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Moving to Qatar

Once home to a thriving pearl industry and largely associated with its expansive desert, Qatar has managed to blossom in its arid terrain and is emerging as a major global player. Situated on the Arabian Peninsula, the country – especially its rapidly developing capital city of Doha – continuously surprises its residents as well as new arrivals in a variety of ways.

Qatar is said to be advancing at breakneck speed and Doha is claimed to be evolving into a 'futuristic' city with its land reclamation of The Pearl-Qatar and an impressive skyline of modern architecture. Not long ago, Qatar had a poorly organised public transport system, but today it has transformed its infrastructure and is progressing to expand and construct not just new buildings, but entire cities.

Similarly, both Qatar’s healthcare system and its accommodation options aim to live up to these sophisticated standards. Housing, luxury shopping malls and various amenities help residents cope with the extreme heat, including well-maintained air-conditioning and swimming pools in expat compounds.

Expats moving to Qatar likely know the country as a natural gas powerhouse which punches well above its weight. Driven by gas and oil, this small emirate has emerged as a powerful player in the global economy, boasting one of the highest incomes per capita in the world. As such, expats interested in employment in the petrochemical sector are bound to secure a work permit.

Job opportunities extend further than the energy industry, though, as the country advances; jobs in IT, construction, business and tourism abound. More and more expats are incentivised to work in Qatar, saving money in the tax-free environment while enjoying a good standard of living.

As the large majority of Qatar’s residents are foreigners, cultural and legal practices are becoming increasingly liberal relative to other Gulf states. Expats and their families will encounter an interesting mix of nationalities, religions and cultures alongside Qatari citizens, and they can look forward to an emirate that emphasises culture and education

Qatar aims to be the Middle Eastern flagship for social development and intellectualism. It has been working hard to create a “knowledge economy”, and to promote ventures such as the Museum of Islamic Art and a massive Education City. That said, Qatar adheres to Islamic law. Aspects of this may come as a culture shock, for example, censorship is still enforced and foreigners are unlikely to command a position equal to locals in Qatari society.

Expats considering moving to Qatar should also remember that the peninsula is still fairly new to the global stage, and provincialisms still exist. The red tape of bureaucracy can be endlessly frustrating and some sections of its Arab society are not as liberal as its neighbours in the UAE or Bahrain.

Despite these challenges, the expat community in Qatar is large and welcoming. Making connections is not difficult and can ease the relocation process, helping new arrivals to overcome any initial culture shock.


Fast facts

Population: About 2.88 million

Capital city: Doha (also largest city)

Other major cities: Al Rayyan, Al Khor, Al Wakrah

Neighbouring countries: Situated on the northeastern coast of the Arab peninsula, Qatar is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the west, with the island state of Bahrain to the northwest. Across the Persian Gulf to the northeast is Iran, while the United Arab Emirates is situated to the southeast.

Geography: The peninsula of Qatar is low lying. In the east of the country, there are smooth plains covered by fine-grained dust. The south and southwest portion of the peninsula is made up of sand salt flats. The coastline is emergent and gently slopes toward the sea. Many flat, low-lying off-shore islands are located near the coast and accompanied by coral reefs. Because of the salt water which comes into contact with the low lying land, many salt pans have formed along the coast. 

Political system: The political system in Qatar is an absolute monarchy with the Emir of Qatar as head of state and head of government. Sharia law shapes most legislation in Qatar.

Major religion: Islam

Main languages: Arabic (official), English

Money: The currency is the Qatari Riyal (QAR), which is divided into 100 dirhams. Expats are able to open a bank account in Qatar easily with the correct documents. ATMs are widely available. 

Tipping: A 10 percent service charge is often added to hotel and restaurant bills. Tipping is not so common among Qataris, though for exceptional service and journeys by taxi, a charge may be rounded up.

Time: GMT +3

Electricity: 240 volts, 50 Hz. Rectangular-blade plugs (three flat pins in a triangle – type G) and round-pin plugs (three round pins in a triangular pattern – type D) are used most often.

Internet domain: .qa

International dialling code: +974

Emergency contacts: The general emergency number for police ambulances and fire services in Qatar is 999. Operators will often speak English.

Transport and driving: Traffic in Qatar drives on the right. Expats should drive defensively because the country is known for having high accident rates. Taxis are widely available and the bus system is effective, while the metro and rail systems are expanding.

Weather in Qatar

Expats thinking of a move to Qatar should brace themselves for the country’s extreme heat. Its desert climate creates unbearable peak temperatures that mean new arrivals have to be wary of health-related issues, including heat exhaustion and sunstroke.

The weather in Qatar is characterised by abundant sunshine and little rainfall. Rain appears in short bursts during winter (December to February) and rarely totals more than three inches in a year.

The brief transitional seasons are by far the most pleasant. Spring (March to May) and autumn (October to November) bring temperatures of around 63°F (17°C) with low levels of humidity.

Conversely, Qatar's long summers (May to September) can reach 122°F (50°C) and average 106°F (41°C), while humidity can reach 95 percent.

Most expats vacate the country during the hottest months of June, July and August, and planning a holiday during this period is highly recommended. Otherwise, expats will have to learn to adapt accordingly to the weather in Qatar. We recommend they wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen at all times when outdoors; organise outdoor activities for the early morning and late evening; park cars in shaded areas and use a protective screen; and remember to drink plenty of fluids.
 
Winter is generally mild, but occasionally the desert gets chilly. Qatar homes are ill-equipped to provide heat, which can also be unpleasant.
 
On the other hand, air-conditioning is the norm and without it, the weather in Qatar would get the best of residents. With this in mind, expats should have a light sweater on hand for when indoors. 
 

Embassy contacts for Qatar

Qatari embassies

  • Embassy of Qatar, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 274 1600

  • Embassy of Qatar, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7493 2200

  • Embassy of Qatar, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 241 4917

  • Embassy of Qatar, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6152 8888

  • Embassy of Qatar, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 452 1700


Foreign embassies in Qatar

  • United States Embassy, Doha, Qatar: +974 4496 6000

  • British Embassy, Doha, Qatar: +974 4496 2000

  • Canadian Embassy, Doha, Qatar: +974 4419 9000

  • Australian Embassy, Doha, Qatar: +974 4007 8500

  • South African Embassy, Doha, Qatar: +974 4485 7111

  • Irish Embassy, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (also responsible for Qatar): +971 249 58200

  • New Zealand Embassy, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (also responsible for Qatar): +971 2 496 3333

Public Holidays in Qatar

 

2021

2022

Sports Day

9 February

11 February

Eid al-Fitr

13–15 May

3–5 May

Eid al-Adha

20–22 July

10–12 July

National Day

18 December

18 December

*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon

Pros and Cons of Moving to Qatar

As is the case with expat life in any country, life in Qatar is a mix of peaks, troughs, swings, roundabouts, and ups and downs. One way for expats to prepare for life in Qatar, is to know what to expect.

Below we've listed some of the pros and cons of moving there.


Accommodation in Qatar

Expats may either find the state of accommodation in Qatar wonderful or deplorable depending on where they choose to settle. Regardless, rent is generally high, choices can be limited and many places look the same.

+ PRO: Expat housing in Qatar is spacious

Expat accommodation is generally spacious and well-proportioned. New compounds and apartments are constantly being built, so those who dream of a home with never-been-used fittings and that ‘new house smell’ may be in luck. Most compounds and complexes have on-site amenities such as pools, gyms, dry cleaners and cafés.

- CON: Rent is paid in a lump sum

Those who go through the house-hunting battle alone, after dealing with potentially long waiting lists, may face high rental fees too. Rent in Qatar is expected in a lump sum, paid annually or quarterly, which is a mildly terrifying expense to pay upfront. Fortunately, most accommodation fees are covered almost entirely by employers. If this isn't the case, we recommend expats negotiate this with their employers.


Lifestyle in Qatar

Qatar is what one makes of it. Despite its Islamic roots, entertainment and cultural attractions are developing. If expats are willing to put in some effort, there are plenty of things to do.

+ PRO: Making friends in Qatar is easy

The population is small and the expat community is tight-knit, so they can easily make friends by taking up a sport or starting a conversation with their neighbours. This is even easier for expats who move with a family as there are many moms' groups and activities for kids in Doha. Single expats needn’t worry either, as they have an opportunity to take up a hobby or learn another language. Qatar also boasts first-rate museums, cultural events, a beautiful coastline and striking desert views to experience with friends.

+ PRO: The emirate has mild winters

In contrast to the extreme heat of summer, winters are long and temperate, and residents can enjoy outdoor activities such as beach picnics from November to April. 

- CON: Extreme weather means a lack of activities in summer

Extreme heat makes Qatar unbearable for much of the year, especially from June to August, and air-conditioning is a must. During this time, many people leave, turning metros into ghost towns. Finding events to attend will be difficult, although Doha has a budding nightlife scene and some high-profile restaurants.

- CON: There aren't many outdoor activities in Qatar

Most people live in Doha, the capital city. There are expanses of (uninhabited) desert, several coastal reserves and a few city parks, but this is as close to the ‘countryside’ that expats will get. Though these areas may be pleasant in mild temperatures, the heat deters residents from walking around downtown and there isn't much greenery, so outdoorsy expats may take some time to get used to the somewhat barren terrain.


