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

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


Cost of accommodation in Doha

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

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

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


Cost of food in Doha

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

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


Cost of schooling in Doha

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

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

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


Cost of healthcare in Doha

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

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

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

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


Cost of transport in Doha

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

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

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


Cost of living in Doha chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Doha in June 2020. 

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

QAR 10,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

QAR 7,100

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

QAR 5,500

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

QAR 3,700

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

QAR 10

Milk (1 litre)

QAR 7

Rice (1 kg)

QAR 6.20

Loaf of white bread

QAR 5.60

Chicken breasts (1kg)

QAR 31.60

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

QAR 22

Eating out

Big Mac meal

QAR 25

Coca-Cola (330ml)

QAR 3

Cappuccino 

QAR 18.40

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 325

Basic utilities (per month for standard household)

QAR 305

Hourly rate for domestic help

QAR 31

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

QAR 2

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

QAR 2.50

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

QAR 1.90

Mohana Rajakumar Our Expat Expert

Mohana Rajakumar is a writer and educator who has lived in Qatar since 2005. A scholar of literature, she has a PhD from the University of Florida with a focus on gender and postcolonial theory. Her work has been published in AudioFile Magazine, Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, and Qatar Explorer.

She is the creator and co-editor of five books in the Qatar Narratives series, as well as the Qatari Voices anthology, which features essays by Qataries on modern life in Doha (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2010).

Additionally, she's written a course for the Global Coach Center and lead the corresponding teleclass on "Living and Working in Qatar".

Catch up on her latest via her blog or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

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