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Moving to Doha

What Qatar may lack in size, it makes up for in diversity. Expats moving to Doha, the peninsula's capital city, where most Qatari residents live, will discover an emerging metropolis filled with people from every corner of the world. The multi-ethnic makeup of the city's population is reflected in both the social and professional spheres, and more than anything else, expats should be prepared to make allowances for the different ways in which people do things.

In that vein, the ratio of Qataris to internationals is incredibly skewed, with expats commanding an overwhelming majority. This often means that, while it is relatively easy to make friends at work or in the neighbourhood (the compound), the local community often stays away from the transient foreign population. 

Still, children can make friends and orientate themselves easily in one of the many excellent public or private international schools in Doha. Expats who engage with Qatari nationals and stay longer than the three-year average find that locals are hospitable and companionable, and open to cultivating friendships.

One of the first things expats notice in Doha is the towering cranes rising in the background of neighbourhoods, a clear sign of the city's race towards expansion. From its transport system and hospitals to parks and housing, the city never stops growing. The waterfront promenade called the Doha Corniche is the perfect spot for a stroll and to take in the coastal views as well as the skyline of high-rises and eye-catching architectural designs.

Expats living in Doha generally reside in housing provided by their employers and, though neighbourhoods are constantly changing, there are several key areas and suburbs to consider. Expats usually find a home in a high-rise apartment building or family-sized villa in walled neighbourhoods.

Regardless of the type of accommodation, the standard of living among both local and expat professionals is generally high, but so is the cost of living. New arrivals should be sure to negotiate an adequate salary package to cover all components of life in the emirate.

From tennis to the cinema, common recreation and entertainment options available in most other metropolitan cities abound – along with many other amenities that expats may not expect. There is so much to see and do for expats who are young, single or even part of a family with children, while annual celebrations and events offer a break from an otherwise long working day. 

One of the largest challenges expats living in Doha face is adapting to the extreme heat. Temperatures are high, rising above 104°F (40°C) between the summer months of June and August, and it's no coincidence that most annual vacations are between 30 and 45 days long and scheduled for this period. Making one’s lifestyle fit in with the climate is not simple, especially with children, though what’s key to summer survival is to plan getaways whenever possible.

That said, from October to May the climate is moderate and perfect for dining al fresco or playing several rounds of golf. In the winter, people are often surprised by the low temperatures and the lack of central heating.

Overall, an expat's experience is what they make it. Though most expats move to Qatar's capital city for work, many can find time for fun, as well as embracing the local culture and history. An open mindset ready to take on the challenges and opportunities that this futuristic city brings will make the transition to Doha life easier.

Cost of Living in Doha

With one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, Doha's cost of living might be expected to be quite high. On the contrary, it’s one of the more affordable Gulf-region destinations. The 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Index ranks Doha 109th out of 209 cities surveyed and shows that prices are competitive even among major world cities.

With tax-free incentives, the cost of living in Qatar's capital city can be quite attractive, but all this depends on the expat's employment package, their lifestyle choices and how they choose to spend their money.


Cost of accommodation in Doha

Accommodation in Doha is generally financed by an expat’s employer, and the type of housing arranged is based on the number of family members present.

Within expat compounds, rent often includes access to communal areas, such as a gym, pool and even mini-markets and nurseries. The prices of stand-alone villas are set by the landlord and/or owner. These tend to rise in cost annually, despite laws intended to protect renters. It is best to keep this in mind when arranging a lease.

There are areas in Doha where expats can own property. Among the most popular are the Pearl development project, a mix of commercial, retail and residential space (that includes apartments and villas) built on reclaimed land. Buying property is expensive and complicated, and most expats prefer to rent.


Cost of food in Doha

Qatar relies heavily on imports for nearly everything, from fruit and vegetables to meat and other goods, and food prices in Doha are therefore high. Buying local will always save a buck or two, and buying the brand names that expats recognise from home will always cost a pretty penny. It’s best to shop around for certain items, as they can vary by several riyals depending on the outlet.

There is a range of grocery stores, from the bargain favourite Carrefour to the more expensive Mega Mart, which tends to feature international brands and speciality items, such as organically farmed eggs. There are a host of neighbourhood shops and local establishments, such as Food World, Family Food Center, Al Meera, Lulu Hypermarket and Qmart. 


Cost of schooling in Doha

Some employee packages include schooling for children and many have a maximum number of children they will fund. Some policies afford school compensation for children from three years of age and others only from age five. These details vary, so it’s best to check with the expat's recruiter or the hiring business's human resources department from the onset of contract negotiations.

Expats should keep in mind that tuition at international schools is expensive and can increase depending on the child's age and if they are to be involved in after-school or extra-curricular activities.

The best schools and nurseries often have long waiting lists, so if expats are trying to decide between two schools or have a particular institution in mind, it’s best to get on the waiting list as soon as possible.


Cost of healthcare in Doha

Qatar’s Hamad hospital and clinic system provide free healthcare to nationals and residents. Expats need to obtain a health card either from the employer’s Human Resources office or via the hospital system directly to use these services. Emergency services are free, while visits to the government clinics without a health card will incur a fee.

