The Persian Gulf is one of the most mesmerising places that you can visit in the Middle East and this is not only due to the fact that it is a historically abundant region but also because it is filled with modern-day wonders. Harbouring more than 2.6 million inhabitants, Qatar’s expats massively outnumber its locals (there are 2.3 million foreigners living there and only a little more than 300.000 locals). Considered one of the fastest-growing countries in the world in terms of economy and GDP per capita, Qatar is an excellent place to stop at if you are into palm trees, scintillating skyscraper-riddled skylines, and the hot-desert climate zone (wink). So, before you race to the airport, pull the breaks a bit and examine what this small island nation has to offer with us!
Tipping is a complex subject in Qatar because there are so many ways in which you can go about it. The basic rule is that, yes, you should most definitely tip. First and foremost, in restaurants, you will notice the fact that there are service charges added to the bills but the truth is that they rarely, if ever, reach the pockets of the workers themselves. To circumnavigate this problem, most locals and expats add a further 10-15% and hand them directly to the waiters. Some taxi drivers can be handled with the simple round-up-the-bill rule but most of them expect flat tips of about 5-10 riyals (the local currency). Hotel staff should also be “made happy” and, in fact, almost every single worker pertaining to the hospitality industry in some way will expect a little extra in Qatar. No one said that hitting the Persian Gulf will be cheap (wink)!
2. Dress the part:
Though Qatar is beyond scintillating and flamboyant in nature (not to mention the vibrant capital city of Doha), it is extremely important to know that it is a Muslim country governed by the law of Sharia. What this inevitably means is that you should consider your choice of clothes very carefully. This issue is directed more specifically at the ladies as showing too much skin can cause serious problems there. Skirts should reach at least as low as the knees (that is the bare minimum) and the shoulders should under no circumstances be uncovered. On the positive side, you can get away with your hair uncovered, so no need to worry about it sticking to your face under some hijab. Furthermore, please understand that bikinis are only accepted at the pools of renowned hotels. The beaches of Qatar do not tolerate scantily-clad ladies, unfortunately. Wearing a bikini at a public beach can get you into some serious trouble, so please avoid it if possible!
3. Getting around:
Here’s the thing: Qatar does not have too many cabs, period. What this translates into is that some people have to go as far as ordering a taxi a day before they actually need it. This ensures that you have it when you need it. On the positive side of the coin, however, know that they are quite cheap. Public transportation is also scarce and affordable because almost everyone in Qatar owns a car. Gas is so dirt-cheap that you should not worry about it at all – this is the main reason why most visitors opt to rent a car as soon as they land. Oh, and walking around, while technically possible, is not exactly recommended for people who are not particularly in a good relationship with extreme heat. Temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius are a common thing there and you should only hike if you know what you are doing!
4. Love and its display:
First and foremost, we have to get the elephant out of the room: homosexual acts in Qatar are punishable by the law. Gay couples should refrain from public displays of affection and they should go as far as not even making people suspicious of their sexual orientations. Accused individuals can easily receive 5 years in prison and we are more than sure that that is not what you are looking for in such a gorgeous place. Public displays of affection are frowned upon even if you are a heterosexual couple, so please be aware of this before holding hands or kissing on the streets. Unmarried couples having sex can get into trouble as well but the good news is that hotels don’t usually ask for marriage certificates when checking you in (wink)!
5. Language barriers:
The good news is that, though Arabic is the official language of Qatar, English is almost unanimously spoken. This is due to the large presence of expats – the best way to mediate all of them is to find a common tongue. So, in short: no need to be concerned about language barriers at all!
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had when you visited Qatar and what would you advise your friends to do if they had the intention of going there? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and be sure to check back for some exciting new updates when you have the time! See you on our next adventure!