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Qatar

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions. Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour. Monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • Australian passport holders are eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival free-of-charge. You'll need a passport with at least six months validity and a confirmed onward ticket. See Entry and exit
  • Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have suspended diplomatic ties with Qatar. Your transport arrangements could be affected by disruptions to transport links. Contact your airline or travel provider to confirm arrangements. See Local travel.
  • International terrorists have called for attacks against Western interests in the Gulf region, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests. See Safety and security.
  • Medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal in Qatar. Check your medicines with the Embassy of the State of Qatar and explore alternatives with your doctor before you travel. See Health.
  • There are strict laws on personal conduct, particularly regarding intimacy and personal relationships and the consumption and possession of alcohol. See Laws.
  • Failing to pay debts or bills can land you in jail. Having cheques dishonoured, failing to pay fines or hotel bills, and having outstanding personal loans or local credit cards, all constitute 'fraud'. See Laws.
  • If you become involved in commercial or civil litigation, you could be prevented from departing Qatar until the matter is resolved. See Laws.

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination's entry or exit requirements.

You're eligible for a 30-day visa-on-arrival, provided your passport has at least six months validity and you have a confirmed onward ticket. The visa-on-arrival is free of charge and may be extended for up to 30 more days.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Embassy of the State of Qatar or check the official State of Qatar E-Government English Language website for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

Medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal. Travellers have been detained and deported for carrying medication to treat HIV and hepatitis, or for testing positive to either illness. See Health.

Qatari authorities won't issue visas in Australian emergency passports. You may use an emergency passport to exit or transit Qatar only. The Australian Embassy cannot issue a new passport in the airport transit area. If you're in the transit area without a passport, you'll need to return to Australia to apply for a full validity passport.

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Qatari Riyal (QAR). Change currency only at commercial banks and official exchange bureaux. Israeli currency is prohibited.

Most businesses catering to tourists accept international credit cards. ATMs are widely available. Contact your bank to make sure that your cards will work in Qatar.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There have been several terrorist attacks in the Gulf region in recent years, including at places frequented by Westerners. Terrorists have the intent and capability to conduct attacks throughout the Arabian Peninsula. International terrorist groups have called for attacks against Western interests, including residential compounds and military, oil, transport and aviation interests.

  • In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • Be alert to possible threats, especially at tourist locations, religious sites, identifiably Western businesses and crowded public places.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor local and social media for news of any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Civil unrest and political tension

Regional developments have an impact on public opinion in Qatar. Days of national or commemorative significance may also prompt demonstrations or other unrest.

  • Avoid protests, demonstrations and other large public gatherings – they could turn violent.
  • Be aware of local sensitivities to regional affairs.
  • Monitor the news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest or strikes.
  • Plan your activities to avoid potential unrest.
  • Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
  • If you're affected by transport disruptions, contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for assistance.

Crime

Qatar has a low incidence of crime. Pickpocketing, bag snatching and other petty crime is rare but does occur. Banking and credit card fraud can also occur.

Unaccompanied women sometimes experience verbal and physical harassment.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Take care of your belongings, especially in crowded places.
  • Keep your credit card in sight at all times.
  • If you're female and travelling alone, take extra precautions, especially after dark.

Local travel

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators may not be met, including for 4x4 adventure activities in the desert. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • only undertake desert travel in well-equipped vehicles with sufficient water, fuel, food provisions and a mobile phone
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, such as seatbelts, even if others don't
  • if appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider
  • leave a copy of your travel itinerary with friends or relatives
  • be prepared to adjust your plans if the weather makes conditions unsafe – if you're unsure, seek advice from local authorities.

Road travel

Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death in Qatar. The combination of Qatar's many roundabouts, road construction and high speeds make driving in Qatar challenging and dangerous. Driving on rural roads in Qatar can be dangerous because of unsafe driving practices, insufficient lighting, the presence of wandering animals and drifting sands.

Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly, which can significantly reduce visibility and lead to road accidents. Rain can result in dangerous road conditions and flash flooding.

It's illegal to drive with any alcohol in your system.

It's illegal for a driver to leave the scene of an accident until permitted by the police to do so. You may only move your vehicle off the road if no one has been injured in the accident.

Offensive behaviour, including obscene language and hand gestures in response to others' poor driving or traffic incidents, is against the law.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively and legally.
  • Avoid arguments over traffic incidents.
  • If you're involved in an accident, contact police and stay with your vehicle, if it is safe to do so.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

You can drive in Qatar with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia. If you hold a resident permit, you'll need a Qatari driver's licence.

More information: Official State of Qatar

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Avoid shared taxis.

Public transport

Qatar has a well-developed bus transport network, though most tourists prefer to use faster modes of transport such as taxis.

Boat travel

Many waters in the Gulf are sensitive because of territorial disputes and security issues. In particular, some maritime boundaries and jurisdiction over the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf are disputed. Vessels have been inspected and people detained and arrested.

