Moving to another country is a huge deal, so we've put together some essential tips o help you adjust to a new life in Qatar.
30 October 2016| Last updated on 14 June 2017
There are so many things to consider when moving to a new country. From visas to accommodation, it’s easy to get caught up and overlook the smaller yet important details of everyday life. To help you manage the overload of information, here are some things you should know about life in Qatar.
1. Public transportation isn’t very developed
Getting around in Qatar can be a bit challenging without a car. While a metro is planned for Doha, there are no operational metros or trains in the country. However, there is a bus network throughout Doha and the neighbouring cities. You can obtain a Faresaver card, which costs QR 30 with QR 20 being credited to you. The trips are relatively cheap, costing around QR 4 within Doha and between QR 3 – 9 to different cities.
Alternatively, you can take a taxi. The meter starts at QR 4 with QR 1.20 to QR 1.80 per kilometre depending on the time of day and distance. Other slightly more expensive options include Uber and Careem. If you are a woman who prefers to be driven only by another female, Alijarah Limousine offers an all-female limousine service.
2. You will need lots of patience when dealing with bureaucratic matters
The work environment is rather slow-paced and relaxed. This means that things usually don’t happen quickly and it can be an adjustment for any expats who are used to a fast-faced type of workforce. Government offices work between 6 am and 1 pm while banks are open from 7:30 am to 1 pm. It is common for shops and trading companies to have a split-shift structure, where an employee works from 8 am to noon and then 4 pm to 8 pm. However, the majority of private establishments follow a more standardised 8:30 am to 5:30 am work day.
3. You can’t travel without an exit permit
Part of being an expat in Qatar is being closely tied to your sponsor, typically your employer. You cannot travel outside of the country without an exit permit, which is basically written permission from your sponsor. You will need to carry this letter and present it at the airport customs whenever you go on holidays. You will also require such a letter in order to buy a car, rent an apartment or villa and take a loan.
SEE ALSO: Our Red-Tape Guide to living in Qatar
4. There are restrictions about eating and drinking during the Holy Month of Ramadan
As an expat, is it important to always respect the local customs. During the Holy Month, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public places during the day. Most restaurants are closed during the day as well, so make sure to check the altered opening hours. While alcohol is available in Qatar, it is prohibited during Ramadan. This means it is a dry month and no alcohol is sold or served anywhere in the country, so plan ahead.
5. The country becomes a ghost town in the summer
Qatar is known to be a very hot place, but in the summer months from June to August, it can get unbearable for many. The temperature averages 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) and summer nights aren’t much cooler. Things tend to slow down as well, from day events to hiring processes, since many people decide to leave on holidays during that time.
6. There are limited options for mobile services
Qatar has two telecommunications companies, Ooredoo and Vodafone. For a monthly contract, you will need a copy of your passport and your Qatar Residence Permit. Ooredoo monthly plans can vary from QR 15 to QR 750 per month, while Vodafone plans range from QR 60 to QR 1000 per month.
It is more common to have a pay as you go service through Ooredoo ‘s Hala Prepaid. You can top up with credit of any amount between QR 10 and QR 500.
7. Educational standards are great here
The country has many private international schools available and the level of education is high. There’s usually a long waiting list, so it’s important to plan ahead to make sure the school you want has available spots. The academic year spans from September to June, 5 days a week from 7:30 am to 2 pm. Tuition is typically high but many companies offer schooling allowances, so make sure to check your offer benefits. For more information about schools, visit>>
8. There is a huge expat community, making English a commonly used language
Qatar’s official language is Arabic, however due to the large number of expats, there are many other foreign languages spoken. English is the second language and it’s very widely used, so expats generally don’t have a hard time communicating with others. Some of the minority languages include Urdu, Hindi and Bengali.
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9. There is no shortage of shopping options
If you’re a shopaholic, Qatar won’t disappoint. There are many traditional shopping places called Souks. You can find a variety of merchandise there, from clothes and electronics to spices and gold. The key to getting a good deal is bargaining. Buying in bulk can also land you a decent discount. If you’re more into modern shopping, there are a number of malls where you will find all kinds of international brands. All shopping centres have food courts with different types of cuisine and the majority of the malls have cinemas.
10. There are ladies-only and family-only entertainment days
Doha is a relatively safe place and women shouldn’t be concerned about going out around the city. However, there are certain times when you might want some girls-only time and Doha definitely caters to that. There are many all-female leisure options around the city, such as ladies day at Aqua Park and various fitness clubs for women only. Additionally, there are also days designated for families only at various parks.