Living in Doha FAQs

 

Schools and Nurseries

Are there full-time day care options in Doha?

Most day care facilities work on a 07:00 until 14:00-15:00 schedule, but generally will offer additional hours for an hourly fee. More and more nurseries are offering extended care hours to coincide with the 9-5 working day. For more information on nurseries in Doha be sure to visit the Doha Mums Nursery Guide.

Will I be able to find a space for my child in a school easily?

With the population of Qatar growing on a daily basis, primary and secondary spaces in good quality schools are at a premium. It is highly advisable that you contact as many schools as possible before arriving in Doha in order to start the application process as soon as possible. Another consideration is the cost—while some companies will pay for your children's schooling, others will not. Be sure to take this into account when negotiating a package with prospective employers and calculating your monthly budget and spending in Qatar.

Accomodation

Where should I live in Doha?

Depending on your priorities you can live just about anywhere in Doha. Keeping in mind that traffic is chaotic, staying closer to work and your children's schools will be the best option. Learn more about the house-hunting process here.

Hobbies

I like to jog. Will I be able to do this in Doha?

You can jog just about anywhere in Doha, with numerous public sports clubs with running tracks, many free of charge. Doha also has the Corniche, a seafront promenade, which is always full of runners. The summer months are far too hot for outdoor running, but indoor tracks and health clubs are in abundance to accommodate the climate. You can also join the Doha Bay Running Club, which is an informal running club established in 2009.

What other hobbies is it possible to pursue in Doha?

You can pursue just about any hobby in Doha. All you need to do is network, make contacts, research online and ask around and you are sure to find an activity that you like. Here are just a few ideas:
Horse riding
Water sports –sailing, fishing, kite surfing, wakeboarding, water-skiing
Art, crafts, quilting, sewing, etc.
Choral singing – The Doha Singers
Amateur dramatics – Doha Players

Goods and Groceries

Can I purchase alcohol in Qatar?

Non-Muslims can purchase alcohol easily in Doha's big hotels, however most of the city's restaurants and cafés do not serve alcohol. Non-Muslims can also purchase alcohol to consume in the home, but only from one shop in the whole of Qatar—Qatar Distribution Company (QDC)—located in the Ain Khalid/Industrial Area. Before you can get a license to use this shop, you need a letter from your employer giving you permission to buy alcohol here. There are some pretty straightforward rules: you can't spend more than 10 per cent of your monthly wage per month, you must go straight home with the alcohol and you must not distribute it to anyone else.

What are some things that I should bring with me?

Most things are available, but there will always be some items you will need to ship or bring. It is advisable to bring a few months’ worth of any medications you may need. If you have an infant who is on prescription or organic baby formula then bring along a good supply. Tampons with applicators, quality wooden toys, children’s books and specialist hobby supplies of any type are good things to bring along.

What kinds of things are not available in Doha?

There are a few items that are impossible to obtain in Doha, such as pure extracts (e.g. vanilla). Imported goods are very expensive, as are organic goods and health foods. Availability is not constant but select grocery stores will import products on request. Most consumer goods can be obtained, but are generally more expensive. Clothing, cosmetics and children’s items are very expensive in Doha and many expats do a majority of their personal shopping in their home country.

Healthcare

My child has a disability. Will this be a problem? Can he receive services?

Services for children with special needs are on the rise, but it is advisable to try and source what resources and support your children will require prior to your move to Doha. You may need to make arrangements to accommodate his or her needs with resources, materials and equipment from your home country.

Many nurseries and schools do not accept children with special needs, though some do on a "case by case basis". For more information on the nurseries that accept children with special needs please visit the Doha Mums Nursery Guide.

Parents who have children with special needs are encourage to join the Out of Sync. support group, which is coordinated by Doha Mums. It is not necessary to be a member of Doha Mums to join, and you will find many parents who have children with a large number of "differences".

My child has asthma. Will he be OK in Doha?

Doha has poor air quality and children and adults with bronchial issues will see a rise in attacks. With proper use of air purifiers in homes, proper medical observation and awareness, children and adults with asthma can live comfortable lives in Doha.

Should I have my baby in my home country or in Qatar?

