Qatar is mainly known for its airline, Qatar Airways, because they offer luxury products in both premium class and economy class. Besides their airline and Doha International Airport, there are plenty of things to do in Al Khor, Mesaieed, Al Wakrah, and, of course, Doha – a safe destination for many travelers.
What may not be safe is roaming with your provider. At least, for your bank account. Roaming can be expensive, which why many travelers want to buy a Qatari SIM card when traveling in Qatar. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about SIM cards in Qatar. Let’s do this.
Telecom Providers in Qatar
Qatar has 2 telecom providers: Ooredoo Qatar and Vodafone Qatar. Open Signal did a 4G test in 2019 to see which operator had better coverage. The test concluded that both operators have an 86% 4G/LTE-availability. However, first-hand use showed that Ooredoo is the clear winner in terms of coverage. The locals agree with this assessment.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Qatar? If you want to buy a SIM card in Qatar, I would recommend going with Ooredoo Qatar, simply because they have the best coverage in Qatar. You can consider Vodafone if you are staying near the centers or wish to try out their 5G-network.
Just like most other countries in the Middle East, you need to show your passport when buying a SIM card. Travelers can have a maximum of 2 SIM cards on their name, which is enough for most visitors (and for me too, as I was able to test out both providers without reaching the limit).
Internet censorship is prevalent in Qatar. The government censors various things, such as LGBTQ-content, pornography, political criticism, and escort services. The WIFi in some hotels is not subject to this censorship, but your traffic will still be monitored at all times. That is why I would recommend using a VPN to browse the web in peace. I use NordVPN because I get high speeds with their servers. They have around 5500 servers in 59 countries. They do not have servers in Qatar, because they would be subject to censorship, but the closest servers are in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Turkey. You can get up to 70% off your NordVPN subscription if you get yours today!
With that discussed, let’s see what Ooredoo and Vodafone can offer us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Ooredoo Qatar, just Ooredoo from now on, is the market leader with more than 65% of the market share. It is the operator with the best coverage and speeds, which is why they are recommended for those who want to explore more of Qatar besides the big cities.
An Ooredoo prepaid SIM card is called Hala and is sold for 35 QAR ($9.60). It can be bought in various stores and comes with 250 minutes and 250 MB to be used within 7 days. Top-up vouchers are sold from 10 QAR to 500 QAR.
The following Ooredoo data packs can be added:
- 10 QAR: 500 MB until midnight
- 30 QAR: 1 GB for 14 days
- 60 QAR: 2.5 GB for 28 days
- 80 QAR: 4 GB for 28 days
- 100 QAR: 7 GB for 28 days
- 150 QAR: 14 GB for 28 days
- 200 QAR: 20 GB for 42 days
You can also top-up using Flexi recharge cards. These cards can then be used for minutes, SMS, or data. For example, 1000 Flexi points for 100 QAR – you can get 1000 minutes, 1000 SMS, or 7 GB (0.14 Flexi Points is 1 MB). The following Flexi Points perks are available:
- 5 QAR: 30 Flexi Points – 30 minutes, 30 SMS, or 214 MB until midnight
- 10 QAR: 70 Flexi Points – 70 minutes, 70 SMS, or 500 MB for 2 days
- 20 QAR: 150 Flexi Points – 150 minutes, 150 SMS, or 1 GB for 7 days
- 60 QAR: 500 Flexi Points – 500 minutes, 500 SMS, or 3.5 GB for 30 days
- 100 QAR: 1000 Flexi Points – 1000 minutes, 1000 SMS, or 7 GB for 30 days
- 150 QAR: 2100 Flexi Points – 2100 minutes, 2100 SMS, or 15 GB for 30 days
- 200 QAR: 3100 Flexi Points – 3100 minutes, 3100 SMS, or 22 GB for 30 days
Vodafone Qatar, just Vodafone from now on, is the second player in Qatar. Their coverage is quite bad. You should only consider going with them if you are staying near the cities only because they compete with Ooredoo at lower rates.
A Vodafone SIM card is sold for 25 QAR, which you can top-up in their stores with 20 QAR to 500 QAR. All SIM cards can be used for Vodafone’s 5G network, which is up and running in various locations in Qatar. Of course, you need a 5G-capable phone to use 5G.
The following Vodafone data packs can be added:
- 1 QAR: 10 MB for 1 day
- 10 QAR: 150 MB for 7 days
- 20 QAR: 1 GB for 7 days
- 30 QAR: 500 MB for 15 days
- 60 QAR: 2.5 GB for 28 days
- 80 QAR: 4 GB for 28 days
- 100 QAR: 7 GB for 28 days
- 125 QAR: Unlimited data for 7 days
- 200 QAR: 20 GB for 42 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Qatar
I have discussed the relevant providers in Qatar in this article because using a Qatari SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in Qatar. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in Qatar.
Roaming in Qatar with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Skinny from New Zealand, then you would be roaming Skinny in Qatar.
The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.
Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Qatar, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.
As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in Qatar and can roam for free there.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in Qatar.
Using an International SIM Card in Qatar
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard and SimOptions.
They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.
Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Qatar. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.
On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in the Middle East require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in Qatar
Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!
I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.
That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in Qatar
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Qatar, which is using free WIFI networks.
Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.
First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.
In the case of Qatar, you can find a hotspot here and there, but not many.
Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Qatar
Getting a SIM card from Ooredoo would do you well when considering a Qatari SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in the Middle East? Check out my Middle Eastern SIM card buying guide, covering other Middle Eastern countries, such as Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Qatar
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Qatar. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Qatar drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Qatar
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Qatar. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Qatari hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Qatar
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Qatar, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the currency of your destination for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!