Expats should note that, because everyone in the country does have access to these services, lines can be agonisingly long and the appointment system is not as punctual as in other countries.

There are a variety of private hospitals in Doha that offer excellent outpatient- and surgical care, and many expats have insurance policies included in their employment package that may cover the costs of these private service offerings. If such a policy is not included in the package, it can often be purchased from one of the private hospitals directly.

Expats can also pay in cash for services used, or obtain a similar policy via Qatar Insurance or similar companies in the city. That said, most complicated procedures and oncology are dealt with at Hamad, so if an expat does choose one of the other hospitals, a serious condition will likely mean a referral to specialists at Hamad, in which case a health card is essential.


Cost of transport in Doha

Doha has been upgrading their transport network in recent years and have well-established and maintained bus routes powered by Mowasalat. Buses, along with the new metro system and plans for developing an integrated rail structure, are a great and affordable way of getting around in Doha. Avoiding traffic by taking the metro also saves time.

Taxis, both private and public, are widespread. Public taxis are metered and while options such as Uber are also available, the costs do not differ greatly. During peak traffic hours, it's best to book a taxi in advance.

Quality used cars tend to have a high resale value in Qatar, and online platforms such as Qatar Living are updated regularly for more information on this. Car insurance varies based on the make and model of the car, as well as the number of accidents or traffic violations the owner has incurred. For those who own new cars, comprehensive insurance is required until the loan is paid off. In some cases, travel expenses may be covered by employment contracts, which may include initial flight tickets or even a car.


Cost of living in Doha chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Doha in January 2021. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

QAR 10,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

QAR 7,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

QAR 5,500

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

QAR 3,700

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

QAR 11.30

Milk (1 litre)

QAR 7

Rice (1 kg)

QAR 7

Loaf of white bread

QAR 5.30

Chicken breasts (1kg)

QAR 30

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

QAR 23

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

QAR 25

Coca-Cola (330ml)

QAR 3

Cappuccino 

QAR 18

Bottle of beer (500ml)

QAR 50

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

QAR 200

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

QAR 0.65

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

QAR 310

Basic utilities (per month for standard household)

QAR 340

Hourly rate for domestic help

QAR 31

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

QAR 2.10

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

QAR 2.50

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

QAR 1.75

Accommodation in Doha

Finding suitable accommodation in Doha is a priority for expats moving to the city. The task of manoeuvring one's way through the bureaucracy of a foreign property market can be challenging, and the accommodation scene in Doha is particularly developing rapidly in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Areas are constantly changing and accommodation is being upgraded – it can be hard to keep up, even for Doha residents.


Types of accommodation in Doha

Expats living in Doha will have a choice of accommodation options available for them depending on the neighbourhood or area they prefer. From villas and apartments to housing on sprawling, fully equipped expat compounds, new arrivals will be sure to find something to suit their individual needs.

Compounds are great for families to make friends with neighbours who share garden spaces and a swimming pool and can get to know each other. While some compounds offer standard and basic amenities, upscale luxury facilities abound in others, from gyms and tennis courts to restaurants.

Demand for compound accommodation is high, making it difficult to secure, but expats may find villas and apartments equally attractive. Freestanding villas also have a homely feel to them and those who can afford all the luxuries of living in Doha can enjoy a large house with a decent-sized garden. Additionally, apartments are often suitable for single residents and young professionals, though some have multiple bedrooms. 

Furnished vs unfurnished

Most accommodation in Doha comes fully furnished, which saves expats from having to ship their goods to Qatar. If this isn’t a preferred option, unfurnished and semi-furnished options are also available. Those who are interested may want to negotiate an adequate shipping and start-up allowance in their employment contract to cover furnishing costs.


Finding accommodation in Doha

For the most part, accommodation remains one of the main benefits included in the lucrative expat employment packages. This takes much of the hassle of manoeuvring the property market out of an expat's hands. 

Before moving, expats can familiarise themselves with available property and living options through online realty websites and platforms such as Qatar Living, JustProperty and Property Finder.
 
Expats who don't have the luxury of their employer's assistance in the search for property should enlist the services of a relocation company and a local real estate agent. These professionals have an intimate knowledge of Doha's property market and are often in a position to alert their clients to potential options before they are publicly advertised. Agents also help foreigners negotiate any language barrier in Qatar and can have any necessary documents translated.


Renting accommodation in Doha 

Most expats rent accommodation, rather than buy property, in Doha. Both the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and the Real Estate and Residences Registration Office oversee and manage matters on leases and land investments in Doha. When renting accommodation in the capital, expats must enlist real estate agents who ensure necessary documents get certified and registered through the correct governing body.

One of the main things to understand is Qatar’s culture. This influences the way of living as well as laws, and as such, couples cannot live together unless they are married. When looking into renting in Doha and moving to Qatar, do consider this. 

Leases

If the employer is organising an expat's accommodation, they will negotiate the lease with the landlord. If not, expats should expect to pay one year’s rent upfront or in quarterly instalments. This is a large fee and not something to be taken lightly, though, over the stipulated lease period, rent cannot increase.
 
