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Expat Life

Cost of Living in Doha Qatar

20 March 2019

The cost of living in Qatar, or in any place for that matter, largely depends on your lifestyle and where you come from. Qatar is not very expensive place to live in, and the government does not charge a lot on several things including electricity, water, and home phone lines. Qatar hardly imposes taxes. The only tax being levied is the import tax, but that is also quite reasonable. The citizens here get free electricity, water, and phone lines! The major expenses that you may have to really deal with here are - accommodation, which largely depends on your location of stay, apart from educational expenses if living with family.

However, people entering the country with the motive of just work and live, may notice that while some things may be cheaper here, others may be quite expensive. The overall cost of living is high compared to other GCC regions like Kuwait, Oman, KSA and Bahrain. So, it is important to remember when we talk of that impressive salary that, you have to live on it as well as save it.

Apart from very cheap petrol, many daily goods are getting more expensive in Qatar than in other countries. About 90 ninety percent of food in Qatar is imported, and hence even basic foodstuffs may be pricey. Also, the cost of entertainment is no less.

The 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Index places Doha at 115th position our of 209 cities surveyed, placing it below other major Middle Eastern cities like Dubai and Riyadh, but more expensive than Kuwait City and Muscat.

The overall cost of living in Qatar can be classified based on prices for specific quantities for the same goods and services across major Basket Groups.

Rentals usually constitute about one-third of average monthly expenses of an expat family, and accounts to one-third of CPI (Consumer Price Index), a cost of living measurement which compares real-time prices of common consumer goods, in comparison to same month previous year. The CPI is usually calculated by comparing the cost of an average basket of goods purchased by residents in a typical month.

Cost of living in Doha Qatar

Accommodation / Rental Expenses

Almost all expatriates working in Qatar rent their properties, and majority of them are on employment contracts that offer free or subsidized housing, utilities and furniture. Majority of properties in Qatar that are available for rent in Qatar are unfurnished, irrespective of whether it is a grand villa or a modest studio apartment. The unfurnished apartments will offer only the bare essentials such as a kitchen unit, curtain rails, lighting fixtures (could also mean semi-furnished). There are also furnished properties but, they are harder to find and are more expensive.

Almost all expatriate accommodation in Doha come with a range of amenities including swimming pools, gymnasiums, tennis courts and playgrounds. Majority of villas and houses have gardens. It is also possible to find separate apartments and townhouses to rent.

Finding a rented accommodation in Qatar is a straight-forward, well-established practice. Several leading international firms often have their own housing arrangements in the form of long-term leases on properties for their staff. But, if you have to find self-accommodation, there is considerable choice and depends on the type of property you want.

You can decide on a budget, and choose a location depending on the importance of accessibility to your work place, the type and size of living space you want, irrespective of whether it is villa or apartment, number of bedrooms, etc. Doha, being a small city, almost all areas are easily accessible to the City Centre, schools and airport.

Rental costs will take up a lion's share of your monthly budget. You will also have to take into consideration your investment for purchase of items such as beds and sofas, as most of the properties out there for rentals in Qatar are unfurnished, unless, you are looking out for a grand apartment or a large villa.

The typical monthly rentals for apartments at present (approximate values) are as follows: But, the rates vary largely depending on the location of the property.

Depending on the location of the flat or house you choose, and the amenities available there, the monthly rental for studio and single bedroom apartments typically fall in the range QR2800 to QR7000. A bed space rent can average out at about QR 900.

At the higher-end of the scale, a single bedroom apartment in luxurious Pearl Qatar development can start at QR10,000, while a two bedroom would be about QR12,000 to QR14,000.

Two bedroom apartments in Umm Ghuwailina can begin with QR6,500 monthly, while a double bedroom fully-furnished apartment at Al Wakra may be about QR5000.

A three bedroom apartment in city centre may be anywhere between QR7000 and QR15000.

Now, with these kind of rentals, unless your employer gives you a generous housing allowance, even the most appealing tax-free salary may not be of any help when you relocate to Qatar.

Transportation

Cost of transportation for public transport, vehicle fuel, vehicle insurance, vehicle maintenance including in the form of hire purchase or lease of vehicle, petrol or diesel, public transport service maintenance, vehicle insurance and vehicle purchase is comparatively less when compared to most other cities.

Petrol is very reasonable and second-hand cars are also reasonably priced. The general mode of transport in Qatar is through Bus, Karwa taxi or private taxi. One way ticket (local transport) can range QR3 to QR10

The starting rate for taxi (normal tariff) is QR10.00 (range QR10 to QR16). Thereafter, QR1.90 may be charged for every additional kilometre. The normal tariff for taxi 1 hour waiting could be QR25.00 to QR50.00.

The cost of 1 litre of Gasoline is QR1.93 (range QR1.55 to QR2.10). Premium grade petrol costs approximately QR 1.85 per litre, with super grade costing QR 1.95 per litre. Diesel is around QR 1.90 a litre.

Education

Educational expenses are increasing by the year in Qatar. There is a public school system in Qatar, which is free, but, is open only to nationals. The cost of private education could be high, but the quality of education is great. In some cases, the fees are borne by the employer as part of the employment contract, and hence, it would be wise to make sure of this, before you sign your contract.

It is important to be aware about the cost of private schooling when moving into Qatar with a school-going child, especially if it includes university education. Although it may seem manageable initially, it may end up being a financial strain owing to regular increase in fees, as often is the case. The cost of schooling varies depends on the type of school and curriculum followed.

Typically, for a private preschool or kindergarten you may have to pay QR1000 to QR3000 per month for full day care for a single child.

