Reduce your rates by using a local SIM.
Qatar is one of the wealthier Arab nations, close to Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Using your home phone network there can be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans. Qatar has some of the best prepaid SIM cards in the Middle East, with deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Qatar’s leading telco provider for QAR20 (AUD$6.78). So, whether you’re planning a short trip, longer stay or tour of the Arab nations, check out the best SIM card options on finder.com.au.
Telco providers in Qatar
There are two main operators in Qatar: Ooredoo and Vodafone. Both operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate, and each competes with the other to offer the best deals. Their services have all been tried and tested by both locals and travellers, so they can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s connectivity report, Ooredoo has the better network coverage and speeds, but it has higher prices.
Qatar’s operators offer good roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of their cheap local offers and deals. Both providers offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G services. Locals call their SIM cards “SIMs” or “chips”. You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets. Please note that as in most Arab states, there are restrictions and censorship on online-based content. Many websites are banned, and you must watch what you write on social media while you’re in the country. The local authorities monitor the Internet within the state. We advise you to download a VPN onto your phone before you travel to allow you full access to the Internet in Qatar.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what’s available during your visit to Qatar.
Ooredoo is the largest provider in Qatar. The company is state-owned and offers several roaming deals for travelling across the Middle East. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Network coverage is the best and Internet speeds are the fastest. Prepaid SIM cards can only be purchased and registered at official stores situated in all malls and at Doha International Airport. Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere across the country, including supermarkets, corner stores and service stations.
Ooredoo’s prepaid SIM card packages are called “Hala” and can be purchased for QAR25, which includes 250 local minutes and 250MB data, valid for 7 days.
Credit can be added in the following denominations: QAR10, QAR15, QAR20, QAR25, QAR30, QAR50, QAR75, QAR100, QAR125, QAR150, QAR175, QAR200, QAR250, QAR300, QAR400, QAR450 and QAR500, giving validity of between 30 and 360 days, depending on how much you upload. Dial *129# to check your balance.
The standard data rate is charged at QAR0.99 per MB. The following “Mobile Internet” data packs are also available:
Text the relevant code in the right-hand column to 121 to activate. All of the above-mentioned packs auto-renew, so text "STOP MIP” to 121 if you wish to cancel.
The following data amounts can be added to any prepaid SIM card, either online, by purchasing vouchers or through the app:
Ooredoo also operates in many other Arab nations and has roaming deals with a number of providers around the world. If you plan on travelling around the Middle East, then Ooredoo’s roaming deals are the best. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for QAR100, which includes 100 minutes of incoming and outgoing call time, 1GB of data (2GB in GCC countries), valid for 7 days. Text “OP” to 121 to activate. Text “Balance OP” to 121 to check your balance.
Ooredoo’s APN: data, and website: www.ooredoo.qa
Vodafone is the only other provider in Qatar. It offers the best rates and packages, but its coverage can suffer in remote regions. If you plan on staying in Doha, then we recommend you purchase this SIM card; otherwise stick with Ooredoo. Prepaid SIM cards can only be purchased from official stores, and they must be registered by using your passport before they can be activated.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for QAR25, which comes with credit eligibility for local minutes and SMS only. Additional packages will have to be added to use further voice and data allocation.
Credit can be purchased in the following denominations: QAR20, QAR35, QAR100, QAR150, QAR350 or QAR500, giving 60 to 365 days of validity depending on how much you upload. Dial *100# to check your balance.
The standard data rate is charged at QAR0.99 per MB.
|Data for 1 hour||QAR3||1 hour||1GB||*200*1#|
|Daily Pack 1||QAR1||1 day||10MB||*200*302#|
|Daily Pack 5||QAR5||1 day||300MB||*200*500#|
|Weekly Pack 6||QAR6||7 days||75MB||*200*306#|
|Weekly Pack 10||QAR10||7 days||150MB||*200*710#|
|Weekly Pack 20||QAR20||7 days||1GB||*200*720#|
|Weekly Pack 125||QAR125||7 days||Unlimited||*200*125#|
|Internet Pack 30||QAR30||15 days||500MB||Online/store|
|Internet 60||QAR60||30 days||5GB||Online/store|
|Internet 80||QAR80||30 days||7GB||Online/store|
|Internet 100||QAR100||30 days||9GB||Online/store|
|Internet 200||QAR200||42 days||20GB||Online/store|
Data is charged at QAR0.99 per MB once all of the above-mentioned data have been used.
This telco also offers “Vodafone Flex” prepaid SIM cards, which allow users to switch and change their voice and data units. Dial *200*771# to activate one of the below packs, and dial *100# to deactivate. Each of the following is valid for 30 days:
- top-up QAR60: 5GB data + 60 Flex points
- top-up QAR80: 7GB data + 60 Flex points
- top-up QAR100: 9GB data + 150 Flex points
- top-up QAR200: 20GB data + 500 Flex points
Dial *130# to check your balance.
Vodafone also offers a roaming pack that can be purchased for QAR100 and will give you 1GB of data to be used in more than 75 countries, and 2GB of data to be used in Gulf Cooperation countries (GCC): Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Check the full list of participating countries upon purchase because they can change from time to time. Dial *200*100# to activate.
Vodafone’s APN: web.vodafone.com.qa, and website: www.vodafone.qa
- The official language in Qatar is Arabic. If you don’t know the language, then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. English is a second language for most residents.
- Qataris call a SIM card a “SIM” or “chip”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to get advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to get things done early, before the stores get too busy. That way you are more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Qatar.
“I suggest bringing the device with you to the store so you can make sure it works before you leave. You'll also need your passport or RP to purchase a SIM card. Alternately, if you have a smartphone that allows tethering, and you will only be in Qatar for a short time, it may be cheaper to get a mobile phone data package and use your phone like a MiFi device.”
“Make sure that your phone can be used in Qatar. When I first arrived in Doha, I wasn't able to use my Samsung phone 'cause apparently it was locked or something. I had a prepaid SIM card from Qatar, but wasn't able to make any calls ...”
“I suggest you buy a local SIM card in Qatar. At the airport, when you collect your bags and come out, there is a glass wall you can see on other side (to the left) and there is a Ooredoo kiosk there, just show them your passport and they will issue you SIM card.”
Pros and cons of Qatar’s top telco providers
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this phone, or whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Qatar has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in stores
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Censorship can make surfing the Internet difficult
- Tough rules and regulations complicate buying a SIM card
More questions about finding the best SIM?
Q: Can Qatar SIM cards be used throughout the Middle East region?
A: Qatar SIM cards can be used in other Middle Eastern countries, subject to additional roaming charges, but that defeats the object of purchasing a local SIM card to avoid using your home phone network abroad. We advise you to only use the SIM card in Qatar to reap the full benefits of what it can offer. If you plan on travelling around the Arab nations, it would be better to purchase a SIM card from each country to cut costs. Ooredoo offers some great roaming packs for short-term travel, but buy a new one if you intend on staying somewhere else long-term.
Q: Is the signal really that bad in the remote regions?
A: All networks will suffer in the desert, no matter what provider you use. Qatari networks offer a relatively reliable service that is no worse than what you would get from your home phone provider, so it makes sense to opt for a local SIM card because the rates are ridiculously cheap.
Q: What shall I do if I lose my phone?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around the Middle East. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you don’t have any luck, then report it missing. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let this one out of your sight!