Driving In Qatar

Qatar driving can be intimidating, frustrating and even dangerous. Experienced drivers, however have adapted and found - knowing what to expect can be half the battle. You won't be able to change the system or the drivers - at least not in the short term, so better to adapt and save yourself the anguish.

DO NOT:

  • Lose your temper
  • Use bad language
  • Use hand gestures
  • Demonstrate aggressive behaviour
  • Be put off by the flashing of headlights or the honking of horns
  • Drive whilst under the influence of Alcohol or Drugs
  • Drive whilst using your mobile phone
  • Listen to driver gossip (get out on the road and try it first)
do be patient!

Defensive / Aggressive Driving

A contradiction in terms, but the safest way to arrive at your destination. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, expect the unexpected and be prepared for it. Assume that any vehicle around you may make an impulsive action.

Just because the vehicle in the front is indicating right, this doesn't mean that he's going to turn right! Anticipate the worst of actions by the vehicles around you.

Be aware of vehicles cutting / pushing in at the last minute. When choosing a vehicle some people prefer the security of a large size - and others the agility of a smaller vehicle. Choose what you are most comfortable driving. Maintain an awareness of vehicles to your rear and those passing (on the left or right) by keeping a close eye on all of your mirrors.

Police Checks and Penalties

As is any modern country with a busy road system there are many more offences like using a Mobile Phone, not wearing your seat belt, the traffic rules are strictly enforced. Driving under the influence of Alcohol is a very serious offence, and could lead to prosecution if a traffic officer smells Alcohol on your breath having been involved in a traffic accident. Qatar also applies a zero-tolerance to drugs.

If someone is reported for reckless, aggressive driving and or impolite hand gestures to the police it will be investigated and action maybe taken.

There are now speed limits on all roads as well as static speed cameras placed around Doha, and if caught speeding you could pay a fine of usually QR.500 to QR.800 upwards, plus 4 points depending on your speed, excessive speeding will be dealt with by the Doha Courts.

The police also have mobile radar cameras, unmarked cars fitted with video cameras and some roads are been fitted with average speed cameras.

Be aware that the police can and do impound your vehicle if your speed is excessive.

You can be subjected to a traffic penalty without your knowledge. Frequently the first you will learn of the penalty will be upon annual vehicle re-registration or when involved in a car accident. Rules, regulations and procedures are subject to changes - sometimes frequent changes.

The static cameras fitted at traffic signals are also speed cameras.

Be aware that the police can and do impound your vehicle if your speed is excessive.

The Traffic Police from time to time will carry out random checks on:

  • Driving licenses
  • Vehicle registration documents
  • Insurance documents
  • The wearing of seat belts is mandatory
  • Using a mobile phone whilst driving is an offence
  • Wrong parking will get you a fine and penalty points

You can now check online if you have any driving tickets: CLICK HERE

Points system

Every driver holding a Qatari driving licence has 14 points to start with when the licence is issued and as you receive a penalty the points are removed from the licence, obviously if you run out of points you will lose your driving licence.

To give you an example on how the points system works

Let’s say that you have received a penalty for bad parking and had points removed on the 30th of January 2011

They will remain off your licence until the 30th of January 2012 when they will be returned to your licence!

Unless! you commit another offence during the same period 'the points are accumulative'

Let’s now say that you have received a penalty for speeding on the 18th of November 2011

This means the original points taken for bad parking that should have been returned to your licence on the 30th of January 2012 will new remain as accumulated points until 18th November 2012

To get a clean licence back with 14 points you have to have had no penalties for one full year.

As with everything the above procedures are subject to change.

Driving Licence

Qatari residents and visitors must carry a valid licence for driving in Qatar.

Nationals from other GCC states may use their National Driving Licence.

All other visitors can drive on their National Driving Licence for 15 days from the day from the date of entry into Qatar.

This is usual knocked down to 7 days because the insurance companies have their own rules, that’s why most people will tell you that you can only drive for 7 days.

