, you will need a reliable mechanic. The good news is that Qatar is full of them. Repairs are relatively inexpensive because of low labor costs, however, bear in mind that, depending on the car make and model, original spare parts can be steep.
Drivers with disabilities in Qatar
Drivers with disabilities or impairments will be referred by the Traffic Department to the medical services authority to issue a disability type report. A driving license, stating the nature of the disability, will be issued based on the medical report. Disabled parking permits are available from the Traffic Department. Disabled parking spaces are located across Doha.
Tips on driving in Qatar
Our tips for driving in Qatar will ensure you get from A to B safely and securely.
- Grow a pair of eyes in the back of your head!
- Be vigilant at night on unlit roads. Hitting a camel is a real risk, even on main roads.
- Give road rage a wide berth.
- Slow down when approaching large intersections, even if you’re on a green light. Cars jumping red lights does happen.
- Keep your phone battery charged in case of emergencies, especially when outside Doha.
- Keep plenty of water in the car at all times.
- Unless you’re experienced at desert driving, stay on the tarmac. It’s easy to get stuck (and disorientated) in the sand.
- Stick to speed limits. There are cameras everywhere.
- Beware of the sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. Drivers may have been fasting all day and may be in a rush to get home to break the fast, tired and hungry. On the plus side, roads are almost deserted at this time.
- At gas stations, someone will fill the car for you. They may also offer to clean your windows for a small fee while you wait.
- If you have an accident, and if you’re able to, move out of the way and call the police. Ideally have an Arabic-speaking friend you can call to assist.
- Never attempt to bribe a policeman.
- Always wear a seat belt.
- Never use your mobile phone when driving.
Keep driving, be safe and have a great day.