Doha, Qatar Report of what it's like to live there - 10/12/23
Personal Experiences from Doha, Qatar
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
We have lived in the Middle East before and South America. This is our third tour.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
U.S. It takes about 12-14 hours from DC (depending upon if you are coming or going) and often the run goes through Dallas. Flights are often and planes are usually full, though we are more likely to fly during vacation time etc. to the states.
3. How long have you lived here?
We are into year three of a three year tour.
4. What years did you live here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We live in a compound of villas. The villa is large and has three floors. Laundry is on third floor, along with maid quarters and another bedroom and bath which we use as an office. Second floor has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and first floor is the main living area (kitchen, dining, living room and another bathroom. Higher end finishes and modern appearance.
It is about a ten-minute drive from the compound to embassy, depending upon traffic. The staff here is very attentive to fix things. The compound has a gym, small grocery, pool, nursery area, and restaurant. There is a designated walking
lane that circles the compound. Bus picks up kids for ASD here daily. There are many expats here.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
I would say the prices are comparable to DC. Doha has just about everything American you might want and it just comes down to price you are willing to pay. I no longer look at the prices because if I'm seeking it out then I obviously want it. QDC where you can get beer and alcohol, if you join ($), has basic pork products so you can still enjoy those meals. There are also lots of decent restaurants to try and Talabat delivers fairly quickly and efficiently.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Any paper products are better in the U.S., pure vanilla extract, bread flour, cans of soup, cold medicine (NyQuil), k-cups, and really everything else you can get here, for a price. One real pleasure for us has been drinking fresh milk daily from Baladna. The cows originated from the U.S. during the embargo and the milk is delicious. No more tetra packs! Baladna offers Greek yogurt and their milk is delicious (14qr a liter). Baladna is sold in all of the local stores and is a bit higher but Imo, it is well worth it.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A variety of restaurants are here but Indian, Arabic, Asian, and American hotels offer a variety of options. Talabat delivers from many places and it really comes down to your preference. Malls offer Texas Roadhouse, P.F. Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory and the later restaurant tastes just like theU.S.. Many fast-food American restaurants so no shortage of options if you miss “home”.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We have issues with ants here or there but nothing some spray can't help with, which we buy at the local grocery store.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The embassy has DPO and Pouch and it arrives usually within two to three weeks. Boxes are searched though so no pork, etc. should be sent.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Most of my friends have helpers/cleaners but I am not sure of the costs. They are always listed on our compound Facebook page, where you can buy and sell things or place ads for housekeepers looking for work.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are plenty of gyms, though I've heard they separate men from women? The compound has a gym and instructors that advertise, if one is interested.
There are classes such as Vinyasa Yoga that is about 70QR a class or if you buy a pack of 6, you can get it for 300QR. Personal trainers are there as well. Weights, treadmills, bicycles, ellipticals, etc., are within this large, well air-conditioned room.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are safe and widely used. QNB Bank is popular among locals. We have an ATM here at the compound but I usually use a credit card with no problems.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I have no info on this but English is widely spoken. In fact, in my travels, I have heard very little Arabic. Even the Qataris speak English so it is a very easy post to adjust to.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None. I believe there are opportunities to learn Arabic and the post may have a program, if interested.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There are lots of sidewalks and many things are new since FIFA was just hosted here so modern and with handicap options in mind. I find it to be much more user friendly than other countries. However, our compound has an elevator for example, which will take one up to the gym or pool. People drive quite quickly and make sporadic turns etc. so crossing the roads etc. would definitely be a challenge. I will leave it as this since I have no personal experience with this area. No ramps to offload from sidewalks etc.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I have no experience with buses but taxis are safe and Uber is the best option.There are many Ubers and they are reliable and affordable. Maybe like 5Qr for a ride to the school from compound. Many of the high school kids take Ubers to and from school with no problems (after school sports etc.). It is very safe here in Doha.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
Qatar has the five year rule for bringing cars in so keep that in mind. There are always cars for sale through the embassy paper. I recommend a six-cylinder since it is very hot and you want a good air conditioner. There are many white carshere and mostly SUVs. No problem at all with safety and that will be by far the biggest joy of living here. With all the Land Cruisers/Rovers on the road, driving a civic might feel intimidating but is doable. Once you attend the camel races, the driving will make more sense.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We had a hot spot upon arrival that we borrowed from the Community Liaison Office (CLO). Ooredoo is the main carrier here and they are popular. We have found them to be frustrating since if you don't pay your bill on the given day, they turn off your account. You cannot pay ahead now since they don't like it, and we have a hard time even understanding our bill.
