There are three types of public transport in Qatar: buses, taxis and limousines, all owned by the state-owned company Mowasalat (Karwa), with the exception of some private limousine companies.
The bus service started in October 2005. Ticketing is done via a Karwa smartcard, which is available in three versions:
- Smartcard Classic – initial fee of QR30 with QR20 credit included. The fare varies and costs QR2.50 for a short journey. You must sign in when you get on the bus and sign out when you get off to avoid a penalty of QR30 by default. You can buy these tickets from the various retailers listed on the Karwa website, but not on the buses.
- Smartcard 24 Limited – An initial charge of QR10 allows two bus journeys (one return) within 24 hours of first use. Simply board the bus and do not leave. The card can be purchased on board the bus for travel within the Doha city area only.
- Smartcard 24 Unlimited – An initial amount of QR20 allows the user to travel unlimited throughout Qatar within 24 hours of the initial connection. Again, you do not need to make any withdrawals. It can be purchased on board the bus.
A large number of roads criss-cross the country, with the network extending north to Al Khor, west to Dukhan and south to Mesaieed. A somewhat complicated map can be found on the Mowasalat website. For timetable and ticket information, call +974 4436 6053.
By taxi or limousine
The public company Mowasalat also operates a taxi and limousine service. The taxis are easily recognisable thanks to their uniform light blue colour with brown roofs. The initial charge rate is QR 4, with a surcharge of QR 1.20 per kilometre within Doha and QR 1.80 anywhere outside the capital. A one-way fare of QR 25 applies to travel to and from the airport. Certain precautions should be taken to avoid fraud:
- For journeys within Doha, the fare should be set to “1” and for journeys at night or outside Doha, the fare should be set to “0”.
- Check that the meter has not been tampered with; signs of a tampered meter are tape and paper strips on the outside.
- By law, the ride must be free if the driver refuses to use the meter.
- Sometimes there are reports of unruly drivers locking the taxi doors or refusing to open the boot until another payment is made. If this happens to you, try to leave the vehicle. If this is not possible, call the police on 999. The driver should be very cooperative.
Demand for taxis exceeds supply and waiting times can vary considerably. Trying to get a taxi during morning office hours requires at least 24 hours’ notice, although even this is unreliable in practice as the designated taxi often does not turn up. At other times, it can take 90 minutes or more to get a taxi on call, and hailing a taxi on the street is impossible most of the time. The only places where you are guaranteed to find a taxi are large shopping malls, the airport and international hotels.
Taxis can be booked and hailed by calling +974 4458 8888.
An alternative to taxis and buses would be to use a limousine service that sends an unmarked limousine car to your location. These are usually expensive but luxurious taxis with an initial fee of 20 rupees, but they are not always equipped with a taximeter.
Sometimes a local driver will offer to drop you off if they see you waiting by the side of the road. It is common to offer you some money at the end, although they usually refuse. The driver offering you a lift will slow down and flash his headlights; he may be summoned by waving his hand. Although this practice is safe, it is not recommended for single women.
You can rent a car from local car rental agencies. Many of them are located near the airport and Doha city centre, or ask your hotel for advice.