Is Qatar Safe? Crime, Local Laws and Customs

Safety tips for women, crime, petty theft and important local laws you should know before you go to Qatar.

Market in Doha Photo © Getty Images/ac productions

Qatar lies on the Persian Gulf in eastern Arabia, north of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Despite its location in an often volatile area of the Middle East, it's generally a safe country with a low crime rate. This is due in part to a large police presence who aim to maintain security and prevent crime from happening.

However, there are a number of local laws travelers should be aware of, so you can avoid unknowingly doing something that is considered a crime in Qatar.

Qatari Crime

The country is populated mostly by wealthy individuals and foreigners on lucrative work contracts. There is also a large population of expatriate blue collar workers who are on short term contracts working on various construction projects across the country.

Despite the cultural diversity, the country and its society is quite stable. The capital city of Doha does experience petty crime such as pickpocketing and theft, but keep your belongings safe and secure, and you should be fine.

ATM and credit card theft does happen, so always check to make sure there are no card scanners on the ATM you are using, and keep your cash and valuables out of sight to avoid losing your card.

Safety Tips for Women in Qatar

Women traveling alone may receive the occasional stare, but in Doha this is nothing to worry about. Women should dress modestly, and avoid wearing tight clothing.

It is illegal to harass women in Qatar – this term encompasses everything from striking up a conversation to staring. Many women expats and travelers say they felt safe in Qatar, but the important rule is to respect local customs and dress modestly to avoid any unwanted attention.

Local Laws and Customs in Qatar

Qatar is an Islamic country, and there are several actions considered illegal of which travelers would otherwise think nothing of. Offenses are governed by Qatari law, and penalties can be severe.

  • Women will be expected to cover up and dress modestly. Shorts, short skirts and sleeveless shirts should not be worn. While travelers who break these dress codes will not necessarily be penalised, they may be considered rude by the Qatari people
  • Special care with dress should be taken during the Ramadan holiday. Also during this period, it's forbidden to eat or drink in public between sunrise and sunset, even for non-Muslims. Only certain restaurants will be open during these times. Friday afternoon is dedicated to prayers so you'll find restaurants and cafes closed during this period, usually around midday
  • Travelers and expats have been arrested for crimes such as traffic accidents, obscene language, insulting someone publicly and slander. Individuals often spend a few nights in jail while they wait to attend a hearing. Fines are also possible in addition to jail time
  • The legal drinking age is 21 and alcohol is only served in restaurants and bars in licensed hotels
  • Drinking in public is prohibited, and drug use or the sale of drugs is prohibited and punishable by law
  • Punishments for crimes involving drinking and driving (the legal limit is 0) and drug use or sale are extremely stiff
  • You can't drink anywhere that isn't licensed, however no such restrictions govern smoking. Shisha smoking is quite common and often considered a cultural pastime
  • Homosexual activity is also against the law, and can result in punishment
  • It's considered inappropriate to take pictures of local women in Qatar, as well as taking pictures of public buildings and military sites
  • Import regulations are strict – pork is banned in addition to weapons, narcotics and pornography
  • Certain medications may be illegal in Qatar, so bring your prescription slip and a note from your doctor if you're unsure
  • Certain public displays of affection, such as kissing, is illegal – especially in family friendly spaces. These displays of affection can result in you being asked to leave or pay a fine
  • Qatar is not a very pedestrian friendly country, as most people own cars and the high temperatures make walking around rather unpleasant. The local driving etiquette isn't great, with drivers coming across as rude and even dangerous. So take a leaf out of the local handbook, and grab a ride on four wheels
  • One other local custom includes not showing the soles of your feet or shoes to a Qatari
  • Arguing for the dinner bill is also common, and a Qatari will usually win out.

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3 Comments

  • mike said

    how long does it take to wait for a hearing if you are an expat

  • Jon Bentley said

    "despite cultural diversity, the country is stable"

    Who said that cultural diversity normally breeds instability, as this implies?

    In fact, only the lunatic fringes of the right wing believe that cultural mixing = instability.

    As a Londoner I can confirm that a big mixture of people & cultures can be a very good thing.

  • Navaneeth said

    Im not blaming someone, nor a country. There is nobody is found been living according to Islamic Rules. All Are being western life style. Expats are allowed for all things. Depend on your status. You can keep girl friends as you like. Nobody will check. Nobody can. Most of the laws created are as decorations. You can live here with complete freedom, if you are with high salaried person.

    You can see every forbidden activities when you explore each scene.

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