Is Qatar Safe? How Safe Is Doha in 2023?
The 2022 FIFA World Cup had its fair share of polemics. From the qualifying matches canceled hours before the start due to Covid restrictions to accusations of slave labor to build the host nation stadiums.
There is one question, however, that still puzzles many tourists and football fans planning to travel to Doha to attend the FIFA World Cup matches. A question that is frequently ignored by most mainstream media vehicles
Is Qatar Safe?
I lived in Qatar for 3 years before moving to Poland. There were some things that I disliked, and others that I enjoyed. However, most of what the media says (both on the positive and negative side) often doesn’t match my perception and that of my friends that still reside there.
Eg: Is Qatar safe? It depends. It depends on what you understand by violence.
If you mean gangs fighting for territory with heavy weapons like in some poor districts of Latin America, then Qatar is a very safe place. I could leave my wallet unattended on a restaurant table while going to the toilet with no fear that someone would steal it.
But if by violence you mean things like raging drivers speeding with large cars (like the ubiquitous white Land Cruisers) and threatening (and sometimes killing) entire families, then I would say that Qatar is not that safe.
In this article, I will use both real numbers from solid sources and some personal anecdotal information. In the end, I bet you will be able to judge for yourself.
And talking about numbers,
Qatar Crime Rate
Ready for some shocking numbers?
Here is a brief comparison of crime statistics from Qatar versus the United States (rates are cases per 100 000 people per year):
Homicide Rate: 0.4 in Qatar, vs 6.52 in the US.
Burglaries Rate: 50.6 in Qatar vs 714.4 in the US
Robbery Rate: 2.6 in Qatar vs 146.4 in the US.
Auto Theft Rate: 7.9 in Qatar vs 390.2 in the US.
Software Piracy: 54% in Qatar vs 20% in the US
Bottom line: unless you are Microsoft, you should not be worrying about common crimes in Qatar.
Still, from my own experience, there is another kind of violence, especially on the roads of Doha: bad, reckless drivers. It is likely one of the most dangerous places in the world I have ever been for driving. But this is the subject of another article. Subscribe to my articles for free and you will be notified when I write it.
Road Accidents in Qatar: The Real Danger
Remember when I said that while Qatar is safe, it has very dangerous roads? 5.05% of all deaths in Qatar happen due to road accidents.
For comparison, this is the percentage (compiled by WorldHealthRankings) of all deaths related to road accidents in other countries:
- The United Kingdom: 0.42%
- Germany: 0.45%
- Poland: 1%
- Russia: 1.06%
- The USA: 1.66%
Even countries with considerably bad roads, like Brazil (3.01%) have less deadly roads than Qatar.
My best advice is: if you are planning to drive during your stay in Qatar, try to rent a car of a larger size, with multiple airbags. The best website to find good deals (I personally used it multiple times) is Rentalcars.com.
Is Qatar Safe for American Tourists?
Since Qatar was among the first nations to normalize relations with the Taliban, some Americans might be apprehensive about traveling there. In fact, one of the Taliban’s first embassies was set up in Doha when I was still living there.
However, it has no impact on how well American citizens are treated. Qatar is a very safe country for Americans.
If you are an American, you are more likely to get special treatment and help than other foreigners. Many people deny that this kind of special treatment exists, but I saw it over and over again during my time living there.
There are some cultural aspects of Qatar that may conflict with the habits of foreign tourists, for example:
- Public displays of affection, common in the west, are frowned upon in Qatar, especially during the month of Ramadan.
- Local laws are based on Sharia, a religious Islamic code, and corporal punishment are among the possible penalties.
- The dress code is more modest, especially during religious holidays.
- Pork products are not sold in supermarkets (there is only one store in the entire country authorized to sell it).
- While not controlled per se, social media is monitored by authorities and anything you write may be used as evidence.
Is Doha Safe for Females?
Overall, it is safe, although less than it would be for a man since there are some cases of harassment (although it is much less likely a western woman will be harassed in Doha than in Bradford, England, for example).
Still, women on their own may attract attention or become the focus of questions. Simply be assertive and keep on moving. I recounted in detail the experiences of my wife, female relatives, and other women traveling to Qatar in this article.
If you are visiting the city, there are plenty of options in terms of luggage storage, so you don’t need to walk around with your carry-on bags. Reliable, convenient, and inexpensive luggage storage services you can find at Radical Storage.
Is Doha Safe at Night?
Many cities around the globe have an unofficial curfew (e.g., it is really not advisable to walk across the historical downtown of Rio de Janeiro during the night).
For Qatar, and especially Doha, this is not the case.
Even more: the city is more dynamic at night because, during the majority of the year, the excruciating heat forces businesses and attractions to prefer evening hours.
I clearly recall the first time I visited the renowned Souq Waqif (a large, traditional Arab market in Doha). Just before noon, I discovered that almost everything was closed. Because of the intense heat in the summer, Doha is even busier at night than during the day.
Then, around eight o’clock in the evening, bang! Every store and restaurant was open, and the area was crowded! This is a city that comes to life at night.
Although the daytime heat is not too bad in the winter (December to February), I still suggest taking a tour of Doha just after sunset because there are many beautiful nighttime cityscapes and illuminated high rises to see.
If you want to have a drink, unlike in neighboring Saudi Arabia, Qatar has places selling alcohol, but the prices… I wrote an entire article for you to better understand how expensive Alcohol is in Qatar.
The Best Area to Stay in Doha
During the years I resided in Doha, I lived in 3 different parts of the city and spent time in multiple others. Here are my tips for 3 different types of travelers trying to find the best area to stay in Doha.