Rental contracts in Doha are drawn up in Arabic and expats will receive a copy translated in English or their home language.

Deposits

Deposits are normally a month and a half's worth of rent.

Utilities

Tenants are normally responsible for paying utilities. 

It is essential to receive an inventory detailing the standard of facilities in the accommodation and the available utilities. This ensures landlords and tenants know who is responsible for utility fees or general maintenance issues and it avoids any conflicts when expats leave after their lease is up.

Notice periods

Expats must usually give two months notice but face high penalties for breaking a tenancy contract. When negotiating with a landlord, make an effort to understand what happens in the event of early termination.

Areas and Suburbs in Doha

The best places to live in Doha

Doha, the capital and business hub of Qatar, boasts an assortment of diverse communities mixed together within different areas. Occupation, budget and length of contract usually dictate where an expat will live, but this isn’t always the case.

For those expats whose employers won't provide them with accommodation, choosing which of the areas and suburbs in Doha to live in is a process that demands some practical consideration. Rather than searching for tree-lined lanes and quiet neighbours, choosing an area of the city close to the main income earner’s place of work should take priority.

Doha is situated between several smaller hubs, such as Al Khor and Ras Laffan to the north, and Mesaieed to the south. These towns offer accommodation to expats who work in the oil and gas industry, or who are employed by the ever-expanding ports in those areas. Expats living in these communities can expect a highway commute of approximately 35 to 50 miles (56 to 80km) to the capital. This means that sometimes even those employed by these sectors prefer to find accommodation closer to the amenities and energy of Doha.

Ultimately, whether in a compound, a free-standing villa or an apartment, one thing stands out when choosing accommodation in Doha – traffic. Schools and shopping malls are well situated to service all areas but, bearing traffic in mind, travel time becomes a major concern when choosing a place to live.

Doha has an area suitable for every expat – be it those who prefer luxury living, coastal views and proximity to traditional markets, or expats who lead a healthier and more active lifestyle, or those expat families with children. We list some of these areas below.


Waterfront living in Doha

Elissar Haidar

West Bay/Al Dafna

West Bay is home to most of the foreign embassies in Doha and a fair amount of diplomatic accommodation in the aptly-named Diplomatic Area. High-income families in Qatar can mostly be found in this area, living in the large, ostentatious villas that line its two-lane main roads. West Bay is serviced by the City Centre Mall, perfectly situated in the financial district surrounded by high-rise buildings. West Bay is filled with Doha’s best attractions, and its classy yet vibrant feel makes it a popular place to stay, eat out in and enjoy a performance at the renowned Qatar National Theatre.

The Pearl-Qatar

Where the trendy live and play, The Pearl-Qatar is a portion of reclaimed land off the Qatar peninsula. The presence of high-end apartment buildings with luxury shops and restaurants makes this a sought-after area for high-income expats and Qataris alike. Access is made easy by a double lane road in and out. Upmarket jetties secure mooring space for large yachts.

Al Wakrah

Just south of Doha, Qatari residents will find the city of Al Wakrah. This city offers an escape from the ‘big city’ life in the form of a more relaxed atmosphere along the coast. Still, all the amenities and services required by an expat can be found here, including banking, schools, mosques and healthcare facilities.


Family life in Doha

Abu Hamour

In Abu Hamour, there’s a good mix of compound accommodation and free-standing villas, and easy access to most schools makes this area popular for teachers. The wholesale market, which includes a fish and animal market, is situated near here and, unfortunately, on hot windy days, a less-than-pleasant smell has been known to permeate the surrounding area. 

Al Gharafa

Al Gharafa is a large area in the city of Al Rayyan, surrounding Doha. It has an eclectic mix of free-standing villas, compounds and apartments. It is close to most of the major shopping centres and main roads, and affords residents good access to Education City. For this reason, it’s become a popular area among expats who work for government agencies, such as the Qatar Foundation or Qatar University. It’s great for families as it is a stone's throw away from Madinat Khalifa North, which is full of schools and preschools, including Compass International School

Al Sadd

Al Sadd is one of Doha’s oldest districts and is filled with families and various malls including Royal Plaza Mall. This spot is just outside the more crowded inner city and is well located next to Hamad Medical Centre.


Shopaholics in Doha

Rowen Smith

Musheireb

Musheireb, also written as Mushayrib, is a busy downtown area close to the business district and the main market area, Souq Waqif. An older area with many dated apartment buildings and aged flats, it’s characterised by narrow roads and small shops, and claims high foot and vehicle traffic.

Al Jasra

Neighbouring Mushaireb, Al Jasra is in the heart of Doha. Filled with the energy of Souq Waqif, Doha’s largest market, Al Jasra offers walks along the Corniche and accommodation with a view, usually suited for short-term stays in hotels.


Sports fans in Doha

Deepak Siva

Duhail

Duhail is a quiet area far from the hustle and bustle of the traffic-filled Doha centre. Its proximity to major highways and newer free-standing villas makes this a popular area for people working in Ras Laffan. Duhail meets the needs of a variety of expats, given its well-designed sport’s club and nearby Qatar University.

