Local laws and customs

Local laws and customs reflect the fact that Qatar is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK. You’re strongly advised to familiarise yourself with and respect local laws and customs.

In 2019, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 6 May and finish on 4 June. See Travelling during Ramadan

Be aware of cultural sensitivities when filming or photographing people and religious, military or construction sites. Some visitors attempting to film or photograph in sensitive areas have been arrested. If in doubt, seek permission. If you’re working as a journalist, you’ll need to get permission from the Qatar News Agency (QNA) to film or photograph as part of your work and enter the country on a visiting press permit. This permit will clear technical equipment like cameras through airport customs and provides other necessary information.

Importing drugs, alcohol, pornography, pork products and religious books and material into Qatar is illegal. All luggage is scanned at Doha Airport Arrivals Hall.  DVDs and videos may be examined and censored. Penalties for drug offences are severe, often resulting in prison sentences.

It is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. Alcohol is available at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and expatriates living in Qatar can obtain alcohol on a permit system. Don’t carry alcohol around with you (except to take it on the day of collection from the warehouse to your home).  

Qatar law also prohibits the importation, sale and purchase of electronic cigarettes, liquids and other similar products (eg electronic shisha pipes). The law applies regardless of quantity and intended use. Customs officials may seize and confiscate any such items found entering the country by any means, including in passengers’ luggage or sent by post.

You should dress modestly when in public, including while driving. Women should cover their shoulders and avoid wearing short skirts. Any intimacy in public between men and women (including between teenagers) can lead to arrest.

Homosexual behaviour is illegal in Qatar. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques (including post-dated and ‘security cheques’) and non-payment of bills (including hotel bills) can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine in Qatar. Bank accounts and other assets may also be frozen. You may also be liable for cheques that have been signed by you on behalf of a company.

If you have unpaid loans or financial commitments you won’t be able finish your employment in Qatar and exit the country. Any debt will need to be settled in full before your residence permit will be cancelled and your exit permit issued.