Qatar at a Glance
Driving in Qatar
As it is one of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East with one of the largest supplies of crude oil and natural gas in the world, it should not be surprising that most people in Qatar own at least one car. In fact, there are so many people driving in Qatar that traffic has begun to become a problem, even in a country with only 2 million inhabitants and about 8,000 kilometers of roadways. The number of people owning cars and driving in Qatar is also continually increasing due to the steady stream of expats moving there to work in the oil and gas industry.
Road Infrastructure in Qatar
The state of Qatar spends a large part of its budget on maintaining its (very modern) road system. Qatar’s roads are divided into three types. Main roads are three-lane highways that link the capital with other large regional centers. Minor roads link major roads with each other and serve the purpose of getting smaller towns and cities connected to the major system. Access roads serve to prevent traffic from jamming on main roads, however, traffic is frequently very congested even on these access roads, especially around Doha.
Being a desert country, Qatar is mainly made up of sand. Many Qataris and expats driving in Qatar own large four wheel drive trucks or SUVs which can withstand “dune bashing”. You may be aware that Qatari drivers consider cruising over sand dunes a sport and they do so with great passion and enthusiasm. It has also become a tourist attraction, which in turn may cause traffic irritations for people driving in Qatar.
Qatari Driver’s Licenses
If you plan on driving in Qatar, you must get an international driving permit which is valid for six months. When you receive permanent residence, you need to apply directly for a Qatari license. Unfortunately, only nationals of the United Kingdom and a few other countries can avoid taking the practical and written tests for driving in Qatar. The driving test includes an oral test concerning traffic regulations, reverse parking, straight parking, and a road test. Your license will be issued immediately after you pass the test. The fee for taking a driving test is 30 QAR.
You can find most of the license application forms online in English at the Ministry of Interior’s Traffic Department, which avoids multiple trips to the actual office. A letter from your sponsor as well as a copy of your sponsor’s ID card is necessary in order to apply for a driver’s license. You will also need to complete an eyesight exam. The initial driver’s license costs 250 QAR, and must be renewed every five years for the same amount. Driver’s licenses can be renewed online. When driving in Qatar, keep in mind that, although Qatari drivers often ignore traffic rules, it would be unwise to disobey rules and regulations and get involved in an accident while driving there.
Driving Rules & Regulations in Qatar
Traffic regulations have been incredibly lax in Qatar over the years because only very few people had cars to begin with. Only recently, in 2007, due to the high accident rate, have Qatari police become more rigorous.
There are few road rules, so it should not be too hard to obey them:
- You must be at least 18 years old to drive in Qatar.
- Qatar has a zero tolerance policy concerning alcohol. Do not bend this rule as a non-Muslim expat in Qatar, as expats in particular will face immediate deportation.
- Qataris drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Speed limits in Qatar appear to be optional; however, due to the increase in accidents and the awareness of police officers, speed cameras have been implemented along most roads. Be sure to read speed limit signs along the road, as the fines for speeding are very high. The penalty for mobile phone usage is 3,000 QAR.
Another important bit of information concerning driving in Qatar which could be called an “unwritten rule” is road rage. It is very prevalent and you should be very careful not to succumb to it. Due to the vast cultural differences, you may quickly end up having offended a Qatari without having meant to. Therefore, while driving, it is best to be calm and not let yourself get carried away. You should thus not take offense to being overtaken by a speeding Qatari in a Hummer truck.