Travelling to Doha, Qatar: What you need to know

Qatar is an increasingly popular country for New Zealanders travelling abroad, either using Doha as a stopover city or as a holiday destination itself.

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup fast approaching, more Kiwis than ever may be curious about heading to Qatar.

Below is a list of the top travel tips you need to know:

Do I need a visa to travel to Qatar?
No. A New Zealand passport will get you 30 days in the country as a tourist, no worries. If you don't have a NZ passport, you're still probably fine - check out this list of the 80 countries Qatar offers visa-free entry to.

Is Qatar a safe country?
Qatar is among the safest countries in the world, so long as you don't break any of its laws. Its government boasts a major crime rate that's 98.3 percent lower than global average and locals talk of not worrying about things like theft at all. However, the nation is culturally much more conservative than New Zealand, so not breaking any laws may be harder than it is here in Aotearoa. Also, New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises Kiwis to "exercise increased caution in Qatar due to the threat of terrorism", even though terrorist attacks in the country are almost entirely unheard of.

What clothing can I wear in Qatar?
An Islamic, Arabian country with citizens who are proud of their heritage, traditional clothing is worn by Qataris on a daily basis. They choose to do that, rather than adopt more Western clothing as some other nations in the region have. Visitors are, of course, not expected to wear traditional Qatari garb - but should dress modestly. You want to be covering your shoulders, knees and belly, and avoid clothing that is revealing or very tight. There are laws around this - but it's quite common to see foreign tourists seemingly breaking the rules as the wander around sight-seeing. Online Qatar has more information on what to wear in the country.

Is it safe for LGBTQ people in Doha?
Yes and no. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar - visiting Kiwis could face prison and deportation for gay sex there, while Muslims could be flogged or even executed for it. That's absolutely horrifying, utterly stupid and very, very wrong. However, as long as you're not having sex in a public space, it's unlikely anyone will bother you. People of any sexuality can get in trouble for exhibiting public displays of affection in Qatar. And respect for privacy in the country is greatly valued, so all sorts of stuff goes on behind closed doors and nobody does anything about it. Travel advisory website Queer in The World has more information and says Doha has a local gay scene that's "quite fun, if very discreet".

Is Qatar a dry country / can I drink alcohol in Doha?
Alcohol is legal in Qatar, but only for non-Muslims and only in specific locations. The fancy hotels all have bars that tourists can drink and party in, and locals can buy wholesale booze if they get a permit from their employer. However, alcohol in Qatar is very, very expensive. Due to ridiculous taxes and the booming local economy, you can expect to spend about NZ$25 for a single beer at a bar. You could also spend more on a whiskey than you would for the entire bottle in New Zealand and a glass of Jacobs Creek sparkling Rose will set you back about NZ$30. Seriously. You can check out a bunch of drink prices on the menu for Wahm. The bars do have happy hours, which I'm told is the way to go. Oh, and don't try to bring any duty-free booze in at all - none is allowed.

What type of plug does Qatar use?
Type G. If you have an adaptor for the UK, that'll work; if not, they're very common.

What are the top sightseeing destinations in and around Doha?
Desert safaris, amazing museums and historical sites, city tours, luxury shopping, water sports and more. If Arabic and Islamic culture interests you, Qatar is extraordinarily rich in it and is a very safe alternative to places like Saudi Arabia and Iraq, with a direct flight from Auckland. For more on the attractions of Qatar, check out our guide to the top five things to do there.

What is the currency in Qatar?
Qatari Riyals. At the current exchange rate, a New Zealand dollar will get you 2.4 QAR.

Should I tip in Doha / is Qatar a tipping country?
Yes, it's polite to tip in Qatar, but it's not absolutely necessary as in some other countries. If you feel like you got good service, you can add 10-15 percent to restaurant bills. Hotel staff will appreciate a tip of 10 or 20 Qatari Riyals (NZ$4 - $8.50) for assisting you, and it's nice to leave about the same on your bed each day for the housekeepers. Giving a taxi driver extra riyals is also polite, but Uber is a far superior option to regular cabs. While on the topic of Qatar's customs around money, you won't be hassled by pushy salespeople or heckled in street markets. You can peacefully browse a souq as if it were a modern shopping mall, even though it may feel ancient.

How hot is Qatar?
It's very hot in the summer, with average highs of 40C - 43C in the May - August period. The coolest it's likely to get is around 14C, in January; but November - April is generally fantastic weather. The Persian Gulf gifts the country nice, cool winds and after millennia of dealing with the heat, the people have innumerable ways of combating it. But Qatar is definitely a hot country.

What is the NZ to Doha flight time?
Qatar Airways flies direct from Auckland every day, with a flight time of 17 hours and 30 minutes.

What does it cost to roam with my Vodafone, Spark or 2degrees phone in Qatar?

  • Spark currently offers a 7-day roaming pack for $20, which gives you a GB of data, hundreds of minutes of talk time and 200 texts.
  • Currently, Vodafone will charge you $10 per MB and $3.79 per minute to make calls, with additional charges for texting and taking calls.
  • Currently, 2degrees will charge you $10 per MB and $7.39 per minute to make calls, with additional charges for texting and taking calls.

What language do they speak in Qatar?
Arabic. But English is widely spoken and if you really don't want to learn any phrases in the local language, you could get by using only English.