How to exchange your British license in Qatar:

  1. Get an eye test. You can do this at the licensing centre, but to skip the queues you can pay (30QR) for this at an optician who will complete an application form for you, complete the test, and stamp over your photo.
  2. Get a taxi into the desert to the licensing centre.
  3. Go to the driving license section (door number 3).
  4. Wait for a man to give you a Qmatic number.
  5. Sit and wait for your number to be called.
  6. Go to the counter.
  7. Get told you need to have an eye test. Show your eye test, then get told it needs to be stamped.
  8. Leave the building, cross the car park, walk to the eye testing section (door number 7).
  9. Look confused and lost, get told to go down to the other end. Find optometrist playing on Blackberry (i.e. no queue). Optometrist informs you that you need a stamp, which they don’t have. Go back to main desk.
  10. Pay the man behind the desk another 30QR to supply a stamp. This is for the privilege to receive a date stamp and receipt number on your eye test.
  11. Receive a copy of A Driving Guide with road rules for Qatar. (A recommended read “Children are difficult to see because of their smaller size and they often do unexpected things. Drivers need to watch out for children at all times.” pg 67, A Driving Guide)
  12. Get told to go back to door number 3.
  13. Cross over the car park, avoiding the men asking if you need help with the process (they will take you around and charge you for this).
  14. Wait to receive a new number.
  15. Continue to wait because there’s no one there.
  16. Wait a bit longer before your hand finally slips behind the desk to press the button for yourself and another two people waiting.
  17. Sit and wait for your number to be called.
  18. Go to the counter.
  19. Hand over all of your paperwork (eye test, original and copies of your passport, license, and Qatari ID, a letter from your employer stating that you are allowed to drive (English & Arabic), and passport photos. Basically provide every possible thing to say who you are in original and duplicate form, with copies of front and back).
  20. The licensing rep will review your paperwork.
  21. The licensing rep will compare signatures on the English letter, the Arabic letter, and the company certificate to confirm you are are allowed to drive.
  22. The licensing rep will tell you the signatures don’t match, and one is missing.
  23. You will point out to the missing signature (it’s on the next page with the end of the letter), and that the signatures are the same, one is just bigger than the other.
  24. The licensing rep will tell you the signatures don’t match.
  25. You consider pressing the matter further, but decide against it as they’re just doing their job and following process.
  26. You walk away, exasperated.
  27. You email your employer telling them your tale of rejection and request a new letter.
  28. Your employer is shocked that their signature is no longer their signature, and welcomes you to Qatar.
  29. You receive new copies of your letter and start the process again. Hoping that this time, you will make it out with a new license.

Not to be used as an exact pathway to convert your license, but a humorous guide as to what you may encounter. Make sure you’re thorough and have every document you may possibly need – more is better, just in case!