Each riyal is in turn divided into 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 dirham coins. There is a shortage of dirhams, and change in shops is often given in the form of sweets.
History of the Riyal
Until the 1950's Qatar, then a British protectorate, used the Indian Rupee, as did most of the other Gulf countries.
Then, in 1959, the External or Gulf Rupee was introduced. Rather than a deliberate change in policy, this resulted from a decision by India to isolate their currency. In 1965 Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain attempted to form a currency union.
This was unsuccessful, but Qatar and Dubai decided to form their own currency union. The currency was to be called the Qatar and Dubai riyal.
Meanwhile, the devaluation of the Indian Rupee, which was still linked to the Gulf Rupee, lead to Gulf Rupees were rapidly withdrawn and the Saudi Riyal was used until the new currency notes were ready.
The new currency lasted for seven years. After Dubai and Qatar had both achieved full independence, they terminated the agreement, and the modern riyal was introduced in 1973.
Currently, as in most Gulf countries, the riyal is pegged to the dollar in anticipation of eventual currency union.
This gives a stable exchange rate, although unforunately it has also lead to problems with inflation. This exchange rate has been set since 1974.
Exchange rate 1 dollar : 3.64 riyals The riyal currently appears to be undervalued.
There are a large number of ATMs in Qatar. However, some ATM's do not take all cards.
Most major credit cards, including MasterCard and Visa, are accepted.
Travellers cheques can be easily exchanged in banks and exchanges. Try to obtain cheques in dollars to avoid additional exchange rate costs.
Sending and receiving money
Given the large number of expatriates living here, all banks operate facilities for sending and receiving money.
With so many people sending money home, rates are extremely competitive when compared to Western countries such as the UK. Cheaper again are the exchanges which can be found throughout the city.
These exchanges usually operate a Western Union facility, enabling money to be sent and received instantly. All the exchanges are licenced by Qatar Central Bank.
Banking hours are 7.30 a.m. to 1.00 pm, although some branches are open in the afternoon. QNB branches in the City Center and The Mall are open on Friday (afternoon) and Saturdays, and HSBC's Al Sadd branch is open on Saturdays.
Exchanges are open seven days a week. Exchanges open every morning except (8am to 12 pm) and afternoons ((4pm to 8 am). They are closed on Friday mornings.
There are fifteen banks in total in Qatar, seven of which are Qatari owned. Of the latter, five are commercial banks and two are Islamic institutions. The sector is supervised by the Qatar Central Bank. Loans are easily available from banks, although the Islamic banks charge an arrangement fee instead of interest.