Doha Travel Information
Local time is GMT +3.
Electrical current is 220 to 240 volts, 50Hz. Round pin plugs with grounding as well as rectangular blade plugs are in use.
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken.
No vaccinations are required for entry to Qatar, but it is recommended that visitors be up to date with routine vaccinations like MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Modern medical care and medicine is available in the big cities and medical care is usually of a high standard in Doha. Doctors and hospitals generally expect immediate cash payment for medical services, and treatment is expensive; it is advisable for travellers to hold comprehensive medical insurance.
A service charge of 10 percent is usually added to hotel and restaurant bills in Qatar, in which case tipping is not necessary, although for exceptional service many people add a bit extra. If there is no service charge a 10 to 15 percent tip is appreciated. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but it is polite to round up the fare.
Safety in Qatar is generally not an issue but the country, like most in the Gulf Region, is rated as being under high threat of indiscriminate terrorist attacks against western interests. Visitors should therefore be vigilant in public places. There is a low incidence of crime, but women are advised to take care when travelling alone at night.
Qatar is an Islamic state, which prohibits drinking alcohol in public other than at licensed hotel restaurants and bars. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking in public are forbidden by Muslim Law. Intimacy between men and women in public can lead to arrest, and homosexuality is illegal. Visitors should dress modestly and respect local customs. Women should cover their shoulders and avoid wearing shorts or short skirts. The right hand should be used for everything, including eating and the giving and receiving of things, as the left is considered unclean. The import of pornographic material, non-Islamic religious material, alcohol or pork products is strictly prohibited.
Since a large portion of Qatar's population is comprised of foreign nationals, you might find yourself dealing exclusively with other expats, in a corporate milieu that you are familiar with. However, the following advice pertains to Arabic business culture, to help prepare westerners for that eventuality. It is important to bear in mind that Qatar is an Islamic country and that visitors should always remain sensitive and respectful of the large influence that these religious beliefs have on ordinary social life.
The business culture of Qatar can be described as 'typically Arabic', in that a great emphasis is placed on personal relationships between business associates: Qatari businessmen prefer to do business with people they are familiar with, and who they feel they can trust. For this reason, you will probably be required to engage the services of a local agent (or sponsor) in Qatar, who'll be able to provide you with important introductions and recommendations. The start of a professional relationship will often be dedicated to getting to know each other and business itself may be slow to start. Don't get impatient: long-term, personal business relationships in Qatar are certainly worth the investment of your time and energy.
The management style that predominates in Qatar is strictly hierarchical. Decisions are made at the top level, and clear, direct instructions are given to staff, who are expected to follow them to the letter. Note that it is unusual to hear the word 'no' outright in Qatar - a more polite, indirect method of refusal is usually preferred. Business etiquette in Qatar reflects the close relationship between personal and professional life mentioned above despite the hierarchical structures. Use Arabic titles where appropriate, such as Haji and Sheikh, to indicate your respect for your associates. Make sure that when discussing business, you can deliver everything you promise - verbal commitments are treated as solemnly as written contracts in Qatar.
Business meetings in Qatar will most likely be lengthy, and subject to numerous personal digressions, and perhaps even unexpected visitors. It is important to remain patient, even if the meeting's agenda is abandoned - do not resort to hard-sell tactics, as this may well be interpreted as aggression. Do not publicly criticise or undermine any associates - if you feel the need to say something, do it in private. It is common to exchange business cards when meeting new associates for the first time. Make sure your details are printed in Arabic on the reverse side of your card, and always spend a little time regarding someone else's card before putting it away. Business dress is smart, formal and conservative - especially for women, who must take care not to wear anything too revealing. The official language of Qatar is Arabic, though English is widely spoken and widely understood in the business world. Business hours are generally 7.30am (or 8am) to about 6pm. Friday is a day of rest and most companies will also give either Thursday or Saturday off - international companies tend to favour closure on Saturday.
The international access code for Qatar is +974. Hotels and cafes offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Travellers to Qatar do not have to pay duty on tobacco products and perfume for personal use. Alcohol may not be imported under any circumstances. Prohibited items include wild birds, without an import authorisation from Ministry of Agriculture and Municipal Affairs (MMAA). Travellers are also prohibited from importing pork-related products and pornographic or sexually explicit material.
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