Qatar has many competent medical facilities for having a baby—the government hospital delivers an average of 50 babies a day. Private hospitals can be very high-end with five-star facilities and service. It ultimately comes down to personal preference. Some women choose to go to their home country for the support of their family while others prefer to have their baby in Qatar. Another determining factor will be whether you are covered by insurance or not. Some companies' insurance package covers pregnancy and birth while others do not.

What kind of healthcare system is there in Qatar?

Qatar has a subsidized healthcare system, which gives expatriates, Qatari citizens and even visitors access to good quality primary care centres and clinics. The state run hospitals—under Hamad Medical Corporation—offer a full range of services. To take advantage of this system, you will need to obtain a health card. Click here to learn more about applying for a health card. Qatar also has a wide range of private healthcare facilities and many companies offer their employees health insurance covering most or some of the healthcare services provided. Make sure you find out before coming to Doha whether your package includes health insurance.

Do I need to speak Arabic?

No. The common language in Qatar is English with the majority of business conducted in English. There are certain places where Arabic would be useful, but it is not required. However, even if it's not a necessity, knowing a few Arabic phrases would certainly impress the locals and other native Arabic speakers and attending Arabic lessons would make an interesting hobby. It’s a good way of meeting people, discovering another side to Doha and learning about local culture. Fanar offers Arabic language classes for beginners of all levels. If you prefer a more personalised approach to learning, try finding a private tutor through When, Where & How in Doha.

What can I absolutely not do in Doha?

Zero tolerance for drugs and driving under the influence of alcohol is practiced in Qatar with very swift and harsh consequences. Additionally, public drunkenness can result in jail time so extra diligence should be taken when leaving any establishments serving alcohol. Transporting alcohol is also illegal, unless you are transporting from the Qatar Distribution Company to your home.

Taking photos of governmental building is a big no-no in Qatar. While this may seem harmless, it can result in prosecution. Taking photos of people without permission should be avoided, especially of women. While you may not be formally charged for doing so, it could lead to a very unpleasant encounter, which is better avoided.

Gambling is also prohibited in Qatar, as is religious solicitation, pregnancies outside of wedlock (regardless of the religion) and public mockery or blasphemy against Islam. All of these can result in jail time and deportation.

What is it like during Ramadan?

The Holy Month of Ramadan can be a bit difficult at first for non-Muslims. Public eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited during the fasting hours (sunrise to sunset). All restaurants, cafés and many of the children's play areas in shopping malls are closed as well. Major hotels will have discreet restaurant options, though, and their pools and facilities will remain open.

Additionally, Qatari law states that working hours must be reduced to six hours per day, which can be frustrating if you are trying to finalise any documents in governmental agencies.

As well as the New Arrivals Coffee mornings, which move from the malls to the hotels, Doha Mums has many activities and playgroups during Ramadan, which are usually held in members’ homes.

What is the dress code in Doha?

Qatar is an Islamic country, but does not require women to be veiled. Modest dress is recommended and current law states men and women should be covered to the knee and shoulders.

This law is loosely enforced, but should you be reported or fined for being scantily clad it would be a very embarrassing and uncomfortable experience. Respect for the local religion and culture should be considered and will leave a big impression on the Muslim population.

Men should wear a shirt at all times unless on the beach. Short running type shorts should also be reserved for the beach/gym. Additionally, remember to dress conservatively when you go to the parks. While shorts and a vest top (tank top) may be appropriate attire in parks at home, they are not in Qatar.

Driving

I don’t drive. Will I be able to easily catch a cab whenever I want to go somewhere?

Taxis and limousine services are abundant in Doha and can generally be flagged down or booked anytime of day with the exception of school run hours. Some taxi companies in Qatar are now offering female drivers but they are in high demand and thus may not be available at all times. If know you are going somewhere specific, it is always best to book a taxi in advance to ensure availability. Also, be prepared to provide detailed instructions to drivers, who tend to not carry maps and are often quite new to Doha. You may wonder what the difference is between taxis and limousines—taxis operate on a metre, whereas limousines are more expensive, but are usually nicer cars and require you to agree on a price upon booking. Check out Getting around town to learn more about transportation options in Doha.

Is there a public transport system?

