Driving in Qatar

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, we’ve headed into the driving arena here. Well, Dave has and he’s done really well.  Our first trip into Doha was ill advised. Worst end of town, worst time of day, worst day of the week. Excellent. Nothing like diving right in. Good job David!

Our little rental car is a piece of …eh hem…work. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with my little VW Beetle (Turbo!) but this is one incredibly gutless car. It’s not like we’ll be keeping it so it’s not really a big deal except that the driver’s here tend to zoom up behind you and sit on your tail until you can move out of the way. This takes a little too long in this little car with the ‘sewing machine engine’ (David).

We’ve been told, and it seems to be true, that if there’s any real danger in living here it’s in the driving. There are crazy speeders and people cutting in and out of traffic and respect for pedestrians is sporadic. A car that responds to the gas pedal being pushed down (seems to be optional in rental cars) will be safer for sure!


There are some.

The speed limit is 120 km. At times on the highway someone will blow past you and you can be sure they’re going at least 140 km. There are cameras on the highway catching speeders. The Qataris (I assume the wealthy ones) could care less about these tickets. Drop in the bucket.  The expats have learned where the cameras are and slow down just before them.

The interesting thing is that the cars are equipped with a bell that chimes when you go over 120km. It sounds kind of like the seat belt chime when you don’t have your seat belt on but a little more like an ambulance siren.  One of our friends here at the compound who slows down when nearing the cameras says “I just got used to the sound of the alarm. I barely hear it anymore.”  Craziness.  I kind like the alarm. I think it’s a brilliant idea and I have no intention (when I finally do get my license), of going over 120.  Happy Mom? I knew you would be.

And as crazy as the driver’s are, breaking rules everywhere, we noticed a really strict adherence to the stop lights. There are cameras there too apparently and if you go through a stop light the fine is VERY stiff, 6000 QR (about $1650 CAD).  People come to an abrupt stop at yellow lights. So much for my ‘yellow-means-hurry’ driving behaviour.

There are very few police around compared to home and I have yet to really see them policing driving. The thought is kind of humorous – I’m not sure why.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, the roundabouts are a bit of a worry for me, but as Dave has taken on driving here and has read the rules and is trying to follow them (not that everyone else does) I have been rehearsing in my mind while we’re driving.  As we approach a roundabout I think, which lane would I pick and as we go through it, how would I plan to exit. Etc. So now I’m getting a little itchy to try it.

So this week was my chance. Did I get my license…no!

Honour missed her school bus one morning. I called Dave who was already at school (about 6:50 a.m.). He said “I can bring the car home for you and you can take her but I have class in 10 minutes so I can’t do it.”


So, that’s what I did. After 8 weeks of not driving,  I took my inaugural drive to Honour’s school, peak traffic time, in a car that I had not rented and had no business driving, without a driver’s license (I took my Canadian one with me…the plan was to feign ignorance and beg forgiveness if the worst happened), and without insurance. AND…without anyone guiding me through the dreaded roundabouts.

Everyone at that point was late for where they were going so the traffic was fast and impatient. I had to go through 8 roundabouts in total. Sounds dramatic, but really only 4 of them were busy. And they were definitely busy!

I am proud to say that I rocked the roundabouts. No one so much as beeped their horn at me. Someone did sit on my tail at one point and our gutless car prevented me from moving very quickly out of his way, but not enough to even garner a horn honk or a lights-manicly-flashing (which is the other thing they do to try to get you to move out of their way).

I returned home safely, full of adrenalin…and that’s when it hit me.

You know that feeling when you haven’t eaten in a long time? The hunger comes, and then the hunger goes and you realize you’ve skipped a meal or maybe two and you don’t even feel hungry anymore? And then you smell food cooking, or you have a bite of something and all of a sudden you’re absolutely FAMISHED!!  Well, I sat in my Villa after this little experience and all I could think of was…I WANT TO DRIVE!!! Anywhere, for anything…I want behind the wheel again!! Enough of this house arrest!

But I’ll take a deep breath and wait for my license. Or our own car at least so I’m not risking the rental car.

We’re told our car could be here any day now. And it will might be the nicest car we’ll ever own (not the cutest of course, but the nicest). It’s a perk made possible by David’s employer and by car prices being cheaper here.

All of a sudden…I can’t wait!

Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment. They have nothing to do with the post really (except you’ll see a picture of the piece of…eh hem…work are driving right now).

Cheers to all – have a great weekend.

(One of the photo comments shows my difficulty with left from right…and I can’t fix it. Humbling!)


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11 responses to “Driving in Qatar

  1. Snip

    Sounds like you are settling in nicely 😉

  2. Joan

    The architecture is stunning & I love the lights you photographed. Good job on getting Honour to school safely. (if illegally). And I think your plan of waiting for your license to arrive before driving again is the way to go. lol
    Enjoyed the post.

  3. heather gillatly

    those roundabouts sound very challenging. i think i would wait for my license before doing much driving. the buildings are so different from what we have here. the zig zags are neat and that yacht is huge but believe it or not we had a pretty big one stuck in sarnia recently. probably the biggest one i have ever seen.

  4. Elizabeth Barr

    Love reading your blogs Tracie!!! You are quite the gutsy gal! Love the pictures, keep them coming … miss you xoxo

  5. sandra de visser

    Neat pictures!!! Good luck getting your drivers license all over again!!

  6. That’s funny that rentals make noises when you go over 120! Weird. Oh, and if you want to see policing of traffic, come to Doha… especially during the morning rush. All of the busy roundabouts have police directing the traffic. And it’s probably a good thing. I’ve seen line-ups at the roundabouts that have got to be close to a km. long. Beautiful pictures of the Pearl. Don’t you find it a bit ghost-town-like? Gorgeous buildings, but not a ton of people…

  7. No, Jeff has gone over 120. And it does NOT beep. So there, Toyota owners! 😛 A little light flashes, but it’s hardly noticeable. Muahahaha!

  8. Oh, for us too. Well, except for tonight when I said, “Could you get it over 120 so I can see what happens?” THAT was intentional.

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