The primary school fee for international schools per year could fall in the range QR18,000 to QR50,000 depending on the school and amenities.

Fees for high schools could be anywhere upto QR70,000 per year. Please note, that this does not include uniforms and transport fee.

There are different schools for different nationalities, including Indian, Pakistani and Filipino schools, and some of these may be less expensive.

Clothing and Shoes

Cost of clothing and footwear including business suits, casual clothing or children's clothing, and accessories such as hats, coats, evening wear, and innerwear is said to be little too expensive in Qatar, when compared to other cities. However, this is the case only when you look out for designer labels. There is hardly any need for winter clothing here. Given, the region’s hot climate, lots of clothing is unnecessary. Office wear for men is generally a shirt and tie, except for formal occasions.

At present, when shopping, a pair of jeans(Levis 501 or similar brands) may cost about QR100 to QR350, a summer dress in a chain store like Zara or H&M may cost about QR100 to QR300, a pair of Nike running shoe (midrange) costs about QR250 to QR500 and a pair of men leather business shoe may fall in the range QR200 to QR500.

Food

The daily cost of living is largely dependent on food prices. The cost for food, non-alcoholic beverages and cleaning material items, including baked goods, canned foods, baby consumables, dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, oil and vinegars, meat, pet food, ready-to-eat meals, sauces, snacks, seafood, soft drinks, spices and herbs are rather expensive in comparison to other cities.

About 90 percent of food in Qatar is imported, and hence, even basic foodstuffs may be pricey. Expats can discover the presence of several major supermarket chains in and around Doha, including Monoprix, Spinney’s and Carrefour, and hence, shopping at them would seem like shopping at home. But, if you purchase internationally-renowned branded foods and household goods, you might end up paying higher prices than in your home country, although there are plenty of cheaper local and regionally produced alternatives available offering good quality products.

Expats may probably spend 10 to 20 percent of their salaries on food every month. Given below are the current prices of some of the general food items so as to give you a fair idea of the market.

Food Item Price range
Milk (regular), (1 liter)

5.00 - 7.00

Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)

4.00 - 7.00

Rice (white), (1kg)

4.00 - 7.00

Eggs (regular) (12)

6.40 - 15.00

Local Cheese (1kg)

15.00 - 50.00

Chicken Breasts (1kg)

13.50 - 40.00

Beef Round (1kg)

16.50- 45.00

Apples (1kg)

6.50 - 8.00

Banana (1kg)

4.50 - 7.00

Oranges (1kg)

4.00 - 8.00

Tomato (1kg)

4.00 - 9.00

Potato (1kg)

2.00 - 5.00

Onion (1kg)

2.00 - 4.00

Lettuce (1 head)

3.50 - 2.00

Water (1.5 liter bottle)

1.25 - 3.00

Healthcare

The cost of healthcare, medical and medical insurance such as general practitioner, consultation rates, hospital private ward daily rate, private medical insurance, non-prescription medicine, medical aid contributions, are all comparatively more expensive in comparison to other cities. Qatar has a well-resourced state healthcare system, namely, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), which offers free emergency treatment to all those who register. In Qatar you get good public health insurance for comparatively cheaper price of QR200 annually.

But, now, HMC is facing pressure due to long waits for treatment, and hence majority of expats opt for private healthcare which can be expensive. Therefore, check if your offer letter includes health insurance for you and your dependents and the exclusions that it may have.

Qatari government has announced plans to introduce universal health insurance system in future, which implies that every company may have to provide health insurance for its employees.

If you are medically insured you will be paying QR25 for each visit to a medical specialist. For a private hospital, you may expect to pay QR100 to QR250 and for a private specialist consultant you may be billed QR250 to QR600.  However, if you are visiting the Primary Health Care Centre, Hamad Medical Corporation, you can get a health card for around QR100 and visiting the health centre is free if you have the correct health card, and only a minimum charge for any relevant medicines may be required.

Communication

Cost of various modes of communication including home telephone rental and call charges, internet connection and service provider fee, mobile phone contract and calls, all are equally expensive on an average, in comparison to other cities. Mobile and internet bills may cost you about QR200 to QR500 depending on your usage.

Utilities/Entertainment/Miscellaneous

Utilities including water, electricity and gas are subsidized to a certain extent by the government in the region, which owns these services (except for bottled gas supplies), aiming to offer cheaper water and electricity, to benefit the local population. Therefore, utilities are cheaper than most European countries. But, in peak summer air-conditioning costs will surge, instead of the cost of heating in other colder countries.

The water tariff in Qatar at present is QR4.40 per cubic metre for upto 20 cubic metres of water, while electricity tariff is about QR0.08/kwh for a consumption of upto 2000kwh.

The cost of alcoholic beverages such as wines and spirits, where these are permitted, are a little lower than in the UK, or other countries, although they are still higher than average European prices.

Electronic goods including television, DVD players, computer hardware and software, photographic equipment are all generally less expensive than in Europe, owing to lower import duties.

Cost of personal care products and services such as cosmetics and hair care or moisturizer and sun-block, pain relief tablets, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner, are all equally expensive on an average in comparison to other nations, depending on the brand opted for.

Cost of books, cinema tickets, DVD and CDs, are comparatively more expensive than in other cities.

Restaurants and eating out costs such as business dinner, or family dinner at a restaurant is comparatively expensive here. Basic dinner out (three course) for two, in a mid-range restaurant can cost you QR100 to QR250, A McMeal at McDonalds or equivalent combo meal can cost QR20 to QR25, while bottled water costs QR0.75 to QR1 (for 0.33 litre bottle).

Robin Vinod

Writer/blogger who writes on topics such as travel, real estate, employment and everyday life on GCC countries.

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