Doha currently has a limited, sporadic public transport network used predominantly by single men. However, there are plans to improve and expand the network with a metro service currently in the works.

What about car seats in taxis?

Taxis in Doha are not equipped with car seats, so if you want to use car seats you will have to supply your own.

What is it like to drive in Doha?

The traffic in Doha is extremely dense and can be at a standstill during rush hours. Also, many drivers in Qatar have little regard for speed limits, traffic signs, signals and regulations. As a result, defensive driving is very important in Qatar and driving in the middle or right hand lanes will generally keep you out of the way of aggressive drivers and harm’s way.

When you are being closely followed by another vehicle the best approach is to move into another lane. Don’t be tempted to tap your brakes as the other driver may pass you and do the same, but more aggressively. Unpleasant hand gestures are a definite no-no in Qatar and can result in heavy penalties.

Also, beware of cars flashing their headlights at you—while it may be a friendly "you go" signal at home, it is usually a "watch out I'm coming" signal in Qatar. That said, once you adjust to the differences and as long as you have your wits about you, driving in Doha shouldn't be a problem. Cars travel on the right side of the road and traffic signs and regulations follow the European standard.To obtain a driving license, citizens from specific countries, such as the U.S., are required to pass a driving test, whilst others just need to present their home country driving license.

Local Law Customs and Etiquette

Can I wear a swimsuit at the pool?

Yes, but beachwear should be reserved for the beach and poolside. Beach covers should be worn if walking through the facilities and/or hotel.

Do my tween/teen daughters need to cover?

Using your own judgment in regards to your daughter’s clothing is generally a good gauge. When in doubt, a little modesty will go a long way for you and your daughter’s comfort.

My partner and I have a child but are not married. Is that a problem in Doha?

Yes. It is against local law to have a child out of wedlock and the primary sponsor will not be able to sponsor the family unless you are married. Civil marriages are not performed in Qatar but there are numerous churches to perform the services, though it can be a lengthy process. However, it is better to be married before you arrive, especially if there are children involved.

What are the rules with regards to public displays of affection?

Kissing and hugging should be avoided in public places—some may even frown upon a man and a woman holding hands in public. While you may get away with holding hands or linking arms, kissing and overt displays of affection is a different story. Should anyone report you to the police it would, at best, be embarrassing and could result in prosecution.

Work

We are moving here for my job and my husband will not be working. Are there other husbands who stay at home?

While not the norm, it is becoming more and more commonplace for women to serve as the primary sponsors of the family. Ten years ago it was not even possible for a woman to be the primary sponsor with her husband and children under her sponsorship. It is still a difficult process, but more and more men are at home while their wives are the primary breadwinners. If you have questions about sponsoring your family, it is advisable to enquire with your prospective employer prior to accepting a role in Qatar. When, Where & How in Doha, Qatar Living and Doha Mums are great networks for fathers to connect with other fathers in the same situation.

We are moving to Qatar for my husband’s job. Can I also work?

Yes. Qatar currently operates on a sponsorship system whereby expatriates are required to be sponsored by a Qatari citizen or company. Your husband’s employer will likely be his sponsor. Meanwhile, you and your children will be sponsored under your husband’s residency on what is called a family visa. Qatari law does allow you to also work in Qatar under a family visa. However, the law requires that you obtain a labour card—even though not all companies enforce this.

Regardless of whether you are male or female, if your employer sponsors you then you will need an exit permit whenever you leave the country. Some employers allow multiple-exit permits which essentially means that you can come and go at will, while otherswill only provide single-exit permits which need to be applied for each time you travel.

Working under a husband’s sponsorship is typically the easiest option for most women. Because a woman working under her husband’s sponsorship does not require permission from her employer to travel or change jobs, she often has more flexibility. Some companies may give you the option to change your sponsorship to them and offer you a better salary package in return.

There are pros and cons to both so it’s important for you and your husband to decide which option is best for you. Also, during your residency in Qatar, you can only change your sponsorship three times.

Leisure and Socializing

Are there other mums with young kids?

Yes, and not only mums with young kids, but also mums from just about every corner of the earth. The best way to meet other mums is to join Doha Mums. With more than 1,500 members from 100 countries you are almost guaranteed to make friends quickly.

