If you are reading this, chances are you have moved or are planning to move to Qatar. Here are the 10 things you need to know before you relocate to Qatar.
1) You will need an international driver’s licence. No, you can’t get one here. If you show up to Qatar without one, you will only be able to rent a car for 2 weeks. This means you won’t be mobile until your residency comes in and you can apply for a Qatari licence. An international licence can be attained in your home country in just minutes and shouldn’t cost you more than $15.
2) It is considered very impolite to offer to shake a Muslim woman’s hand. Some Muslim businesswomen shake hands, some do not. How do you tell? You respectfully wait for her to extend her hand first.
3) There is only one outlet for alcohol. Unless you visit one of the international hotel bars, the only way to have a drink is to visit the government controlled distribution outlet (there is only one in the country). Be mindful that anyone without residency is not allowed to enter.
4) Living in Qatar often means you need to make your own fun. If you are the kind of person that needs to have a pumping nightlife, Qatar is probably not the place for you. Yes, there are clubs. Yes, there are restaurants. But the entire scene is developing. For fun, people often go to each other’s houses. Thus, doing some only networking can really help you establish some friends when you arrive.
5) The city employs roundabouts instead of traffic lights. For you Brits, this is a no-brainer. For those of us from the New World, you best brush up on how to use roundabouts before you come. If you aren’t entirely clear how to use them, you risk endangering yourself and those driving around you.
6) Living next to a mosque can mean an early wakeup call every morning. Personally, I find the call to prayer soothing (hey, at least it doesn’t sound like a Justin Bieber track). It does start early, though. Living next to a mosque may mean having this call broadcast into your home 5 times a day (the first call coming as early as 4am).
7) Taxis rarely can be flagged. Doha is small, and taxi culture isn’t happening. Unless you are staying in a hotel or live in the very densely populated areas of the city, you aren’t going to be able to nab a taxi. Knowing this, your best bet is to rent a car the moment you arrive in the city.
8) Get your degrees/certifications attested by the Qatar Embassy in your home country before you come. Save yourself the headache. Go to the Qatar Embassy and get them to stamp the back of your professional qualifications. Your employer will likely get you to FedEx your documents home if you show up here without attestation from the embassy.
9) Overstayed visas are paid for at the Doha airport. I learned this the hard way. If you absolutely need to overstay your visa (which happens more often than most people think), you pay your fine at Passport and Visa Control in the Doha airport. You do not pay this fine at the immigration departments that speckle the city. Going to the immigration department will result in you waiting 6 hours and then being told to go to the airport. And before you ask: yes, the Passport and Visa Control office at the airport is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
10) Qatar is expensive. Let me repeat that: Qatar is very expensive. If you are coming here to look for work, be prepared to shell out serious money to allow yourself time to shop around for the right job.
Those are the 10 big ones, and I hope they make your transition to the State of Qatar much smoother. Rest assured, Qatari people are extremely welcoming and you will likely love the time you spend here!