Qatar

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 17 April 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Qatar.

Qatar overall

Summary

  • You should exercise normal safety precautions in Qatar. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • Terrorists have demonstrated the intent and capability to conduct attacks throughout the Arabian Peninsula at places frequented by Westerners, such as commercial and public areas. Further attacks may be planned and cannot be ruled out in Qatar.
  • Statements by international terrorists have called for attacks against Western interests in the Gulf region, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests.
  • Medications that are available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal in Qatar. For more information see Health.
  • There are strict laws on personal conduct, particularly in regard to intimacy and personal relationships, as well as the consumption and possession of alcohol.
  • Activities such as having cheques dishonoured, non-payment of bills, fines or hotel bills, outstanding personal loans and local credit cards, are considered fraudulent acts in Qatar and may result in imprisonment. If you become involved in commercial or civil litigation it is possible that you will be prevented from departing Qatar until the matter is resolved. For further information, consult the Laws section.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Qatar. The Australian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates provides consular assistance to Australians in Qatar.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Embassy of the State of Qatar or check the official State of Qatar E-Government English Language website for the most up-to-date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Medications that are available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal in Qatar. See Health for further details.

Qatari authorities have advised that visas will not be issued in Australian emergency passports. This applies to travellers seeking to enter or transit Qatar. If you lose your Australian passport while visiting Qatar, you will not be able to depart Qatar until you have obtained a full validity passport – a process which may take several weeks.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Statements by international terrorist groups have called for attacks against Western interests in the Gulf region. These include references to residential compounds and military, oil, transport and aviation interests. We have in the past received reports that terrorists are planning attacks against Western interests in the wider Gulf region and attacks in Qatar cannot be ruled out.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism.

Civil unrest/political tension

Regional developments have an impact on public opinion in Qatar. You should be aware of local sensitivities to regional affairs, monitor the media and avoid protests and demonstrations.

Crime

Qatar has a low incidence of crime. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, is rare but does occur.

Unaccompanied women can be vulnerable to verbal and physical harassment.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Traffic accidents are among Qatar’s leading causes of death. The combination of Qatar’s many roundabouts, road construction and high speeds by drivers make driving in Qatar challenging and dangerous. Driving on rural roads in Qatar may be dangerous because of unsafe driving practices, insufficient lighting and the presence of wandering animals. For further advice, see our road travel page.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, notably 4x4 adventure activities in the desert, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider. Always use available safety equipment, such as seatbelts, even if the locals don't. Excursions should only be undertaken in well-equipped vehicles with sufficient water, fuel, food provisions and a mobile phone. A copy of your travel itinerary should be left with friends or relatives.

Women should take care when travelling alone in Qatar, particularly after dark.

Travellers entering the Gulf area by sea should be aware that many areas are sensitive due to security issues and territorial disputes. In particular, maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf are the subject of jurisdictional disputes. There have been reports of arrests, detentions and inspections of vessels.

See our piracy page for information on piracy. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Qatar.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Qatar, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Penalties for drug offences include long prison sentences. The presence of illegal drugs in the body is considered possession. See our Drugs page.

Medications that are available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal in Qatar. See Health below for further details.

Commercial, civil and family law disputes: Australians have in the past been involved in commercial and civil disputes where the local firms or courts have taken possession of their Australian passports. This effectively prevents them from leaving Qatar until the dispute is resolved. Activities such as having cheques dishonoured, non-payment of bills, court fines or hotel bills, overdue personal loans and local credit cards, are all considered fraudulent acts and may result in imprisonment. Transit passengers with outstanding debts in Qatar may be detained upon arrival in Qatar. Bail is generally not available to non-residents of Qatar who are arrested for crimes involving fraud. Debtors can be imprisoned until debts are settled.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. Decisions relating to child custody are based on Islamic law. See also Information on Dual nationals below.

An employer’s permission to leave Qatar, in the form of an exit permit, is required prior to departure under Qatari Labour Law.

Under Qatari sponsorship laws for employment, an employee wishing to change from one sponsor (employer) to another must obtain permission from their current sponsor in the form of a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC). Without the NOC, an employee must leave Qatar at the end of their employment and may not return for two years. Provision of an NOC is discretionary.

It is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. Driving with a blood alcohol level greater than zero and drinking alcohol outside licensed premises are illegal. Penalties include detention, substantial fine, prison sentence and deportation. Alcohol is available at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and expatriates living in Qatar can obtain alcohol on a permit system.

The penalty for drunkenness and defamation may include corporal punishment if the offenders are Muslims.

Public displays of intimacy are illegal. Australians have been detained by police for displays of affection in public, obscene language or gestures and, more frequently, alcohol-related offences.

Homosexual activity is illegal in Qatar and may lead to severe punishment, including imprisonment and fines. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Sex outside of marriage is also illegal in Qatar. Foreigners have been imprisoned for having sex with people to whom they are not legally married.

It is illegal to harass women. Harassment includes unwanted conversation, prolonged stares, touching any part of the body, shouting, stalking or any comments that may offend.

The importation of pornographic material, pork products, alcohol, firearms and religious books and materials (other than those relating to Islam) is illegal and such items will be confiscated on arrival in Qatar.

Photographing public government buildings and military sites is prohibited. Taking photographs of local people, particularly women, without permission and where there has been no previous contact, is illegal and can lead to arrest or fines.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

While some countries will automatically notify the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate if an Australian Citizen is detained or arrested, this might not be the case in Qatar. To ensure that the Australian Government is aware of your circumstances, you should request that the police or prison officials notify the Australian Embassy or Consulate in the United Arab Emirates as soon as you are detained or arrested.

Authentication of documents: To comply with local Qatari requirements, Australian documents may require additional government legalisation before they can be used overseas. For details see our Legalising documents page. You should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Qatar on local requirements for using Australian documents in Qatar.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan in Qatar. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Qatar and you should take care not to offend. Men and women should dress modestly with clothing covering the shoulders and knees. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

Qatar does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Qatari dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

The children of Qatari fathers automatically acquire Qatari citizenship at birth. Child custody decisions are based on Islamic law. You should consult a lawyer to resolve custody disputes. Qatari fathers can prevent their children from leaving Qatar.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia may be illegal or considered a controlled substance in Qatar. You should carry a copy of your prescription, a letter from your doctor and carry all medication in its original packaging. This applies while you are taking medication which is detectable in your system. Travellers, including those intending only to transit Qatar, are advised to contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Qatar before travelling for further information.

While public medical facilities in the major cities of Qatar are adequate, services may not be available in remote areas. For patients without travel health insurance, hospitals will require a guarantee of payment before commencing treatment. Costs can be very expensive, depending on the level of health care required and length of stay. In the event of a serious illness or accident or for complex medical procedures, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities could be necessary. Medical evacuation costs would be considerable.

Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers. See our MERS-CoV travel bulletin.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Qatar. You can obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates:

Australian Embassy, Abu Dhabi

8th Floor, Al Muhairy Centre
Sheikh Zayed the First Street
Abu Dhabi
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Telephone: +971 2 401 7500
Facsimile: +971 2 401 7501
E-mail: abudhabi.embassy@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.uae.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision. The working week is Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

If you are travelling to Qatar, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register on-line or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Qatar often experiences extremely high temperatures. During the hottest months of the year, the temperature can exceed 50˚C.

Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for the most up-to-date information.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.