Located in the Middle East, Qatar is a neighboring country to Saudi Arabia. With a population of nearly three million residents, it’s by most standards a smaller country.
Before 2020, Qatar would routinely welcome over two million visitors from all different nationalities yearly. While the tourism count is relatively high, many safety and security concerns come with a visit to Qatar.
Although precautions are necessary when visiting any area of the world, you must pay attention to particular circumstances during a trip to Qatar. Continue reading below to learn more about what you can expect during a visit to this Middle Eastern country.
Is Qatar Safe to Visit in 2023?
When looking at the country of Qatar from a crime perspective, it’s relatively safe. Nestled at number 131 on the most dangerous countries list, it gives the impression that traveling to the nation comes with little concern.
That conclusion is valid for the most part. You will also note that the United States Embassy has granted Qatar a Level One Advisory, meaning that one should travel to the country while abiding by standard precautions.
However, there are other things to keep in mind that can impact your vacation. The primary concern when visiting Qatar is the difference in culture and what expectations are set forth for females in the country.
Many things Americans take as typical behavior are unacceptable in Qatar, and the ramifications can be severe.
Additionally, there is a high frequency of sexual assault of females in the country, which can cause women to undergo legal repercussions. During a trip to Qatar, you may fall victim to pickpocketing, credit card fraud, and civil unrest.
Crime in Qatar
As with travel to all parts of the world, criminals will often target areas with a high tourist presence for petty theft and crimes. In areas with a lot of activity, the likelihood of being pickpocketed is high, as well as bag snatching.
One of the top concerns that go hand in hand with pickpocketing and bag snatching is fraud.
Many events have occurred throughout the years of individuals having their credit and debit cards stolen and becoming victims of fraud through a series of unauthorized charges.
Finding yourself without forms of identification and not having control of your finances can be a difficult place to be while visiting a foreign country. If you are in a predicament like this, you must call or visit an embassy near you for further assistance.
You can find them through the following contact information:
- U.S. Embassy Doha
- Al-Luqta District
- 22nd February Street
- PO Box 2399
- Doha, Qatar
- Telephone: +(974) 4496-6000
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
One of the most significant rules you want to follow when visiting Qatar is not going out alone at night. For those who have lived in countries throughout the Middle East, the consensus is that Qatar is one of the most peaceful options, with less crime and illegal activity than some of its neighbors.
Regarding neighborhoods to avoid, locals suggest steering clear of Old Industrial in Doha, Msheireb, and Doha Jadeed.
While during the daytime, an individual will likely stay perfectly safe in these neighborhoods, going through them at night can be a different story, and taking appropriate precautions is vital.
In what is perhaps a double-sided crime in Qatar, fraud poses a considerable issue for travelers. For starters, the country of Qatar has very little leniency when it comes to such a crime. While it does occur, it’s at a lesser level than in other countries.
This level is primarily due to the punishments that are put into place for those who commit the crime. However, if you end up being a victim of fraud, you should know that being unable to pay your bills (hotel, for instance) will constitute fraud on your behalf.
So while you are a victim yourself, the government also sees that those who have not been paid due to the crime are also victims, but on your behalf.
There is an issue that makes reporting crimes against women a significant challenge in Qatar. With a much different culture than what Westerners are used to, you will find that many things are not allowed and that you can face legal ramifications as a result.
Some of these concerns include:
- No public displays of affection between members of the opposite sex.
- Same-sex relationships are illegal and can be punished with jail time.
- Having sex outside of marriage is illicit and legal punishment can occur if the relationship is disclosed.
- Qatar’s dress code requires women to have their shoulders and knees covered at a minimum. Men should not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts in public. Specific venues may have their own dress codes, so you must check before entering.
- Specific hand gestures and body movements can bring about imprisonment or fines. It would be best if you never gave a thumbs-up sign or crossed your legs in Qatar, as it portrays derogatory meaning in the country.
- Unmarried men and women are not allowed to touch, and shaking hands should be done by following the male’s lead.
- Certain emotions are prohibited from being expressed in public.
- Taking pictures of women or military displays is not allowed.
- You can not use or bring into the country any illegal drugs.
There have been instances in which women have been sexually assaulted, with unfortunate results upon informing the police. Once they report the incident to authorities, the crime has been flipped to represent poor behavior on the woman’s part.
This scenario also comes into play when those individuals have had embassy consulate representation in the meeting. Women can sometimes be punished with a sentence of lashings or prison time.
With much of the Qatar population consisting of expats, there are many situations in which the victim’s country of origin is not notified of the charges, which hinders the person’s ability to obtain assistance and receive representation for their crime.
While there have not been any terror attacks or significant terrorist activity in Qatar, the chances of it occurring are plausible.
With Qatar’s location being within the Middle East and its proximity to countries of concern, those in a position of power in Qatar’s government can’t rule out the possibility of one occurring in the future.
It’s promising that Qatar maintains an inter-agency anti-terrorism group to dissuade such activity within the country. The National Anti-Terrorism Committee has been working on training their government agencies to keep Qataris safe from terrorist activity.
While not a security concern, one needs to be mindful of the extreme weather in Qatar. Along with the high temperatures, there are special considerations that need to be taken concerning dust storms and haze.
The first thing to note is that the weather in Qatar can see triple digits throughout most of the year. During the summer, the thermometer regularly reaches past 120 degrees.
