One of the main reasons why I have been wanting to explore more of the Middle East recently is because my work stay in Saudi will be over within the next weeks. Indians need to get an advance visa to travel to Qatar. Being a resident of a GCC country (Saudi Arabia), I had the benefit of being eligible for a visa on arrival. I wanted to take advantage of this facility and visit as many interesting places in Saudi as possible, before leaving the country.
The GCC country residents get a visa on arrival in our fellow GCC countries. It cost me 80 Qatar Dinar (20 GBP) to get a visa on arrival at Qatar. The fee can be paid directly at the immigration counter and the given visa is valid for 30 days. You can find more information about the visa specifications for your country here on this site.
The official currency of Qatar is the Qatari Dinar (also referred to as the “QAR”.) At the time of writing this post, 1 GBP stands for 4.67 QAR. Hailing from Saudi Arabia, I found the living expenses in Qatar to be similar to that of Saudi. There are certain things which are comparatively cheaper while some other things can be found to be on the higher end. Unlike in Saudi Arabia, alcohol is not banned in Qatar. It is allowed but only at certain places. Drinking in public is considered to be offensive, like in most Islamic countries of this region.
I was able to spend only three days in Qatar.I was staying with a couple of friends and didn’t feel the need to buy a local sim card for an internet connection. Wi-fi was available almost everywhere that we went and since I was already spending time with my friends, I didn’t want to be busy with my phone the entire time.
For those who wish to buy a sim card, you should know that there are two major network providers in the country. They are Ooredoo and Vodafone. Ooredoo has a better coverage area within the country but Vodafone is known for availing better offers. You can buy a sim card of either network for just 25 QAR. The only difference you’ll find is that Ooredoo offers 250 MB data for 7 days while Vodafone offers you 1 GB for the same price. Find out more information about the local networks in Qatar, here.
The hostel culture is not really famous in this region due to the obvious gender differences and cultural practices. However, Qatar is full of nice hotels and you may stumble upon some really good deals in case you’re lucky! My friends and I were able to book rooms at a 5-star hotel, for three nights at just 642 QAR (150 GBP). The hotel was located at a great site and their service was truly 5-star worthy. As we were just a small group of people staying there for only three days, we didn’t bother looking up cheaper places to live.
Getting around in Doha (i.e. Transport):
I may not be able to say much about the different means of transport in Qatar as my friends and I preferred taking the taxi to visit the city. The Qatar taxi network is absolutely affordable and easy to navigate. We didn’t have any issues finding a taxi anywhere. Most of the places that we went to were located just a few kilometres away from each other, so we weren’t worried about high taxi fares. Sharing the cost of travel and living helped our group reduce the overall cost of the trip by a large margin.
There are two kinds of taxis found in Qatar- meter and Non-meter taxis. Meter taxis are easily visible thanks to the distinct “Taxi” sign on their hoods. You can just show your hand to make a meter taxi stop wherever you are.
Non-meter taxis are just regular cars which make them harder to spot and harder to hail. They don’t have meters installed and so you will have to agree on a certain amount before getting into the taxi.This makes it complicated because if you are new to the city and don’t know any places, the taxi driver may easily fool or overcharge you. So I’d suggest you ride on meter taxis, even if you have to wait for a while.