Al Waab

Nestled in between the municipalities of Doha and Al Rayyan, Al Waab is an aesthetically pleasing area, being close to Aspire Park and the popular Villagio Mall. Though Al Waab is further from the Doha Corniche, Aspire Park provides a perfect outdoors environment for walking and jogging, or a simple picnic. All Waab also boasts easy access to most of the major routes. Both modern family compound accommodation and well-maintained free-standing villas are found here. Traffic is sporadic depending on school times and events held at the Aspire Park sports dome.

Lusail

Further north of Doha along the coast, Lusail is a city in the making. While public transport links to Lusail are still developing, the city, just north of Doha, offers luxurious accommodation options as well as amenities. Football fans can enjoy staying close to Lusail Stadium, which is planned for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Qatar is a small country and so driving between cities, such as Lusail and Doha, makes for a short commute.

Healthcare in Doha

Thanks to a developed system of healthcare in Qatar, expats and locals can easily access a range of high-quality public and private medical options in Doha.

Perhaps most significantly, the Hamad General Hospital in Doha's west side is a government-sponsored, state-of-the-art facility that provides free and subsidised healthcare to holders of the official Qatari Health Card. Non-holders will have to pay for routine check-ups, although service is free in the case of medical emergencies.

Close to the Hamad General Hospital is the Women's Hospital, which originally opened in 1988 to address the specialised medical needs of women in Qatar.

There are three other key government institutions located close to each other. Rumailah Hospital is one of the three which, while not catering for emergencies, specialises in convalescence, rehabilitation and treating the elderly, among other things. Close by are the National Center for Cancer Care and Research and the Heart Hospital, which specialises in the treatment of adults with heart conditions.

See below for a list of public and private hospitals in Doha.


Public hospitals in Doha

Hamad General Hospital

Website: www.hamad.qa
Address: Hamad Medical City

Rumailah Hospital

Website: www.hamad.qa
Address: Al Khaleej Street

Women's Hospital

Website: www.hamad.qa
Address: Al Rayyan Road, Hamad Medical City


Private hospitals in Doha

Al-Ahli Hospital

Website: www.ahlihospital.com
Address: Ahmed Bin Ali Street

Al Emadi Hospital

Website: alemadihospital.com.qa
Address: Al Hilal West Doha

Doha Clinic Hospital

Website: dohaclinichospital.com
Address: New Al-Mergab Street, Frieg Al Nassr

Education and Schools in Doha

Education in Doha is of a world-class standard and is more than adequate for most expats. A wide range of private international schools in Doha is available, which cater to a variety of needs and follow various curricula from all over the world, including British, American, French and German.

While there are Qatari schools in Doha which expat children are eligible to attend, most parents opt to send their children to international schools. These offer a smoother transition for those accustomed to studying a particular curriculum from their home country. Some parents in Doha prefer homeschooling, although legislation on this issue is ambiguous, which presents its own challenges.


Public schools in Doha

Public schools in Doha receive government funding and provide free tuition to all citizens and eligible expat students. Most students are Qatari, although expats with the right connections might find they can secure a place. The quality of education at these schools is excellent and they are a good option for foreigners who are looking to settle down in Doha in the long-term and want their children to be integrated into Qatari society. 

Public and independent schools share the same compulsory subjects: Arabic, English, maths, science and Islamic studies. Overseen by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, public schools include preschool, primary school (grades one to six), preparatory school (grades seven to nine) and secondary school (grades 10 to 12).

At secondary school, students can select either general education or specialisations in a technical school such as those for banking, business administration, and science and technology.


International schools in Doha

Even though the standards of local schools are good, most expat children attend private international schools in Doha. There are various curricula, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), British, American, German, French and Indian systems. Most families choose a curriculum similar to the one in their home country, while families who move frequently often prefer the IB curriculum.

When choosing a school, parents must consider transport options and whether their children’s qualifications will be internationally recognised. Rush hour in Doha means that children can spend hours travelling to and from school, and not all schools provide a bus service. Living close to school makes it easier on expat kids and their parents.

Expats should also make sure that a school is accredited by Qatar National School Accreditation (QNSA) and recognised in their home country.

Education in Doha can be a significant expense, so parents should try and negotiate school fees into their contract or ensure that they budget carefully. We recommend that parents plan well in advance to secure a place for their child as waiting lists are long and various documentation is required.

Documents normally include visa and residence permits, previous school records, records of the child's health history, a letter of recommendation and sometimes on-site entrance exams.


Nurseries in Doha

Expats with young kids can easily find a nursery to suit them, either public or private, and in some cases linked to a larger international primary and high school.

Qatari kindergartens encourage children to be active and creative, aiming to help them grow and develop their personality. Nurseries in Doha offer high-quality educational and play materials with experienced teachers. Young children are unlikely to face language barriers as they learn both English and Arabic in public nurseries, while private daycares cater to additional languages.


Special needs education in Doha

Empowering persons with disabilities is one of Qatar’s top priorities, and this includes quality integrated special needs education in mainstream classrooms where possible.

