Transportation - Get In
Hamad International Airport is the primary point of entry for most travellers, and is the hub and base for Qatar Airways, which has positioned itself as one of the "Big Three" Middle Eastern airlines. It has built a far-reaching network, flying to destinations in Europe, South and East Asia,Australia, Africa and the Americas.
Contrary to Dubai, the home of Qatar Airways' archrival Emirates, Doha is served by much fewer other carriers. The major European airlines usually provide a single connection to Doha from their main hubs (e.g. Lufthansa fromFrankfurt, KLM from Amsterdam), but minor ones do not. Pretty much all airlines of the Middle East, Turkey included (but not Israel), provide connections to Doha. Relatively few Asian airlines do so, however, with the exception of a relatively good choice of connections to India and Pakistan.
Qatar Airways has also become a member of the oneworld alliance (which includes e.g. British Airways), and an increasing number of their connections are also on offer as codeshare flights by oneworld members.
Hamad International Airport became fully operational on 27 May 2014, replacing the overcrowded Doha International Airport.
If you're arriving from outside of the Persian Gulf region, probably the most economical way to visit is to use Qatar as an intermediate stopover en route to another destination. Prices of tickets originating in or terminating in Doha are artificially high because of limited competition, while prices for transit tickets are very competitive, as Qatar Airways continues working to build Doha as a global transit hub.
The cheapest method to reach Doha from within the Persian Gulf region is with local budget carriers, such as FlyDubai and Air Arabia, which provide cheap flights with a stopover in Dubai and Sharjah respectively.
Public Wi-Fi is provided free of charge throughout the airport.
Doha is the heart of all activity in the country, so most travellers will start off in the city. All highways and roads throughout Qatar will most likely connect to Doha, so look out for the signs.
Qatar only land border is with Saudi Arabia in the south. However, this is rarely an option, as obtaining permits to drive through Saudi Arabia can be extremely difficult. The Qatar article provides more information. Early plans are underway to connect Qatar using bridges with both Bahrain in the north-east and the United Arab Emirates in the south-east.
Transportation - Get Around
- Public bus, Al Ghanim (main bus station) (near the Gold Souq), e-mail:[email protected]. The public bus system is operated by the government-owned Mowasalat, which runs a wide network of routes catering for most of Doha, along with adjacent and surrounding towns. Fares within the city cost between QR 3-9 and are payable with exact change, or with a Karwa Smartcard, available for purchase at the bus station. For visitors, the route maps can be cryptic, with fairly infrequent service on some routes; additionally buses are frequently behind schedule. There are dedicated sections at the front of buses for women and families; however, in practice, some routes, particularly those to and from industrial areas, are used predominantly by male labourers and best avoided by women travelers. Timetables are online, some available to download; route maps are currently available only at the main bus station.
- Shuttle bus, , e-mail: (Mowasalat)[email protected]. Daily 6AM-12AM every 15min. In order to ease ever-increasing traffic congestion, Mowasalat has begun operating a new free shuttle bus service, servicing passengers with two routes in the West Bay (downtown) area; plans are underway to offer more routes in the future. A route map (Arabic and English) is available for download. Friday service is 'family only', i.e. solo men are not permitted. Free.
Other than buses, the only alternative to not renting a vehicle is taxis. There are two taxi services, also operated by Mowasalat: Karwa and Al Million. Alternatively, "limousine" taxis are available, which are unmarked, much more expensive (often two to four times the cost of Karwas) and may not carry a meter. If you feel sure about the fare, you can negotiate it up front, but it is advisable to insist on a meter.
Because of increasing complaints regarding taxis, some precautions should be noted. For nearly all journeys within Doha the tariff should be set to '1', and for journeys at night or outside of Doha it should be set to '0'. Airport taxis have a single tariff, which begins at QR 25. Reports of tampered meters are on the rise (look for black tape or paper), as well as reports of drivers locking the doors or refusing to open the trunk without extra payment. Technically if the driver refuses to use the meter, the ride should be free. If you have problems, you can call the police at 999, at which point the driver will suddenly be very cooperative.
The demand for taxis far exceeds the supply and waiting times may vary greatly. During morning business hours, companies usually require 24 hours notice if you need a taxi; however in practice, even this is unreliable as the scheduled taxi often doesn't show up. At other times, it may take upwards of 90 minutes for an on-call taxi to arrive, and hailing one may be impossible in many places. The only places where you are guaranteed to find a taxi (normal or limousine) are at major malls, the airport and international hotels. The acute shortage has led to a thriving market for unlicensed, or unofficial, taxi services, most with a steady clientele. For visitors, the best way to find a reliable driver is to ask around – many residents, particularly expats, hire such drivers regularly and will happily share contact information.
Occasionally, you may find a local driver will stop and offer to give you a ride if he or she sees you looking lost on the side of the road. It is customary to offer some money at the end, though sometimes they will refuse to take it. If a driver slows down and flashes their headlights, they are usually signalling they're willing to give you a lift; beckon them over with a wave in response. However, hitchhiking always has its risks, and it is not an advisable practice for solo women.
Several car rental agencies are located in and around Doha International Airport. The rental desks are not that easy to find and the signs to them are poor. They are located on the lower floor in the car park area. The popular agencies include Hertz, Avis and Budget. These rental agencies offer seasonal discounts and it is advisable to check their websites before booking. If you're looking to rent a car, it is best to reserve in advance, to ensure a good price and minimise wait times. As of late 2013, visitors can drive a rental car for six months with an international driving licence. However, do note, the laws regarding driving licences change almost yearly; visitors are advised to verify this information before arrival.
Driving in Qatar is on the right hand side of the road, with similar traffic rules to elsewhere in the world. However, because Doha residents come from all corners of the globe, driving styles vary wildly. Also, road rage is becoming more of a problem.
Expansion of the road network has not kept up with the explosive population growth of recent years, so drivers will encounter frequent traffic jams as well as numerous diversions due to road construction. With the addition of new roads, as well as renaming of old roads, even the latest available road maps may be out-of-date. This also applies to satellite imagery, which can be outdated, even when it is only a few months old. So do not rely on Google Earth, Openstreetmap or your TomTom.
By tour bus
Doha Bus offers a hop-on, hop-off tourist bus service, with stops at various locations between the Marriott Hotel and the Pearl-Qatar. Buses arrive at each stop every 20 minutes. Tickets are QR 180 (adult), QR 90 (children) and valid for 24 hours; bookings can be made on-line at http://www.dohabus.com , also via telephone (+974 4442 2444) and email ([email protected]). Alternatively, the manager/dispatcher is happy to take your call on her mobile (+974 5534 2964) and this will prevent you waiting on hold or even getting a busy signal. The energetic young crew of Pinoy, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan expats might not seem like the most organized bunch, but they try really hard to make things right, and they never stop smiling. There is shuttle service available from the airport to the first stop of the tour, which requires 30 minutes advance notice to arrange. If you're doing this on your last day in Doha, they will even arrange to pick you up at one of the main stops along the route and transfer you back to the airport for a not-unreasonable QAR 50 (US$14).