Safety in Qatar

New arrivals in any foreign country may be concerned about their well-being, personal safety and health hazards.

+ PRO: The country has low crime rates

New residents in Qatar shouldn't stress themselves over personal security. Qatar is safe for men and women alike, with low levels of even petty crime.

- CON: Qatar has some of the worst drivers

The most unsafe place in Qatar is the road – expats and locals alike often drive like maniacs. Always be vigilant on the roads and follow the law – if not, hefty penalties will be faced. As many Qatari residents choose to drive, traffic isn't fun either. Still, as Doha is developing, public transport is advancing rapidly and safer options for getting around include the bus and metro.


Working and doing business in Qatar

There are tight regulations on doing business in Qatar as foreign nationals cannot work without a valid work permit, usually sponsored by their employer. Expats must be prepared for the visa process and adapting to local business culture.

+ PRO: Salaries in Qatar are relatively high

Highly-skilled expats often have more senior positions, better pay and lucrative employment packages. Employment contracts may cover accommodation, flights, transport, schooling for an employee's child, and insurance, so it is worth negotiating. Don't forget that expats pay few, if any, taxes, so a lot of money can be saved.

- CON: Uncertainty over expat jobs in Qatar

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit economies hard across the world and many companies in Qatar has laid off staff. While there is much uncertainty and anxiety over job security, expats make up most of the country's population and, for the time being, this doesn't seem to be changing – especially with major plans set for infrastructural development and economic growth geared towards the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

- CON: The work culture is very relaxed

There is a generally relaxed attitude to work in Qatar, which includes meetings and timekeeping, so things don’t happen quickly. The workday is generally from 7am to 3pm, and many government offices close at 1pm. It is best to get things done before noon as many people start thinking about going home afterwards. Expats need to be patient, especially since they will be part of a workforce which won’t always have English as its first language.


Culture shock in Qatar

No matter how well-travelled expats may be, some things in Qatar will be frustrating and outside of their control. A lot of patience will be needed. People often say what they think others want to hear, rather than be direct. There is a blatant disregard for traffic rules and terrible queue formations. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a deep breath – getting upset doesn’t help anyone.

+ PRO: The expat community in Qatar is very welcoming

The community in Qatar is friendly and welcoming. A little searching for activities and new friends will usually be fruitful. There are many expat clubs and events, and even if expats don’t want to engage on this level, bumping into acquaintances while shopping or on the Corniche is likely. Once the ball gets rolling, making friends is easy.

- CON: Adapting to Muslim culture can be difficult

Although Qatar is liberal relative to other Gulf states, it is still in the Middle East and a bit of prudence and respect will go a long way. Expats should avoid public displays of affection, and women should keep their shoulders and knees covered. Many locals wear traditional dress – men wear white robes and women either wear black abayas or face-covering niqabs. Qataris might not shake hands with expats of the opposite sex either, which shouldn’t be taken personally. Expats are allowed to practice their religion, but this must be respectful of Islamic customs.

- CON: Qatar has a divided society

The division of class is stark in Qatar. The country is one of the richest in the world but it was built and continues to run on the fuel of its migrants. From Nepalese construction workers to Keralan cab drivers and Filipino maids, expats will have someone to carry their clothes to the changing room, bag their groceries and top up their water at restaurants. Locals and expats hire and take sole responsibility for their housekeepers and drivers, which is just how things are done.


Cost of living in Qatar

Access to affordable and subsidised healthcare, lucrative salaries and no tax seem attractive. But, when moving to Qatar and using a different currency, new arrivals must understand their cost of living and consider all their expenses, from basic groceries to entertainment amenities.

+ PRO: Fuel is affordable

Petrol (gasoline) in Qatar is very cheap, especially in comparison with major world cities. This makes driving a car affordable and easy on the budget.

- CON: The cost of living is high

The cost of living in Qatar is high but that doesn’t necessarily equate with better quality goods. Qatar imports most of its food, so although expats might be able to find their favourite brands, this will come at a premium. Staples such as rice, bread, certain meats and fish are moderately priced but, in general, food is expensive in Qatar. Household goods are also expensive. Imported Western brands can be found in malls and shops too, but will cost more.


Education and schools in Qatar

There is a high-quality public school system in Qatar but it mainly caters to locals. Most private international schools follow an American or British curriculum.  

+ PRO: The quality of education in Qatar is very good

Qatar pours a tremendous amount of money into education, science and technology, and many world-class institutions have set up branches in Doha. The country also recruits teachers from overseas, and the quality of education in private and public schools is high.

- CON: There is limited space in schools and the cost of tuition is high

Tuition at private international schools in Qatar is expensive. Seats in popular institutions are rare and waiting lists can be long, so advanced planning is often necessary to gain admission. On the other hand, though public independent schools are free, admission may be complicated for non-Qatari nationals.


Healthcare in Qatar

Qatari's healthcare system is impressive, ambulances are efficient, medical staff are well-trained, and both public and private facilities boast high standards.

+ PRO: It is easy to take out health insurance

Most expats have health insurance provided by their employer. If this is not the case, residents can apply for a Hamad health card, which entitles them to subsidised healthcare at the Hamad Medical Corporation.

-CON: Expats are still wary of healthcare in Qatar

The main hospitals in Doha are modern and well-equipped. That said, many expats prefer being treated in their home countries, if they have the option. For some expats, finding a doctor in Qatar they are comfortable with can be tricky.

Safety in Qatar

There are a few major concerns when it comes to safety in Qatar and security is likely to remain a priority for the Qatari government, both in the run-up for the FIFA 2022 World Cup and in general.

While few people are affected by crime, there are precautionary issues to be aware of, especially in terms of travel safety.


Crime in Qatar

Crimes in Qatar that affect foreign visitors are mainly petty in nature and include unarmed opportunistic theft, commercial and residential burglary and theft from unattended vehicles. The Qatar police force has acted to safeguard locals and expats alike and provides a high standard of security. The force is highly visible and capable.

Financial fraud is a concern in Qatar and expats are strongly advised to take precautions in their financial dealings. Though credit and debit card fraud occur, the overall threat is no higher than in most cities in the West.

Female expats should also take care if out alone at night and ensure to travel in taxis that are properly registered.


Terrorism in Qatar

While terrorist activity in the country has historically been low, Qatar isn't immune to the threat of extremist attacks. The high number of expats in Qatar, particularly Westerners, and the government’s involvement in regional political affairs increase the possibility that it may be targeted in the future.


Protests in Qatar

While political opposition is limited, given reports of unfair treatment, poor working conditions and low wages of unskilled migrant workers, there have been protests surrounding these issues. Overall, public demonstrations are rare and, when they do take place, are generally peaceful and undisruptive. Still, it’s important to follow local news and steer clear of large demonstrations where possible.


Road safety in Qatar

The greatest safety threat to expats in Qatar is road travel. Traffic fatalities are among the leading causes of death in the country. Speeding, disobeying basic traffic laws and poor driving standards are often blamed for the high accident rate. Poor visibility during sandstorms also poses threats to drivers and when travelling out to the desert, it’s best to travel in a group in vehicles with four-wheel drive.

When driving in Qatar, we strongly urge expats to be vigilant of other vehicles and always abide by the rules of the road. In the event of an accident, seek healthcare assistance by dialing 999 for an ambulance.


Sea travel concerns in Qatar

There have been reports of maritime attacks around certain waters and ports in the Gulf, so we recommend following the latest news and enquiring on the routes before travelling.

If travelling by boat, always check that life jackets are available, especially by dhow – lateen-rigged boats with one or two masts that are commonly used in the region. Safety standards of some boats may not be on par with those of other countries.

Working in Qatar

Most expats find that working in Qatar involves a surprisingly smooth transition. Foreigners make up most of the population and although Arabic is the official language, English is commonly spoken in business settings. Despite its distance from home, the Qatari workplace can feel familiar.

On the one hand, colleagues and clients from all over the world mean that the business culture in Qatar is eclectic. On the other hand, diverse cultures may clash with things like communication styles, and, of course, Arabic work culture has its own set of norms.

Expats should educate themselves about doing business in Qatar but shouldn't expect too much to happen too quickly. Being patient, sensitive and aware of the effects that cultural differences can have on office life will smooth the transition.


Job market in Qatar

Qatar appeals to workers from all over the world, illustrated by the facts that most of Qatar’s residents are foreigners and jobs abound across both public and private institutions.

The petrochemical sector has been the largest magnet to expats, though this is slowly changing. The Qatari monarchy has stressed economic diversification and growth in other industries. Construction and real estate continue to grow and there has been massive investment in improving infrastructure and the tourism sector in anticipation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

Over 1.5 million jobs are open to foreign employees in Qatar and this is expected to increase as the expat job market expands, not only for 2022, but for many years that follow.

It is important to note that Qatar, like other Gulf countries, has a plan to develop its local workforce by improving education and training, and this national strategy is called Qatarisation. A Qatari national with equally strong qualifications and performance ratings is likely to be given priority over an expatriate. Qatarisation also explains the lengthy work permit process.

