Cost of Living in Qatar


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Qatari Riyals, at the heart of an expat's living costsOfficial sources and on the ground experiences tell different stories about the cost of living in Qatar.  Up until recently, many took it for granted that the cost of living in the emirate was not nearly as high as in its Middle Eastern neighbours, like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In 2014, the Mercer Cost of Living Index placed Doha at 158th out of 211 international cities, far below Dubai, which was ranked at 67.

In reality though, there are huge divisions of wealth in Qatar, with the highest echelons being almost exclusively occupied by Qataris.  Directly under them will be the wealthier expats, followed by middle management and finally the lower level unskilled workers. Even better-off expats have, however, felt the sting of rising costs in the emirate.
 
The nation’s wealth nonetheless remains at least on par with the other Gulf region power players. In 2012, the International Monetary Fund listed Qatar as having the second highest GDP per capita in the world after Luxemourg.  With statistics like this, many people are under the impression that everyone in the country benefits from a high standard of living.

Employment packages for expats are usually quite lucrative and are the main draw for those who choose to relocate to the country.  However, as with most of the Gulf region, salaries in Qatar have decreased over recent years, and many expats find that working here may not have as much appeal as it used to.  

Nonetheless, the population of Qatar continues to grow, and many people find that a move here not only provides them with career opportunities, but also presents opportunities to make and save a fair amount of money. 

Just like any other location, items and services in Doha and the rest of Qatar can range from very cheap to very expensive but, on the whole, most items do tend to fall into the more expensive category.  That is not to say, however, that expats can’t cut a few corners and find some good deals.

Cost of accommodation in Qatar


Accommodation costs will form the bulk of an expat’s expenditure, roughly 30 to 40 percent of a monthly salary.  Rent for expat-standard accommodation is ridiculously high, but small comfort can be taken in the fact that it has decreased considerably since prices peaked around 2008. They have, however, been steadily rising with land prices in Qatar rising as much as 15 percent in 2013.

As with any other country, the price of rent will be dictated by the type of property and its location.  Most expats moving to Qatar will be based in its largest city, Doha, and people tend to choose which area they live in according to availability and proximity to work or their children’s school.  All areas of Doha have their pros and cons according to personal tastes, but there are no ‘bad’ sections of town.

A housing allowance will most likely be part of the expat's salary, and is usually paid in either monthly installments or in one lump sum when they in; it is good to double check this.  Prices will also vary depending on whether the place is furnished or unfurnished, and it never hurts to try and negotiate a lower price.

Some employment packages may include a substantial allowance for shipping personal items over from the expat's home country. Depending on the anticipated length of stay, it may be wise to take advantage of this for larger, comfort items; furniture, home accessories and electronics are expensive in Qatar and not of the best quality. It is often hard to find items that appeal to expat tastes as well; IKEA has not yet staked its claim in Qatar.

Utilities are reasonably priced, but it is good to be aware of small extra accommodation costs that may add up. Some apartments have yearly maintenance/service fees attached, and expats need to know if payment is the responsibility of the tenant or the landlord.  

Cost of transportation in Qatar


The cost of petrol in Qatar is cheap – just one QAR per litre – which adds to the intense love affair people have with their cars. It may also explain the country’s nearly non-existent public transport system.

Both renting and buying a car are viable options in Qatar, as is opting out of both and hiring a driver. Although a lot less hassle, a driver does not allow as much freedom, but may work out to be more economical for expats who don’t have children that need ferrying around, and only really plan on travelling to and from work or the grocery store.  

There are plenty of car rental companies in Qatar, many of which offer better rates the longer the lease period. A small car, such as a Nissan Sunny, will cost around 3,000 QAR per month, while a larger four-wheel drive vehicle will cost at least 5,000 QAR a month.

If purchasing a car, buying new is not a problem; however, because of the high turnover rate of expats, very good deals on used vehicles can be found. To buy a used Nissan Sunny can cost less than 40,000 QAR, while a larger four-wheel drive Pathfinder would come in at about 85,000 QAR, depending on mileage.

When deciding on the make or model of choice, it is important to note that most European and American car parts will be more expensive and harder to source if something should go wrong with the car.

