Is Qatar safe? Tips for travel in Doha [2022]

Is Qatar a safe country, especially for women? Read on to find out more about travelling or living in Qatar, particularly as a woman.

two women pose out the front of a massive rectangular sculpture protruding from the desert ground.
If you’re visiting Qatar as a woman, then long skirts are about to become your best friend. Snapped at the Richard Serras sculpture in the Qatari desert.

Is Qatar safe to travel to, particularly if you’re visiting as a woman?

Will you be all right travelling solo in Doha and surrounds?

What are you supposed to wear in Doha?

What are the local customs?

Is it really safe live in Doha as a single woman?

Or other places like the U.A.E?

What about if you’re travelling to Qatar alone?

I lived in Doha for three months a few years ago, arriving on my own. Travelling there as an extremely sheltered Westerner, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I wondered how I was supposed to dress in order to be conservative and whether it would be safe.

While you’re here, make sure you explore the best things to do in Doha, to make the most of your trip.

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Where to stay in Doha

I lived in two hotels while I was in Doha (I know, of all the luck, right?) so both of these come highly recommended.

Mövenpick Hotel West Bay is great if you’re staying for a few days and like to have access to some amenities, as rooms are self-contained. There’s a lovely indoor pool and gym area, which you can use to balance out Mövenpick’s trademark chocolate hour.

Marriott Hotel in City Center is centrally located and conveniently attached to one of Doha’s largest shopping centres.

Is Qatar Safe? What You Should Know Before Visiting

As it turns out, Doha is incredibly safe. I never felt like I was in danger walking around the city centre.

I also travelled to other places in Qatar (with friends) and always felt very safe.

That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take certain precautions in travelling and living there.

Qatar is an Islamic country, where Sharia Law is recognised. There are certain rules and regulations that all citizens and visitors – whether they be men or women – are expected to observe and respect.

Which is fair enough. It’s their country and therefore their rules and visitors should do their utmost to follow through on what’s expected of them.

Overall, I do think it’s safe for women to travel to Doha – certainly to live there, like I did. Here’s why.

A woman stands looking straight at the camera, holding a small kitten.
Be sure to accessorise all your outfits with a small kitten.

What should you wear in Qatar?

What clothing is considered appropriate if you’re visiting Qatar as a woman? Do you need to wear an abaya?

No. You don’t have to wear the abaya, or even cover up to the extent that you may imagine.

As a rule of thumb, so long as your shoulders aren’t exposed and knees are covered, you’d probably be right to step outside.

A good “uniform” to consider in Doha is jeans, t-shirts, skirts with tights underneath and three-quarter length leggings with a t-shirt dress.

This is what I wore when I lived there and it suits my particular sense of style perfectly fine.

Of course you can throw long skirts and maxi-dresses into the mix.

Where do these restrictions apply?

This is generally how women are expected to dress whilst out and about in town, but there’s a few opportunities to bend the rules here and there, which won’t land you in hot water.

I spent my three months in Doha living in a hotel, where I was able to wear whatever I wanted. I could don my bikini to go for a dip in the pool and wear my exercise shorts to the gym. Most people didn’t give me a second glance.

What about outside city limits? I wore shorts on journeys whenever I headed into the desert, because I was generally with groups of expats who were doing much the same.

I didn’t encounter any issues, but remember to do this at your own discretion.

Sunrise over a deserted ocean pool.
Sunrise (I think) at the Hilton.

What about at the beach?

Is Doha safe if you’re female and wish to go swimming at a beach?

Well, if you’re swimming at private beaches that belong to specific hotels, you’ll be fine to wear whatever you want. The same can be said for beaches outside of the city, because odds are there won’t be anyone else there.

On the flip side, women aren’t able to wear western swimwear at the public beach of Katara, where you’re expected to cover up. So if you’re visiting Qatar as a woman and fancy going to the beach, go to a private rather than public one.

One item I’d absolutely recommend investing in, is some sort of shawl or scarf.

While you’re not required to cover your hair, a scarf or shawl is really good to have on hand.

Take this scenario for example – you’re heading out for the night and your shoulders are exposed in the dress that you’re wearing.

Throw your shawl on, wear it outside the house, in the taxi and then stuff it into your bag when you get to the club. Repeat when leaving.

