Doha Taxis: Pay What You Want?

Filed Under: Travel

So I’ve spent the past couple of days in Doha (thanks for the condolences). The city is about as exciting as watching paint dry, and that’s being generous.


It’s somewhat rare that I take taxis nowadays. I always try to stick to public transportation or Uber when possible, as I find taxis to just be a pain. Either they rip you off or are so nice that it’s suspicious.

But I took three taxi rides in Doha, and all three of them left me confused. When I got in the taxis they didn’t turn on the meter. When I asked them to, they said “don’t worry about it, you just pay what you want.”


What is this, Lyft? At least unlike Lyft, no fisting was required (can’t say I’m really into fisting or sitting in the “front seat,” which is why I stick to Uber).

So I really wasn’t sure what to make of that. On one hand, they weren’t ripping me off, per se, so I can’t really fault them for it. At the same time, I didn’t know exactly how much taxi rides should cost (other than really cheap), so did “round up” based on my expectations.

What would you do in this situation? Should I have pushed and demanded that they turn on the meter, should I have just been happy they weren’t trying to directly rip me off, or should I have low balled them when it came time to pay, given that they’re trying to take advantage of passengers?

  1. In Russia, I usually make a take-it-or-leave-it offer. If they don’t like it, then they just leave. No tips, no meter. Every other car is a potential taxi.

  2. Off-Topic: When finished reading the article, in the “More from One Mile at a Time” section saw a “Reader’s Photo”. The good old days when you ran those contests. 😀

  3. Peru is an agree on the price before you get in the cab kind of place, so I was the one confusing cabbies when I’d get in. I don’t want to haggle over a $3 cab ride on a business trip, just start driving.

  4. It is fist bumping. Fisting conjures up alternate actions going on in the cab. Not approved for use in Qatar.

  5. This is similar to Egypt. You have to know the unpublished price between start and destination. Most Westerners pay American fares, which is too much…

  6. “Pay what you want” is a way to get you to overpay.
    If you pay too little I guarantee he will come up with a price.

    Actually when we were in Mumbai, India my sandals broke, but no worries, as anything in India can be fixed. So I stopped at a cobbler and he repairs the sandal in no time and then does the “pay what you want” but without knowing english. I act ignorant as possible (which is easy for me) and eventually he stops a lady who translates, “pay what you want”.

    So I said, “I don’t want to do that. What should I pay?”
    “What did you have done?” She asked and I showed her.

    She said “only that, 5 rupees” and the old man flipped. Well, he just started ranting and raving, and then she said, “he wants 20 rupees”, which is like 30 cents. Obviously I learned that it was 4x the local price, but I don’t give a darn at that price. I paid and he had a huge friggin smile and my sandals were like new.

    All that to say, they won’t let you underpay.

    “pay what you want” = let you overpay in ignorance.

  7. My three Doha experiences all had meters which they turned on when the left. To be fair two were from the Hyatt and one from the Crowne Plaza so perhaps that had an influence.

  8. Taxis in Doha are cheap, so it sounds like the driver was assuming your pay-what-you-want fare would be more than the official tariff.

  9. “can’t say I’m really into fisting”

    Your gay readers who find you attractive will either be relieved or disappointed to know that.

  10. You stick to Uber because of some sort of issue with fist bumping? That seems kind of odd. I think we can all agree that taxis have become little more than a legal shakedown racket in many parts of the world. I’d enjoy an actual comparison between Uber and Lyft and whoever else is helping to push the local Taxi lobby down a peg or two. Not just a one-off attempt but a legit comparison that included multiple trips.

  11. I actually like Doha a lot as a layover destination. Lots to do very close to downtown and airport. The Islamic art museum, souk, and waterfront are all nice quick trips. Not sure why you’d go in August except for the cheap rates.

    But I digress– the weirdest experience I had was when I was in a cab (no meter, obviously) and the driver just picked up another person! A total stranger!

    I was on the return leg of a trip I had already done once, so I gave him the same fare as on the outbound. He seemed OK with that.

  12. Add one more to the seriously confused camp regarding fisting. Thank you to the poster with the clarification above. I was quiet worried about foreign taxi and Lyft. Haha!

  13. Sitck to UBER… being living here for over 4 years and using normal taxis for several times… my only complaint is sometimes how run down the car is.

    Never had a problem with the driver using meters.

