Driving in Qatar
Driving in a strange country is stressful enough, but falling foul of the local driving laws can be very worrying, and indeed costly. This article will advise you on what to expect when driving in Qatar, how to avoid an offence, where to check to see if you have committed an offence and if so how to go about settling any subsequent fine.
Corniche Road Closure Alert
Announced by the Public Works Authority:
From the 19th September 2015 there will be road closures around the Corniche, in Doha, Qatar for two months. A new intersection on the Corniche road between the National Theatre intersection and the Emiri Diwan intersection is being constructed. Project works also include widening a part of Al Rumailah Street to three lanes instead of two. Temporary closures will only take place on the lane adjacent to the work zone in the median on Corniche Street and will only happen during the night. There will also be a closure on one lane to install the electric cables for the new traffic light signal which also takes place during the night hours and on the weekend. Once this is completed it should ease traffic in the area but please allow extra time for your journey while construction is going on.
Driving in Qatar is of a much lower standard that in most Western countries. The most problematic areas appear to be roundabouts, where cars do not keep within their lanes and often are in the wrong lane for the turning they intend to take. This of course does not deter most drivers from trying to cut across other lanes to get to their destination! You will sometimes feel that you sit forever at a roundabout waiting for an opening and you will soon learn that you just have to go for it! If course if you do pause for too long you will be subtlety reminded by the person behind you whose hand will appear to be stuck to the horn! During busy times the roundabouts will be manned by police to control the flow of traffic.
Be aware that some drivers will also tailgate and flash their lights if they consider that you are driving too slowly. In this situation you should if possible move over to another lane and avoid any ‘road rage’. In Qatar hand gestures can result in imprisonment. You will learn that a few choice mutterings to yourself will suffice!
Finding your way around Qatar is actually easier than you think when you first arrive. As long as you have your Marhaba map it’s hard to get really lost, despite the fact that most roads have no names! Doha is quite a small town really and you will find that you always stumble across a landmark sooner or later. The longer you are here the more confidence you will have and you will soon find yourself following other cars and finding short cuts, believe me you will make use of that four wheel drive option here!
Child car seats are not mandatory in Qatar and you will often see children bouncing around the car without being secured by even a seatbelt. I have actually seen several people driving with babies on their laps here and every time I see that it still shocks me to the core. I advise securing any children in a properly approved and fitted car seat at all times.
Speed cameras are located throughout Qatar so be vigilant and watch your speed. The fine for not stopping at a red light is now QR5,000 and beware as some lights appear to change from green to red with just a glimpse of amber!
If you do have an accident whilst in Qatar and if it is considered only a minor accident you are allowed to move the vehicle to the roadside. It is then advised that you obtain the driver’s details such as name, car registration, mobile number and ID number and then arrange a time for you both to meet at the traffic department in order to report the accident.
However I would also advise that you take numerous photos, if possible, before you move the vehicle, just in case there is any debate at a later time. If you are involved in anything other than a minor accident (especially if anyone is injured) the traffic department advise that you do not move the vehicles but contact the police on 999.
It is worth mentioning here that if your vehicle is damaged in any way other than through an accident with another vehicle (i.e. backing into a lamppost, damage in a car park etc.) then you will be unable to get this damage repaired at a garage without a police report.
Official Advice From The UK Foreign Office
Driving in Qatar is of a lower standard than in the UK. Road discipline is very poor; speeds are high and minor accidents commonplace. Qatar has the highest fatality rate among developed & developing nations (source: journal of Technology & Science June 2009). If you have a motor accident, remain with your vehicle. It is an offence to leave the scene of the accident although, if no one has been injured in the accident and it is safe to do so, you should move your vehicle to a safe nearby parking position. A police report is required before you may have repairs carried out on your vehicle or make any claim against your insurance.
The Qatari authorities introduced significant increases in penalties for traffic offences in February 2009. Offences include not wearing a seatbelt. The law stipulates that the driver and the front seat passenger should wear seat belts all the time. Please be aware that even minor expressions of "road rage", such as rude gestures, can attract significant penalties. The penalty for using mobile phones while driving has increased to a minimum fine of QR 3,000 (£521) and a maximum fine of QR 10,000 (£1739). Offenders could also be liable to one-year’s imprisonment.
Excursions to the desert can be hazardous unless undertaken in an adequately equipped 4 x 4 vehicle. Always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone, if you have one, and leave travel plans with friends or relatives. Visitors (both tourist and business) may drive on a British driving licence for a maximum of seven days or on an International Driving Permit for six months following their arrival in the country. After this period, visitors must apply for a temporary Qatari licence, which is valid for three months. You must obtain a residency permit before applying for either a temporary or permanent driving license. Once you have your residency permit, you must contact the local traffic department to obtain a full Qatar driving licence, as you will no longer be permitted to drive on a UK or temporary licence.
It is an offence in Qatar 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 three years, a fine of QR10,000 (£1739) to QR50,000 (£8695), or both. Offenders may also be deported.
You should note that, should the police open any case file against you in respect of a driving or drinking related incident, you would automatically receive a ban on leaving Qatar until your case has been resolved.
Most cases are straightforward and dealt with by the Public Prosecutor. However, cases that are more serious may take up to six months to be heard. If a local lawyer is required, there will be a fee of around QR30,000 (£5,217) to initially consider your case.
For latest FCO Travel Advisories about Qatar Visit Here>>