Practical Information about Mobile Phones in Qatar: Phones Available, Roaming, Standards, Costs and More
If Qataris have exchanged their camels for land cruisers, then they have also exchanged their swords for their mobile phones.
It's often the one way you can get in contact with people, for while emails and phone calls to landlines may never be answered, a mobile phone's ring has a special demand that, it seems, cannot go unanswered and if it does, a missed call will be quickly returned.
Using Your Phone from Home
You should be able to use a European phone on roaming here. However, the costs are prohibitive and a Sim card is easily obtainable (see below).
Qtel used to the sole provider of telecommunications services in Qatar. However, Vodafone have now entered and have completely shaken up the market. Competition has lead to innovation, a greater range of services, better customer service, falling prices and special offers from both companies.
It is not currently possible to rent phones in Qatar. Fortunately, Qatar adheres to GSM (Global Standard Mobile), and phones from pretty much everywhere except the USA and Japan can be used here. Local shops can also unlock most models.
Purchasing A Mobile Phone
Mobile phones can also be obtained cheaply, starting from QR 120 for a basic model, to well over QR3000 for the full works: camera, video camera, internet access and television. (Iphones, newly available in Qatar, cost between QAR3000 and QAR4000.)
Mobile phones can be purchased in shopping malls, souqs (there's a souq on Grand Hamed street sells little else), from shops on the streets everywhere, basically. Most brands, including Nokia and Siemens, can be bought, and the I-phone, once very difficult to obtain, is now available. Check out Qatar Living Classifieds for second hand mobile phones.
Mobile Phones via Vodafone/Qtel
Both the phone companies here sell mobile phones. Vodafone also sells mobile phones via its website. Currently, phones are delivered for free by courier, although this is a limited offer. Phones can also be picked up from Aramex shop and ship locations. To view Vodafone's range of mobile phones click here.
You can obtain a sim card from any Qtel branch (but we recommend the ones in the City Centre and The Hyatt Plaza for service) or Vodafone branch. To do so you need a copy of your passport or ID, and you must be over 18. Look out for special offers.
Validity can be for three months or one year. Originally extending validity cost you, but now validity is extended automatically when you buy credit for your phone.
With Vodafone you get a sim card along with a number in a welcome pack. At the time of writing the cost is QAR25 for a flexi plan. You can get the welcome pack from any Vodafone store or from partners. (Look for the Red poster in shop windows.)
Qtel numbers start with 5 or 3, while Vodafone numbers start with 7. You can buy a Vodafone number for QAR500 (at the time of writing you can get this for free) or get given a random number.
Most people pay for their phones with pre-paid Hala cards, which come in denominations of QR 30, 50 and 100. These can be bought at most shops. Scratch the back of the card to reveal the secret number at the back. Then enter *127* followed by the secret number and the hash key.
With Vodafone, on the other hand, you can purchase ' red', which ranges in value from QAR35 to QAR550. Currently they also have bonus free minutes, which can be used to telephone other Vodafone customers, although you get half as many minutes as with their Freedom Plan. As with Qtel you can get the secret number via a scratch card or with a receipt. You can also have credit loaded at Vodafone stores.
First remember that calls from a landline to a landline are free, so if you have this option you can save yourself money. Calls between Vodafone mobiles are also free.
Calls between Vodafone mobiles are free. Other calls are charged at 50 dirhams per minute. Freedom and red packs appear to cost the same, but you get more free minutes with Vodafone red packs. Internet access, currently free for the first 300 mb, will cost QAR/10 mb.
Voice calls cost 55 Dirhams, video calls 65 Dirhams, texts costs 40 dirhams while surfing the internet costs QR10/megabyte. International calls are charged at the standard international rates + 55 dirhams. International texts are charged at 65 Dirhams, pictures at QR 1.35 and video at QR 1.80.
Vodafone's pre-pay contract called 'freedom'. Choose a freedom 'flexi' plan which vary from QAR35 to QAR550 and pay monthly. Any minutes not used roll on to the next month while if you use up all your minutes another flexi plan is added on.
You can set up your Vodafone freedom account with a bank account or with a credit card account, but if you set it up with a bank account you will need to visit a Vodafone store. You can buy flexi plans here: Vodafone - Get Started - you will need either your Qatari ID number or your passport number to do so. You will then get a welcome pack with a Sim card - you can choose whether to have the welcome pack delivered to your house or to pick it up from an Aramex Shop and Ship location.
You can also obtain a contract with Qtel where you pay for your calls after they have been made. Their monthly plan is called Shahry. You will need your ID and a copy of your residence permit.
There are two Shahry options. Standard Shahry sees you paying QAR50 a month, but you will then be billed on top of that for the minutes you use. You can also buy Shahry value packs which range from QAR130 to QAR175 - the more you buy the cheaper you get them. These also have a certain amount of additional SMS and internet bandwidth included - check the prices out here: Qtel Products and Services.
The minimum contract period is three months. Alternatively, you can have a wrapped package including high speed internet (well, what Qtel calls high speed), postpaid mobile and a land line for QR 250/month.
Buying A Phone Number
You can purchase the phone number of your choice and you will probably pay less than the record breaking $2,750,000 paid at a Qtel auction for the number 666 6666, which was the most expensive telephone number ever bought. (To be fair, the money was donated to charity.)
Using A Phone While Driving
It is illegal to use your mobile while driving, but most people do it anyway.
Despite Qatar's tiny size, Qtel still does not manage to cover the whole of the country. Head down to the Inland Sea and your phone will start connecting to the surrounding countries. If you are going to be traveling to remote places it may be worth using Qatar's satellite services. Alternatively, use Q-tel's roaming service.
Vodafone does not cover the whole of Qatar yet, but are still increasing their coverage.
When you arrive, you will probably automatically be on roaming. Although Q-tel will be providing the service, you will be billed in your home country. You can make local calls without using the country code (+974).
Qatar has agreements with 180 companies abroad, so roaming is available for both pre-paid and post-paid customers, although obviously pre-paid customers will need sufficient funds in their phones. (We personally have never been able to use the roaming service on a pre-paid Qtel hala card.)
Vodafone allows you to roam on 465 networks abroad, and again you can do so either on a pre-paid or post-paid network. Prices vary from QAR2 for local calls in some countries to QAR15/minute for some international calls.
With both networks, if you are on pre-paid you will need to top your phone up before you leave the country.
Qtel Family and Friends Service
This new service allows you to choose three international numbers. You will then be given a twenty five percent discount on the cost of those phone calls. At the time of writing this only available to GSM pre-paid customers, but there are plans for this to be extended to Hala (pay-as-you-go)customers. There is a set-up fee of QR10 and and monthly fee of QR25 (correct at time or writing.)
Mozaic Mobile is a Qtel website that gives you access to a mixture of free content (cinema schedules, news and sports stories and sports results) and paid content (java games, ringtones, sports sms alerts and so on). For those with 3G sets the following is also available:
When we rang Qtel we were told there would be a small monthly fee for using the service - not mentioned in Mozaic's FAQs, although it was a nominal amount. The cost of downloading content varies from QAR 1 to 10. When we tried using Mozaic with our hala card phone we found the real problem to be the cost of using the internet via our mobile phone, although these costs are set to come down.
To start using Mozaic, according to Qtel your handset must be configured to Qtel's network settings. To obtain this send an sms to 2072 with the message "All". Qtel will reply with a message containing the network settings. Save the message. The network settings will automatically be installed, Mozaic will become your home page and there will also be a bookmark named "Mozaic Mobile".
You can also obtain Mozaic Mobile by ringing Qtel customer service on 111.
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