There are plenty of places that sell them in the souq. Vendors will jack the price up for foreigners, so don’t be afraid to haggle it down to something that’s fair for both parties.

Some taxidermy in Doha's Souq Waqif.
Making new friends in the souq.

Is it safe to go clubbing in Doha?

Yes! Expats in Doha seem to love drinking – not that you have to booze it up while you’re there.

I personally didn’t drink while I was there, because I wanted to save money for subsequent travelling.

You can’t exactly stroll down the street for a bottle of red whenever you fancy it. Residents are entitled to what is effectively a ‘licence to drink’ six months after living in the city.

This card allows the holder to purchase alcohol and pork from two stores in the city.

These stores close during Ramadan, so that the lines the week before are of epic proportions.

If you don’t have a card, you can buy drinks at the many hotel bars.

You’re also free to wear whatever you want to the clubs on hotel property. I had a bouncer try to throw me out of a club because I wasn’t wearing high heels. Make what you want of that.

Doha's cityscape.
Dating in Doha is… tricky.

Is Qatar safe if you want to date?

Living in Qatar as a single woman is interesting. I know, because I’ve done it myself.

It was hard to meet people at first (the more people you meet, the easier it becomes as the community is quite small). I used Tinder, which was in its infancy then and far less gross than it is now, to meet people when I first came to the country.

It allowed me to chat to people during a period when I knew hardly anyone, before I made friends at work.

It’s frowned upon for men and women to touch in public, which can seem strange if you’re dating from the perspective of someone from the Western world.

It’s what is expected in Doha and must be respected.

A street sign in Soha featuring a local man walking across a road.
I love culture appropriate road signs.

What happens in Doha during Ramadan?

The entire city shuts down during the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

Being a Muslim country, the rules of Ramadan apply to all citizens, whether or not they’re fasting.

Yes, you can still eat and drink water, but you can’t do it in public. The conservative dress-code is enforced. Most expats tread lightly, putting their heads down and working their way through the month.

Once Eid has been and gone and this holy period is over, the city resumes its normal paces.

The clubs re-open, you can drink water in public and resume stuffing yourself with chilli dogs every Tuesday at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant once again.

For another perspective, here’s what it’s like to backpack through Pakistan during Ramadan.

Picture of a camel at dusk in the desert.
I’m not sure of what to put here, so a camel will have to do.

Is Qatar safe if you’re walking around by yourself?

Doha is a noisy city – people are constantly honking their horns and yelling stuff at each other from their cars, to the street.

If you’re visiting Qatar as a woman, you’ll hear the occasional wolf-whistle while walking.

Truth be told, I’ve encountered more harassment in cities like New York and London.

I never felt unsafe walking through the city, even at night time, although it’s not something I’d make a habit of doing anywhere in the world.

The only time anyone touched me was when I had my bottom groped by both a Polish man and an Australian (not on the same night, thank goodness) in a nightclub.

They weren’t locals however, they were Western expects!

I unleashed hell on them – particularly the Aussie as he was an embarrassment to our country, especially when he threw up on his own shoes shortly afterwards.

Can women drive in Qatar?

Yes, both women and men have the right to drive in Qatar.

While I never personally drove in Qatar, plenty of other female expats and travellers rented cars.

According to colleagues, it’s simple to organise. If you are travelling or living for awhile overseas, it’s a good idea to apply for your International Driving Permit (IDP).

You should be able to do this through the government body that supplies you with your current drivers licence.

You will probably need a copy of your passport and some photos to apply.

Cars can be rented long-term in Doha. If you plan on being there for awhile, it may end up costing you less than using taxis, Uber or the services of a local driver.

Three things to note, if you plan on driving in Doha and Qatar:

  • in Qatar, people drive on the right hand side of the road
  • traffic can be a bit chaotic and at times, aggressive in Qatar, so if you’re a cautious driver, perhaps opt for an alternative form of transport
  • it’s fine to keep to the roads, but avoid driving over sand dunes, unless you are very experienced in this. It’s very easy to get bogged down and stranded, if you don’t know what you’re doing!

In summary: Is Qatar safe for women?

All in all, I enjoyed my time in Doha very much.

It had a profound impact on me and the way I see the world.

I’d encourage anyone to make time to visit this part of the Middle East.

So, is Qatar safe? I would say yes, so long as you use common sense.