At the end of the day, we think we are overpaying (and we are organized people) but chalk it up to what you have to deal with while in another country. Interestingly, the internet has been the biggest disappointment in this grand country, for us. It is always lagging and working slow and I notice the best time is in the early morning. Zoom works well here but for us, FaceTime
and Skype, not so well. Install VPN and turn it on BEFORE entering country or itwon't work. We find Express works better than
Nord in this country.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We also use Ooredoo for phone and have no problems. It works well for us and is quick and accurate. Waze is also a great resource and for the most part, works like a charm.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I believe you cannot ship a dog into Qatar if it is fewer than 11 months old. There is a lot of lengthy paperwork involved and of course money spent. We have a dog here and life could be better for her but it is what it is. Our villa has a small yard out back for her to go. Otherwise, she loves the speed bumps and small patches of grass within the compound to do her business on.
Many expats here have dogs, cats, etc. We have used Barkers and Mittens for boarding, which has been great but with the Expo going on, we have had to find alternative means for boarding. We used Qatar Vet (Duhail) to help us get our dog home this summer and did I mention it was a LOT of paperwork and time involved? We have also recently started using Canadian vet and it has also been a good experience. Better parking options and the staff has less of an accent so for me, easier to
Royal Canine is the food of choice here and that is what we purchase (95QR for a 1.5kg bag). It is costly for the vet stuff but the animals are in good hands and the vets are all clean and pleasant. No quarantine for our pet upon arrival. Be cautious when you fly your pet in that he/she does not arrive on Thursday night or Friday. Otherwise, no one will be there to in process and they will sit there until business begins on Saturday.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There have been many employment options at the embassy with the AAU stuff. Though I don't work, I see posting frequently now for a variety of jobs, to include EPAP positions.
Ageism is also present in Qatar with some educational jobs for example, noting to apply for those under 50. Teacher aide
jobs at ASD often require or prefer Arabic speakers. There are opportunities to work into volunteering at the school though, if you are looking to fill time. Some people volunteer on the base but again it is not widely marketed and it comes
down to who you know.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
ASD welcomes volunteers for the PTA and Booster Club, though I feel it can be hard to break into. Some people volunteer on the base but again it is not widely marketed and it comes down to who you know. QAWS (pet rescue) also looks for volunteers as well and sometimes you'll see an ad in the embassy paper.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
My spouse wears business casual or suits, depending upon the day. Dress in Qatar is conservative but not ultra conservative. Wearing pants that reach the ankle and shirts such as round neck and shoulder covering would be fine. Many
places keep the air cool so a light cardigan would be wise. It can also be dusty so wearing sandals may not be the best choice, though I see women and men wearing them.
Men wear shorts when exercising and women usually yoga pants that reach past the knee are acceptable. In the compound, shorts and tank tops are commonly seen. Just to be respectful of the culture and not draw attention to yourself is common sense, IMO.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I have no safety concerns what-so-ever here in Qatar. In our compound, there are lot so cameras for example, so everyone follows rules. Many imported workers here in Qatar so no one wants to be deported so no one breaks the rules (at least that I hear about). I feel quite safe at Lulu's leaving my cart alone while I go and get some bags for carrots, for example.
They have security that also keeps an eye always. Like I mentioned previously, people let their kids take Ubers alone daily and think nothing of it since it is so safe. Lots of cameras in town, on the roads, at the malls, etc. Again, I feel it goes without saying, but Qatar is a modern, yet conservative country so covers up and play the part.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
I have not utilized the hospitals here (luckily) but when we are flying, the ministry required COVID tests for everyone and I found the local hospitals organized, clean, and efficient. I've had blood work completed and it was also a painless(pun intended) and organized experience.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air quality is mentioned as an issue but without asthma or any respiratory issue, I cannot comment too much on this. It is dusty as heck so that dust is in the airs. The filters on my purifiers have to be changed 2x a year. I don't notice to
much in the way if breathing issues. I would say the heat and humidity is the bigger issue which may cause hardness to breath etc.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
The heat gets old and when you return after getting away in the summer, it seems unbearable. Into October now though, we are seeing a bit of a breeze and the beautiful winter that awaits us will lift one's spirit. Sunny skies daily and Qatar does a great job of trying to keep what is green, green and offers as much color as it can within a desert environment. It is truly impressive and much more beautiful than some other desert areas/countries.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Need I say more? HOT, HOT, HOT! From about November to maybe February it is beautiful and of course sunny. Everything is Doha is air conditioned though so it is almost too cold in many instances. My kids wear pants and hooded sweatshirts in school because it is so cold daily. The few days of rain you might receive makes everyone celebrate and cleans all of the bird feces off the porches, etc., (you just learn to live with it).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are two American Schools, though most everyone I know send their kids to the American School of Doha (ASD). ACS is another school but only a very small handful of expats attend there. There are a few other schools but I am not familiar with them. We have been to three other posts and ASD is by far a better school, in regard to academics. They have high standards and high expectations.