Before driving we strongly advise you to check with the vehicle owners insurance company as to which rule applies, 7 or 15 days

Vehicle Registration

Expatriates cannot register a vehicle in their name before they have obtained a Residence Permit, they will also need a no objection letter from their sponsor or employer

Click here for Example of Transfer paper with English translation

Registration renewal

Registration is based on the model year of the vehicle for the first three years to renew the registration of a vehicle is a paperwork exercise, the vehicle does not need to go to be inspected

Click here for Example of Registration Card with English translation

Once the model year of the vehicle reaches three years, as in many Countries, the vehicle will have to be inspected annually at an official government facility to check on things like the vehicles emissions, paintwork, brakes, tires, glass, lights and so on

If you have any outstanding penalties or issues with the police you will have to clear them first or they will not be able to reregister the vehicle

The law allows a 15 day grace period to renew the registration after that there is a fine

International Driving License

An International Driving License obtained outside of Qatar along with your National Driving Licence can be valid for up to six months from the day of entry into Qatar.

Providing you are entering Qatar on a visit or business visa with no intention to take up permanent residence or applying for a resident permit.

If you are entering Qatar with the intention of taking up permanent residence (applying for a resident permit) the International Driving License is NOT VALID; therefore the 7 day rule applies.

Before driving we strongly advise you to check with the vehicle owners insurance company, as not all insurance companies will accept/recognise the International Driving License as a valid permit to drive in Qatar.

Also if you are looking to Rent a Car, we would recommend that you check with the rental company as not all car rental companies will accept the International Driving License,

Oasis Rent a Car will accept the International Driving License Oasis Rent a Car

During your first 7 days you can apply locally for a Temporary Driving permit.

If you are intending to stay in Qatar and take up permanent residence, once you have your resident permit the Temporary Driving permit can be transferred to a full Qatari driving licence.

There will be no need to go back to the traffic department, as it’s a paperwork exercise to change them over.

All of the above is given as advice only
We strongly recommend that you contact your company’s Public Relations Office or the Qatari Traffic Department directly for up to date advice

If you or your drive without a valid Qatar driving licence and an accident or damage occurs to the vehicle the insurance will be void and you may be liable to prosecution.

Be Mindful!

Traffic Signals

If you cross a red light it is upwards of QR6000 fine plus 6 points

There is the obvious crossing on a red light but there is also crossing the thick white line to be considered in Doha too!

You may have stopped before crossing the junction but if you stop with your vehicle over hanging the thick white line, then this maybe considered as crossing on a red light, even though you have not crossed the junction.

You will see many people stopping one or more meters before the thick white line. Do not be surprised to see people reversing back over the thick white line if they have stopped over it.

The Flashing of Headlights

If you are driving in the left lane (well any lane) and the vehicle behind you is approaching quickly with flashing headlights - the driver is in a hurry and wishes you out of his path. If it is safe to do so - appease him. Do not touch your brake pedal flashing your brake lights - telling the driver "back off buddy you're too close." The driver behind will interpret this as very aggressive behaviour. Flashing headlights are a gesture to give way in some countries. Beware – not usually the case in Qatar. Locally this translates to – "you’d better wait – I’m coming through".

Honking the Horn

The honking of car horns usually means I'm here, but as you will find there can be an enthusiastic volley when the lights turn to green, or if the vehicle behind thinks there was a space for you to join the traffic on the roundabout or that you were taking too long to move. Don’t be intimidated by the honking. Take your time and join the traffic when you’re ready.

Lane Protocol and discipline

People tend to drive in the left lane, as vehicles approaching from the right tend not to stop when joining the main road, so:

  • On a three lane road most people will drive in the middle or left lane, leaving the right lane to the water trucks and pickups.
  • On a two lane road most people will drive in the left lane
  • On a single lane road: BE CAREFUL!

Lane discipline

For the most part drivers stick to their lanes but in saying that there is sometimes a tendency for drivers to ‘wonder’ you are never quite sure which lane they want to be in.

Roundabout Protocol

The majority of roundabouts in Doha now have traffic lights, and the lanes around the roundabouts have white markings for you to follow.


PROCEED WITH CAUTION!

If there is no traffic to your left, but the traffic light is red or changing to red, you must stop!

Usually when approaching a roundabout from a two lane carriageway the right lane is meant for turning right and the left lane for continuing straight ahead, turning left or turning back - unless otherwise stated. On a three lane carriageway the right lane is for turning right, the middle lane is for going straight ahead and the left lane is for turning left or turning back unless otherwise stated. Many roundabouts are now being fitted with separate slip roads for turning right.

EXAMPLE:

Ideally if you approach the roundabout from the middle lane and intend to go straight ahead you should drive into the roundabout positioning yourself in the centre - as if there is another vehicle on your left and right sides. Follow the round shape of the roundabout.

