Qatar travel guide
The eyes of the world are on Qatar right now. Following the discovery of oil in the 1940s, this small Gulf state has been catapulted from a small fishing and trading hub to one of the richest (per capita) countries in the world.
Fuelled by oil and natural gas revenue, Qatar is developing at breakneck speed. Everything from universities to shopping malls, five-star hotels to football stadiums are springing up across the desert floor.
Modern Qatar is, for all intents and purposes, a city-state. Over half of the country's population lives in and around the capital, Doha. Other towns and districts are interspersed between oil compounds that provide Qatar with most of its wealth. Beyond oil fields, the country has its share of natural beauty, with gorgeous beaches line the western coast while spectacular dunes surround Khor Al Adaid in the south. The large expense of Al Thakira mangroves near Al Khor on the eastern seaboard also provides a sharp contrast to the adjoining desert landscape.
While Islam is the predominant religion in Qatar, the society is refreshingly tolerant. Expats are free to practise other religions and their civil liberties respected. The press is also among the freest in the region.
While matching towards liberalisation, Qatar has not lost sight of its deeply ingrained religious and cultural heritage either. Alcohol is only served in hotel bars and restaurants, work calendars are very much decided by religious commitments such as Ramadan, traditional sports such as falconry and camel-racing remain popular pastimes. Indeed, much like the geometrically patterned Islamic Art found all over the country, Qatar is a complex, yet beautiful country.
11,627 sq km (4,489 sq miles)
240 per sq km
Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani since 2013.
Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abdul Rahman Al Thani since 2023.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Qatar set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact Qatar’s embassy in the UK.
Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Visit TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) for general COVID-19 advice for travellers.
Travel to Qatar
There is information about Qatar’s COVID-19 travel and return policy on Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health website.
You may need to have thermal screening or temperature checks when you arrive in Qatar at air, land or sea ports.
If you are intending to stay in Qatar for 30 or more days, you must get health insurance before travelling. You must buy an insurance policy from a registered Ministry of Public Health insurance provider(MOPH).
All visitors are advised to get travel insurance before entering Qatar. For more guidance see the MOPH website.
The standard insurance premium is 50 Qatari riyals per person, per month.
Public spaces and travel within Qatar
Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health has published advice on how to limit the spread of coronavirus.
You must wear face masks on public transport, and to enter healthcare facilities.
If you break the rules, punishments could include a fine of up to 200,000 Qatari riyal or a prison sentence of up to 3 years.
Passport validity requirements
If you are visiting Qatar, your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date you arrive.
If you are a resident of Qatar, your passport must be valid when you arrive.
You can get a tourist visa on arrival if you’re travelling on a full British Citizen passport.
You must still get a visa if:
- you’re travelling for any purpose other than tourism
- you hold another type of British passport
If you need to stay longer than 30 days, you must extend your visa waiver before it expires through the Qatar Ministry of Interior. If you do not do this, you may be fined. The fine must be paid before leaving Qatar.
There is more information on visa requirements and extensions on the Qatar Ministry of Interior website.
Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and vaccination certificates you may need on TravelHealthPro.
There are strict rules about what goods you can take in and out of Qatar. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
Importing drugs, alcohol, pornography, pork products and religious books and material into Qatar is illegal. All luggage is scanned as you enter the country. DVDs and videos may be examined, censored and confiscated.
Qatar law also prohibits the importation, sale and purchase of electronic cigarettes, liquids and other similar products (e.g. electronic shisha pipes). The law applies regardless of quantity and intended use. Customs officials may seize and confiscate any such items found entering the country by any means, including in passengers’ luggage or sent by post.
If you are taking money, precious metals and stones into or out of Qatar which are worth more than 50,000 Qatari riyals, you must complete a declaration form. This includes:
- currency – Qatari riyal or foreign currencies
- financial bearer negotiable instruments – such as travellers cheques, money orders, cheques, promissory notes (including those endorsed without restriction, incomplete, payable to a fictitious payee or signed but without the payee’s name)
- precious metals – such as gold, silver, platinum
- precious stones – such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls
You must also give customs officials any other information they request.
If you break these rules, you could be fined or imprisoned, as well as the funds being seized.
Transiting through Qatar
At the airport, all bags are scanned. Transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested. This includes medication which may be legal in other countries, but not in Qatar. See bringing medication into Qatar
Travellers cannot stay in the transit area for more than 24 hours between flights, even if you are using the transit hotel in the airport.
