In this dos and don’t in Qatar guide we cover everything you need to travel to Qatar and have a culturally sensitive visit. We include what you should and shouldn’t wear in Doha, give top tips on how to interact with locals, tell you the things that are considered rude or illegal and everything else inbetween.
The dos and don’ts in Qatar
When people are traveling to Qatar I think there are lot of concerns and preconceptions about what you can and can’t do in country. And it is true that there is quite a list of dos and don’ts in Qatar. In this guide we will round them up and give you the alternatives that are considered good behaviour in Qatar.
Note: if you want a list of dos and don’t in Qatar that are targeted at the World Cup specifically then please see our traveling to the Qatar World Cup tips guide which will address the rules for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
As most people I speak to are worried about what they can’t do in Qatar I will start with the list of don’ts before we consider the things you should do in Doha.
Drink alcohol to excess
Drinking in Doha is allowed, but only in certain places such as five star hotels. However you are not allowed to be drunk in public. It is best to limit your drinking in Doha and not drink to excess. Do not try and sneak alcohol into the country and do not drink in public places.
We recommend only drinking in moderation anywhere but especially in Doha and only doing so in approved areas such as 5* hotel bars.
Please also note it is illegal to travel around Doha and Qatar with alcohol and the legal drinking age is 21 not 18.
There are also rules regarding the consumption of drinking alcohol on Qatar Airways in Hamad International Airport.
There is a zero tolerance policy position on drugs in Qatar. Do not bring them into the country or use them when in Qatar as the penalties are steep. What are considered controlled drugs in Qatar can also be medicines that can be prescribed routinely in other parts of the world so be sure to check your prescription medication before travel and follow all relevant Qatari laws and requirements before traveling with prescription medication.
Wear inappropriate clothing
Doha has a strict dress code. As Qatar is an Islamic country it is a requirement for everybody – men and women to dress modestly when in country. The main modesty rules in Qatar mean that you should always:
- keep your shoulders covered
- keep your knees covered
- not wear clothing that is overly tight or revealing.
For a full breakdown of what you shouldn’t and should wear in Qatar please see this post. And for specific questions of the Qatar World Cup dress code check out this post as it is important to realise that the dress code rules will not be relaxed for the World Cup.
Swearing in Qatar is forbidden. Do not do it anywhere even in hotels . Also please not that swearing is not just considered verbal but also covers hand gestures.
Make lewd hand gestures
As I mentioned above swearing in all forms physical and verbal is not allowed in Qatar. It also covers lewd hand gestures also.
The driving in Doha can be bad and in other countries may make people want to gesticulate at other drivers. Do not do this as this is also is considered swearing.
In other parts of the Middle East there is a particular gesture that is done in cars at other drivers but again even this is not considered appropriate in Qatar.
Approach and speak to women you do not know
As a conservative Muslim country there are certain rules about how you interact with women you don’t know in particular. I would recommend not approaching a woman that you do not know and certainly never touch them.
In some business contexts Qatari women are comfortable with shaking hands but this is really an individual choice and you would be best to let them dictate whether or not they wish to shake hands rather than putting them and you in an awkward situation.
Take photos of locals
Qatar has strict rules about what can and can’t be shared on social media and much of this relates to other people. Therefore do not take photos of locals without consent and do not share these images on social media.
Eat with your left hand
Eating with your left hand is considered rude in Qatar. In Qatari culture your left hand is reserved for personal hygiene and therefore shouldn’t be used with food.
Engage with PDAs
PDAs are a big no no in Qatar as it is a conservative Islamic country. Do not engage in PDAs in public as this can be prosecuted and cause deportation, fines and jails terms.
Also please note that Qatar has strict rules in relation to the LGBTQ+ community and although they have said that during the World Cup fans from the LGBTQ+ are welcome I would visit with caution and certainly not engage in PDAs in public.
Be careful what you share on social media
Qatar has strong social media use that involves fines and consequences for social media violations. Do not share news, photos, videos etc of anyone in Qatar without their permission as punishment is in the form of fines and jail terms if found guilty.
There are also lots of anti-defamation laws which concern what can and can’t be posted online.
Pack banned items
The is a list of prohibited items that it is illegal to bring into Qatar such as alcohol, pork, pornography and religious items other than those connected with Islam. These should never be brought into Qatar.
For a more detailed description of what not to bring to Qatar check out this post.
Bounce a Cheque
Being an islamic country there are lots of rules about finances and debt. It is actually illegal in Qatar to bounce a cheque
Eat and Drink during Ramadan daytime hours.
Ramadan in Qatar is the holy month (it changes every year so check out related post for current Ramadan dates) and there are strict rules about what you can and can’t do during daylight hours.
Most importantly do not eat and drink in Ramadan in public during daylight hours as this is not only offensive to those observing Holy month but also illegal.
Drink a lot of water
Qatar is a very hot country. Even if you are traveling to Qatar in December or visiting Doha in November it will be hot. It is important that you drink lots of water and stay hydrated during your trip.
Wear appropriate clothing
As I said before Qatar has strong dress code rules, there are even rules about what to wear in Doha Airport. Be sure you address appropriately by being modest in your clothing. And please note that this applies to both men and women. For some reason most people think the Doha dress code rules only apply to women but this is not true. There are dress code rules in Qatar for men too.
Please always be respectful in your clothes when in Qatar.
Check your medications before travel
As I mentioned before some medications that may be prescribed routinely in other parts of the world are considered illegal in Qatar. Be sure to any medications you need before you travel against the Qatar banned list and follow any rules regarding how to bring your medication into the country. The best way to find out more about this is to contact the Qatar Supreme Health Committee.
Wear sunscreen and other sun protection items
The sun in Qatar is strong even in when you are visiting Doha in Winter. Be sure to protect everything you will need for good sun protection practises such as sunscreen with a high SPF factor, sunglasses and lip balm with SPF.
Haggle in the souq
The Souq is top of our best things to do in Qatar list. It is a great insight into local life and a great place to shop for the best Doha souvenirs. I love the Souq and it isn’t an intimidating place to go to like other soups around the world but they will expect you to do at least a little bit of haggling even if it isn’t as aggressive or necessary as in other parts of the world.
Respect segregated areas
You will notice that in many places such as hospitals and banks that there are segregated waiting areas for men and women. Due to local sensibilities it is important that these are respected.
Note: When you are on the Doha Metro you will notice that there is a family carriage. This does not mean that you have to have children to use it but it does mean that men on their own are unable to travel in this carriage.
Head outside of the city
Qatar is more than just Doha so if you have more than a long layover or day in Doha be sure to add something outside of the city to your Qatar itinerary.
We personally love going to see the flamingoes in al Khor in Winter or going out dune bashing and camping in one of the desert camps near the inland sea.
Have you been to Doha? What would you add to this list of do’s and don’ts in Qatar.