Cost of Living in Qatar

Official sources and on-the-ground experiences tell different stories about the cost of living in Qatar. The 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Index places the capital, Doha, at 115th out of 209 cities surveyed, placing it as well below other major Middle Eastern cities like Dubai and Riyadh, but as more expensive than Kuwait City and Muscat.

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, 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 have decreased in recent years, while goods and services have become more expensive.

This might make the country seem less appealing, but the expat population continues to grow and 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.  Different areas of Doha will appeal to different tastes, but it has no ‘bad’ neighbourhoods.

Some expat salaries include a housing allowance that is either paid in monthly instalments or 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 transportation in Qatar

Petrol in Qatar is cheap, which adds to the intense love people have for their cars and may explain the nearly non-existent public transport system.

Hiring a driver, buying and renting a car are all viable options. While drivers might be less hassle, they may not allow as much freedom but 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 the longer the lease period.

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 (Corniche, Rumaila Park) and shopping centres. But parking and speeding violations come with hefty fines.

Public transport in Qatar consists of buses and taxis, both of which are good value. Buses only run the main routes of Doha, and taxis are usually found at a handful of ranks around the city or in shopping centre parking lots.

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 is good to double check 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 its food products so, while expats can 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 will probably spend around 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 October 2018. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Two-bedroom apartment in Al Sadd

QAR 13,500

Two-bedroom apartment in West Bay 

QAR 14,500

Two-bedroom apartment in the Pearl 

QAR 18,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

QAR 13

Milk (1 litre)

QAR 8

Rice (1 kg)

QAR 10

Loaf of white bread

QAR 6

Chicken breasts (1kg)

QAR 30

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

QAR 12

Eating out

Big Mac meal

QAR 25

Coca-Cola (330ml)

QAR 8

Cappuccino 

QAR 18

Bottle of beer

QAR 38

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

QAR 200

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

QAR 0.78

Internet (Uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

QAR 300

Basic utilities (per month for standard household)

QAR 250

Hourly rate for domestic help

QAR 33

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

QAR 2.50

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

QAR 5

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

QAR 1.91

Alexandria Lipka Our Expat Expert

Alexandria was a research scientist and the lab manager of a small biotechnology company based in Doha, Qatar. She was born and raised in the USA and moved to Doha, via a 10 year stint in London, to pursue her career.  She is married but moved to Qatar on her own, as there were not many job opportunities for her husband, and although this is not the most convenient of situations, it works for now.

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