There is more information about transiting through Qatar on the Hamad International Airport website.
You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Qatar
Terrorist attacks in Qatar can’t be ruled out.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should remain aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
Terrorists issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on western interests, including:
- residential compounds
- military sites
- transport and aviation interests
- shopping centres
- large demonstrations
Events in the region, including political developments, have an impact on local public opinion. Be aware of local sensitivities on these issues. Follow news reports and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations. There is the potential for increased tension on Fridays.
If any incidents occur, monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Crime levels are low, but take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
Female visitors and residents should take care when walking or travelling alone, particularly at night, and should use reputable taxi companies.
Personal attacks, including sexual assault and rape, are relatively rare, but do happen. Sentences can be severe. However, Qatari law places a high burden of proof on the victim to demonstrate that sexual relations were not consensual. If they are determined to have been consensual, the victim or attacker may still face prosecution for the offence of sex outside of marriage.
If you have been sexually assaulted, contact the British Embassy for advice (00 974 4496 2000). You can also read our guidance for victims of rape or sexual assault in Qatar.
Laws and cultural differences
Qatar is an Islamic country. Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. Make sure your actions do not cause offence, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK but is in Qatar.
You are required by law to carry a physical form of identification at all times.
Dress modestly in public, including while driving:
- women should cover their shoulders and not wear short skirts
- men and women should not wear shorts or sleeveless tops in government buildings, healthcare facilities or malls - if you do, you may be asked to leave or be denied entry
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. Ramadan in Qatar in 2024 will likely start on 10 March and will last for 30 days. During this time, do not:
- eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public in the daytime, including in your car
- play loud music or dance
- swear in public
Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.
You should also:
- check opening hours of shops and restaurants
- be aware that if hotels and restaurants are providing food or drink in fasting hours, they may separate you from Islamic guests, for example with screens
- follow local dress codes – clothing that doesn’t meet local dress codes may cause more offence at this time
- be aware that driving may be erratic, particularly when people are trying to get home at dusk
- be patient and show tolerance
Alcohol laws and bans
Only licensed hotels, restaurants and bars can sell alcohol. Expatriates living in Qatar can get alcohol on a permit system. Don’t carry alcohol around with you (except to take it on the day of collection from the warehouse to your home). The legal drinking age in Qatar is 21. Places serving alcohol will ask for original photo IDs (copies are not accepted) upon entry.
It is illegal to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. For example, if you drink in a non-licenced public place, you could get a prison sentence of up to 6 months or a fine up to 3,000 Qatari riyals.
Relationships outside marriage
Any intimacy in public, between any couples (including between teenagers), can lead to arrest.
Living together while unmarried is illegal in Qatar. Sex outside marriage is illegal for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. You can be arrested and punishments can include a fine, a custodial sentence and deportation once the sentence is complete.
Because of laws on sex outside marriage, if someone becomes pregnant outside marriage, both partners could face imprisonment or deportation. Doctors will ask for proof of marriage during antenatal checks.
An unmarried woman who gives birth in Qatar may also face problems registering the birth of the child in Qatar, and could be arrested, imprisoned or deported. To get a birth certificate from the Qatari authorities, you must provide a marriage certificate. Authorities may compare the marriage date against the estimated date of conception.
Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar. See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community before you travel.
Organisers of protests need to get permission from the Ministry of Interior. This must be done in advance and cannot be spontaneous.
Swearing and rude gestures
Swearing and making rude gestures are considered obscene acts. You can be jailed or deported. Take particular care when dealing with police and other officials.
Smoking and e-cigarette bans
Smoking is prohibited in all closed public spaces including educational institutions, healthcare facilities, public transport, malls, restaurants and government buildings.
It is illegal to vape/use an e-cigarette or import vapes into the country. You can be arrested and punishments can include a fine, a custodial sentence or deportation.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
There is zero tolerance for drugs-related offences in Qatar, including some medications which are legal in other countries, but illegal in Qatar. See bringing medication into Qatar
Penalties for using, trafficking, smuggling and possessing drugs (even residual amounts) are severe. Punishment can include lengthy custodial sentences, heavy fines and deportation.
Using cameras and binoculars
Be aware of cultural sensitivities when filming or photographing people as taking pictures of people without their consent can cause offense.