Observe and respect the law and enjoy your time there.

Have you travelled to Doha? Would you go? Or consider spending a stint there as an expat?

Thinking about travelling to Doha? Feel free to pin for future reference.

Is it safe for women to travel to Doha? Yes, if you observe local customs and laws. Here's everything I learned, after living there for three months.

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40 Comments

  1. This was super interesting to read! Although I’ve got some friends from UAE and Qatar who’ve already told me “it’s not like living in fun-free zone 24/7” it was super interesting to read an expat’s perspective. I think a lot of us (us being those who’ve never visited/lived in the region) have this warped idea of the Middle East, heavily influenced by what we see on TV and read in the news. When in reality it’s so, so different! I love the sound of chocolate hour too! My kind of place haha.

    1. OMG, chocolate hour was amaaaaaazing. Three years on and I still miss it every day.
      A lot of my fellow expat friends have mixed feelings about the city, which I think is because they stayed way past the expiry date on a place like Doha. I however, loved it. It’s the kind of place that is what you make of it. Although there are a lot of aspects of it I don’t agree with (such as the treatment of migrant workers and lack of animal welfare), it’s still a very interesting city, that’s just going to continue gaining momentum as it inches its way further and further onto the world stage. And the food is undeniably good.

      1. Aw in a way it’s great that you got out before you got sick of it! Totally agree with you about the migrant workers/lack of animal welfare. I have a lot of Indian friends who are actually a lot more qualified than me for certain jobs, and they always tell me how if we were to both move to the Middle East, I’d probably get paid twice as much for doing the same job. If they even got a chance at the same job.

        1. I’m glad too! Yeah, I will say that I really don’t think much of the treatment of certain groups of people there. A lot of the taxi drivers were engineers, doctors, but had zero chance of getting a similar job there… hence the taxi driving. When it comes to racism, every country is guilty in some way or another.

      2. Chocolate hour?? I didn’t see any mention of this in the article… I am SO interested, as I’m visiting a friend next week who lives there!!

        1. It’s from an earlier iteration of this post… one of the hotel’s in West Bay (the Mövenpick, to be precise) did a chocolate hour every day at five, except during Ramadan! Have fun!

  2. I’ve done a transfer through Doha, and I made sure I had plenty of time between flights so we could do the free city tour that Qatar Airways offers. It was enough to put Doha on our list for a proper visit when we travel through the Middle East this year.

    1. Hi!! I’m reading all comments towards this post and I’m actually interested..I have considered going to Doha and traveling alone but I will be meeting my fiance there. So traveling to Doha is nothing to be scared about?

      1. I wouldn’t think so. It’s just a case of using basic common sense, as with any place (and adhering to the dress code). I personally felt very safe there and it’s expat central to boot.

  3. Interesting article, as a man I had never considered Doha to be at all unsafe, so it’s interesting to read a woman’s perspective. I am going to Doha for a day in March and I’m planning on wearing the traditional male clothing for my photographs! I agree with you that is made sense not to buy expensive drinks and use the money to visit Iceland.

    1. I bought my brother some of that clothing as a souvenir! Yep, don’t regret that decision in the slightest. Enjoy your day there!

    1. Yeah, it’s weird being somewhere during Ramadan. A really interesting experience as an expat, but from a traveller’s perspective, I probably wouldn’t want to travel anywhere Islamic during that period of time again – just because it limits what you can see and do, even as a non-Muslim.

  4. Such an interesting perspective. I always imagined it would be hard to be a feminist woman in the middle east, but of course, it is different in different places. I like to cover up in the sun anyway — for sun protection, not modesty — so that part wouldn’t be too hard. Especially if you have a private pool or beach to swim in.

  5. My partner and I want to visit Doha in the next few years so these tips are really helpful! What was it liking living over there? Did you find you had lots to do? I am a primary teacher and there are lots of international school jobs with amazing pay over there so I am tempted but not sure what it is like to live!

    1. Oh yeah, you can earn insane amounts of money. I worked a lot… but my days off were filled with desert adventures and many social outings. I had a ball, really. It was a special time.

  6. I read every word of this post. Though I don’t have immediate plans to visit middle east, I’m mostly a solo woman traveler, so thanks for the guidance! My only connection with Doha was when I had transit there, while traveling from France to India!

