When you start looking at various currencies in this part of the world you will spot the names riyal and rial popping up quite a few times. This version of the riyal is the one used exclusively and officially in Qatar. As you might expect it is a decimal currency, as most are nowadays. The subunit is the dirham.

What coins and notes are available for this currency?

All the coins for this currency are denominated in dirham, whereas the banknotes are all in riyal. This actually makes life easier for you when working out what you need to pay and what denomination it should be in.

There are five coins in use and these are the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 dirham coins. In contrast there are six banknotes, which are the 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 riyal notes. Each note is a different colour so this helps you get used to the different amounts and what they look like.

From past to present – the history of the riyal

The currencies that have been used in this part of the world have changed somewhat over the years. Qatar has only used the Qatari riyal since 1966. Before that the country used the so-called Gulf rupee, although this was actually a form of the Indian rupee. When this came to an end Qatar used the Saudi riyal for a while and then introduced their own version of the riyal in 1966. It has been in place ever since.

How to get hold of the Qatari riyal

It can be something of a challenge getting this currency, although you should be able to get your hands on some prior to leaving home. If not you can take some of your own currency to convert once you arrive in the country.

In fact many people recommend that you have cash on you and you don’t rely too much on finding cash machines. They are not that few and far between but they are slightly unreliable in that they don’t always accept foreign cards. You may find a machine and think you are in luck, only to find you can’t access any cash.

Another good way to get the cash you need is to take some traveller’s cheques. The riyal is pegged with the US dollar so you can take this currency in the form of traveller’s cheques and just cash them in whenever you need to. Of course you also have the option of looking for a bureau de change so you do still have plenty of ways to get some money when you need it.

How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Qatari riyal

If you want to see how far your own currency would go when changed into the riyal you can do just that by using a currency converter. Quite often the Qatari riyal is included among the list of currencies used on most converters. However if you use a more basic one it might be missing and in this case you’d have to find a more comprehensive converter that includes it. All converters will give you the basic conversion as seen on the currency markets but this is not the same as the conversion you will be offered in bureaux de change, so do remember this.

Qatar won’t appeal to everyone but if you are thinking of visiting the country you can find out some basic information on the embassy website for the country. The embassy is based in London but you can more easily visit the website at http://www.qatarembassy.info/.

Travelling safely with Qatari riyals

Qatar is generally a safe place to visit and even petty crime isn’t a major problem here, which is refreshing to know. Perhaps the only thing you should be careful about is travelling alone after dark, especially if you are a woman.

Other than that it makes sense not to flash too much cash or valuables around just in case. This is the best way to ensure you stay safe and enjoy your time in the country.

Where to spend your riyals in Qatar – and what to spend them on

Qatar is an Asian country and it shares a border with just one other country – Saudi Arabia. Qatar actually juts out from Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf. As such it has a lot of coastline and is probably as close to an island as you can get without actually being an island!

The capital of Qatar is a city called Doha. This is located on the eastern side of the country and it is a thoroughly modern city. Its skyline alone is very impressive but among those buildings you will find some great attractions to go and see. For example the Souq Waqif should not be missed as it is a market that can get very busy. If you are looking for a few unusual gifts this could well be the place to go.

Elsewhere the Pearl is notable for being an artificial addition to the city. It is an island and it has added even more coastline to the country. To find it you simply need to head to West Bay Lagoon and go from there. You can even stay on the island if you wish as there are hotels there as well as a range of entertainment.

If you are travelling to Qatar with children in tow you can head for Doha Zoo. There are hundreds of species here and they include elephants and giraffes. In fact this is just one of the attractions that will be good for you if you have kids. Others include Rumeila Park, which is free to enter and has a variety of activities to look forward to. However the best is undoubtedly the Aqua Park in Qatar as this offers a variety of water rides and activities to look forward to. Of course you’ll have to be pretty brave to try some of them! The slides are good fun but if you want something a little more sedate you can try the lazy river to calm things down a bit.

You may have read all that and assumed that the country is all about the capital and its many modern attractions. While this is a key part of its appeal, the country itself has more to offer as well. For example you can go back into the past and witness the Al-Jassasiya rock carvings among other things. No one is quite sure how old the rock carvings are but they are assumed to be at least 500 years old. Some believe they are a lot older than that. In truth we shall probably never know, but they are no less fascinating to see because of this. There are other similar sites around the country as well that are also interesting to see, such as Al-Wakra and Al-Jemail.

Another fascinating place to go is Zubarah. This used to be a thriving town but this is no longer the case. In fact the town is in ruins. It is located on the north western edge of the country and is right on the coast. This position was part of the reason why it was a popular base for fishing activities in the 18th century. However this is no longer the case and the town has fallen silent.

It is still good to visit for tourists though because it provides a fascinating look back into history. Zubara Fort is well worth a look, especially since it is nowhere near as old as you might imagine! It only dates from 1938 but its appearance would have you believe it has been standing for much longer than that. It is being restored though and looks set to remain standing so it does become an ancient site at some point!

Of course if you would rather be more active than simply wander around the best sights in the country, you might want to consider the idea of dune bashing. This isn’t as violent as it sounds – it actually involves being driven in a 4×4 over the sand dunes. This is probably unlike any other driving experience you have had before and it lasts a few hours so you’ll really enjoy every moment of it. It certainly provides one way to spend a few riyals while you are there.


Even if you hadn’t heard of the Qatar riyal before you read this article, you can see how easy it is to spend a few of them if you choose Qatar as your next holiday destination. With so many great places to go and things to do in the country, you cannot fail to be impressed by the opportunities it presents to you.

It is definitely a good idea to consider the areas you would like to visit before you plan your trip. Doha should definitely be on your list but this is only the beginning of what could be a memorable time in Qatar.

Qatar Riyal – QAR

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