Getting by in Qatar
Arabic is the official language of Qatar. However, English is widely spoken and is the preferred language for business.
The local currency is the Qatari Riyal (QR), which is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of $1 = QR3.64.
QR1 = 100 Dirhams.
British nationals can obtain one month visit visas at immigration on arrival at the airport. They cost around QR100. You will need to pay for your visa with a credit or debit card using a pin number - cash is not accepted.
It is illegal to bring alcohol or pork products into Qatar.
At certain times of year it can be very difficult to find a hotel room in Doha. Qatar regularly hosts senior visitors including heads of state and an increasing number of international conferences, seminars and exhibitions. During these times hotel space is at a premium so book your accommodation early.
Hours of Business
Qatar is at GMT+3 and does not use daylight savings. The local weekend is Friday-Saturday. Government ministries and departments operate officially from 0730-1430, Sunday to Thursday. Some local companies work a split shift, generally 0800-1300 and 1600-2000 Saturday to Thursday. During the holy month of Ramadan, working hours will vary.
Getting Around Doha
Getting around Doha can be a challenge. Relatively speaking, it is not a large city but traffic congestion can be heavy. Allow plenty of travel time between appointments. Ensure you have clear, up to date directions as it can be difficult to locate particular buildings or offices. Addresses are usually given as PO boxes, street names are not always clear and locals are accustomed to navigating by landmarks. Finding taxis in some parts of town can be difficult.
Taxi drivers will often not know the place you are looking for - this includes the British Embassy in the 'new' diplomatic area near the 'rainbow roundabout' in the West Bay area of Doha. Consider hiring a car and driver through your hotel or booking a taxi for the whole day or duration of your visit - these are relatively inexpensive. If you pre-book a taxi it can save money - the telephone numbers for two of the local taxi firms are (974) 4458 8888 (Karwa) and (974) 4462 2777 (Fox). Cars with drivers can also be hired from car rental companies including Avis, Budget and Hertz.
Meetings & Presentations
Time is relative; if someone you've arranged to see turns up late for a meeting it does not mean they are not interested in talking to you. UK companies should not be surprised if meetings are interrupted by phone calls, requests for signatures or other points of urgent business. They should be prepared to attend meetings in the evening - much business is done at this time of day.
If it is a first meeting, take a cue from the host; some people prefer to feel comfortable with you before moving on to the real business. Others may be short of time and want to get things done quickly. UK companies should be flexible and not count on delivering a long power-point presentation - hold it in reserve for a follow-up meeting if judged appropriate. Delivery should be kept short, simple and clear. It should not be assumed that the person being addressed speaks fluent English. Turns of phrase and slang may not be well understood.
UK companies should prepare for the meeting by finding out about whom they are seeing and the organisation they represent. They should understand something about the environment they are entering, tread lightly and listen. It is important to take a long-term view of all business relationships - investing time in establishing relationships is key.
The Qatari market is very competitive. There are many companies here doing business from across the Middle East, US, Europe and Asia. UK companies should not assume everyone they meet will automatically understand that they offer the best product or service. There are many people knocking on doors here trying to sell themselves. UK companies need to consider the environment in which they are operating, include local case studies and adapt their pitch to best address local needs.
FCO Travel Advice
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website has travel advice to help you prepare for your visits overseas and to stay safe and secure while you are there. For more information please see the FCO's Travel Advice: www.gov.uk/fco
Source - UKTI