Some visitors attempting to film or photograph near religious, military, government or construction sites have been arrested. If in doubt, seek permission.
Journalists must get permission from the Qatar News Agency (QNA) to film or photograph as part of their work and enter the country on a visiting press permit. This permit allows you to take technical equipment like cameras through airport customs.
There are strict privacy laws in Qatar. Posting material (including videos and photographs) online that appear to insult, slander or are culturally insensitive, may be considered a crime. Individuals have been detained, prosecuted and convicted for posting this type of material.
Financial crimes include:
- giving somebody a cheque which bounces (including post-dated and ‘security’ cheques)
- non-payment of bills (for example hotel bills or car hire)
You may also be liable for cheques that you have signed on behalf of a company.
Financial crimes can be punished with:
- freezing bank accounts and other assets
If you have unpaid loans or financial commitments you won’t be able to cancel your residence permit, and may be prevented from leaving Qatar, including to go on holiday. All debts should be settled in full before you leave the country. Ask your bank for a certificate to confirm you have no outstanding debt once you have cleared the balance.
If you have sponsorship, it may be blocked, which will prevent you from transferring to a new sponsor (employer). Any end of service benefits you may be entitled to could be used to offset the outstanding debt.
If you are found guilty of an offence, you may be deported. This can happen whether or not the judgement included deportation. This may affect your ability to return to Qatar.
Licences and permits
Get a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP) if you plan to drive on your UK licence. You can get IDPs over the counter from many UK post offices. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.
You can drive in Qatar with a valid UK driving licence for up to 6 months with a valid IDP.
Driving in Qatar
The driver and front seat passenger must wear a seat belt at all times. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, and you could be fined 500 Qatari riyals.
Flashing your lights in Qatar can mean a driver is coming through, rather than giving way.
It’s illegal to drink and drive, and there is zero tolerance for it. Driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable by a custodial sentence of between one month and 3 years, a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 Qatari riyals, or both. Offenders may also be deported.
Even minor expressions of ‘road rage’ like rude gestures can attract significant penalties. You may be:
- banned from leaving the country until your case has been resolved – serious cases may take up to 6 months to be heard
Check the Metrash2 app before trying to leave the country, which lists any outstanding traffic violations. If you have an outstanding violation, you could be detained at immigration and denied onward travel. Fines for all violations should be settled in full before you travel.
Road discipline is very poor; speeds are high and accidents are common. If you have an accident, stay with your vehicle until the police arrive and tell you that you can leave. It’s illegal to leave the scene of the accident, but if no one has been injured and it’s safe to do so, you can move your vehicle to a safer place. You’ll need to get a police report for insurance purposes.
Excursions to the desert can be hazardous unless in a properly-equipped 4x4 vehicle. You should:
- travel in convoy with other cars
- take a supply of water and a mobile telephone
- leave travel plans with friends or relatives
Don’t accept lifts from strangers. Use only licensed taxis or other recognised forms of public transport. If using apps, check licence plates and confirm with drivers the passenger name. Let someone know you are on the way home and the registration details of the car.
Take care when travelling by dhow. The safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available.
Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected, and there have been occasional arrests. Make careful enquiries before entering these waters or visiting ports.
Regional tensions may also affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.
Before you travel, check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on health risks and find out what vaccinations you need for Qatar on TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre)
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. See bringing medication into Qatar
TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Qatar
Emergency medical treatment is excellent but can be expensive. Routine treatment is available but expensive for visitors. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation to the UK or the country where you live. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
FCDO has a list of English speaking doctors in Qatar.
Bringing medication into Qatar
Some prescribed and over-the-counter medicines may be controlled substances in Qatar. If you need to bring controlled or prescription medication into Qatar, make sure you carry it in its original packaging, accompanied by your prescription and an official letter signed and stamped by your doctor. The letter should include:
- name of the medication
- quantity prescribed
- why it’s required
The letter should be signed by the doctor / consultant and stamped by the hospital or surgery.
For more information, visit the Ministry of Public Health website for their guidance documents.
COVID-19 healthcare in Qatar
If you are confirmed to have COVID-19, you are expected to self-isolate for 5 days. You do not need to do a follow-up test at the end of your isolation unless advised by a healthcare practitioner.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Qatar
Telephone: 999 (ambulance, fire, police)
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Qatar
- dealing with a death in Qatar
- being arrested in Qatar
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you are affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy Doha.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.