Qatar has low unemployment rates, and a large factor limiting the number of unemployed foreigners is the difficulty in getting a Qatari work visa without a host sponsor.
 
Qatarisation is largely in the energy and industrial sector, yet this is no cause for alarm for expats. Qatar highly values skilled foreign employees who can contribute to these sectors and also aid in training and upscaling the local workforce.


Finding a job in Qatar

To work in Qatar, expats will need a work permit, and for this, they have to secure a job before arriving in the country. 

Many expats are transferred from their company overseas and do not need to actively search for a job in Qatar. Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult for foreign hopefuls with the right qualifications to get a job, especially if they have experience in the construction, oil and gas industries. What’s key is to have a strong CV, with the relevant experience and qualifications.

Job seekers have a wealth of resources at their disposal. Social media platforms such as Facebook are useful, not only for finding a job but also for reaching out to expats in Qatar.

Qatari, Arab and international online job portals are great, such as LinkedIn, Monster Gulf, Bayt.com, Indeed, Gulf Talent and ILoveQatar.net. Job listings are also available in Gulf Times, Qatar Tribune and The Peninsula newspapers.

While online job platforms are a good starting point, networking, making connections and being friendly can work in an expats favour. It’s often more about who you know than what you know. That said, the culture of ‘wasta’ has been linked to issues of nepotism and corruption in the past, and relatives or friends have been favoured over someone else with greater experience. So while networking is useful, do be aware of both the pros and cons.

International recruitment agencies and relocation firms are a good option, though be sure to do independent research on the jobs these agencies promote. There have been reports of recruitment agencies overselling jobs, mainly to lower-skilled job seekers, and inflating the expected wages – when these expats arrive, their reality has not been as promising.

Changing jobs

One of the downsides of working in Qatar is the fact that changing jobs can be difficult. Employment contracts often have clauses which restrict employees from starting a new job in the country. Some employers feel these rules are justified because they invest time and money bringing foreign workers into the country. 

Qatari labour law means jobs can only be changed under certain conditions and employees cannot conduct any work for another employer while they are under contract, whether it’s paid or unpaid, including outside of normal working hours.

That said, it has become easier to change jobs in Qatar with amended labour laws, but normally expats must complete their employment contract or have their job terminated by their employer to change jobs. 

If contract terms are undefined, expats must normally complete five years with the same employer before being able to switch jobs. Otherwise, expats need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from their current employer (who also sponsors their visa) to agree to these conditions. In many cases, it is necessary to exit the country while applying for new sponsorship.


Work culture in Qatar

Working in Qatar is not without its challenges. The salary packages are attractive and tax-free living is tempting, but employees in Qatar work notoriously long hours to earn their riyals. Working hours without overtime pay are 48 hours a week though only 36 hours during Ramadan. Instead of the regular two-day weekend that expats may be used to, workers are only entitled to one day’s rest per week.

Though expats from across the world bring their cultures into the workplace, culture shock in Qatar may be experienced. It's important to understand that Islam is the predominant religion and so associated values hold strong in business settings.

Doing Business in Qatar

With a population mainly consisting of expats, the protocols for doing business in Qatar often depend on who is being dealt with. Expats will mostly be working with other foreigners, but their senior associates are more likely to come from Qatar and other Gulf states.

Qatar ranks 77th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey for 2020. Qatar ranked well in the categories of registering properties (1st), paying taxes (3rd), and dealing with construction permits (13th). Conversely, Qatar fell short in areas such as getting credit (119th), protecting minority investors (157th) and enforcing contracts (115th).

There are many opportunities in Qatar, but expats need to be properly prepared to succeed in a country where businesses either soar like skyscrapers or disappear into the desert. By familiarising themselves with Arabic business culture, Western expatriates give themselves a better chance at succeeding with sensitivity in a foreign business environment.


Fast facts

Business hours

Usually 7.30am to 12pm and 3.30pm to 7pm, from Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday are weekend days but this varies between businesses.

Business language

The official language of Qatar is Arabic, although English is widely spoken and understood.

Dress

Smart and conservative, especially for women. 

Gifts

Exchanging gifts when meeting Qatari business associates for the first time is customary. Gifts should be wrapped and of high quality – traditional perfume is a popular choice. Never give alcohol or anything made of pigskin.

Gender equality

Qatar is an Islamic state, but the government prides itself as one of the more progressive Gulf countries with regards to attitudes toward women in the workplace. Foreign women, especially, are respected and valued in Qatar – although they might need to dress and behave more conservatively than they would back home. It is also worth bearing in mind that major shifts in the Qatari corporate world will take time and that the vast majority of senior positions are likely to be filled by men for the foreseeable future.


Business culture in Qatar

Islamic influences

Expats need to be respectful of the large influence that Islam has on daily life in the emirate, including business. Becoming familiar with a few basic cultural guidelines is a good start.

Personal relationships and networking

The business culture of Qatar is typically Arabic in that a lot of emphasis is placed on personal relationships between associates. Qatari businessmen prefer to do business with people they are familiar with and who they feel they can trust. For this reason, expats may need help from a local agent (or sponsor) who can provide them with important introductions and recommendations.

Being patient during the first dealings with potential Qatari business partners is important too – a lot of time is devoted to 'getting to know each other' before any actual business is discussed.

Meetings

Qatari business people are often more interested in whether they get along with their prospective partners than in corporate expertise or qualifications. Business meetings can be long, subject to numerous personal digressions and may even be interrupted by unexpected visitors. Even if a meeting's agenda becomes abandoned, expats should not resort to hard-sell tactics, which may be interpreted as unnecessary aggression. Publicly criticising or undermining associates is also frowned upon – if it has to be done, it's usually done in private.

Meetings should also be confirmed ahead of time as business schedules can quickly change.

While some things might seem strange for expats from elsewhere, resisting the urge to get impatient is important. Long-term, personal business relationships in Qatar can certainly be worth the time and energy

Hierarchy

Management styles in Qatar are usually hierarchical and staff are expected to follow orders to the letter. Note, however, that locals rarely say ‘no’ directly, which can affect communication across different levels of business.

Greetings

Business etiquette in Qatar reflects the closeness between personal and professional life that many Qataris maintain. Handshakes are the accepted greeting between men and the most senior person present should be greeted first. Arabic titles, such as Haji and Sheikh, should be used where appropriate to show respect. At the same time, personal discussions are common, especially in the beginning. 

Exchanging business cards when meeting associates for the first time is common. The reverse side of business cards should be printed in Arabic and expats should spend some time examining someone else's card before putting it away.

Attitude to foreigners

Qatar is far more friendly and open to foreigners than some of its neighbouring countries. That said, expats must always behave with respect for Islamic culture and traditions. Arabic translations of important documents should always be at hand, and learning a few basic Arabic words and greetings is always appreciated.


Dos and don'ts of doing business in Qatar

  • Do be respectful and observant of Islamic culture and traditions

  • Do look to cement long-term, personal relationships with Qatari business associates

  • Do make an effort to engage with the culture – learn some Arabic words and become educated about the religion

  • Don't be impatient, rude or aggressive – this kind of behaviour will alienate expats from the corporate culture in Qatar

Visas for Qatar

Qatar is by no means unfamiliar with visas and immigration. Most of Qatar’s residents are individuals from other countries who must apply for residence and work permits, and tourists are also welcome to visit and experience all that there is to offer.

Getting a visa for Qatar is straightforward. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) oversees all immigration matters and Hukoomi, the government’s ePortal, makes visa applications for Qatar easier. Expats can simply track their applications by entering their country of citizenship, their application number and passport details.
 
It should be noted that waiting periods may be an inconvenience, especially during Ramadan. Many suggest that it’s best for visa applications to be submitted well before or just after this time. In any event, we strongly recommend checking the MoI website regularly and contacting the nearest embassy and consulate for support.


Tourist visas for Qatar

Citizens from many countries must apply for a visa in advance, and this can be done by contacting the nearest embassy directly and following the application process online.

Note that not all citizens need to apply beforehand. Citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) and 80 other countries do not need to apply for a visa to visit Qatar. These countries include the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Britain and Germany, and a few other European states. Foreign nationals must check if their country of citizenship is included on the full list available on the MoI website. 

These visas are obtained at the port of entry upon arrival, but visitors can also receive theirs online before travelling.

Visitors granted tourist visas require their passport validity to be at least six months after the date of arrival, and they must show an itinerary of travel plans including accommodation details and a return ticket.

These visas are normally valid for one to three months.

Sponsored tourist visas

There are several types of tourist visas available and organised through authorised hotels, embassies and employers as well as Qatar Airways. For more on this process, it is important to contact these bodies and organisations directly. 

Note that such visas cannot be extended and are only valid for one month.

Joint tourist visas

Joint tourist visas allow free travel between Qatar and Oman. Expats may apply for these before travelling, though can also obtain them upon arriving. These Qatar-Oman visas are valid for one month and can be renewed for another 30 days.

Transit visas

Transit visas are applicable for visits no longer than 24 hours, and travellers stopping over in Qatar can obtain these visas, such as, if they wish to leave the airport and explore a bit before continuing their journey.


Business visas for Qatar

Expats coming to the country for temporary work purposes need to get a business visa for Qatar. The approved local company receiving the overseas visitor often takes responsibility for the process and will need to provide a letter of invitation as part of it.