In most cases, schools, both public and private, tailor support services to meet diverse needs. This involves students with learning-, physical- or developmental disabilities as well as students with behavioural, emotional and communication disorders, including students with autism and intellectual disabilities.

Comprehensive and integrated teaching incorporates adapting curricula, introducing and engaging with specialised materials and technology, as well as support from specialists and all teaching and school staff.

Though schools are becoming increasingly integrated, depending on the severity of the child’s disability, there are specialised schools that specifically cater to students with disabilities. Specialised schools include Al-Hidaya schools for students with intellectual disabilities and separate schools for students with hearing impairments.


Homeschooling in Doha

Some parents avoid the admissions process and decide on homeschooling in Doha. Doha Home Educators (DHE) has been pivotal in creating an organised network for homeschoolers in Doha and regularly organises classroom lessons, activities and events. Given the vague homeschooling regulations for expatriates in Qatar, DHE advises parents to follow the regulations of their home country.


Tutors in Doha

Tutoring in Doha, like elsewhere around the world, is a popular and growing industry. There are many online platforms to use to find tutors for a wide spectrum of subjects and curricula – some tutors may focus on IB or IGCSE and A-Levels, while others focus on the Qatari curriculum. TeacherOn and MyPrivateTutor are among the commonly used online platforms.

International Schools in Doha

There is a wide range of international schools in Doha catering to the city's large expat population. These schools follow various curricula from all over the world, including British, American and the International Baccalaureate (IB). Expat children at these schools can continue with a familiar curriculum and be around other expat children who understand the difficulties of moving to a new country.

International schools usually carry high fees, but in return, teaching standards are usually excellent, with small classes and high-quality facilities being the norm.

Below is a list of some of Doha's most prominent international schools.


International schools in Doha

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ACS Doha International School

ACS Doha International School strives to provide a unique and well-rounded education to its students, with an emphasis on exploring and developing every child's academic, social, emotional and physical potential.

The highly regarded International Baccalaureate and American curricula are offered at ACS Doha International School. As part of the ACS International Schools Group, ACS Doha International School has strong links with its three sister schools in the UK.

With a purpose-built campus situated in the Al Gharrafa district, ACS Doha International School has all the facilities needed for a high-quality education. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

American School of Doha

With more than three decades of history, the American School of Doha is a prestigious and well-regarded school. The school's student body is upwards of 2,000, and is made up of students from more than 80 countries around the world.

The American School of Doha's campus is easy and convenient to reach, being just 15 minutes from central Doha. The purpose-built campus includes facilities such as Wi-Fi, computer labs and ceiling-mounted LCD projectors in each classroom. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Blyth Academy Qatar

Blyth Academy Qatar is an active international school that embraces diversity, celebrates differences in cultures and engages students in their learning.

The school's population ranges from ages 4 to 18 and is made up of students from more than 40 different countries around the world. Class sizes have an average of 20 to 22 students, ensuring that teachers are able to give individualised attention to students.

The curriculum offered at Blyth Academy Qatar satisfies education requirements for both the province of Alberta, Canada, and Qatar. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Alberta)
Ages: 4 to 18

Compass International School Doha

Compass International School Doha is one of Qatar’s leading schools, providing the very best of British and international curricula for over ten years. The school places a high value on teaching with compassion and aims to provide a nurturing environment so that children are able to reach their full potential.

As a member of the Nord Anglia group of schools, Compass International School Doha has access to a wealth of resources, including collaborations with world-renowned institutes such as The Juilliard School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UNICEF. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Primary Curriculum, English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of London, Qatar

International School of London, Qatar (ISL) opened in Qatar in 2009. The school is an International Baccalaureate World School authorised to offer the prestigious IB curriculum at all levels – Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma.

While teaching is in English, ISL believes in the importance of maintaining children's home language. From age four onwards, mother-tongue students are taught in their home language five times a week. Currently supported languages include French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Dutch and many more. There is also support available for those speaking English as a second language.  Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate 
Ages: 3 to 18

Qatar International School

Founded in 1977, Qatar International School (QIS) holds the distinction of being the country's oldest international school. QIS has a large and diverse student population of around 1,900 students hailing from over 50 countries around the world. The teaching staff is largely British and the school's campus is home to purpose-built facilities. These include a swimming pool, a large sports hall and a number of subject-specific rooms for art, music and science. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

Sherborne Qatar

Sherborne Qatar is the daughter school of the prestigious British school of the same name founded in 1550. While the school has its roots firmly in its British heritage, Sherborne Qatar's community is truly multicultural. The school aims to produce happy children who are independent thinkers. 

Sherborne Qatar offers high standards of education and is a proud member of the Qatar Ministry of Education's Outstanding Schools Programme. The full British curriculum is offered, from Early Years to A-Levels. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Doha

It's safe to say that the lifestyle in Doha revolves around two things: money and the weather – and it won't be long before expats realise that both have an impact on nearly everything in this Gulf state.  

