Shipping goods to Qatar may not always be the smoothest of rides. Though many items are allowed in and some even exempt from tax, Qatar has strict customs laws.

The General Authority of Customs oversees and regulates the importing and exporting of all goods. Their official website and its Al-Nadeeb portal are key resources for advice on customs regulations, including what is allowed or prohibited, related tariffs and exemptions on shipping and removals.

Be sure about shipping to Qatar

Expats moving to Qatar should think carefully about what shipping and removals entail. Most housing is already available fully-furnished and additional furniture can always be bought in the country. It may not be worth the time and money of dealing with customs.

Inventory and documentation

When shipping in goods, a clear inventory detailing each item is necessary. Be sure to explicitly declare all items, including currency, and precious metals and stones. If an expat fails to comply or declare all their goods, they may face strict penalties, including heavy fines, confiscation of goods and even jail time.

We also recommend that expats make copies of all documents and keep them on file to facilitate the import and export process.

Hiring shipping and removals companies in Qatar

Packing up and having goods shipped over can seem complicated and if expats choose to go this route, the process requires several parties. This includes the packer, an overseas shipper, a clearing agent and companies specialising in storage, delivery and unpacking.

We recommend going through an accredited and reputable shipping company that includes insurance, and it might be best to consider a relocation company. If expats do want to import products into Qatar, these professional consultants can ease the process for their clients.

Despite some exemptions, duties add up, and processing and handling fees become expensive. We urge expats working in Qatar to negotiate a shipping allowance as part of their contract.

Shipping household items to Qatar

Fortunately, some categories are exempt from import taxes. Most importantly to expats, this includes personal effects and household items as well as items cleared for designated ‘free zones’.

If importing personal and household items, expats must provide proof of their residence visa valid for at least one year and potentially a letter from their sponsor indicating that these goods are not for resale. Usually, these items are only exempt to expats on their first time of residence in the country.

Otherwise, most items shipped into Qatar face customs duties and this is usually charged per unit or as a percentage of the value of goods. Duties for general cargo are around five percent.

Shipping vehicles to Qatar

One of the best ways of getting around in Doha is by driving, and many expats choose to own a vehicle or have one provided by their company. In some cases, expats may want to buy a car or ship one over from abroad. 

Car models older than five years are not allowed to be imported, and newer models require a certified clearance certificate from the country of export as well as an invoice detailing the car’s value.

Private motor vehicles must meet multiple standards, so it’s critical to check the most updated regulations on the Qatari customs website. In some cases, cars are only granted temporary admission for three or six months, potentially renewable based on a bank guarantee or deposit. Insurance is essential.

Shipping small-scale items to Qatar

There are a few reliable options for expats shipping small amounts of inventory or simple items such as documents and most major logistics companies and couriers, such as DHL, FedEx, Aramex and UPS, deliver to Qatar from abroad. Do note that Qatar does not use a formal postal or zip code system but residents normally use 00000 if it is needed.

While narcotics and illegal drugs of course cannot be imported, small amounts of legal, personal medicine can be brought into Qatar. Expats wanting to bring in medication need a prescription and can't bring in large quantities – only an amount deemed 'fit for personal use' by customs officials. This process may cause delays in shipments.

The Gulf country has an excellent healthcare system and certain medicines may be readily available in pharmacies and do not need to be brought in.

Items prohibited from import to Qatar

There is an extensive list of goods prohibited from being imported into Qatar, including:

  • Flammable goods
  • Radioactive materials
  • Ammunition and explosives
  • Narcotics
  • Goods from economically boycotted countries

The full list is available on the Qatari customs website. Note that customs officials at ports of entry usually have the final say on what can be imported or exported, and decisions can be made at their discretion, such as if they are deemed to violate censorship policy.