Piracy occurs in some coastal areas of neighbouring countries. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

More information:

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Qatar.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

If you're detained or arrested, Qatar authorities may not automatically notify the Australian Government. Request police or prison officials to notify the Australian Embassy in Doha.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences include long prison sentences. The presence of illegal drugs in the body is considered possession.

Medications that are available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal in Qatar. Travellers have been detained and deported for carrying medication to treat HIV and hepatitis, or for testing positive to either illness. Check the status of your medicines with an Embassy or Consulate of Qatar, and discuss alternatives with your doctor, before you travel. See Health.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Commercial, civil, family and labour law

There are significant differences between Australia's and Qatar's laws on commercial, civil, family and employment matters.  Examples:

  • If you are involved in a commercial civil dispute, local firms or courts may take possession of your passport. This effectively prevents you from leaving Qatar until the dispute is resolved.
  • If you present a cheque that is dishonoured, if you fail to pay bills or fines, if you have an overdue personal loan or local credit card, or similar, you can be imprisoned for 'fraud'.
  • Debtors can be imprisoned until debts are settled. Bail is generally not available to non-residents of Qatar who are arrested for crimes involving fraud.
  • If you have outstanding debts or criminal charges in Qatar, you may be detained upon arrival, even if you're only transiting.   
  • Under Qatari labour law, employees are required to obtain their employer's permission in the form of an exit permit before leaving the country.
  • Decisions relating to child custody are based on Islamic law.

If you engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support) and employment matters:

  • seek professional advice
  • understand your rights and responsibilities under Qatari law.

To comply with local Qatari requirements, Australian documents may require additional government legalisation before they can be used overseas. Check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Qatar on local requirements for using Australian documents in Qatar.

More information:

Other laws

Penalties include corporal punishment.

Activities that are illegal in Qatar include:

  • eating, drinking or smoking in public between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan
  • drinking alcohol, if you're Muslim
  • drinking alcohol or being drunk in public
  • drinking alcohol outside licensed premises
  • driving with any alcohol in your system
  • having sex outside of marriage
  • public displays of intimacy
  • homosexuality- more information: LGBTI travellers
  • harassing women – harassment includes unwanted conversation, prolonged stares, touching any part of the body, shouting, stalking or any comments that may offend
  • using obscene language
  • making obscene gestures
  • defamation
  • importing pornographic material, pork products, alcohol, firearms or religious books / materials (other than those relating to Islam)
  • photographing government buildings or military sites
  • photographing local people, particularly women, without permission.

Expatriates living in Qatar can get alcohol on a permit system.

Victims of sexual assault

It's possible for victims of sexual assault in Qatar to face arrest, detention or criminal prosecution for having sex outside of marriage, depending on the circumstances of the assault. If you become a victim of sexual assault, contact the Australian Embassy in Doha or the Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra for guidance and information on what support services may be available. Consular officers cannot provide legal or medical advice but can provide lists of English-speaking service providers who may be able to assist you. See Where to get help.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Qatar doesn't recognise dual nationality. This may limit the Australian Government's ability to provide consular assistance to Australian-Qatari dual nationals who are arrested or detained. Visit Qatar on your Australian passport.

The children of Qatari fathers automatically acquire Qatari citizenship at birth. Qatari fathers can prevent their children from leaving Qatar.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Qatar. Dress modestly with clothing covering the shoulders and knees. Tourist attractions, shopping malls, and other public places will often have their own specific dress codes displayed or available on their websites. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between early May and early June 2019. During Ramadan, take extra care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan in Qatar.

Health

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're transiting or travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. For all medications you take to Qatar and for those that may be detectable in your system, carry:

  • copies of your prescription
  • a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only, and
  • the original packaging.

More information:

Health risks

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) were recently reported in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers.

More information: MERS Information Card (Department of Health) 

Air pollution

Dust and sandstorms occur regularly and can exacerbate existing respiratory issues. Data from the WHO shows the level of air pollution is high by global standards.

Medical facilities

Public medical facilities in the major cities of Qatar are adequate but services may not be available in remote areas.

If you don't have travel health insurance, hospitals will require a guarantee of payment before commencing treatment. Costs can be high, depending on the level of health care required and length of hospital stay.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Qatar often experiences extremely high temperatures. During the hottest months of the year, June to September, the temperature can exceed 50˚C.

Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly. Rain and thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information: Severe weather

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 999
  • Medical emergencies: phone 999 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 999 or visit the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Doha.

Australian Embassy, Doha

Tornado Tower
Majlis Al Taawon Street
Doha
QATAR
Phone: +974 4007 8500
Email: embassy.doha@dfat.gov.au
Website: qatar.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision. The working week is Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice.

If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 if you are in Australia.

Additional resources