  7. It must be challenging to live in a country that totally different with where you are from. I lived in different country in Asia before and my first year was quite frustrating. There were many things that I needed to adapt and so on. Phew, I can’t imagine if I were to live in Doha ~ But I would love to go there one day. 🙂

  8. I’m quite concerned when reading the “street harassment” part. I didn’t expect it to happen in such a Muslim country, as I’d always imagined Muslim people to behave more seriously and conservatively… Anyhow, thanks for your detailed account of your experience in Doha. I’ve only been to the Doha airport but the country seems quite interesting to me now 🙂

    1. No neither, but there’s a range of people from all over the world, so it’s not just Muslim people who will whistle at you in the street… it’s still a very interesting place, worth visiting.

  9. This was such an interesting read! I’ve never traveled to this part of the world before, but I’d love to in the future and have always wondered about what is appropriate for travelers to wear! So interesting about the concept of having a “license to drink”, had never heard of that before!

  10. I finally found an experience of a woman in Doha :), It was a very interesting article. Thank you for share it!. By the way, I will be in Doha because I have stopover over there for 3 days, but it would be in Ramadan dates …. may I do any tours? or I should stay in the hotel for 3 days 🙁

    any recommendations for me ..pleaseee!!! 🙂

    1. Hello Cristina,

      Good question! I think you should at the very least be able to check out the Souq Waqif and the Museum of Islamic Art. I’d suggest getting in contact with a specific tour company – maybe Qatar International Adventures, to see if they still run tours during Ramadan. I recommend dune bashing or seeing the Richard Serras Sculpture out in the desert. The city does rather go into lock down (I spent the entire month of Ramadan working), but you never know. Good luck!

  11. Hi I’m English and have lived in Doha for 25 years ended up marrying a local. I have to say that your account is fairly accurate of what doha is like. It’s a nice country ridiculously safe. When I was a teen I would be out till three in the morning and wouldn’t bat an eyelid over my safety. There are a few catcallers but tbh as the country is developing more and more you see less of it. If a girl was wondering around in a micro mini round on of the malls chances are she would be hit on but that’s about all now a days not like when I was younger. Good to see an honest review of the place.

    1. Thanks Elly! It may be a tad outdated – I haven’t been there for four years now. As I said, I always felt safe there and I used to sometimes walk home from work at night. I mean, I’ve worn shorts in London on hot days and have been catcalled there too, to be fair. I enjoyed my time there and hope to return someday! Epic that you’ve been there for 25 years! It must have changed so much in that time.

  12. Hi!
    I loved your post. Gave me a great insight into Doha! I’m a single woman traveller myself and I will be visiting Doha in July. My plane touches down at midnight and I have to catch a taxi on my own at that time to a hotel. Do you think I have anything to worry about in terms of safety? I’m just taking extra precautions! I would love to hear your advice.

    1. Hi Kristina, I think you should be okay, of course as women we can never be 100% on these things, quite sad. I think the cost should be around 40QR. Pretty sure Qatar has Uber now too if that’s something you’re more comfortable using. Just make sure you either negotiate a price before setting off or they run a meter.

  13. I love this. It gave confidence to travel there by myself. I have a 9 hour layover in Doha and I really want to explore. Thank you!

  14. This post was fairly helpful. I would take it more seriously if the perspectives of other women were included. Like, what did female friends or co-workers who aren’t White Australians think, how were they treated, etc? Also, I stopped taking responsibility for other peoples’ expectations years ago or letting people “should” all over me.

    1. I’m glad you found this free content “fairly helpful” Sabra. Perhaps you’ll be able to take it a little more seriously when you consider that this is a personal blog, not The New York Times or The Guardian. So yes, I have written this from my own perspective, that of an Australian – but not a “white” one, thanks very much.

  15. Hi! Great info here! Can you provide a bit more info on the hotels you stayed in? What you liked/preferred about one compared to another? Especially location wise! I’m trying to figure out where to stay for a long layover arriving at 12:30am to 8pm … also on a Friday… any tips on that and what would be open?

    1. Hi Diana, location-wise,
      I preferred the Marriott, as it’s very well connected (being a part of the local shopping centre). Most things would be open, I imagine – Doha is a fairly active city.

  16. What does ex-pat mean? Is it just a fancy word for American immigrants so that they don’t call themselves immigrants?

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