When you see your exit you should indicate and turn off, almost as if you’re making a right turn.

Not everyone will follow the lane discipline, so just because someone is in the middle lane do not assume they are going straight ahead, they may be turning left or believe it or not they may even wish to turn right. Approaching the roundabout, it seems many people position themselves in the shortest – or fastest moving queue regardless of which way they might be turn.

There are still many roundabouts that do not have the new traffic signals or lanes markings, PROCEED WITH CAUTION!

I once heard someone call a roundabout in Doha a straight-on-about, this is generally because people don’t indicate or follow lane discipline.

If someone is driving erratically, pulling out in front of you, suddenly stopping, cutting you up and obviously having no consideration for others, take one or two deep breaths get out of the way and let them go, and then smile to yourself, because it is not worth a duel or the trouble.

Please don’t be put off by what you have read here or by what other people might say, because after you’ve been here for a short time you will see that there is an order to the way people drive.

Woqod Service Stations

Most of the smaller petrol stations in Qatar only provide petrol and diesel, but recently, the new Woqod Service Stations have a convenience store and an internet cafe, car wash, an oil change bay and also restaurants and fast food. There are many new Woqod outlest currently under construction and all will eventually offer car inspection services as well as other modern service stations which will be opened up around Qatar in the near future.

Accident Guidelines

Should you be involved in an accident or damage your vehicle, strict procedures will apply. However, if you handle yourself well and follow this advice - it need not be such a harrowing experience.

Recent changes in the traffic laws have made the rule NOT TO MOVE THE VEHICLES somewhat ambiguous. Saying that, if you are involved in a minor accident and it is obvious who is at fault, with both parties agreeing to who is at fault then you should:

Move the vehicles to the nearest safe parking area or to the side of the road, then call the police and wait for them to arrive (failure to comply could result in a penalty)

However, we would recommend NOT TO MOVE THE VEHICLES if you are involved in any accident where:

  • Someone is injured
  • The vehicles have sustained major damage
  • If both parties do not agree to who is at fault.

The police need to see the position of all vehicles to assess responsibility.

The above is only advice and the decision to MOVE or NOT MOVE the vehicle is at your discretion.

All accidents and or damage to a vehicle has to be covered by a POLICE REPORT

If there are injuries call 999 and ask for an ambulance or contact Hamad Hospital on +974 44392222 / +974 44394444.

Contact the police on +974 44890699 / +974 44890670 or 999, provide them with the location of the accident including names of landmarks near to you i.e. large shops, buildings etc.

If you have a colleague or friend who speaks Arabic - try to get them to come to the accident scene. Whilst many of the police do speak English, some may not be fluent.

At the scene of the incident you will be asked to provide your license, vehicle registration and insurance documents (it is advisable to have photocopies of these documents available in your vehicle). The police will listen to the explanations of all involved and complete their preliminary roadside report. They will advise all involved when to attend the Traffic Department (normally the following day, although it can be immediate) to receive the documentation required for repair-work and the insurance companies.

It is illegal for any garage in Qatar to carry out any accident or body work repairs (no matter how small) on your vehicle without the authorised paperwork from Police and or insurance company.

Ensure you get contact details from the policeman making the roadside report - his name, which police station he is from, details of his shift schedule over the next few days. Try your best to retrieve his personal mobile phone number.

This will save a lot of frustration and wasted time.

It is advisable that your company PRO or well informed Arabic speaking colleague assist you at the police station.

  • DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING unless you fully understand what it is.
  • DO NOT accept the blame if you think it is not your fault.
  • DO NOT lose your temper
  • DO NOT use bad language
  • DO NOT use aggressive behaviour
  • DO be patient
  • DO SMILE AND BE RESPECTFULL TO THE POLICE (it works wonders)

In all my dealings with the Police force here in Qatar I have only found them to be polite and very helpful.

Above procedures subject to change.

Doha now has a sole provider of Taxis and this service is run by Mowasalat. The Taxis are turquoise in colour with “Karwa” printed on the sides. You can flag down a Taxi in the street or call +974 44588888 to make an advanced booking (which you will be charged for).Taxis

Bus service

The public transport bus service is also run by Mowasalat, Passengers can obtain a Fare saver smartcard or Fare saver Zone Card from the Central Bus Station, Tel. +974 44366053, located in the Al Ghanim area of Doha.