Expats planning to carry out contractual work can receive this business visa, valid for only three months. Those looking to work in Qatar for extended periods will require a work and residence permit.

72-hour business visas

Applicants needing only three days in Qatar will receive this 72-hour business visa, normally issued on arrival. These individuals must show proof of their business and carry the necessary documents.

Investor visas

Many applicants are invested in business ventures and they can apply for an investor visa. Expats require documents on business, property ownership, a certificate showing good behaviour and an authorised medical certificate. We encourage investors to follow up on the MoI and Ministry of Economy and Commerce websites for more.


Visit visas for Qatar

GCC residents and family members can apply for short-term visas to visit Qatar.

GCC resident visit visas

Residents of GCC countries are allowed entry to Qatar for stays of one month, renewable for a further three months.

Family visit visas

Expats moving to Qatar for work can bring their family over on family-visit visas. These visas are valid for one month and can be extended for six months for immediate relatives (spouse and children) and three months for other family members. When applying for extensions, applicants require a medical check-up.


Residence visas for Qatar

To stay in Qatar, expats can enter on the relevant visa and apply for a working residence permit for Qatar after they arrive. Many processes must be done beforehand, though, and certain conditions must be met. Permits are only granted to applicants who are sponsored by a company, a family member in the country who earns more than the minimum threshold or those investing in property. Expats must stay in Qatar while their entry visa is converted to a residence permit.

Family residence visas

Expats working in Qatar who wish for their family to stay with them during their employment contractual period can sponsor their residence visa. The current expat resident generally requires:

  • a monthly income of over QAR 10,000
  • to have worked with their company for at least six months 
  • a valid Qatar ID 
  • residence visa from their employer

Expats with a newborn baby younger than three months old must apply for a Newborn Visa. Parents need a valid residence permit, their child’s birth certificate and for the baby to be included in their parents' passport or have their own.

Education residence visas

Study visas can be obtained free of charge. Students require proof of acceptance to an approved educational institution, and visas are valid for the duration of the course in question.

Real estate visas

Expats interested in buying property and owning real estate in Qatar must apply for this visa through the MoI. Expats usually need a:

  • valid passport
  • letter from a relevant real estate agent regarding property investment and purchase
  • certificate of good conduct
  • medical check-up

Return visas

Expats in Qatar must note that, just as they require an entry visa for their initial visit, they likely need a return visa when they leave and come back to the country. This includes citizens with valid residency who have been out of Qatar for more than six months and are returning. We recommend expats check the MoI website for information on fees, required documents and processes.


Exit permits

It's essential to determine whether expats need an exit permit to leave Qatar. For example, male visitors residing in Qatar over one month need an exit permit, and expats cannot depart without paying any fines. Expats staying in Qatar should visit the Hukoomi website to find out if they require this permit to leave.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Qatar

To legally work in Qatar, expats require the relevant permits. Aside from business visas, expats working in Qatar for long periods must obtain a work permit, formally known as Work Residence Permits or an RP. All types of visas allow entry into the country and can be exchanged for an employment-based residence permit after the holder arrives.


Getting a work permit for Qatar

Expats will need to have found a job and a local employer to act as their sponsor before they apply for a work residence permit for Qatar. After the necessary paperwork is completed, the employing sponsor usually takes responsibility for the application and follow up on its progress.

Here are five steps to securing a work residence permit for Qatar:

Step 1 – Find a job

Expats must first find and secure a job before applying for their working visa. Once this is done, the employer is largely responsible for the application process.

Step 2 – Prepare documents as advised by the employer who applies for a temporary visa

After negotiating the terms of employment, the employer applies to the Qatari government to hire an expatriate. Given the number of foreign workers in Qatar, many companies are familiar with the application process and some even have a separate department devoted to it.

The company should know which documents are needed to start the application process since requirements often vary between jobs. Expats should have multiple, notarised copies of all the required documents for their personal records.

Step 3 – Receive a temporary visa and travel to Qatar

Employers will organise and send a temporary visa which can be tracked using the Hukoomi website. With a temporary visa, expats can travel to Qatar.  

Step 4 – Apply for a work residence permit

After arriving, applicants must then follow bureaucratic and administrative procedures to convert their temporary visa to the Work Residence Permit, the RP. This generally takes two to four weeks and, during this time, applicants are not allowed to leave the country.

Expats must have prearranged documents as per their employers’ instructions. They generally must submit their:

  • passport
  • certificate of good conduct
  • latest educational certificate, either originally in or translated to Arabic

Documents must be certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Qatar embassy in the expat’s country of application

Expats must also take a health and medical examination, which they can book in advance through the official website of the Ministry of Public Health. This then gets sent online to the Criminal Evidence and Information Department.

Step 5 – Collect RP and register employment contract

Finally, with the RP, applicants can properly begin their life in Qatar, and obtain their Qatar ID, apply for driving licences, sign rental accommodation agreements and open a bank account.

They must ensure their employment contract is registered in Arabic at the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs. This must record the job title, working hours, salary and other working benefits.


Family visit and residence visas

Expats can sponsor their relatives to come on a family visit visa or a family residence visa. Expats who have a residence work permit for Qatar and earn more than QAR 10,000 per month can legally sponsor their family for a residence visa.

Certain documents must be submitted, usually including application forms for each family member, an employer’s letter, passport copies and proof of residence, as well as birth and marriage certificates, where applicable.

Expats in Qatar on a family-sponsored residence permit are not allowed to work, but can apply to the Labour Department for the right to do so after they arrive. Women under this visa sponsored by their husband must get their approval to work.

*Visa and work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Qatar

Official sources and on-the-ground experiences tell different stories about the cost of living in Qatar. The 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Index ranks the capital, Doha, at 109th out of 209 cities surveyed, placing it well below other major Middle Eastern cities such as Dubai and Riyadh, but more expensive than Kuwait City.

Qatar’s wealth is on par with other Gulf regional power players and the country is among those nations with the highest GDP per capita in the world, creating the impression that all residents benefit from a high standard of living. In reality, though, there is a huge wealth gap in Qatar with the highest echelons of society mostly made up of locals. Below them are wealthier expats, middle management and unskilled workers.

Lucrative employment packages are the main draw for many expats, but salaries in Qatar are not as attractive as they once were, while goods and services have become more expensive. Recent reports of pay cuts for expats, primarily those working for the government, are even more worrying.

This might make the country seem less appealing but, in the wake of financial and economic issues, there are still opportunities to make and save money in Qatar.


Cost of accommodation in Qatar

Rent prices in Qatar depend on the type of property and its location and can be ridiculously high for expat accommodation. Prices also depend on whether a place is furnished or unfurnished, but it doesn’t hurt to try and negotiate a lower price.

Most expats in Qatar are based in Doha and choose to live in an area based on availability and its proximity to work or their children’s school. Of course, some areas are more expensive than others.

Some expat salaries include a housing allowance that is either paid in monthly instalments or in one lump sum, so it is good to double check this. Others might include a shipping allowance, which could be used to bring over larger or more expensive items, depending on how long an expat intends to stay. Furniture, home accessories and electronics are expensive in Qatar, and local stores may not have the range or quality expats are used to.

Utilities are reasonably priced but extra accommodation costs can add up. Some apartments have maintenance fees, so expats should find out whether the tenant or the landlord is responsible for paying.


Cost of transport in Qatar

Petrol in Qatar is cheap, which adds to the enthusiasm people have for cars in this part of the world and may explain the limited public transport system.

Hiring a driver, and buying or renting a car are all viable options. While drivers might be less hassle, they may not allow as much freedom. Still, they might be economical for expats who only plan on travelling for work and grocery shopping.

There are plenty of car rental companies in Qatar, many of which offer better rates for longer lease periods.

Buying a new car is not a problem, but the high turnover rate of expats means that there are very good deals on used vehicles. When deciding on a car, it is important to note that most European and American car parts are more expensive and harder to source than Asian brands.

Free parking in Qatar is available in certain public places and shopping centres, but parking and speeding violations come with hefty fines.

It is also important to remember that Qatar is not the cheapest travel destination. Most employment packages offer expats a travel allowance or annual flights to their home country, but getting there is often expensive, especially during the summer and at the end of the year.


Cost of education in Qatar

The free public school system in Qatar is almost exclusively for locals, so foreigners will have to pay for their children’s education. Although the quality of private education is good, it can be expensive.  

Many employers offer an education allowance but it's good to verify this. School fees vary depending on the school and the child’s grade level. There will also be additional costs such as application costs, excursions, uniforms and transport fees.


Cost of food in Qatar

Qatar imports most of its food products so while expats may be able to find familiar brands, they will be far more expensive than local equivalents. Organic produce, meat and dairy products are available but come at a price.

A small selection of local fruit, vegetables and fish can be quite reasonable, while fresh Qatari flatbreads are downright cheap. Depending on the size of their family, expats may spend at least 10 percent of their salaries on food.

There are numerous options when it comes to eating out in Qatar. Small, independent restaurants are cheaper and offer better value for money than the chain eateries and posh establishments found in hotels.

