Is Qatar a safe country, especially for women? Read on to find out more about travelling or living in Qatar, particularly as a woman.
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 in 2014, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Read more: The Best Things to do in Doha, Qatar
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.
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 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.
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, the city explodes back into life.
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.
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?
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?
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