It's no secret that Qatar, in its modern form, is built on its vast gas and oil reserves. The skyline of Doha is growing at a breakneck pace, and signs of its new wealth are evident everywhere one goes, from super cars on the roads to VIP shopping experiences in the city's many luxury malls.

The growth in the population of expats working in Qatar is a necessary part of its development and there's an ever-increasing number of activities to keep those relocating here occupied.

Sightseeing may not be high on the list of things to do in Doha, but the Qatari capital does offer enough to keep a family busy, for a little while at least. Apart from the many things to see and do in Doha, a short one-hour road trip will take expats to the northwest of the country. Visitors will find an abandoned fishing village and Al Zubara Fort, a military fortress built in 1938. After spending just a little time here, it is not hard to imagine what life would have been like for this recently modernised Bedouin society.

All things considered, though, Qatar remains a conservative country. It's an Islamic state and residents must abide by local laws and respect the Muslim mandate. Access to alcohol is restricted, the dress code in public areas must be respectful and any public displays of affection are ill-advised.


Shopping in Doha

When temperatures skyrocket and all options at home have been exhausted, there is always a mall nearby where a few hours can be passed. With new malls continually opening as well as unique traditional souqs (local bazaars and marketplaces), shopaholics won’t be disappointed.

Villagio Mall, Landmark Mall and City Centre Mall are among the most popular hang-outs. Most Western brand names are represented, along with the usual fast-food outlets; this is by far the most popular weekend pursuit for local and expat residents alike.


Nightlife and eating out in Doha

Don't be fooled by the conservative culture into thinking there is no nightlife in Doha. Expats looking for something to do at night in the city will find plenty of options. Most international hotels have a selection of bars and nightclubs, although the dining options do outnumber the drinking ones.

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has opened restaurants in Doha, and though there are only a few live music venues, many hotels and restaurants downtown offer contemporary and trendy dining experiences.

Menus of all cuisines are ready to be served and for a more traditional dining experience, expats can embrace the café culture that made this region famous. Souq Waqif has an array of cafés and restaurants that offer a vast selection of regional cuisine, Arabic coffee and shisha.


Outdoor activities in Doha

Expats should note that the weather seriously affects Qatar's residents. Summer months are a challenge, and July and August are characterised by especially scorching temperatures and high humidity. Outside activities in summer aren't an option, and during this time a lot of Doha's inhabitants move elsewhere to escape the warmest weeks.

Winter is an altogether more refreshing prospect. Dune bashing, camel racing and fishing excursions aboard traditional dhow boats are only a few of the invigorating options available. From October onwards, many hotels have weekly beach parties with international DJs and other live acts. For those wanting a more laid-back time, it's possible to pack a tent and head out to the desert for a night sleeping under the stars. There is something quite magical about watching the sunrise over the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf.


Sports in Doha

Aside from the excitement for the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup, Qatar's residents can partake in a range of sports. In fact, Qatar has dedicated a day specifically to promote a healthy lifestyle: their public holiday National Sports Day in February.

Avid cyclists can join a cycling group and get their whole family involved in events associated with the Qatar Cycling Federation. Sandboarding is a popular sporting activity, especially among younger residents, and major tennis and golf tournaments are among Doha's annual events.

If expats look for a sporting activity to pass the time over a weekend in Doha, they are sure to find something.

See and Do in Doha

A modern city still influenced by a traditional Arabic past which resonates through its sights and sounds, there are many family-friendly attractions for expats to see and do in Doha. Various markets will excite the senses, and the city is also dotted with great nightlife spots where working expats can let their hair down after a long day at the office.

Have a look at some of the main attractions, theme parks and souqs in Qatar's capital city.


Recommended attractions in Doha

Expats who want to explore the rich Middle Eastern culture of Qatar will have no shortage of interesting sights to see. Below are some of the must-see attractions in Doha. 

Museum of Islamic Art

The Museum of Islamic Art can be found at the edge of Doha Port and was designed by respected architect, IM Pei. The museum is built to look like a fortress with its own moat and avenue of palm trees. Expats who visit the museum will find the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, as well as a gallery, library and restaurant. 

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

This museum, about 12.4 miles (20km) outside of Doha, houses exhibitions and collections with over 15,000 artefacts. There are designated halls displaying Islamic art, manuscripts and verses of the Qur'an, as well as collections of vehicles and coins and currency. Qatari heritage is also showcased at the museum with displays of Bedouin textiles.

Katara Cultural Village

Katara Cultural Village was created to resemble a traditional Qatari settlement. Expats can go there to shop, eat and experience traditional Qatari life. Many festivals and conventions are held here, and expats can visit the planetarium, buy local arts and crafts, clay pots and jewellery, as well as see how they are all made.  

Doha Corniche

The Corniche is a picturesque part of Doha. It is a leafy green area right on the shores of the Arabian Gulf. Expats can walk or jog on the long promenade at the water's edge and there are grassy areas and parks where children can play while their parents enjoy the view of the ocean. The Corniche has beautiful flowers and date trees to picnic under, and there are also cafés and museums to enjoy. 

Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque is near the Corniche, Falcon Souq and the Amiri Diwan Palace and is one of the biggest mosques in Qatar. The Grand Mosque combines traditional and modern architecture, with large yet elegant domes and structures. This is a must-see for expats wanting to experience a beautiful part of Islamic culture. 

Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art

This museum is in Education City and contains the art collection of Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani. It is now headed by his daughter, Sheikha Al-Mayassa. The collection contains Arabic pieces from as far back as 1840 and also contains a variety of more modern artworks, including exhibitions by some of the best-recognised artists in the world. Supervised tours can be organised by visitors and for educational excursions.


Theme parks in Doha

There are some theme parks in and around Doha which offer a great day out for the whole family.

Aqua Park Qatar

Aqua Park is an exciting water park which makes for a great activity for families during the scorching summer months in Doha. There are slides, a surfing machine, wave pool, lazy river and a pool for toddlers. Expat women looking for something to do can visit here anytime and Tuesdays are known as Ladies Day, where boys taller than 3.9 feet (1.2m) aren't allowed in. The park also recommends Islamic swimwear on these days as a mark of respect, although many women wear Western swimwear on other days. 

Gondolania 

Want to visit the largest family entertainment destination in Doha? The fun at Gondolina is never-ending, with an indoor theme park, Olympic-sized ice-skating rink and a gondola boat ride. Doha residents of all ages can indulge in a range of activities, from bowling and bumper cars to go-karts and a 4D cinema or simply a meal at an upscale restaurant.


Souqs in Doha

Souqs are Arabic markets that provide residents and tourists alike with a great place to do their day-to-day shopping as well as buy some memorable souvenirs. 

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif is over a century old and used to be a trading post for the Bedouin and local tradesmen to bring their livestock, pearls and spices, among other key products. While it has changed a lot over the decades, it maintains a look of a traditional souq to attract tourists. Expats shopping at Souq Waqif will be able to buy traditional Qatari dress, perfumes, incense and spices. Expats can also take a break from shopping and enjoy a cup of mint tea at one of the cafés.

Extending from Souq Waqif, shoppers will find the Gold Souq and Souq Al Dira. The Gold Souq is the place to visit to find beautiful jewellery and precious metals in Doha, while clothing and fabrics can be bought at Souq Al Dira.

Falcon Souq

This large souq is almost an extension of Souq Waqif. It showcases traditional Qatari culture and specialises in hunting and falconry, two very important parts of Qatari heritage. Expats will have an opportunity to explore this interesting part of life in Doha as many shops sell hunting paraphernalia and have exhibitions with trained birds, and

The wholesale markets 

Many wholesale markets lie between Salwa and Haloul streets in Doha. There is a vast collection of markets and shops in this area, though countless stores and boutiques can be found throughout the city too. Expats can buy vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood and herbs and spices. Expats will also find rarer delicacies such as desert truffles at these markets. These markets are a good place to bargain and buy groceries at a good price, so a great way for expats to save money while living in Doha.

What's On in Doha

Doha has a brimming events calendar, and expats can experience the Middle Eastern city's blend of rich Arabic and cutting-edge modern culture all year round. Something is always going on that will allow expats to learn more about and enjoy some of the nuances of Qatari culture, while also offering more Western events such as golf, tennis and a motor show.

Below is our list of events and festivals in Doha that aren't to be missed.


Annual events in Doha

Qatar Open Tennis Tournament (January)

The Qatar Open Tennis Tournament is a world-class sporting event that draws top tennis stars to the Middle Eastern country every year and attracts many tourists to Doha who come to watch their favourite players in action. 

Qatar Masters Golf Tournament (March)

The Qatar Masters Golf Tournament is part of the PGA European Tour and brings some of the world’s top golfers to Doha. The tournament is played at the Doha Golf Club, a world-class golf course that is known for its high difficulty rating. One of the world’s most popular golf tournaments, it is especially popular with tourists and expats living in Doha. 

Qatar International Food Festival (March)

The Qatar International Food Festival is an annual event that turns the Museum of Islamic Art Park into a culinary playground for four days. Food-loving festival-goers sample some of the best food in Doha, the Middle East and the world, and can enjoy demonstrations and shows by celebrity chefs.

Qatar Motor Show (October)

This festival, normally lasting five days, is heaven for any car enthusiast. The Qatar Motor Show includes outdoor driving and motorbike events on the festival’s private circuit as well as exhibitions showcasing classic cars and futuristic designs. The dates of the Qatar Motor Show have changed over the years, though it has taken place in October in recent years.

Ajyal Youth Film Festival (November)

This festival promotes young filmmakers and their inspirational creativity, and ‘ajyal is Arabic for ‘generations’, highlighting how the festival encourages Qatar's residents of all ages to come together and attend the cinema. Following a different theme every year, it is one of the largest annual events in Qatar. The Ajyal Film Festival promises great family entertainment and the chance for parents and children to meet actors and directors, and even sit on judging panels. 

Souq Waqif Spring Festival (December)

This is a family-friendly festival that includes circus performers, magicians, music, puppet shows and animal shows. There are also some quirky performers and even an opportunity to bungee jump. This is an event that expats with children shouldn’t miss. 