Alcohol is expensive, can only be purchased from one warehouse and requires a permit, but drinking out is even more expensive.


Cost of living in Qatar 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

Culture Shock in Qatar

Through its former emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Qatar has become renowned for liberal policies that include women’s suffrage, redrafting the constitution, and even allowing the launch of leading English and Arabic news source, Al Jazeera. Expats will, nonetheless, probably have to make some initial adjustments to overcome culture shock in Qatar.

That said, expats may not find adjusting to Qatar as difficult as they might other Middle Eastern countries given that nearly 90 percent of the population is made up of foreigners. As the oddly outnumbered minority, Qataris have had to become generally open-minded and tolerant.

Still, the sand-shrouded peninsula is a step behind what many Qataris consider the debauchery of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Although women have freedom of movement and expats can purchase alcohol in certain places, the country is far from what Westerners might consider liberal.


Religion in Qatar

As is the case with other Arab nations, local culture is linked to the tenets of Islam. Although non-Muslim foreigners aren’t expected to adhere to Islamic law, they are expected to be aware of it and respect its principles.

Most residents in Qatar follow Islam, but expats are free to practise their religions and there is a small community of residents who follow Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. There are churches and Hindu temples in Doha, but all must be respectful of local culture and the freedom of worship is a debated topic: disseminating non-Muslim religious material and displaying non-Muslim religious symbols are prohibited.

New arrivals can connect with expats of the same religion through social media platforms or seek information from institutions, such as the Indian Cultural Centre in Doha.


Meeting and greeting in Qatar

Greeting in Qatar is less simple than a handshake, but not as complicated as an Asian introduction. The rule of thumb for meeting and greeting in Qatar is to temper one's action according to the gender of the person present.

Men greeting men and women greeting women typically do so with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek. On the other hand, Islamic law dictates that unmarried men and women should not touch. As a result, men in Qatar will often avoid extending their hand to women out of respect. Similarly, if a woman extends her hand, a man may prefer to put his hand on his chest or to nod, also out of respect.

In all cases, though, eye contact should be maintained during the meeting process, and greetings of ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’ or ‘as-salamu alaykum’ should be exchanged.


Dress in Qatar

While non-Muslim expats are not bound by the same dress code as Muslims, they should still be sensitive to Qatari ideas of decency.

Women do not need to cover their heads, faces or wear a hijab or abaya, but they are expected to dress modestly so as not to offend the local community. Skirts, dresses and loose-fitting pants should be knee-length, and tank-tops and shirts should cover the midriff and shoulder areas. Sheer clothing should be left at home.

Men do not need to dress in the flowing white robes common among locals or wear headpieces, but they also need to keep their wardrobe tasteful. Shorts should be knee-length and cut-off t-shirts should be avoided.

Similarly, bathing suits and sportswear should only be worn in appropriate venues. Both men and women should be especially vigilant about dressing appropriately during the holy month of Ramadan.


Language barrier in Qatar

Although the official language is Arabic, most people can speak and understand English, which is quickly becoming the language of business in Qatar.

That said, expats should keep in mind that the ever-expanding foreign community is culturally diverse and some people will be more proficient in English than others, which may require a fair amount of patience.


Time in Qatar

Things tend to happen at a slower pace in the emirate, and it won’t be long before expats realise that the concept of time in Qatar is somewhat more flexible than what they may be used to, especially when it comes to doing business. Long lunches are normal, and the progress of business negotiations can be painstakingly slow as relationships are cultivated between client and service provider.

Furthermore, lateness is not nearly as offensive as it is in Western cultures; rather, it’s considered inordinately rude to hurry someone, or for people to look at their watch throughout an engagement.


Cultural dos and don’ts in Qatar

  • Do save Western bathing attire for pools at hotels or private beaches only

  • When seated with a Qatari, don't show the soles of feet

  • Do use the right hand when shaking hands and eating; this is traditional even for left-handed people

  • Don't expect to receive any alcohol at a Qatari-hosted function and don't offer it to Muslims at their events as alcohol is forbidden for Muslims

  • Do treat religious discussions gently. Proselytising is illegal, and attempting to convert someone of a different faith (especially a Qatari) is punishable. 

Women in Qatar

Expat women living in Qatar will find that the government policies of the Arabian Peninsula make for a unique life that usually demands certain initial adjustments.


Women's rights in Qatar

Unlike neighbouring Saudi Arabia, women have more progressive rights in Qatar. They vote, run for municipal elections, and participate freely in all parts of public and social life while enjoying much more equality in professional and educational settings than in Saudi.

Following the lead of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser (the chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, and also one of the wives of the previous emir) women are employed and educated at all levels of society.

These familiar rights will make most newcomers comfortable in their surroundings. Qatar also practises religious tolerance and there are several religious facilities, including an official Catholic church and Hindu temples, in addition to the mosques around the country. Those who practise other religions are free to do so, but proselytising is illegal.

That said, both men and women should realise that Qatari society is engaged in a constant balancing act between the traditional and modern. This means that old-world values, such as gender-segregated schooling environments, are still upheld and considered core to national identity. Similarly, males are considered the natural head of the family, and Western expats should be prepared for a typically patriarchal society.

Though women can work and are respected in the workplace, women under a family residence visa sponsored by their husbands will likely need their husband's official approval to do so. The LGBTQ+ community also undeniably face multiple challenges given that homosexuality is illegal under Sharia, Islamic law.


Dress in Qatar

While non-Qatari women are not expected to wear the abaya, a black robe-like covering, expat women should dress appropriately when at shopping malls, the souks, the Corniche and other public areas. This means covering the arms, at least with short sleeves, and wearing dresses, skirts and shorts that covers the knees.

Dressing appropriately in Qatar will also ensure that expat women will avoid being stared at, or attracting other unwelcome attention from men while out in the city (men, often far from their wives and families, greatly outnumber women in Doha).

Hotels are generally more permissive when it comes to dress and can be an enclave for expats, but keeping the culture in mind while en route and when leaving the hotel is important. A good principle for the expat woman is to always have a shawl in one's handbag or car to use for covering up if needing to get out of the car in public unexpectedly, or for chilly air-conditioned interiors.


Making friends in Qatar

Many of the expat women in Qatar are homemakers who have travelled for the sake of their husbands' jobs and have suddenly found that they don’t have to “make home” in Qatar. House help is widely available at a reasonable price – one of the great benefits of living here, particularly for those with young children. As a result, expat women may find infinitely more hours to spend with their family and friends, or working, or on hobbies.

The transition can be challenging at first when women left at home alone must find ways to fill the time. Those living on compounds are lucky since the compound can act as a safety net for first-time movers. These instant communities have welcoming neighbours and often a central swimming pool or clubhouse.

Another pre-made circle of friends is the network of spouses and children who are the wives and kids of work colleagues. It should be kept in mind that these relationships can often be necessary and welcome, but people may eventually want to branch out, as expat communities can feel claustrophobic with people living and working very closely together.

As there are many others in this situation, there is a varied social scene, with potluck, writing groups, book clubs and other interest groups that are generally open to all women. Activities such as salsa and creative writing have sprung up in recent years. Notices of their meetings are posted regularly in local magazines as well as on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Due to the somewhat transient nature of expat life in Qatar, many people stay an average of only three years. Most of the groups (and people in general) are used to welcoming new arrivals and are very good at making fresh assignees feel welcome. If a new arrival doesn’t find a group for their particular interest, it is fairly easy to start one. 


Work-life balance in Qatar

Those who move to Qatar as single working women will find the elusive work-life balance all the more important to establish. Spending all one's time doing business can get lonely. Start-up companies that demand long hours and companies that uphold the working days and times of Western countries (and not Qatar) often monopolise their employees' time and commitments.

Those who deliberately limit the amount of time they spend at work and on email will find opportunities to explore the city and establish relationships outside of it. It’s important to make this effort, and there are networks related to professional working women that could be useful in helping to meet other women who aren’t able to develop friendships over coffee mornings.

Those looking to make connections in the local community or outside the bubble of their living/working conditions, may find this takes a fair amount of determination, but it can be done. The ephemeral nature of the expat community means that those who stay longer than three years – Qatari and non-Qatari – can be wary of the steady stream of inquiries by newcomers, and may be reluctant to make new friends. The best way to break into these communities is to get involved in meaningful activities, like volunteering and participating in charity work, and to give friendships time to develop.

Accommodation in Qatar

Expat accommodation in Qatar ranges from apartments and individual villas to sprawling expat compounds. And though paying rent largely contributes to the overall cost of living, accommodation is one of the main financial benefits included in employment packages to lure in highly qualified foreign personnel. Most expats who move to Qatar for work purposes arrive with accommodation chosen and organised by their employer. 


Types of accommodation in Qatar

Expats quickly notice that the most sought-after property is within expat compounds, though standalone villas and apartments are also available.

Compounds

Many companies who arrange employee accommodation rent complete compounds or sections of compounds to ensure a reduction in their expenses. These compounds resemble walled suburbs with security and a range of amenities required for comfortable living. Some of the more upmarket compounds have luxury facilities, including small supermarkets, gyms, tennis courts, squash facilities and even restaurants.

