Collecting our first ever 4x4 - August 2011
One of my greatest fears on arriving in Qatar back in 2011 was having to get behind the wheel and drive around. I had practically no experience of driving on the right hand side of the road, most of the cars looked like huge tanks and, to be perfectly honest, the manner in which a lot of people seem to drive here is, to put it politely, not quite so courteous as we were used to back in the UK!

Simon knew my fears which is why, within just one day of arriving in Doha, he took me to some of the car dealers and made me test drive a variety of vehicles. I was not at all happy to be plunged into the deep end but retrospectively it really was the only way to go.

A few days later we were in possession of our very own brand new 4x4, a Honda Pilot, which seemed big but not scarily so - unlike the Nissan Armada, which having just got off a flight from the UK, was just too big a jump up at that time (my perception may have changed a little now however!). 

It was while we were at the car dealership waiting to be given the keys to our new car that we had our first memorable Doha moment - Matthew told us that he had just seen a ninja walking past! What he had actually just witnessed was his first sighting of a lady dressed in an abaya!

So, a few things you need to know/remember when driving in Doha:

1.Don't be surprised to see children clambering around without seatbelts on as they are being driven around. Sadly, the majority of  families (excluding Westerners) do not make their children wear seatbelts and are happy to let them hang their heads out of the windows and let their babies and toddlers sit on the laps of other passengers as they drive along. It is no wonder that the child mortality rate in road traffic accidents is so high here and I will never get used to the way these poor young children's safety is so readily ignored.

2. If a Landcruiser comes speeding up behind you flashing his lights then make sure you move over quickly as he's certainly not going to slow down and will more than likely try to bump you off the road!

3. When crossing a roundabout the easiest thing to do is close your eyes and put your foot down full on the accelerator as drivers often ignore road etiquette and fail to give way when they should. They also frequently drive straight through red traffic lights!

4. It's a fact that if you want to turn left, get in the far right lane and then swerve across 3 lanes of traffic at the last minute to make your turn. There is no need to indicate as everyone will of course already know your intentions!

5. If there are 3 lanes leading up to a roundabout then don't be surprised to find 5 cars across them, all trying to get on the roundabout at the same time.

6. Size does matter - you need a big car as otherwise no-one will see you and you will get squashed fairly rapidly.

7. If the queue heading towards a roundabout seems busier than usual, then that is likely to be because the traffic police are on the roundabout 'improving' traffic flow!

8. Why drive on the road when you can whizz across a dirt track in your 4x4 to cut a corner?

9. If you want to know what it feels like to be truly petrified, just head towards the Industrial Area where you will find dirt tracks instead of roads and cars flying towards you from all directions!

10. One positive to finish off - Fuel is EXTREMELY cheap here - less than £10 to fill the car up from empty, as compared to £80 to fill up our Ford S-max back in the UK!! Yes, you heard me right, fuel is extremely CHEAP so you can afford to run your air con full blast all day and leave the engine running when you pick up the kids from school. Ok, so it may not be environmentally sound to do that but it is CHEAP!!

4/3/2013 06:16:34 pm

Ha ha - good picture there Sam, matches almost perfectly my observations. I am petrified of starting to drive in Doha....think I may not follow your advice at points 3 and 4 just yet :-) x

Diary of an Expat Mum
6/3/2013 05:18:53 am

It's amazing how quickly you get used to driving here Ioana! The hardest part is simply getting to know your way around when you first arrive, but Doha is not a huge place so it doesn't take too long. Incidentally, I have never tried point 4 myself, but witness others doing it on a daily basis!!


Hey Sam,
That was a nice post. Your post reminded me of the thoughts i had when i was having drive on my friend's car first time in qatar :-)

21/3/2013 07:45:55 pm

Hi Sam,
My husband and I are considering returning to the ME from Sydney and specifically Qatar, we have two girls 5 and 9, would both be working .
What is the expat life and social scene like for the kids and for a working mum ,


Diary of an Expat Mum
7/4/2013 01:32:30 am

Hi Gaynor,
Sorry for the delay in replying. From personal experience, our children seem to be very content with their lives out here - there are various activities for them to participate in, either through their schools or using external suppliers (e.g. evolution sports/Regatta sailing academy/drama groups).
Living on a Compound, our children also love being able to go and call for their friends and hanging out at the clubhouse/park. I would say that it is a good place for young children. I am not so sure that there is much choice of things to do for teenagers though.
As I am not a working Mum, it is hard for me to comment on what life would be like for you but the expat community is large and very friendly. I have met lots of lovely people and there is always something to do at the weekends with friends or as a family.
Due to the maid culture here, a lot of people have live in maids and they can be employed to help with childcare, as well as looking after the house. It is also quite normal to see children being collected from school by private drivers when both parents work.
Please feel free to send me a private message if you have any other questions about life here!

10/4/2013 06:32:25 pm

Hi Sam

I'm the sub-editor of ExpatArrivals.com, a site devoted to developing comprehensive destination guides aimed at easing expat transition abroad. I came across your blog through the course of my research, and I was hoping I could convince you to share some of your expat insight with our site.

Please let me know if you'd be interested in contributing to our Doha guide, and do note that in exchange, I can provide you with promotional profile space on our site that you can use to levy exposure for your own pursuits (like your blog or business). Let me know if you'd be interested, and I can provide you with additional information.

You can email me at candice@expatarrivals.com



11/11/2013 10:49:13 pm

A very important list! I have to print it and attach on my fridge! It's most important than the grocery's list! :)

Thanks, I'm new in Doha and that will help me to survive!!


26/2/2014 09:49:41 pm


Thanks very much for sharing your experience. I am already in Doha and it is exactly how you described plus quite busy traffic. Just wanted to ask what was your experience in buying a car? Any places you could meet other expats who may be living and selling off their cars? Thanks

11/10/2016 06:39:23 am

Thanks for posting this. I know friends who are having the same things as you said in this post. This is very helpful :)


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