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Moving to Doha

What Qatar may lack in size, it makes up for with diversity. Expats moving to Doha, the peninsula's capital city of over 2.5 million residents, will find 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.

One of the first things expats notice in Doha is the towering cranes rising in the background of most neighbourhoods, a clear sign of the city's race towards expansion and growth. 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. However, those who stay longer than the three-year average will find that the Qatari nationals are hospitable and companionable, and more open to cultivating friendships.

Expats living in Doha generally reside in housing provided by their employers, either in high-rise apartment buildings or in family-sized villas in walled neighbourhoods. The standard of living among both local and expat professionals is 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, the recreation and entertainment options available in most other metropolitan cities are available, though some expats may feel slightly limited by the number of outlets offering specific services.

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 to 45 days long and scheduled for this time period. A key to summer survival is to plan getaways whenever possible. Expats should note, however, that air conditioning is available in most offices, restaurants and other facilities, and they'll quickly realise that it's often necessary to bring a shawl or coat along, even amid the sweltering weather.

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. This absence means that space heaters are in high demand.

Cost of Living in Doha

With one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, expats might expect the cost of living in Doha to be quite high. On the contrary, it’s actually one of the more affordable Gulf region destinations. Prices have remained fairly steady, even amidst the world economic downturn and ensuing recovery.


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 places in Qatar 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; and the Zig Zag Towers in Lagoona Plaza. However, 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 produce to meat and other goods, and it follows that food prices in Doha are 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 Megamart, 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. Furthermore, some policies offer school compensation from three years of age and others only at 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 trying to decide between two schools, or having 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 offers 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 very long and the appointment system is not as punctual as in other countries.

There are a variety of private hospitals in Qatar 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 mean a referral to specialists at Hamad, in which case a health card is essential.


Cost of transport in Doha

Qatar does not yet have a city-wide public transportation structure, though there are plans for monorails and a train connecting Doha to Bahrain, as well as the UAE. There are bus routes powered by Mowasalat, but these are spread throughout the city, and often the route paths and the route timings are inconvenient and unhelpful.

Taxis are often for private hire via a limousine service. The meter taxis, Karwa, are also available. In either case, it is best to book in advance, especially on the weekends and weekday mornings when many people use them for school drop-offs.

Quality used cars have a high resale value in Qatar because of the three-year cycle of many expats; places like compound clubhouses, employee mailing lists, and online forums such as Qatar Living, are often updated regularly. 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 new car owners, comprehensive insurance is required until the loan is paid off.


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 2020. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

QAR 10,100

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

QAR 7,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

QAR 5,400

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

QAR 3,600

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

QAR 10

Milk (1 litre)

QAR 6.50

Rice (1 kg)

QAR 5.80

Loaf of white bread

QAR 5.70

Chicken breasts (1kg)

QAR 24.50

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

QAR 21

Eating out

Big Mac meal

QAR 25

Coca-Cola (330ml)

QAR 3

Cappuccino 

QAR 19

Bottle of local beer (500ml)

QAR 45

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 320

Basic utilities (per month for a standard household)

QAR 265

Hourly rate for domestic help

QAR 32

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

QAR 2

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

QAR 3

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

QAR 1.95

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. Furthermore, the accommodation scene in Doha is developing rapidly in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

Types of accommodation in Doha

Expats living in Doha will have a choice of accommodation options available for them. 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.

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, although 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 financial benefits included in the lucrative employment packages used to lure expats to Doha. Employers often provide accommodation for their new recruits in Doha. This takes much of the hassle of manoeuvring the property market out of an expat's hands. 

Regardless of whether an expat's accommodation is provided by their company or if they are searching for a home in Doha on their own, it soon becomes apparent that the most sought-after housing tends to be in expat compounds. The main benefit of living in a compound is that many of these are self-contained communities with a range of facilities available to residents.

Furthermore, 24-hour security ensures that new arrivals feel safe in their new home. Families with children, especially, tend to prefer the compounds for the peace of mind that the safe and secure public space can provide. The presence of other families with shared values can also be attractive, and can help to establish easy friendships and a sense of camaraderie.

As it has become quite difficult to find accommodation in Doha's expat compounds, more and more people are starting to rent property outside these communities. Those looking for a more integrated experience in Qatar may want to investigate the option of living in a stand-alone villa or apartment in Doha. Villas are best suited to families as they have numerous rooms and a small garden, while apartments are popular with young professionals. 

Expats who don't have the luxury of their employer's assistance in the search for property should enlist the services of 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 the language barrier in Qatar.


Renting property in Doha 

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 up front. Most people will choose to make the payment with a number of post-dated cheques; although, those who can afford to pay in one lump sum can often leverage a lower price. Utilities are not usually included, but these costs are reasonable thanks to the government’s policy of subsidisation.

Areas and Suburbs in Doha

For 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 within close proximity to the main income earner’s place of work should take priority.

Doha, the capital of Qatar and its business hub, claims an assortment of diverse communities clumped together within different areas. Occupation, corporation and length of contract usually dictate where an expat will be most at home, but this isn’t always the case.