Expat families with kids may find these complexes perfect with small garden spaces and shared swimming pools. The presence of other families with shared values can also be attractive and can help to establish easy friendships and a sense of camaraderie.

Housing and villas in expat compounds in Qatar often comes fully furnished, so it may not be necessary for expats to box up and ship their belongings over. Otherwise, unfurnished and semi-furnished options are also available and we suggest expats negotiate the inclusion of an adequate shipping allowance.

Freestanding villas

Standalone villas tend to offer large, spacious housing – often with a hefty price tag attached. These are not part of any gated complexes and typically have four bedrooms or more and an enclosed garden area.

The standard and level of furnishings of these vary, though semi-furnished villas will often contain ready-installed air conditioning systems, large appliances and basic furnishings.

Apartments

Apartments and flats are abundant in Qatar, especially in Doha. Choices range from small one-bedroom apartments in busy downtown areas to large five-bedroom apartments in upmarket buildings close to the ocean. Many apartment blocks have a gym attached and some offer cleaning and room services.

Most apartments are rented fully furnished. Be aware that if choosing an apartment or flat in an older built-up or busy area with dated buildings, the standard of facilities and appliances may be undesirable. Lower rents in these areas may come at a higher price in the long run, so do fully inspect the flat before making any commitments.


Finding accommodation in Qatar

Most expats living in Qatar are lucky enough to have their employer arrange their accommodation. This takes much of the stress out of the process of relocating and having to get to grips with the property market in an unfamiliar country. 
 
For those that are going it alone, listings are available in the classifieds section of the English newspaper, the Gulf Times, as well as on supermarket boards and realty websites. There are many of these online platforms, including Qatar Living, JustProperty and Property Finder.

The services of a relocation company or local real estate agent are strongly recommended. Having a local professional saves time with finding appropriate options and negotiating. These agencies will charge a fee, so be sure to ask for a quote before selecting the most competitive price and services.


Renting accommodation in Qatar

The Ministry of Municipality and Environment manages all real estate matters while some documents may need to be overseen by the Real Estate and Residences Registration Office. This is where real estate agents play their role in facilitating the transactions.

Expats will be happy to hear that rent prices seem to be stabilising in Qatar as more and more buildings are planned. Still, there are particulars about leases, deposits and utilities that must be considered – particularly that rent is required in a lump sum.

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. Most expats choose to make the payment with post-dated cheques, although those who can afford to pay in one lump sum can often leverage a lower price. Rent can also be paid quarterly. Whatever the method, payments must be made timeously.

In the tenant’s favour, rental fees cannot go up within the 12 months designated by the lease.

Leases in Qatar are established in Arabic and expats will receive a copy translated in English so both the tenants and the landlord are on the same page.

Deposits

Deposits in Qatar are normally a month and a half’s rent. For some expats working in Qatar, this may be part of an accommodation allowance, so do negotiate for it where possible.

Utilities

Utilities are not usually included, but these costs are reasonable thanks to the government’s policy of subsidisation.

Whatever the type of accommodation, expats should make sure that their housing in Qatar is equipped with an air conditioning unit before signing any lease. Temperatures soar in summer, and installing this facility can be expensive. 

A comprehensive inventory should be provided to the tenant which allows both parties to be aware of the level of furnishings and any maintenance issues.

Notice periods

Tenancy agreements typically extend over 12 months. If expats leave before this time, they must give notice and are charged a penalty for breaking the contract. Notice periods as stipulated in the lease are normally two months, and penalties are normally two months worth of rent. In some cases, this could vary and we recommend seeking the services of legal professionals.

Healthcare in Qatar

Healthcare in Qatar is perceived among the best available in the Middle East. The country offers expats both private and public options, and health centres in Doha boast cutting-edge medical equipment, up-to-date facilities and highly-trained specialists. 

Expats can use both the public and the private system, but many prefer the latter to avoid the bureaucracy associated with the former. Health insurance isn't provided by the government, and we recommend that all expats living in Qatar take out private health insurance to cover costs as these can rise quickly in the case of medical complications and emergencies.


Public healthcare in Qatar

Public healthcare in Qatar is managed by the Hamad Medical Corporation, a non-profit organisation that has overseen the country's major public hospitals since 1979. It has created an intricate and efficient network of hospitals and clinics which provide free treatment to local Qataris and largely subsidise services for expats at institutions such as the Hamad General Hospital and Al Khor Hospital. 
  
Foreigners moving to Qatar only need to apply for a health card to take advantage of state-sponsored healthcare. With this health card, emergency treatment is most often free in public hospitals, though patients must pay for further check-ups and medication. Expats in the emirate will also need to pay nominal charges for tests, consultations and inpatient care.

Getting a health card

Applications for a health card can be completed at any government clinic or hospital. Expats may need to bring their passport, visa and passport-sized photographs to complete the application form and then pay a basic fee. More information on this and health card renewals can be found on the Qatar Portal.

The Qatar health card is presented upon treatment at any public facility, giving the bearer a subsidised rate.


Private healthcare in Qatar

The Qatari government is also a strong advocate for the development of private sector services. Many healthcare professionals in Qatar are expats themselves, lured there by attractive salary packages and the spirit of adventure.

Private healthcare is available either on a pay-as-needed basis or as a service covered by local or international healthcare providers. Private systems usually allow greater flexibility and as some fees must still be paid with public medical care, many residents opt for it.


Health insurance in Qatar

Given that treatment costs can accumulate quickly, it is advised that expats have some sort of insurance. When exploring various insurance programmes, we advise that expats check what each one encompasses and the extent of their coverage.

Expats moving to Qatar should make an effort to have their sponsor/employer include private health insurance in their contract. This coverage, in addition to the basic health card, will ensure that all their healthcare concerns are covered while living in Qatar. 


Pharmacies and medicines in Qatar

There are plenty of pharmacies available, some of which are open 24 hours or otherwise late into the night. Most stock a good range of products, although it’s always a good idea to bring a small supply of any necessary medication from home until its availability in Qatar can be confirmed.

We recommend expats carry official doctor’s prescriptions as some medication may be considered controlled substances in the country. Generally, the official website Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners can answer specific questions on medication and medical care.


Health hazards in Qatar

While Qatar boasts security and safety, there are some issues to be aware of. Road accidents are common and given Qatar’s hot climate, there is a risk of sunstroke. Be sure to stay hydrated and avoid going outdoors in the heat.


Emergency services in Qatar

Qatar has a large fleet of emergency vehicles with impressive average response times. Expats can dial 999 to call the police, the fire department or an ambulance.

Education and Schools in Qatar

Various challenges are faced by expats moving to this Middle Eastern emirate, but navigating the system of education in Qatar is one aspect that doesn’t have to be too complicated. Most expats send their children to private international schools and their biggest obstacle is often not the lack of places in Qatari schools, but rather choosing between them.

Parents should research potential schools and apply as soon as possible. To help with this, the official website of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education provides a list of schools.


Public schools in Qatar

Public schools in Qatar have been converted to independent schools. This means they receive government funding, but they have the autonomy to employ their methods of teaching. Independent schools can recruit teachers and staff according to their policy and each has their style of teaching. Still, the curriculum must follow regulations of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Compulsory subjects are Arabic, English, maths, science and Islamic studies.

Education follows distinct levels. After preschool, primary school consists of grades one to six, preparatory school for grades seven to nine and secondary school for grades 10 to 12. Past age 18, basic education for adults is also available. For secondary school, there is a choice between general education or specialised and technical schools for specific interests, including banking, business administration, and science and technology.

State schools provide world-class education as Qatar wishes to grow as a country and improve the knowledge and skills of their citizens.

Though public schools are free for Qatari nationals, schools may differ in policy regarding non-Qatari students. As such, most students are Qatari, though expats with the right connections might be admitted. Many expats prefer an international curriculum.


International schools in Qatar

Even though the government puts a lot of effort into ensuring the standards of local schools, most expat children attend private international schools in Qatar. There are many options, with schools following various curricula, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), British, American and Indian systems. These schools must meet standards of the Qatar National School Accreditation system.

Education can be a significant expense, so expats working in Qatar should try and negotiate school fees into their contract or ensure that they budget carefully. Fees add up quickly for tuition, as well as additional expenses such as registration fees, uniforms and excursions, and most fees are expected to be paid upfront at the beginning of the school year.

Enrolment requires long-term planning because waiting lists for spaces in schools are long. Some expats apply when signing their employment contract, since companies may reserve spaces in schools.

Expats applying to a school can expect to pay a non-refundable application fee. They often 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.

The school year in Qatar runs from September to June, with a typical school day lasting from 7.30am to 2pm. After-school activities extend the school day for children who take part in them.


Nurseries in Qatar

Qatar recognises the importance of early childhood education and there are many kindergartens, both public and private. Private ones may be attached to larger international schools.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education emphasises that kindergarten should encourage children to be active, creative and able to question, criticise and have their own personality. Young children can explore basic numeracy and science, but the focus on their physical development and creative expression is paramount.

Expats do not need to worry about a language barrier in Qatari nurseries – young kids pick up language easily and the foundation curriculum offers communication in both Arabic and English. All nurseries, both public and private, offer top-quality educational and play materials and environments with experienced teachers. 