There is a lot of formative and summative testing weekly so the pressure is never off but that results are better
grades. The quality of books at the High school level are impressive, they offer both AP Capstone and IB, and most all work is performed on their computer (which the school provides). Sometimes I feel they are being "schooled" but at the end of the day, the numbers are all that many colleges care about anyway so they are being prepared for college acceptance as they should be. My child has scored 4s or 5s on every AP exam he's taken so that is a testament to their rigor, IMO.
The school offers a robust sports program with traditional sports to include swim (and sometimes B teams for those who don't make the team), in addition to after school groups for things like karate, swim, and other areas of interest. They have a late bus which brings home the kids on the sports teams so during season, no need to worry too. much about rides. It can be hard to make the team though with lots of great competition within the school walls. The school also offers Hydra, which is a fee-based swim program. They race locally, have different ability levels within the group, and it is a great way to keep your child busy while keeping them in shape too. You are responsible for the pick-up and drop off to the school.
There are several volunteer opportunities to volunteer ranging from Booster Club concession stand and store, PTA with a variety of events, Arab Mothers Association, and/or the elementary school as a home room parent. When you arrive at orientation, there will be a booth where you can sign up to volunteer.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I have no experience with this but feel confident that kids with special needs may not be suited for ASD since they don't have the resources available. I have heard of some kids attending Compass and other kids attending ACS. I have not met a decent sample of homeschoolers, although I know there are a few within the expat community.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
I know there are several preschools available.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
LOTS! If you are willing to pay, Qatar offers just about anything, from horseback riding, to golf to fencing.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I feel the overall morale here in Qatar is good. Doha offers a lot of Americana and so I almost feel like home when I am away.
I find many expats look forward to vacations to get away to other places that they can be outside and enjoying
nature. It costs a lot to live here but you also make more and you can fly to just about
anywhere. There are lots of oil people here in Doha so the expat community is diverse. Business
and banking are also popular, as well as several prominent American Universities, which bring along expats in the process. Good to remember though is that Qatar does not have a bilateral work agreement.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
The American Women's Association is a great place to begin, for those who won't be working. They are in transition at the moment, which has placed the group on hold, but in the past, they have offered a variety of great things to see and do in Doha. The compound offers opportunities to meet others and branch out from there. ASD volunteering is also a great way to make friends. We sometimes get together through work-related events but it all depends upon how robust one's work group is.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I am married so cannot speak to singles except that unless you can get into sports, religion, or education, one might think it would be difficult for singles. It is so hot most of the year that many families stay inside and so singles may not have the outreach that they would at another location. For couples, it is wonderful in that you have enough to
keep you busy for a couple of years but if you see and do it all in a year, you can easily take flights to Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Dubai, etc. and continue to the adventure. For families, it is also a stable, predictable, place to be. There are things to see and do and Qatar is moving forward to become a family destination. They always have events going on for kids. It is safe and likes to do everything top notch.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I have no experience with making friends with locals. My balloon contains mostl expats.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I don't have much experience with this but I would definitely say a hard no! This includes ASD, as they follow the "rules" of Qatar and do not promote LGBTQ what-so-ever. I believe it is illegal to even be homosexual as a Muslim so one can assume the tolerance is minimal of any of these identities. I feel there is no progression toward change in this arena so if this is important to you, re-think Qatar.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The highlights of living in Qatar for us has been the safety, beautiful colors of the landscape nestled within the desert environment, the eye pleasing architecture everywhere you look in Doha, and the ability to get away when we need to. We have enjoyed the variety of museums, camel racing, dune bashing, mosque tours, Dow boat rides, and yet love to grab Dunkin' Donuts and/or eat at PF Chang’s. Azerbaijan beach is great and allows one to wear a bikini and hang out for the day.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
When we see it for the first time, it is all a hidden gem. See above...
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
The souq offers many little things you can buy such as hand-blown glass sculptures, Persian and oriental rugs (The Rug Man), fabrics, desert roses, handmade furniture, and the list goes on. There are many opportunities to buy things, depending upon one's interest.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can tick off a box to progress professionally and do so in a safe, somewhat open-minded population, and have everything you need at one's fingertip.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
It is very expensive to fly out of Qatar. Qatar Airways has the market, especially when flying to the U.S. We have found prices to be very high for such a large hub. It really is that hot here and that fact does grow old. In reality, doesn't every place become old
after a while?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. It has been beneficial for my children foremost and my husband works with a great group of local employees.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes and rubber boots
4. But don't forget your:
Brooms(s). The dust is relentless.