For now, and bar a few rare exceptions, free parking in Qatar is readily available in public places (Corniche, Rumaila Park) and shopping centres. If expats should be unlucky enough to get a parking ticket though, they could be paying up to 500 QAR. Traffic violations such as speeding and going through a red light are more severe and cost 600 to 1,000 QAR.

The public transport system of Qatar consists of buses and taxis, and is run by a single company, Karwa. Both modes of transit are good value, taxi fares start at  4 QAR and increase by around 2.20 QAR per km (more in the evening), while bus fares start at 3 QAR. Buses only run the main routes of Doha, and taxis can only usually be found in a handful of ranks around the city or in shopping centre car parks.

It is also important to take into consideration that Qatar is not oriented as the cheapest travel destination. Most employment packages offer a travel allowance and/or annual flights back to the expat's home country, but getting there is often expensive and even more so during the high season (Qatari summer, Christmas/New Year). 

Cost of schooling in Qatar


A free public school system exists in Qatar, but is almost exclusively for locals. Foreigners will have to pay for their children’s education and, although the level is good, it can be very expensive.  

Most employers offer an education allowance, but again, it is good to double check this. School fees vary depending on the school and the grade level of the child. Nursery and pre-Kindergarten can cost around 20,000 QAR a year, while sixth form/high school fees can be as much as 50,000 QAR a year. There will most certainly be a few extra fees on top of this, such as application and registration fees, uniforms and transport fees.

Cost of health insurance in Qatar


Health insurance is normally organised by employers, and the standard of care in Qatar is good. If health insurance is not included in an expat's payment package, highly subsidised health and dental care with Hamad Medical Corporation can be accessed with the purchase of a Hamad Card (100 QAR).

Cost of food and clothing in Qatar


A souq in Qatar, part of the local lifestyle.Qatar imports over 90 percent of its food products, so although finding familiar brands is possible, they will be far more expensive than their local equivalents. Imported and organic produce, meat and dairy products are readily available but are privileges that come at a price. A small variety of local fruit, vegetables and fish can be quite reasonable, and fresh Qatari-baked flat breads are downright cheap. Depending on the size of their family, an expat's food bill will probably constitute at least 10 percent of their salary.     
   
There is something for everyone and every budget when it comes to eating out in Qatar. Small, independent restaurants are cheaper, of course, and offer a far better value for money than the many chain eateries and posh establishments found in hotels.

Alcohol is expensive, can only be purchased from one warehouse and requires a permit, with cheapest bottles of wine priced from around 40 QAR. A six pack of beer is about 70 QAR, while a bottle of spirits (1.5 litre) is at least 100 QAR. Drinking out is even more expensive.  
      
As with food, many familiar clothing shop brands and department stores can be found in the seemingly unending array of malls in Qatar, but high-profile brands and labels will be more expensive.The latest model electronics, digital cameras, laptops or phones can also be found, but most expats tend to buy these overseas or on a visit to their home country asit can work out to be much cheaper.

 

Cost of living in Qatar chart 2014 (Based on Doha) 

Accommodation per month
Two-bedroom apartment in Al Sadd  QAR 9,500
Two-bedroom apartment in West Bay  QAR 17,500
Two-bedroom apartment in the Pearl  QAR 15,000
Four-bedroom villa in Al Rayyan QAR,19,000
Shopping
Dozen eggs QAR 9.70
Milk (1 litre) QAR 6.50
Rice (1 kg) QAR 8
Loaf of white bread QAR 5.40
Chicken breasts (1kg) QAR 25
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) QAR 9

Eating out

Big Mac meal QAR 20 
Large Coca Cola  (2.5 litre bottle) QAR 6
Cappuccino  QAR 17
Bottle of beer (local) QAR 22
Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant QAR 200

Utilities/household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile) QAR 0.70
Internet (Uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)  QAR 350
Basic utilities (Average per month for standard household) QAR 400

Transportation

Taxi rate/km QAR 2
Bus fare in the city centre  QAR 10
Petrol/Gasoline QAR 1


Our Qatar Expert

AlexandriaLipka's picture
Connecticut, the USA
Alexandria is a research scientist and the lab manager of a small biotechnology company based in Doha, Qatar. She was born...
AlexandriaLipka


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