Special needs education in Qatar

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

Comprehensive and integrated educational programmes are available for students with special needs and gifted students. Public and private schools provide support for students with learning, physical or developmental disabilities as well as those with behavioural, emotional and communications disorders, including students with autism and intellectual disabilities. 

Schools must tailor services to each student. Curricula may be adapted to meet appropriate educational goals, and specialised materials and technology are employed to aid in the learning process. Specialists alongside all teaching staff are responsible for providing optimal support to children and their parents. 

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 and still provide a comprehensive education programme. Specialised schools include Al-Hidaya schools for students with intellectual disabilities and separate schools for students with hearing impairments.


Homeschooling in Qatar

Homeschooling is an option for many residents 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. Parents who choose this alternative to mainstream schooling in Qatar can find an active community of expats who can be reached via social media.

Given the vague homeschooling regulations for expats in Qatar, DHE advises parents to follow the regulations of their home country.


Tutors in Qatar

Tutoring in Qatar, like elsewhere around the world, is a popular 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 on the Qatari curriculum. TeacherOn and MyPrivateTutor are among the commonly used online platforms. 

Transport and Driving in Qatar

Qatar, as with other Gulf states, is an incredibly innovative country, developing right before our eyes. While some countries take decades to develop an efficient public transport system, Qatar is effectively constructing, establishing and growing theirs in a matter of years.

Just a few short years ago, public transport infrastructure was not so well organised, but their wealth of resources and determination to advance have changed that. As one of the richest countries in the world, along with the push for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar is constantly undergoing great transformation, with the newest technology, and modern equipment and infrastructure.


Public transport in Qatar

As networks advance and adapt with innovative technology, those wishing to get around by Qatar’s public transport must use and regularly check the online resources available to them. Buses are one of the main forms of public transport around Qatar, but the metro, tram and train systems are also expanding. 

Buses

Qatar’s transport network offers clean and comfortable electric Karwa buses. These are easy to locate with the help of the Mowasalat website and social media pages that give up-to-date info on schedules and routes, though they are largely limited to the capital city.

To ride the Karwa buses, passengers will need a travel card, known as a Karwa smartcard, these can be on a rechargeable, long-term basis or limited or unlimited for 24 hours. It’s easy to purchase and top up the smartcard at various locations including Hamad International Airport, The Pearl Qatar, Qatar Mall and Doha Bus Station.

Metro

Metro systems are one of the quickest ways to get around in major world cities, and Qatar is developing their system in the capital city. Doha recently began operating its metro system which connects major areas around the city, including Hamad International Airport as one of the metro stations.

It is easy to use and navigate, and expats can easily find more information, register for and top up their travel cards online through the Qatar Rail website and app.

The metro is not just fast, it is air-conditioned and clean with up-to-date timetables available on the Doha Metro website. Metro lines can also be found on Google Maps so that new arrivals can track and plan their journey.

Trains

While the railway network is currently limited and not yet functioning, schemes for transport modernisation encompass a greater railway system for passengers and freight transport. This is an on-going project by Qatar Rail aiming to connect Doha to cities that are not even fully complete yet – namely Lusail – as well as reaching the other Gulf states. Lusail is a planned city that Qatar aims to build north of Doha along the coast and hopes to be reachable from Doha via the metro and Lusail Light Rail Transit system.

This is very much a ‘watch this space’ situation as the rail networks and urban infrastructure continue to develop.


Taxis in Qatar

Taxis are one of the most convenient ways of getting around in Qatar. Drivers are well trained and vehicles are clean. Expats can arrange a sedan-type car, a larger van, a limo, or a vehicle for passengers with reduced mobility. Taxis, known as Karwa taxis, are largely publicly operated, like the bus and metro system, by Mowasalat. They can easily be ordered through the Karwa app or a call centre. There are also several privately-run taxis in the country, and Uber operates in Doha.

All taxis have meters and new arrivals will enjoy the low fare. It’s important to have local currency in cash on hand when taking a taxi. 

While Qatar is a safe country, we recommend that women do not travel alone at night and always ensure the taxi is registered.


Driving in Qatar

While the public transport network is developing, many residents still travel by car and find this the best way to get around. 

As a driver, it is critical to follow the rules of the road and remain vigilant. While crime is low, road accidents and related fatality rates are frighteningly high. Time and again, expats discuss the dangerous and unpredictable nature to driving, making road safety in Qatar a concern and driving defensively essential. 

Always wear seatbelts, remain calm and never use a phone while driving – expats who fail to follow these regulations can face heavy fines. Certain trips, such as those out to the desert may require a four-by-four vehicle, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Anyone from age 18 and above can drive in Qatar with a valid license, and most expats will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) translating their license. Expats staying less than a year can use their home license along with the IDP, but those wishing to stay longer must get a Qatari driving license.

Renting a car

Several major international car rental agencies operate in Qatar, such as Hertz, Avis and Europcar, as well as local agencies. 

The process is easy, and cars can be collected through walk-ins or pre-booked online or by phone call directly through the rental company. We urge expats to check the documents and information necessary, which usually requires a valid credit card, though cash payments in person are also possible.


Cycling in Qatar

Many foreigners – and locals alike – may see cycling as impossible given the extreme weather. Qatar’s heat may dissuade those potentially interested in cycling, and may have health and safety implications for those who insist. Needless to say, cycling is not a popular a method of getting around. 

Don’t be fooled, though, cycling for recreational, competition and fitness purposes is growing in popularity. Avid cyclists can access cycle routes across the country, not just in the capital.

Expat families and individuals can find a range of resources and routes for road and mountain biking as well as special events through the website of the Qatar Cycling Federation. 


Walking in Qatar

Due to the heat, we don’t advise walking to get around in Qatar. Leisurely strolls are possible around certain areas in Doha and are pleasant in the cooler months, but hiking is not common. 

When venturing out into the desert to experience some of Qatar’s landscape and lifestyle, do bring enough water and sunscreen, and as always, dress conservatively.


Sea travel in Qatar

Thanks to its geographic location jutting out in the Arab peninsula, Qatar’s refreshing sea views contrast the arid desert interior. Expats can take advantage of the shoreline by enjoying cruises, tours and fishing trips. Day trips, dinner cruises and even corporate events take place on boats, while water sports are also possible.

Boats come in all shapes and sizes, including traditional dhows as well as speedboats. Always review the company that is providing the service, enquire about their safety standards and wear a life jacket.


Air travel in Qatar 

Qatar’s main international airport is Hamad International Airport in Doha. Qatar Airways is the national flag carrier and is a publicly-owned company that provides excellent service and connects with flights and airports worldwide. Many airlines fly in and out of Hamad International Airport, including British Airways and Ethiopian Airlines as well as several smaller budget airlines.

Buying a Car in Qatar

After securing accommodation, buying a car in Qatar will probably be an expat’s most expensive decision. Despite the country working at a furious pace to improve public transport infrastructure, having access to a vehicle in the emirate is a necessity for most. 

Employment packages usually provide a transport allowance, but this doesn't necessarily include financing an automobile purchase. We recommend that expats who don't get any sort of allowance should make sure their salary at least covers the cost of a vehicle and insurance.

Buying a new or used car in Qatar is not as difficult as one might imagine, but it does take time to select a vehicle and sort out all of the paperwork. Various cars can be found, from hatchbacks to SUVs, both old and new. Some prefer the safety and the chance to venture into the desert that a four-wheel-drive vehicle allows. Others prefer easy-to-navigate and easy-to-park smaller cars. No matter an expat's preferences, there are no shortage of options and petrol is cheap.


New and used cars in Qatar

Prices of new cars are not nearly as inflated as the prices of other imported items in Qatar. Asian brands such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan are economical, and getting spare parts for these makes is easy. Luxury brands such as Mercedes and BMW are available too, but are more expensive. Used cars are, of course, more affordable.

New cars can be bought directly from dealerships including Honda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, Volvo and even Ferrari or Rolls Royce. This is a straightforward process that will be familiar to many expats. Used cars can be bought from a dealer or directly from the owner. Online portals are also good places to look at.

Expats should ask questions, go for a test drive and try to negotiate a better price for any car that interests them. Asking for the service history and taking it to a reliable garage for inspection are also good ideas. In Doha, many mechanics around Salwa Road, near the Industrial Area, provide this service at reasonable prices.

To finance the cost of the car, dealerships offer loan options that often include a large down payment followed by three or four monthly instalments. Alternatively, some companies offer loans that are deducted from their employee’s monthly salary. Still, an expat's best bet is generally a car loan from banks in Qatar.

Banks, including Doha Bank, QNB and HSBC, offer varying loan packages for purchasing a vehicle, but tend to be limited to cars that are less than four years old. Qatari nationals are normally given higher loans than expats as well as longer repayment options. Still, provided expats meet their bank’s eligibility criteria, they can agree to repay the car loan in flexible monthly instalments, usually up to four years.

Used cars are often paid for in full at the time of purchase, though loans for both new and used vehicles are available. There are both pros and cons to buying new or used cars, but the most suitable option depends on an expat’s individual circumstances.

New cars come with a dealer warranty and will be in mint condition, but will be much more expensive. Given the high turnover rate of expats in Qatar, there are great deals on used cars and paying the high prices of new cars can be unnecessary. That said, used cars often come with histories of accidents, so it’s useful to ensure the car is certified by an accredited company.