Getting Around in Doha

The modes of travelling in Doha are varied and its public transport is developing at an astonishing rate, yet driving remains the most common way for both expats and locals to get around. Of course, one of the main drivers behind the quick development and expansion of the city's public transport network is the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Taxis are used extensively by residents, but many expats who move to the city have private vehicles and often a personal driver too.


Public transport in Doha

Described as a futuristic city, Doha's rapidly expanding amenities and its quickly developing transport infrastructure promise exciting prospects for the city, Qatar and the Gulf region at large.

Public transport consists of buses, the recently established metro, plans for a light railway system and taxis.

Buses

Public buses in Doha were introduced by the state-owned company, Mowasalat. They can be used to get around the city and commute to work but, for the moment, many expats still opt for their private car and driver.

The buses are turquoise in colour and many start and end their routes at the main bus depot in the city centre, although various routes that go to the outskirts of Doha are available.

Bus fares can be paid with a Karwa smartcard and there are three main options, namely the Classic card, which can be used long-term and recharged when necessary; the Limited card, which is limited to two journeys within 24 hours; and the Unlimited card, which allows limitless journeys within 24 hours.

Smartcards can be topped up and bought at Doha Bus Station, the airport, Qatar Mall and various other locations.

Metro

Doha began opening and operating the metro system in 2019 for more efficient transport around the city and suburbs, and to avoid the chaotic traffic on the roads above. 

The lines branch out from the largest station, Msheireb in Downtown Doha, and connect with Hamad International Airport, and continuous plans for extension aim to connect the city centre with surrounding suburbs.

Doha’s metro is efficient, air-conditioned and clean, while the regularly-updated Qatar Rail app and website are useful references for information on schedules (which are subject to change), as well as allowing passengers to register and top up their travel cards.

Trains

The Lusail Light Rail Transit system is very much a work in progress but watch this space. Lusail, which is a planned city itself, not yet complete, aims to be reached by Doha’s metro and the proposed railway network. 


Taxis in Doha

People who don’t have cars in Doha often use the city’s turquoise taxis as their primary form of transport. They are mainly publicly managed Karwa taxis, but Uber and other private taxi companies also operate in Doha.

The problem with taxis is that there aren’t enough to accommodate all the people needing to use them. Expats who do manage to get a taxi will find that they are mostly clean, metered and well-regulated by the government. Unfortunately, taxi drivers don’t always know their way around the city, which isn’t helpful and can make it difficult for new arrivals to find their way around. 

While hailing a taxi off the street may not always be possible, the Karwa app and website provide ride-hailing services and contact numbers.


Driving in Doha

Many people believe that the most unsafe place in Doha is on its roads. Driving in Doha can be a harrowing experience, with locals and foreigners alike tending to drive fast and recklessly, which is why many expats choose to hire drivers instead of braving the roads themselves. Traffic is at its worst in the early morning around 6am and late afternoon as most people commute to work and back home. 
 
Motor vehicle accidents are unfortunately common, and expats should exercise extreme caution when driving on the emirate's roads. Drivers tend to be aggressive, speed and take risks, so expats should take care to drive defensively. If someone is unfortunate enough to be involved in a traffic accident in Doha, they should always remain at the scene of the collision. Always obey traffic laws – the government is trying to combat the problem and heavy fines apply to those caught speeding or jumping a red light. 
 
With that all said, many expats still choose to drive in Doha, despite the danger, because of the independence it affords them and because petrol is so inexpensive. Expats who take to the roads should note that Qataris drive on the right-hand side of the road. 

Residents who want to drive will need to apply for an international driving licence before arrival in Doha or a Qatari driving licence two weeks after arriving in the country. Regardless, all expats residing in the country longer than 12 months will need a local license.

Expat employees often find a vehicle and possibly a driver as part of their employment package, otherwise, cars can be bought or rented. Both local and large international car rental agencies, including Hertz, Avis and Europcar, have services Doha, making car hire easy.


Cycling in Doha

Despite the heat, cycling in Doha is growing in popularity and is promoted for its various health benefits. Reckless drivers make getting around by bicycle dangerous and unwise on main roads, but there are spaces and parks dedicated to cycling and the Qatar Cycling Federation provides information, maps and advice to avid and new cyclists, families and individuals.

Expats can also find cycling groups through social media platforms while several bike shops dotted around the city offer rentals.


Walking in Doha

Doha isn’t exactly walkable, but certain areas make for pleasant strolls and there are many leafy jogging environments too.

Oxygen Park has paths for walking and cycling while Al Bidda Park and Aspire Park offer a refreshing green space for running and picnics. Walking along the Corniche promenade and around the Museum of Islamic Art Park are other great areas to unwind and take in the view.


Sea travel in Doha

Qatar's shoreline affords cruises, tours and fishing trips as well as all sorts of watersports. Boats offer more than just travel: relax on a dinner cruise or spend an exciting afternoon on jet skis, or various other watersports.

It's important to check the company that is providing the service, enquire about their safety standards and wear a life jacket.