  14. Must say that’s rather unusual. Past experience in Doha has never put me in that sort of situation. I do agree on Doha though! Not much to do after the museum and the souq. It’s such a shame though considering how much investment they’ve placed in the airport. I hope they roll it over to the city

  15. guys, Ben provided all the clues. 2 boring days in doha, too hot to go outside, certainly a knowledge as to using proxy servers to access banned sites… ya know, the fisting genre is enjoying quite an upswing, as it were, and the quality of lotions in those 1st class amenity kits is superb (do i smell a trip report). it’s not difficult to see how thoughts of the lyft fist bump led the author to hearken back, subconsciously, to “elbow deep 5, shorties revenge”…

    now, for those wanting to experience a true taxi fisting, phuket is the place with their taxi mafia (though i hear the junta is cracking down on them).

  16. wwk5d says – “can’t say I’m really into fisting”

    Your gay readers who find you attractive will either be relieved or disappointed to know that.

    @wwk5d not so fast. He said he’s “not really” into it, which my take is maybe if he’s bored and had enough glasses of champagne he might do it.

  17. abby says “guys, Ben provided all the clues…”

    @abby you have to understand not every reader is astute are you are. Plus, Ben’s deliberately planted a few false flags along the way to throw readers off his trail. Remember the ambiguous “maybe we’re dating, maybe we aren’t” posts he used to make about a certain female employee of a certain asian carrier? Can you blame readers for their confusion?

  18. Subscribing for more #taxifistgate comments – I was confused as hell when I read the article, especially with this being in Doha!

  19. Wait, why is “front seat” in quotation marks? I’m beginning to think fisting wasn’t an innocent typo.

  20. who woulda ever thunk it – that a lame, mundane, kinda racist (first line) post would turn into #PureComedyGold … intentional or not, THiS is why we love your blog, Coins! I mean no other travel blog even comes close, cause even their interesting posts are kinda boring.

    I mean I was considering skipping this post all together but glad I didnt. cause even around the nooks & crannies here, yezzir, there’s entertainment guaranteed! haha although I suppose your readers play a big part towards that effect too.

  21. I always make a point to ask a local, such as the concierge, the going rate for my taxi destination. Often drivers don’t want to use the meter because they 1) can charge more by bargaining, 2) can get paid under the table, 3) aren’t legit taxis and are working for themselves, 4) anticipate traffic/convoluted route and don’t want to gouge you.

    IMO, “pay what you want” means they know you can afford it. Start with the lowest bill possible and go up until they realize you’re joking and they’ll stop you when it’s a fair price!

  22. I did a little search on the internet and it came up with the following on fares in Doha:

    Avg Range

    Taxi Start (Normal Tariff) USD $ 1.92 QAR 7.00
    Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff) USD $ 0.55 QAR 2.00
    Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff) USD $ 8.24 QAR 30.00

    Taxi Fare Calculator in Doha

    From Airport
    To Four Seasons Hotel

    Estimated Trip Price

    Distance: 13.7 km
    Duration: 14 mins
    Start Price: USD $1.92 QAR 7.00
    13.7 km x $0.55 : USD $7.52 QAR 38.54
    Waiting time (estimated 4.60 min): USD $0.63 QAR 2.66
    Overall price (estimation): USD $10.08 QAR 48.20

    Website address:

    maybe helpful and can get fares any city world wide. The above is Qatar specific

  23. @Adam – what’s racist about watching paint dry? Or condolences for being some place boring? I don’t get it?

  24. @Adam … Has the first line been edited in the ~20 minutes since your post? Or what’s “kinda racist” about “So I’ve spent the past couple of days in Doha (thanks for the condolences)”? I take it to mean Doha is boring–but so is, say, San Jose (where I live)–what’s racist about implying that? He’s not saying Qataris or Arabs or whoever is boring.

    As to “fisting”–I am so not going there …

  25. In Doha you actually need to arrange the fare before you take off…insist on the amount after you tell them the location, and that’s the fare you pay. : )

  26. In regards to taxis, I just want to get to my destination as safe and fast as possible. In countries where safety is an issue, I almost always just hire a hotel car to pick me up and drop me off at the airport.
    As far as agreeing on a price on a taxi without the meter, I’m fine with it since I feel that is an incentive to get me to my destination as fast as possible.

  27. I have taken Lyft a number of times here in NYC – no front seat, no fist bumping – just head to the back seat like a normal car.

    When it comes to taxis in general, certain cities have good taxi regulation (Hong Kong, NYC) while others don’t. I don’t have a set rule regarding taxi vs Uber/Lyft.

  28. Doha is a great place to be at.

    I agree with joey says. taxi drivers in doha don’t get paid salary they rent the cars for as much as $27 a day fuel the car etc

    so where do u think they will get such kind of money. the place is also full of ilegal taxis so
    as long as u give extra cash u will have it smooth.

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