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Survival Guide to Doha (In Progress)

Found myself arriving in a new city (well, somewhat new in the sense that I am now living here full-time) with little to no resources for living day-to-day. Where does one find the basics for survival in the 21st century, e.g. a local SIM card, a rental car (going to need it until the railway system opens up), free WiFi, a quick bite to eat? Now to add another level of complexity to my transition, I arrived in Doha with Ramadan just beginning and with its start, additional questions about Muslim life. For example, where does one go to pray taraweeh at night? Or what kind of activities can one do to keep off the notorious 10-20 pounds gained during Ramadan?

Well, my friends, this new “survival guide” page will be updated as I experience my new life in Doha and inshallah you can avoid the headaches (and monetary mistakes) I’ve made over time. If you have suggestions for sections, please feel free to message me privately.

Getting Around
Hooray! Marhaba, you’ve made it to Doha after a probably very long flight and now might be thinking, “Ok, now what?” This section is for the individual who is planning on exploring the city on their own and doesn’t mind a bit of adventure away from the usual tourist-heavy spots.

Depending on your intended length of stay in the city, you’ll have a few options for transportation; sadly public transportation isn’t really an option just yet. As a guy who moved from Washington, DC with an extensive network of trains and buses, I was saddened by this but realized there were some familiar options available for navigating the disperse city.

1) Car service apps: visitors and residents alike may find taxi hailing smartphone apps like Careem or Uber to be reliable and good quality means of getting around. First time users will even get some free credits after creating an account! I found both to be very good and drivers knew even some more off the beaten path spots. These apps, however, can be dangerous as you never pay with cash, just credit cards so you may become quickly hooked sooo…

2) Hailing a taxi on the street: the old go-to if you want to get around in Doha. In my experience, taxis are plentiful in the city’s busiest spots, such as the West Bay’s City Center Mall, Souq Waqif, in front of hotels, and at the airport. This is not to say finding a taxi elsewhere is unheard of, but I wouldn’t personally bet on hailing one in the less touristy areas.

3) Car rentals: this option is intended for those individuals who wish to experience the thrill of driving in Doha (it’s quite okay if you just pay attention and know how to drive in a roundabout) or you think you’ll be staying for a while. The past two trips I spent in Doha prior to moving permanently I did weekly rentals through a friend’s business called Elite Motors, which is located out by Salwa Road and Ain Khaled Street and run by very sociable Egyptian guys. No need to book a reservation ahead of time, just drop in. Please note: the gas tank will be most likely near empty when you get your rental, but no worries. There’s a gas station just about two blocks down on Salwa Road.

Hold Up! What About Getting My Phone Working Here?
Sorry, I probably should’ve started with this point but I figured you might be interested in getting out and about first – my apologies. If you had the foresight or ability to unlock your phone in your home country, getting up and running in Doha will be a snap. If not, no biggie – you have a couple of options if you’d like to make your stay easier.

Already have unlocked phone
The easiest thing to do in this case is head to the nearest mall; shouldn’t be hard to find in this city. Once you’ve entered, head to either an Ooredoo (Qatari national carrier) or a Vodaphone store to purchase an appropriate SIM card for your phone. I’d suggest the former as I’ve had an excellent experience with their Hala pay-as-you-go service, which can be topped off at service kiosks throughout the city or via the company’s smartphone app. It’s also worth noting that if you’ll be traveling outside of Qatar, you can also use your Ooredoo SIM in other countries via their passport program (personally have used this in the UAE and the US).