12 Things I've Learned in Qatar: #12 - Walk, Ride and Drive at Your Own Risk

>> Sunday, October 28, 2007

In a month I'll be a year old in Doha. I thought I'd look back and list the things I have learned the past twelve months in what I wittingly call: 12 Things I've Learned in Qatar.

#12 - Walk, Ride and Drive at Your Own Risk

A confession: the first time I rode a taxi in Doha, the driver charged me QR50 for a trip that, I later found out, would've cost only 15 bucks. It was one of those old yellow taxis. The good thing is that they're all phased out now.

After that incident, I began walking. City Center to Suoq: an hour and a half. Al Sadd to Bin Omran: 45 minutes. Al Rayyan to TV Roundabout: one hour. TV Roundabout to Corniche: 35 minutes. At first I tortured my feet but it didn't take long to build up my endurance. I've walked during the winter at 15 degrees, and midday summer at 45 degrees. The two main reasons would either be lack of money or lack of taxis.

As the months passed I realized that some private cars would double as cabs. It's tricky though; you have to know the usual fare to a particular destination because some of these guys overcharge if they smell tourist. Fortunately or unfortunately, there were some instances that the driver wanted a different fee. A kind brush-off usually does the trick and you get a free ride. There were also good samaritans, but I always get cynical when I think about those people.

I thought that with all the walking and ranting about Qatar's public transportation system I'd be begging for a car. Nah. At least once a week (and I'm being kind here) there's an accident in the city streets and chances are it's a major one. Hummers flying, Land Cruisers in total wreck, and smaller cars reduced to a tin can ready for recycling. The body count is constantly ticking despite the strong campaign on road safety (further reading on Qatar Traffic Accidents at Qatar Visitor). I've only driven once in Doha and it was a weird mix of freedom and certain death with SUVs impatiently beaming their headlights behind you, ready and perhaps eager to crush you unless you get out of the fast lane in three seconds. Once in a while, road-related statistics headline the papers, begging really, telling everyone to SLOW DOWN. That's not all. At the end of the day, you go online, run your plate number on the government's e-Service site and find out you've accumulated fines way past your monthly salary (of course I'm talking about my measly pay). Ouch. So, no thanks, I'll walk or take a crowded bus instead.

Qatar is a fast-developing country but maybe some drivers misunderstood the 'fast' part. The roads here are generally wide and well-paved but it seems that accidents are waiting to happen just around the corner. Those with vehicles should be luckier than us commuters, but somehow I feel safer walking than driving. If only Doha has a better public transportation system--LRTs, more taxis and buses, and better pedestrian walkways and shaded bus stops--going around the city would be more fascinating.

Now, if you're the kind of driver who has a death wish, please, kill yourself in the confines of your own home and help keep the roads of Doha safe.OUT

7 responses:

Gypsy 30 October, 2007  

Hmm...why does this post make me nostalgic about Manila?! Why?! Why?! ;)

Anonymous 31 October, 2007  

more often than not, walking (even on pedestrian roads) shall result to near-death experience.

yeah, i'm that pathetic when it comes to crossing streets and traffic laws.

Annamanila 02 November, 2007  

I heard about this too ... that drivers where you are are so devil may care.

A friend died in an automobile collision somewhere near where you are. Apparently, it was the fault of a native driver but apparently too a foreigner there is usually assumed the guilty party. My friend was flown back after a month and the family had to waive all claims of damages after a nervewracking time trying to collect.

intsik 03 November, 2007  

japs... u r really leaving... huhu paet! saon na lang. btw, i saw the pic. amazing!

HRHMax 06 November, 2007  

Hmmm...and people wonder why certain groups have developed a reputation for being bad drivers. I mean... nobody invented codes like DWA (Driving While Asian) for no reason. Looks like it's evolving into DWA = Driving While Arab!

pablo 07 November, 2007  

wtf? Filipino drivers would have thrived there. Me, i'd be dead in two days, kaskasero pud baya ko. hehehe

Jap 11 November, 2007  

Sorry for the late response guys =) been busy lately cause I'm coming home =)

GYPSY, nostalgic about Manila? Traffic ain't that bad here in Doha, so I don't know =)

MEL, careful now =)

ANNA, so sorry to hear that about your friend. See people, this is not a joke.

JOEIBOI, the pic I showed you is quite common here =)

MAX, gone are the days when women are tagged as bad drivers. You're telling me it's a racial thing now? hehehe

PABLO, there are Flip taxi drivers here, btw. And I have to say they are more disciplined than most drivers here. How ironic no?

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