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Qatar Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT +3.

Electricity

Electrical current is 240 volts AC; 50Hz. Round pin plugs with grounding and rectangular blade plugs are in use.

Language

Arabic is the official language, but English is widely used.

Travel Health

No vaccinations are a health requirement for entry to Qatar, but it is recommended that visitors be up to date with routine vaccinations. Modern medical care and medicine is available in Doha. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for medical services, and treatment is expensive; it is advisable for travellers to hold comprehensive medical insurance. Traveller's diarrhoea is a risk, therefore visitors should drink bottled water and avoid under-cooked food and unwashed fruit and vegetables, particularly outside of the hotels and resorts.

Tipping

A service charge of 10% is usually added to hotel and restaurant bills in Qatar, in which case tipping is not necessary. However if there is no service charge a 10% tip is appreciated. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but it is good to round off the amount due.

Safety Information

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.

Local Customs

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. 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.

Business

Since nearly 80 percent of the country's population is comprised of foreign nationals, the customs and protocols for doing business in Qatar will depend on the business contacts that you make over there - 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 you should always remain sensitive and respectful of the large influence that these religious beliefs have on ordinary social life.

The business culture of Qatar could be described as 'typically Arabic', in that a great emphasis is placed on personal relationships between business associates - Qatari businessmen will always 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. Furthermore, you will also have to remain patient during your first dealings with your new Qatari business partners - especially in the beginning, your new business partners will be far more interested in you, as a person they are looking to befriend, than your corporate expertise or qualifications; and a good amount of time will be devoted to 'getting to know each other', before any 'actual business' is discussed. 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. Use Arabic titles where appropriate, such as Haji and Sheikh, to indicate your respect for your associates - however, also be prepared to engage in long, personal discussions with them. Make sure that when discussing business, you can deliver everything you promise to - verbal commitments are treated as solemnly (perhaps even more so) than written contracts in Qatar.

Business meetings in Qatar will most likely be lengthy, and subject to numerous personal digressions, and perhaps even unexpected visitors. Dress conservatively for business meetings (especially women), and remain patient, even if the meeting's agenda becomes abandoned - do not resort to hard-sell tactics, as they will be interpreted as aggression on your part. 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 12pm, and then 3.30pm (or 4pm) to 7pm, from Saturday to Thursday. Friday is a day of rest.

Communications

The international access code for Qatar is +974, and the outgoing code is 0, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 027 for South Africa). City/area codes are not necessary. The country is well covered by GSM mobile phone networks, and there are roaming agreements with most international operators. There are numerous internet cafes in Doha.

Duty Free

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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