Are you a collector that is interested in Qatar’s currency? Maybe you plan on traveling to the country and need some information on the Qatari riyal. Whatever the case may be, this article is for you.
Here, we will cover everything you could wish to know about the currency of Qatar – from basic information like its denominations and codes, to its history, and include some tips for using the riyal if you are traveling to Qatar. So let’s get to it.
The currency of Qatar is the Qatari riyal. It is a decimal currency issued by the Qatar Central Bank. The international currency symbol for Qatar’s currency is QR, while the ISO code is QAR. One Qatari riyal can be divided into 100 dirhams.
Note: Qatar’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, uses dirhams as its official currency. The UAE dirham and Qatari sub-unit dirham are not the same currency.
Currently, there are only 2 coins used in Qatar: the 25 and 50 dirham coins. As far as banknotes go, Qatar uses the following denominations of the Qatari riyal:
The first series of Qatari coins was issued in 1966 and it included coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 dirhams. The 1, 5, and 10 dirham coins have fallen out of use and only the 25 and 50 dirham coins, as we’ve mentioned above, are currently in circulation.
The first series of Qatari riyal banknotes was also issued in 1966 and included 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 riyal banknotes. The 1966 series of coins and banknotes was called the Qatar and Dubai riyal, due to an agreement signed between these countries (which we will talk more about further in the article).
The second series was issued in 1973 and named only after Qatar (thus changing the Qatar and Dubai riyal to just the Qatari riyal) – it excluded the 25 and 50 riyal banknotes and added a 500 riyal banknote. A new 50 riyal note was added in 1976. The fifth, and latest, series of Qatar’s currency was issued in 2020 and it included the 200 riyal banknote.
This leads us to the 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, and 500 QR banknotes in use today.
Although the history of the country now known as Qatar stretches far back into early history, in modern times, Qatar gained its full independence only in 1971, so the history of Qatar’s currency is relatively short.
Before the Qatari riyal, the currency of Qatar was the Gulf rupee. The Gulf rupee was issued by the Reserve Bank of India and was on par with the Indian rupee. The Gulf rupee was used in the British protectorates in the Arabian Peninsula – the modern-day countries of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE.
The gulf rupee was in use in Qatar from 1959 to 1966, when the Indian government chose to devalue the rupee, which led to these countries abandoning the rupee and starting to issue their own currencies.
However, before issuing its own independent currency, Qatar used the Saudi riyal (SAR) for a few months after abandoning the rupee. Finally, on the 21st of March 1966, Qatar signed the Qatar-Dubai Currency Agreement, which created the currency known as the Qatar and Dubai riyal.
The Qatar and Dubai riyal was on par with the Gulf rupee before its devaluation. To clear up any confusion, the agreement was between Qatar and the Emirate of Dubai, not the eponymous (and by now more famous) city of Dubai. Additionally, Dubai was not yet a member of the UAE at this point, as it only acceded in 1971.
The Qatar and Dubai riyal from 1966 was the first series of coins and banknotes issued by an independent Qatar. Although Dubai joined the Act of Union that formed the United Arab Emirates in 1971, it only adopted a uniform currency with the other emirates in 1973.
Consequently, Qatar’s currency was the Qatar and Dubai riyal until 1973. From May 19th, 1973, Qatar started issuing its own separate currency – the modern Qatari riyal (QAR), which is in use today. So, to summarize the modern history of Qatar’s currency:
From 1975 to 2001, Qatar’s currency was pegged to the International Monetary Fund&s special drawing rights. In 2001, Qatar introduced a fixed exchange rate – pegging the Qatari riyal to the US dollar at a rate of $1=QR3.64. This rate is part of Qatari law, not just a policy of the Qatar Central Bank.
However, in 2017, as a result of the Qatar diplomatic crisis (when Saudi Arabia, the UEA, Bahrain, and Egypt cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar), banks in these countries stopped trading with Qatari banks. This further led to an abandonment of the fixed exchange rate of the Qatari riyal to the USD in these countries.
Despite this, within Qatar, the Qatar Central Bank still held on to the peg to the USD. The crisis ended two years ago, in 2021, bringing back the peg of the riyal to the USD.
If you are planning a trip to Qatar, here are a few tips you can remember. Qatar is a modern state when it comes to the availability of ATMs, so you should have no issue withdrawing money. However, Qatari banks have unconventional work hours, at least compared to our standards – many are closed sometimes between 12:00 PM and 3:30 PM.
So, try not to find yourself in a situation where you need to withdraw money from a bank ASAP. As far as credit cards go, major ones like Visa and Mastercard are accepted in most larger shops.
That being said, withdrawing money from ATMs will incur rather large fees, while paying by credit card will force you to exchange money with relatively high margins. Further, if you plan on purchasing items in smaller, local shops, it’s advisable to keep some cash on hand as they may not accept cards. In total, having some cash on you is generally a wise move.
When it comes to the custom of tipping, Qatar is somewhat similar to the US – many establishments incorporate a service tip into the bill. However, you can always leave an additional tip if you are feeling generous.
And let’s end with a final tip – coffee is a big part of Qatari culture. It is somewhat rude to refuse a cup of coffee and the cup should always be held in the right hand.
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