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 (60 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 in an apartment, one thing stands out when choosing accommodation in Doha – traffic. Schools and shopping malls are well situated to service all areas, but, in a country where the peak traffic hour can last all day, travel time becomes a major concern when choosing a place to live.


Areas and suburbs of Doha

Below are some of the most popular areas and suburbs in Doha for expats:

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.

West Bay/Al Dafna

West Bay is home to most of the foreign embassies in Doha and a fair amount of diplomatic accommodation. High-income earning families from 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, very aptly situated in the financial district surrounded by high-rise buildings. High traffic congestion is not prevalent here.

Musheireb

Musheireb 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 very high foot traffic and peak-hour vehicle traffic at all times.

Al Waab/Al Sadd

A well-liked area among expats as it is close to the popular Villagio Mall, Al Waab (also called Al Sadd) predominantly consists of modern family compound accommodation with all of the amenities included. Older sections of the area contain well-maintained free-standing villas. High traffic is sporadic depending on school times and events held at the Aspire Park sports dome. Al Waab is one of the most aesthetically pleasing areas in Doha, and also boasts easy access to most of the major routes.

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 permeates the surrounding area.

Al Gharafa

Al Gharafa is one of the largest areas in Doha with an eclectic mix of free-standing villas, compounds and apartments. It’s 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.

Duhail

Duhail is a quiet area far from the hustle and bustle of the traffic-filled Doha centre. Its close proximity to major highways and newer free-standing villas makes this a popular area for people working in Ras Laffan.

Healthcare in Doha

Expats and locals can easily access a range of high-quality public and private healthcare options in Doha.

Perhaps most significantly, the Hamad General Hospital in Doha's west side, close to Aspire Park, 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. Major improvements to the hospital were completed in 2013. 

In the northern part of the city, there are three key government institutions located in close proximity to each other. The northernmost of these is the Rumailah Hospital, which, while not catering for emergencies, specialises in convalescence, rehabilitation and treating the elderly, among other things.

To the south of Rumailah 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

www.hamad.qa
Al Rayyan Road, Hamad Medical City

 

Rumailah Hospital

www.hamad.qa
Al Khaleej Street

 

Women's Hospital

www.hamad.qa
Al Rayyan Road, Hamad Medical City


Private hospitals in Doha

 

Al-Ahli Hospital

www.ahlihospital.com
Ahmed Bin Ali Street

 

Al Emadi Hospital

www.alemadihospital.com.qa
Al Hilal West

 

Doha Clinic Hospital

www.doha-hospital.com
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 are 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 because these offer a smoother transition for those accustomed to studying a particular curriculum from their home country. Some expat parents in Doha prefer homeschooling, although legislation on this issue is fairly ambiguous, which presents its own challenges.


Public schools in Doha

Public schools in Qatar receive government funding and provide free tuition to all eligible residents. 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 expats who are looking to settle down in Qatar in the long-term and want their children to be integrated into Qatari society. 


International schools in Doha

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

When choosing a school, expat parents have to consider travel times and whether their children’s qualifications will be internationally recognised. Rush hour in Qatar 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 expats should try and negotiate school fees into their contract or ensure that they budget carefully. Enrolment requires long-term planning because waiting lists for spaces in schools can be long. Some expats secure places for their children in a school before signing their employment contract, since some companies reserve spaces in schools.

Expats applying to a school can expect to pay a non-refundable application fee. They will need to fill out an application and provide previous school documents, their child's health history, and physical exam results. Some schools also require a letter of recommendation, on-site entrance exams and a language test. After enrolment, expats may also need to give copies of the student’s residence permit, passport copies, photos and immunisation records, as well as copies of their residence permits.


Homeschooling in Qatar

Some parents avoid the admissions process and decide on homeschooling in Qatar. 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.

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), allowing children to 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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Blyth Academy Qatar

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

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian and Qatari
Ages: 5 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. Read more

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

ACS Doha International School

This candidate IB World school is a member of the UK's ACS International Schools Group, which seeks to offer quality education to internationally mobile families. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 15

American School of Doha

Established in 1988, this school relocated to purpose-built facilities in 2009 and has since grown to have over 2,000 students of many nationalities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of London, Qatar

This branch of ISL opened in Qatar in 2009. The school is an IB World School authorised to offer the IB curriculum at all levels. Read more

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

Qatar International School

The oldest international school in Qatar with a largely British teaching staff and purpose-built facilities. 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. Read more

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

See and Do in Doha

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


Sightseeing 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 Harbour 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 houses exhibitions allowing visitors to see how the Bedouins lived, including displays of their clothing and other belongings. There are also displays of what a traditional Qatari house looks like, Islamic art and some of the largest and smallest Qur’ans in the world. Other exhibitions include Islamic weapons, both traditional and modern, as well as displays of cars and artefacts previously belonging to Sheikhs. 

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 are held here and expats can buy local arts and crafts, clay pots and jewellery, as well as see how they are all made.  

