Doha is a city of splendor, a horizon of half-empty buildings built for show, expansive air-conditioned malls, and a driving culture that puts the U.S. to shame. The traffic is horrendous, walking is impossible, and catching a taxi is not something that can be done without significant planning. After two weeks of attempting to get from Point A to Point B in less than four hours, I was the most exasperated traveler in Qatar and ready to tell anyone visiting that you should just rent a car or try not to go anywhere. Ever.
If you’re in a busy area with a taxi stand (like at the mall or the Qatar National Convention Center), you should be able to find a taxi without too much trouble provided you’re trying to catch one between the hours of 10 am and 10 pm. No guarantees though. It’s better if you just plan on the fact that you’re going to need to call one and you’re going to need to plan it at least 24 hours in advance.
1. Book a Taxi
Karwa is “The Official Taxi Service,” but getting them is the tricky part. They have a telephone number on the back of the car’s bumper (or you can go online), but it takes some planning and persuasion to get the taxi to your place when you need it. It’s not uncommon to call the taxi number in the morning and be told that there are no taxis available until after 6:30 pm. To be on the safe side, try to call the day before and be sure to order one for the way back. Unless you want to get stranded. They will call you when they’re outside so make sure you have access to a phone. It’s probably best just to get a SIM card and use a local number while you’re in Qatar.
2. Print Out Directions
Unless you’re going to a really well-known area, it’s unlikely that the taxi driver will know where to go. Make sure you have directions to where you’re going or the number of a person who can give directions. Having both is always a solid option. Most of the roundabouts or main squares have nicknames so if the name you’re given doesn’t match up to the one on the map, don’t get too flustered but do ask around to make sure they refer to the same place.
3. Private Car
The other option is to hire a private taxi company like Fox Transport. It will cost you more, but if you are unable to book a taxi with Karwa and you absolutely have to get somewhere, this is also a good option. Note that it’s rare to be able to get these guys at the last minute so, just like Karwa, you’ll need to call in advance.
There are public transportation options in Doha, but they are not particularly reliable because of traffic delays. If you’re not on a schedule and you have time to burn, taking the bus is a good option. Otherwise, best to call a taxi or rent a car.