The Best Area to Stay in Doha for Backpackers or Budget Travelers
Doha is not really a city catering to backpackers, but you can still find some budget options (although they are likely to be far pricier than similar “budget” districts in Europe, for example).
The areas of Najma, Al Mansoura, and Umm Ghuwailina may not look the most attractive, but they are well-connected to the city center by the comfortable Doha Metro system, and you can find relatively cheap accommodation and restaurants. Due to traffic, unfortunately, is an area prone to air pollution.
The Best Area to Stay for Mid-Range Travelers Visiting Doha
If you are a regular traveler and want comfort without spending too much, the area with the best options for you is the eastern end of the corniche, just east of Souq Waqif and in front of the MIA Park (one of the most visited parks in Doha).
Besides the good prices, you will be within walking distance of multiple attractions, like the Souq Waqif and the National Museum. There you will find affordable hotels for the average tourist, like the Hampton by Hilton and the Saraya Corniche Hotel.
There are some excellent and (surprisingly!) cheap hotels in Doha. You can find them below.
The Best Area to Stay for Luxury Travels to Doha
If you are looking for a full-service, 5-star luxury hotel with all the amenities money can pay for, then the best place for you to stay is the area known as the West Bay.
Some people would argue with me and say that the zone known as the Pearl has more of a luxurious atmosphere, while West Bay is pretty much a financial center. They are not wrong. The Pearl, with hotels like The Ritz Carlton and the Marsza Malaz Kempinski, is indeed a lavish place.
However, it is located farther from most attractions (although the Pearl is an attraction by itself), and the road to and from it may have considerable traffic jams. It’s not something a jet-setter wants to experience.
Meanwhile, the West Bay, at the western end of the corniche, is very well-located and also boasts a lively nightlife (for Qatari standards), an ample offer of renowned restaurants, and hotels like the Hilton, Sheraton, and W Hotel.
Is it safe to drive from Dubai to Doha?
If this question had been asked before 2021, when relations between the UAE and Qatar were tense, the answer might have been different.
But things have been getting back to normal recently, so this trip is now something to consider again.
The highway is in excellent condition and has several lanes going in both directions. Supercars are frequently seen on the road, and large SUV drivers who are careless should be avoided.
Doha and Abu Dhabi or Dubai in the United Arab Emirates are separated by a distance of 588.7 kilometers and 654 kilometers, respectively. Therefore, excluding the time spent at border crossings, the trip should take between 6 and 7 hours.
Since I brought up border crossings, it is crucial to keep in mind that crossing Saudi Arabia, which has stricter visa requirements than either Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, is required to travel from Doha to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Keep in mind to verify that you have all the required documents and insurance.
There is always the alternative of air travel between the two countries, and Qatar Airways has multiple flights per day to Dubai.
Is tap water safe to drink in Doha?
Although authorities in Doha, Qatar, assert that tap water is safe to consume, it is generally advised that you stick to bottled or filtered water. This is particularly true if you are a visitor who is unfamiliar with the unique characteristics of Qatar’s tap water.
The piping and storage tanks, where water can remain for weeks and grow germs, are the sources of the problems even if the water may exit the treatment facility without any issues.
Additionally, the pipelines that carry water from the treatment facility to the taps may include pollutants, including minor amounts of lead and arsenic. If you have to drink tap water, you should take extra care by boiling and filtering it first.
Is Qatar Safe? Conclusion
If by “violence” we understand normal crimes, like burglaries, robberies, and murders, then Qatar is extremely safe.
Still, one should be very aware if you are planning to drive a car, or even to cross a street, since Qatar has a disproportional number of deaths related to car accidents.
Other than that, it is a safe country, and here you have some pleasant ideas to enjoy your time and visit some impressive attractions in Doha (and other parts of Qatar).
Tl;DR: Safety Considerations for Qatar
Qatar, a key player in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf region, is generally a safe destination with a low crime rate (check the crime numbers in the previous paragraphs of this article). However, like any foreign country, it comes with its unique set of considerations.
Local authorities are usually responsive in handling incidents, but it’s always prudent to have travel insurance to cover any losses.
Cultural and Legal Sensitivities in Qatar
As an Islamic country, Qatar follows strict local customs and laws that visitors must adhere to (more strict than Dubai, less strict than Saudi). Same-sex relationships, for example, are considered illegal in Qatar, in accordance with Islamic law.
Similarly, consumption and possession of illegal drugs are taken very seriously, with severe penalties including imprisonment. Drinking alcohol is permitted only in licensed hotels, bars, and private residences. Remember that you also must be above the legal drinking age. To respect local sensitivities, visitors are also advised to dress modestly in public spaces, avoiding any clothing or actions considered as obscene acts under Qatari law.
Health and Travel Precautions in Qatar
Given the country’s location by the Persian Gulf and its vast deserts, extreme weather conditions such as extremely high temperatures and dust storms are common. Visitors must take appropriate precautions to avoid heat stroke and other health risks. Access to medical treatment is generally good, but health insurance (we recommend Ekta) is strongly recommended to cover any medical evacuation costs.
Practical Information for Visiting Qatar
Before entering Qatar, visitors must confirm their passport validity and understand the entry requirements such as the need for a residence permit or visa. An international driving permit is necessary if you plan on driving.
In case of any incident, contact Qatari officials or your embassy for consular assistance. Always respect government buildings, military sites, and other sensitive areas – it’s advisable to avoid taking pictures without permission. Lastly, it is a good idea to purchase a local Qatar telephone SIM to keep connected during your stay.
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Levi Borba is the founder of the Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links of this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transaction.