The winter months of November through February will decrease significantly but will still be around 70-80 degrees. The country will sometimes experience an extreme shift and see winter conditions of around 50 degrees.
However, there is rarely rain in the forecast, and the climate is arid. Because of this, dust and sand can often be seen throughout the air.
Incorporating proper facial protection is vital during these times to ensure your health and safety. The haze that you can often view through your windows in Qatar is due to the high levels of air pollution that the country experiences.
You will often see the levels throughout the cities of Qatar in the high 100s, which indicates a very unhealthy level. As an example, data taken from three Qatar cities in May 2022 show the following:
- Al Daayen – 153
- Doha – 176
- Umm Salal Muhammed – 190
For further reference, the numbers and levels correspond as follows:
|Numbers||Levels||Examples of Countries|
|0-50||Green (Good)||Parts of USA, UK, Canada|
|51-100||Yellow (Moderate)||Parts of USA, UK, Italy|
|101-150||Orange (Unhealthy for sensitive groups)||Poland, Israel, Cambodia|
|151-200||Red (Unhealthy)||Bosnia, Iran, China, Lagos|
|201-300||Purple (Very Unhealthy)||India, Qatar, Dubai, Pakistan|
|300+||Maroon (Hazardous)||China, Kazakhstan, India|
As you can see from the graph above, Qatar is at the high end for poor air quality on average. Although some months, such as May 2022, as referenced above, show a slight decrease in levels, the average is very high and threatens those residing there.
Things to Consider
If you are considering a trip to Qatar, there are several critical pieces of information you need to take with you and plan for during your stay. Many of these vary significantly from Westernized culture, so you must prepare for them appropriately.
- Pack appropriate attire that fits the country’s dress code.
- Plan for poor air quality and dust storms.
- Stay away from bad neighborhoods and don’t walk around at night.
- Travel in groups, never alone.
- Read up on all customs, including what greetings are appropriate in Qatar.
- Do not display affection in public.
- Do not leave negative reviews of your hotel, dining establishment, the country, or the government of Qatar online while you are in the country.
- Only accept food with your right hand.
- Protect your belongings in highly populated areas.
- Plan for hot weather and stay hydrated to avoid heat stroke.
- Ask the front desk at your hotel for insight on where and where not to go in the country.
- Have emergency numbers for the embassy on hand at all times.
It’s vital to remember that the culture of the Qataris is very detailed since there is a lot to remember. Take the time to research all the different traits before entering the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
For many individuals, traveling to a new and exotic foreign country can have a combination of emotions. Many will vacillate between happy and excited, petrified and anxious. Below we highlight some of the most frequently asked questions received about travel in Qatar.
Is dating allowed in Qatar?
For those living in Qatar, dating does not look the same as elsewhere in the world. For a male and female to go on a date, they have to be escorted by another individual to provide supervision during the event.
Additionally, the date must be rooted in the idea of marriage, with a common understanding that this introduction will lead to the process of marriage. For expats who live in Qatar, this can be a bit tricky.
However, there are many communities where expats primarily reside, which provides dating opportunities. However, it is imperative to abide by the country’s rules when appropriate.
Can you wear skinny jeans in Qatar?
The dress code that residents and visitors of Qatar are expected to follow requires that clothing is not tight to the skin. This rule also applies to swimming, and bathing suits in their typical form are not permitted to be worn during such an event. Therefore, skinny jeans are not acceptable apparel due to the skin-tight nature in which they are designed.
Is Qatar safe for tourists?
Generally speaking, Qatar is safe for tourists. The overall crime rate in terms of theft is minimal. However, there are situations in which violating some of their cultural norms can land you in jail or with the responsibility of paying hefty fines. At times you may even receive corporal punishment for something that is considered normal in other countries.
Is Qatar safe for females?
Additional caution needs to be incorporated for females traveling to Qatar. Due to the laws in place, it is possible for a woman to have to pay for the crimes a man commits. Often this happens in the event of sexual assault due to a law prohibiting sex between unmarried individuals.
What should I avoid in Qatar?
When traveling to and visiting the country of Qatar, do not bring or have possession of any illegal drugs, alcohol, pork, religious materials, or pornography. While these items will be confiscated at the airport, having them in the country could lead to legal trouble.
Can you kiss in public in Qatar?
You cannot portray public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex in Qatar. While you cannot kiss, touch, or snuggle with one another in public, holding hands or kissing each other’s cheeks is acceptable if the opposite sex member is your spouse.
So, Is Qatar Safe to Visit?
Qatar is a beautiful country and one of the richest in the world. You will see expansive buildings of highly modern design, amazing scenery, and fantastic shopping.
When traveling to a new destination, you want to understand the environment you are entering into upon arrival. Knowing the laws, customs, and traditions is pertinent information to have before traveling.
Many interested in a trip to the Middle East often wonder — is Qatar safe? Millions of people from all over the globe travel to the country year after year without issue. However, some situations can put you in a bind, especially if you are a female traveler.
With the proper precautions, such as being mindful of your surroundings, traveling with a group, and adhering to local laws and customs, you can have a fantastic adventure in the beautiful country of Qatar.
However, if you fail to do your research and are not prepared for what awaits you, your experience can be drastically different. Happy travels!