Process of buying a car in Qatar

We recommend budgeting and planning finances before starting to search for a vehicle. This helps when deciding on the type of vehicle to buy, applying for a car loan and giving a down payment to the car seller and then monthly repayments thereafter.

Regardless of the car an expat buys, they will need to register the car at the traffic department and have a valid driver’s licence and car insurance to legally be able to drive in Qatar.

With new cars, dealerships often assist with insurance and vehicle registration. When buying a used car, most people use the same insurer as the previous owner to save time and effort.

Driving without car insurance in Qatar is illegal and, especially given the high rate of traffic accidents, to do so would be foolish.

Insurance premiums are based on the value of the car (as determined by the insurer) and are paid annually. There are no designated insurers for women or expats.

Shipping and Removals in Qatar

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.

Frequently Asked Questions about Qatar

Expats planning a move to Qatar are bound to have many queries about life in this Middle Eastern country. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Qatar.

Should I move to Qatar?

Deciding to move to a country is always an individual decision based on individual circumstances. That said, most people who relocate to Qatar do so for financial reasons. The natural gas boom in the country has meant a huge influx of wealth and, with a successful FIFA World Cup 2022 bid, the economy is expected to continue growing.

Can I find work in Qatar?

Most expats employed in Qatar find work before going over. While there are many opportunities in the country, it is necessary to find a host sponsor to enable foreigners to get a work residence permit. Finding a job has been relatively easy for those who work in the construction, oil and gas industries. 

Will I need a bank account? Will I need to pay taxes?

Having a bank account in Qatar would be absolutely necessary, but whether this is a local or international account is up to the individual expatriate and their unique situation. There are no taxes levied on personal income in the emirate, though we'd advise expats check if taxes must be paid in one's home country. Banking, money and taxes in Qatar is an issue that needs research and, in many cases, professional assistance.

Do I need a car in Qatar?

Almost all expats who can afford it buy a car in Qatar, but new arrivals should be warned – Qatar's roads are notoriously dangerous, and Doha can be difficult for newcomers to navigate. Companies sometimes provide a car or travel allowances for their employees and expats can easily get around by taxi too. Still, public transport in Doha and across the country is quickly developing with constant improvements to the bus and metro system.

How do I get a visa for Qatar?

Visas, which enable foreigners to enter the country, are obtainable from one's nearest Qatari embassy or consulate. In Qatar, work residence permits enable expats to stay and work in the emirate. These are applied for at the Ministry of Interior in Qatar, and the expat's employer has to sponsor the application in order for it to be successful. 

What's it like for women in Qatar?

Qatar prides itself on being a relatively progressive state where women are not restricted from receiving a quality education or working. Still, gender inequality issues are evident and expat women must adapt to the culture shock, changing the way they dress and behave. We encourage women to weigh up the pros and cons of a move to Qatar.

Articles about Qatar

Banking, Money and Taxes in Qatar

As a country with one of the world’s highest per capita income, Qatar's inhabitants need adequate infrastructure to protect their earnings. As such, expats generally find that banking in Qatar, with its well-maintained network of local and international banks, is quite easy.


Money in Qatar

The currency used in Qatar is the riyal (QAR), which is subdivided into 100 dirhams. Riyals can be found in the following denominations:

  • Notes: QAR 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500

  • Coins: 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 dirhams

The riyal is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate of 1 USD to 3.64 QAR for the Qatar Central Bank's sales and purchases of USD with banks that operate in the country. New arrivals can easily get local cash at the airport and banks. Remember, though, that when exchanging currency, banks charge for the service, so the rate may vary.


Banking in Qatar

The banking industry is supervised by the Qatar Central Bank, which oversees commercial banks such as Ahli Bank, the Commercial Bank of Qatar, Doha Bank, Qatar Islamic Bank, International Bank of Qatar and the Qatar National Bank (QNB). These offer comprehensive online banking services.

Most local banks have services in both English and Arabic and offer the familiar account types found in most global destinations.

Alternatively, expats can open an international account for use in Qatar, with banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank having established a presence in the country. This kind of account may be of benefit to those who would like to consider offshore account options or who already have an account with one of the service providers in their home country.

Some expats also report that they prefer the convenience and security of having their finances centralised in this way.

Banks in Qatar are generally open from Sunday to Thursday between 7.30am or 9am and 1pm, but many are also open in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings.

Opening a bank account in Qatar

For those who don't go the international account route, opening a bank account in Qatar is a relatively simple, stress-free process. Expats will generally need to apply in person with the following:

  • Passport
  • Valid residency/work permit and Qatar ID card 
  • A certificate/letter from the Qatari employer stating monthly salary
  • Banks may require either a minimum balance or salary, often of QAR 5,000 or more
  • Some banks require passport-sized photos

Once the application has been approved, the bank will provide the applicant with a letter for their employer, confirming that they are happy to receive salary payments into the new account.

Qatar also has an officially appointed banking ombudsman affiliated with Qatar's Central Bank, accessible to anyone who has a complaint against a bank and needs assistance.

Credit cards and ATMs 

ATMs are readily available in Qatar and, more often than not, accept both local and international credit- and debit cards. While most ATMs function 24 hours, it may not be guaranteed, and using ATMs operated by banks other than one's own or using a credit card to withdraw cash normally incurs extra charges.


Taxes in Qatar

One of the great attractions of relocating to Qatar is that no personal or income tax is levied against individual salaries or allowances, even as an expat. This means that, while in Qatar, an expat's gross salary will be paid to them without any deductions whatsoever.

However, expats are strongly advised to research whether a double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) exists between Qatar and their country of origin; if there isn't, they will be liable to pay tax in their country of origin on the money earned in Qatar. We recommend that expats working in Qatar check this online and consult with tax specialists if necessary.

Excise taxes

While income is not taxed, certain goods are, including tobacco, carbonated- and energy drinks, and special-purpose goods such as alcohol. This means the prices of these items are much higher, affecting the cost of living.

Expat Experiences in Qatar

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories from other expats who have lived there.
Feel free to contact us if you live or have lived in Qatar and would like to share your experience.

Kennesha is an American expat who threw caution to the wind and moved to work and teach in Qatar. After living in Qatar for several years, Kennesha has much to share, especially when it comes to culture shock, the Western mindset and her experience moving abroad as a parent with two sons. Read more in our expat interview with Kennesha.

Kennesha

Rima Obaid moved with her husband to Qatar from Jordan just over a decade ago. They moved to advance their careers in engineering and human resources, but have made Doha their home and are now raising their children in that city. Rima records her experiences on her YouTube channel, and most recently posted a video on 20 things to love about Qatar. Read more about her expat experience in Qatar.
 
Rima is a Jordanian expat living in Qatar
Velvet Garvey is an Australian expat living in Qatar with her husband. They moved to Doha when she pursued a job opportunity as a Managing Editor of a publication. Despite the dust and the unpredictable drivers, Velvet enjoys life in Qatar; with the best part of living in Qatar being her job. Read more about her expat experience in Doha.
 
Velvet Garvey - An Australian Expat living in Qatar
Helen Sach is an Australian expat living in Doha with her husband, Kim, and their little Maltese dog, Suzie. Having lived in Dubai before moving to Qatar, Helen admits that she enjoys life in Qatar more than she did life in the UAE. Read more about her expat experience in Qatar.
 
Helen Sach - An Australian expat in Qatar
Victoria is a British expat who moved to Qatar with her husband when he got a job in the aviation sector in Doha. They have been in Qatar for over three years now, and despite missing the green of the UK, she enjoys the Qatar sunshine and the child-friendly nature of Doha. Read about her expat life in Doha.
 
Victoria Scott - A British expat in Qatar
 
No matter how much preparation you put into your relocation, it's never 100 percent smooth sailing. So don’t get down on yourself if a challenge pops up that you can’t immediately overcome; and for some inspiration, read one British expat living in Doha’s account of how a little bit of luck and a lot of Insha'Allahs can help you settle into Qatar.
 
Settling into Doha icon
Yogesh Pagar quit India in 2007 in quest for a unique Arab cultural experience in Qatar.  As a veteran travel professional who's explored four other nations in the Middle East as well, he's well equipped to shed some light on the expat experience in Qatar.
 
Oliver Moritz was one of the first three members of his company to pack his bags, bid his goodbyes and make the move to Qatar from Germany over six years ago.  Now, in his third job with no plans to repatriate soon, he gives Expat Arrivals the inside scoop on Qatar and how it's changed in recent years. 
 
Photograph of Oliver Moritz - Businessman in Qatar
Roxanne Davis is maker and creator of Doha mums - a thriving community of passionate mothers from all over the world who have come to settle in the sultry heat of Qatar.  She found a slot in her crazy calendar of events to explain to expats everywhere the rise and fall of life in Doha
 
Roxanne Davis of Doha Mums
Rajka Milanovic M.D., is an American Board Certified Family Physician living and working in Qatar. For two of the past 5 years she has practiced medicine there, and also delivered her second child. She blogs and advises on being an expat mother in Doha - read about her expat experiences of life in Qatar.