Driving in Qatar: Staying Sane

Staying sane

I’ve given my advice on how to get comfortable on the roads in Qatar (hint: practice!) in a previous blog post, but what should you do once you’re safely (ha!) in the saddle? How can you make it through the daily dash to work, the crawl to Carrefour or the Friday night fury?

Here are some of the ways I kept my sanity.

Stay home

Or at least stay home at night. A study led by Qatar University showed that most accidents happen between 6 and 9 pm. So while it sounds boring, do give a thought to the times you choose to be on the road.

Buy a Tomtom

I’ve waxed lyrical about my love of my Tomtom before. Please read and then buy one. Use it. Love it. Extol it. Do not drive without it.

Live close to work

I give this advice to everyone who asks me about where to live. I think it’s so essential. And I’m a walking (driving?) case study. When I first moved to Doha I lived about 10 minutes from work. I later moved to be about 45 minutes from work. My level of contentment with my life in Qatar dropped and my stress levels increased dramatically after the move. Living somewhere like The Pearl can be luxurious, but if it means driving a longer distance to work, I personally don’t think it’s worth the fear and fatigue.

Leave 30 minutes for every trip

Once you do venture out, even if it’s a short trip, allow yourself at least 30 minutes to get from A to B. You do not want to be in a rush on Doha’s roads. The minute you start to rush is the minute you get stuck behind a utility vehicle with a camel strapped to it. Slow down and give yourself plenty of time.

Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are my ultimate driving hack. Once I started loading them onto my iPod, my daily commute became so much more bearable. Some days it was even enjoyable and I’d find myself disappointed that it was over because my podcast episode hadn’t finished yet!

In the mornings I liked listening to something that got my mind ticking, almost like a warm-up for work. I’d listen to podcasts that covered current events or industry topics.

On the way home I went for humour. I found approaching Slope Roundabout with a big grin on my face made the dance with near-death so much easier.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Current events: Hack by Triple J

From war to weather, drugs and dating, there is no topic that Hack doesn’t cover. This show will make you ponder, blush and giggle all in the same episode. As an Australian I found it a great way to stay in touch with life back home and global current events (which is difficult to do in Qatar).

This is my favourite podcast. Ever. Valerie and Alison are both mentors of mine (unknowing, of course) and hearing them chat to each other is better than music to my ears. If you want to hear two intelligent, funny people spill the deets on their many years in the writing and publishing industries then listen into this. You will not be disappointed.

The intro is very tacky, even offensive, and hyperbole abounds (“Facebook has been around forever”; “The whole world has read this guy’s blog”) but Michael has some great guests who deliver truly accessible and valuable advice on not just social media but business and working life in general.

Smarter than they lead on, Hamish and Andy will have you cracking up, even while you’re being tail-gaited.

Take a Coffee

In a bid to feel ‘at home’ in the car, I found that taking a hot drink along for the ride to work (even in summer) upped my relaxation levels. I invested in a good-quality thermos and factored the prep time into my morning routine. What, with that podcast playing and coffee in hand, you might as well be in a cafe! Just make sure you keep 2 hands on the wheel when you’re driving.

And with that, I’ll leave you with 2 pieces of advice that some friends gave me when I first moved to Doha:

  1. Buy the biggest, safest car you can afford.
  2. There is never, ever a need to be in the fast lane.

I also found this handout from Texas A & M University to be really helpful.


If you want to read more about driving in Qatar check out my thoughts on drink driving (just don’t), and how to get comfortable when you first start driving.

Image via Kate Gardiner.

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