The 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 and the Amiri Diwan Palace and is one of the biggest mosques in Qatar. It was built in the 1950s and combines traditional and modern architecture. 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 the Education District of Doha 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. It is recommended that expats with children visit on Fridays when the museum hosts family-friendly workshops. 


Theme parks in Doha

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

Aqua Park Qatar

Aqua Park is Qatar’s only water park and is a great activity for families during the scorching summer months in Doha. There are slides, a wave pool, a lazy river and a pool for toddlers. 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. 


Souqs in Doha

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

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif is centuries old and used to be a trading post for the Bedouin to bring their livestock. While it has changed a lot over the decades, it has recently been made over to look like a 19th-century 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. 

Souq Al Naima

Souq Al Naima caters to the locals and therefore is less touristy than Souq Waqif. Expats can find household goods and furniture at this souq, as well as groceries and clothing at local prices.

Jayda 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 find many shops that sell hunting paraphernalia and will have an opportunity to explore this interesting part of life in Doha.  

Gold Souq

The gold souq is the place to visit to find beautiful jewellery and precious metals in Doha. The Gold Souq in Doha is part of Souq Waqif.

The wholesale markets 

The wholesale markets lie between Salwa and Haloul streets in Doha. There is a vast collection of markets and shops in this area. 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

There are a host of events in Doha, 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 like golf, tennis and a motor show.

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

Qatar Masters Golf Tournament (January)

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 Motor Show (January)

This five-day festival 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. 

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. 

Souq Waqif Spring Festival (February)

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

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.

Ajyal Youth Film Festival (November)

This festival is aimed at encouraging young people to attend the cinema and to encourage young filmmakers. Showing films for young people of various ages and 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. 

Getting Around in Doha

Driving is the most common way for expats and locals to get around in Doha. The public transport system is limited, but it is improving as the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaches. Taxis are used extensively by residents, but most expats who move to the city have private vehicles and often their own driver, too. All of these drivers are fortunately accommodated by the extensive road network in Doha, but heavy, chaotic traffic does continue to be a problem. 

The emirate's capital also has a bus service, although many expats claim that buses are rarely seen and say they're unlikely to take one. Construction on the Qatar metro system started in 2013, and it's scheduled to be at least partially completed in time for the World Cup.


Public transport in Doha

The main complaint expats have about the city is its lack of public transport. Most people who live here drive their own cars or use taxis. However, efforts are being made to improve the system of public transport in Doha, especially with the huge influx of people expected in 2022. 

Most Qataris who use public transport are likely to either take buses or Karwa taxis, while expats tend to prefer the latter.

Buses

Public buses in Doha were introduced to the city in 2005 by a company called Mowasalat. They can be used to get around the city or to commute to work, although it is fairly uncommon for expats to do so. 

The buses are turquoise in colour and most start and end their routes at the main bus depot in the city centre, although other routes that go to the outskirts of Doha are available. Buses are fairly infrequent and only leave every 20 to 30 minutes. They are, however, inexpensive.
 
Bus fares can also be paid with a Karwa smartcard; the Smartcard Classic is the most popular card for regular commuters. These can be recharged and purchased at bus stations.

Taxis in Doha

People who don’t have cars in Doha often use the city’s turquoise taxis as their primary form of transport. The problem with taxis, however, is that there aren’t enough to accommodate all of the people needing to use them. Taxi drivers also often don’t know their way around the city, which can make it difficult for new expats to find their way around. 

Taxis tend to congregate at shopping malls and can be difficult to hail from anywhere else. One good option for expats is to try and get a taxi driver's business card and call them when needing to get somewhere quickly. Expats who do manage to get a taxi will find that they are mostly clean, metered and well-regulated by the government.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber are also available and offer a safe and convenient means of getting around Doha.


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 from 6am, when most people start commuting to work, even though police are often present at roundabouts to help control the morning traffic.
 
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of fatalities in Qatar 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. They should also obey traffic laws – the government is trying to combat the problem and heavy fines apply to those caught speeding or jumping a red light. 
 
Many expats choose to drive in Doha, despite the danger, because of the independence it gives them and because petrol is so inexpensive. Expats who take to the roads should be aware of other drivers behaving badly. If someone is unfortunate enough to be involved in a traffic accident in Doha, they should always remain at the scene of the collision or they will risk not receiving any insurance payments.

Expats who want to drive in Qatar will need to apply for an international driving licence or a Qatari driving licence two weeks after arriving in the country. Expats can change their driving licence to a Qatari one at the Madinat Khalifa Traffic Department without having to take a driving test. Qataris drive on the right-hand side of the road.


Cycling in Doha

Cycling in Doha isn't really an option for expats because of the lack of cycle paths in the city. The reckless drivers make getting around by bicycle dangerous and unwise. 


Walking in Doha

The lack of pavements in Doha makes walking around an often difficult and frustrating experience. Expats can, however, walk around the centre of the city quite easily. There are many places of interest close together and walking is the quickest way to travel between them. Another good place to walk is on the promenade along Doha Bay, which is especially popular over weekends.