I’ve heard Doha is boring. Is it really?

While Qatar may not have the attractions of some of the neighbouring GCC countries or "back home", you can always find plenty to do for all members of your family. Publications such as the Doha Family Guide, Qatar Happening and Timeout Doha list current events in Doha and expat groups regularly organise events and activities. Also, there is no shortage of shopping malls in Doha, complete with mini-amusement parks for children, movie theatres, bowling alleys, ice-skating and more. There is also the Aqua Park and a vast array of beaches and parks. Symphonies, stage plays, cultural shows and exhibitions, world sporting events, children's theatre, equestrian clubs, museums, nightclubs and five-star dining and hotels are some of the things you can expect. Life in Doha can become monotonous, but it can also be quite the adventure should you choose to pursue it. If you're looking for activities, check out our 'Things to do' section.

We are arriving in July. Does everyone leave for the summer?

Qatar is extremely hot in the summer. With the heat and the fact that the majority of schools are closed for the summer holiday, many expats opt to leave during these months. Most contracts allow for a minimum of one-month leave so many expats take advantage of this for one long leave in the summer. Not all expats will be gone for the summer, but many non-working spouses and children will stay in their home countries for the entire two-month period. On the plus side, Doha Mums hosts a morning coffee group for new arrivals through the summer period, where you are sure to bond with other mums who have just arrived.

Safety

Is it safe in Doha?

Qatar is a very safe country, but expats should still exercise caution and not assume that ‘nothing ever happens’ here. Major crimes, while almost non-existent in comparison to most of our home countries, do still occur in Qatar. Petty crime is on the rise in Doha, which is attributed to the massive population increase and skyrocketing living costs. Using a little extra diligence won’t harm you and could potentially ward off unpleasant or dangerous situations.

Car break-ins outside of schools and nurseries are common, but those typically occur when a purse or other valuable item is left inside. It is worth noting that criminals will watch for mums who enter a school or nursery and will then target their cars specifically. With that said, when asked, a lot of expats who live in compounds leave their house doors unlocked, cars running outside of shops and children roaming freely.

Religion

Are there churches in Doha?

Qatar has a religious complex, which hosts an array of denominations, including Anglican, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Pentecostal and Orthodox. A map to the complex can be found here and mass schedules are easily accessible through a simple Google search.

Is it really illegal to bring my Christmas ornaments and Bible?

No, it is not illegal. There are churches in Doha and you will find that Christmas trees and decorations are widely available in the shops. It is illegal to canvass or solicit for religions other than Islam, so bulk quantities of religious books or items would definitely be frowned upon. It is at the discretion of the immigration officer regarding items permitted into Qatar, but generally such items are fine to bring in for personal use.

Travel

Can my friends and family visit me in Doha?

Of course! As many as 33 countries enjoy tourist visas on arrival to Qatar and citizens from the remaining countries can apply at their nearest Qatar embassy. While Qatar embassies may be few and far between, if your country does not have a Qatar embassy you can courier your documents to the closest embassy or you can process the visa from Qatar and send it via email. Al Maha Services offers a meet-and-greet service that will arrange visas and escort visitors through the immigration process for a fee. This is also a good option for visitors that may need extra assistance.

Do I need my sponsor's permission for anything else?

Yes, this is common practice in Qatar. You will need permission for many things including buying a car, renting an apartment or taking out a loan.

Is it easy for us to travel abroad from Doha?

Yes, it is. However, as with many other things in Qatar, you need your sponsor/employer's permission by means of an exit permit. You will need to present this at customs with your passport before you can leave the country. Note: The sponsorship system in regards to exit permits is expected to change within the next year. Keep an eye out for announcements from the Ministry of Interior.

Weather

How hot does it get?

Hot, hot and hot. Summer usually begins around May and peaks in July and August with temperatures reaching up to 47°C (117°F). Temperatures stay quite high through October and even well into November. Humidity is also relatively high during these months as well with no rainfall. Meanwhile, winters are warm and mild with an average daytime temperature of 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F). Rain is scarce throughout the winter months with an average rainfall of 75 mm per year.

Is this your first international move? Your first time in the Middle East? We know you have questions and we are here to help! If we left a question unanswered, please contact us and let us know!
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