Dos and Don’ts for Travelers visiting Qatar
Last Updated on by Denise Castellvi
When you’re visiting a new country, it never hurts to do some research for the spoken and unspoken rules in that country. Of course, this applies to Qatar too, and our people will always be pleasantly surprised if you did that extra research.
After reading these tips, you can rest assured that you won’t look like a naive tourist, you will avoid any potentially embarrassing moments, and your experience will be a complete pleasure.
I’ve met many travelers in Qatar who told me that my tips helped them a lot, so I am eager to share them here with you! That said, I also tried to sum them up and not delve too much – remembering them will be a breeze to you.
What to do?
✔️ Dress appropriately
What I mean when I say “appropriately” is not necessarily “formally” as some may assume, but rather that you should know what to wear and where.
Wherever you go, it’s advisable to dress modestly and comfortably; the first piece of advice is because of our culture and the second one because of the dry and hot desert climate. Therefore, the best fabrics that I suggest wearing here are cotton, linen, and rayon.
If you don’t bring appropriate clothing, you can always buy it in souqs here. There are plenty of cotton pieces to choose from, and I suggest slacks and a shirt for men and dresses or trousers and skirts that are not too revealing for women. No high heels.
Generally, I would advise you to always cover shoulders and wear clothes that are below knee and elbow-length. This is a must when going to a mosque.
✔️ Use your right hand for eating and greeting
This is a simple rule yet something that you probably will not know beforehand, and it’s one of those unwritten rules that you will not see or hear anywhere, but it’s useful to know so that you’re not frowned upon.
It is simple as that: we consider the left hand intended for personal hygiene, so we tend to eat and greet people with our right hand.
Of course, people are aware that you are a tourist and this rule is not a strict one but will give you an advantage in feeling comfortable around here.
When speaking of greetings, do not be offended if you’re refused a handshake by a member of the opposite sex! It is not a sign of hostility or an unfriendly act, but a religious matter.
✔️ Learn to haggle
Our country offers pretty much anything that comes to your mind when you say “SHOPPING” – from the bustling shopping malls with the luxurious and most recognized world brands and designer stores to our famous old market and stalls in Souq Waqif.
This tip does not apply to you if you opt for the former type of shopping though – the latter is the perfect place to show your haggling skills!
While haggling is not always admired in other countries, it’s a common practice here, and it can be said that it has become a part of our culture and customs.
Most of the time, you will not need to pay the first price offered, and you will come to a deal that suits both you and the seller. I would suggest trying with 20% off the original price, but over time, you will learn to read the body language of the seller and see when and how to haggle.
So, don’t hesitate and grab your favorite bargain among a wide array of jewelry, spices, fabrics, pashminas and much more from the labyrinth of our bazaar!
What not to do?
🚫 Don’t take photos without permission
I know how important it is to create memories from your travels by taking photographs and, more and more often, posting them online.
However, there are some restrictions here to bear in mind: DO NOT take photos of people without their permission and do not take photos of the official sites and buildings.
People here are very sensitive to being photographed, and you should try and keep them out of your photo lens if you didn’t ask them for permission. This especially applies to women and older people.
Also, do not photograph the police and state official buildings, as well as any members of the law enforcement.
🚫 Don’t indulge in PDA
Simply put, excessive PDA, short for Public Display of Affection, is extremely frowned upon in Qatar.
Holding hands with a member of the opposite sex could get you in trouble, and you can be stopped by a police officer, though they will probably have in mind that you’re a tourist.
Incidents with extreme intimacy displayed in public can even lead to overnight imprisonment.
So, as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and that is my message with this penultimate, as well as the final DON’T for today.
🚫 Don’t drink excessively or engage in anything with drugs
While PDA may or may not cause some trouble for you, alcohol and/or narcotics certainly can.
We consider it an offense, and it is against the law to drink alcohol publicly or be drunk in public. This means you should not carry a bottle around with you or go out if you’re drunk and cannot control your behavior.
On another note, it is legal to consume alcohol, but only with a permit and in those places designated for it, where you can buy it and enjoy, e.g., hotels or inside bars and pubs.
For those of you wondering… Yes, alcohol will be available during the World Cup 2022, but under regulation.
When it comes to narcotics, they are absolutely forbidden here, and the penalties are severe. You are not allowed to take illegal narcotics, as well as some strong painkillers and sleeping pills.
Needless to mention, it is forbidden to bring any alcohol or narcotics in the country when traveling here and it will be banned at the airport.
Now that you’ve learned all the things you should and should not do in Qatar, feel free to haggle around Souq Waqif, wear light and modest clothes and be careful to respect little peculiarities about our culture!