From rent and groceries, to transport and education, we provide an overview of the cost of living in Qatar for expats looking to live there.
Qatar is certainly one of the more expensive regions in the Middle East. The cost of living in Qatar – especially in the capital, Doha – is comparable to other major cities around the world. Because a lot of food is imported, you can expect to pay much more for it than you would normally. Similarly, accommodation is expensive in this affluent country. That said, salaries are high and with no personal income tax to pay, you will be keeping everything you make.
This helpful guide covers the following topics:
- The general cost of living and standards of living in Qatar
- Wages and salary in Qatar
- Housing costs in Qatar
- Cost of domestic bills in Qatar
- Healthcare costs in Qatar
- Childcare costs in Qatar
- Study costs in Qatar
- Cost of food and drink in Qatar
- Transport costs in Qatar
- Clothing in Qatar
- Leisure activities in Qatar
- Taxation and social security in Qatar
- Assistance with living costs in Qatar
The general cost of living and standards of living in Qatar
The global 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Index placed Doha at 115 out of a total of 209 cities. This means that Doha is less expensive than Dubai and Riyadh, but more expensive than Kuwait City and Muscat. On the ground, however, you will notice a greater discrepancy in cost and wealth.
Your expenses in Qatar will vary greatly depending on your lifestyle and your family. If you are single, living in decent accommodation, and frequently socializing, for example, you are probably looking at spending QR12,000 each month. On the other hand, a family of four living in a villa will be more likely to spend around QR35,000. But if you applied for a job that provides company housing or a housing allowance, you can cut those estimates by about 30%.
If you are living the lifestyle of the average western expatriate in Qatar, then you can expect the cost of living to be similar to what you would see in Europe. Utilities will cost significantly less since they are largely subsidized, however food and drinks will be more expensive.
In terms of quality of life, Qatar doesn’t rate too well on the cost of living and housing, leisure and culture, outdoor pursuits, and tolerance. However, expats living there benefit from no taxation, good safety, and healthcare.
Wages and salary in Qatar
Salaries in Qatar are, on average, on par with those in Europe; however, since there is no income tax, your net income will be much higher than it would be in most other countries, making it an ideal place to look for work.
Below are a few average monthly salaries in Qatar (for reference, the minimum wage in Qatar is set at QR750/month):
- IT Manager: QR44,000–QR58,000
- Lawyer: QR35,000–QR45,000
- Doctor: QR35,000–QR42,000
- Finance Manager: QR30,000–42,000
- Teacher: QR15,000
Housing costs in Qatar
Rental costs in Qatar
Rented accommodation can vary greatly in Doha – from simple studio apartments to luxurious villas. Most expats live in compounds that include amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, and playgrounds; however, standalone apartment buildings, townhouses, and villas are also available to rent. Most rental properties come unfurnished, so you will have to take into account the cost of buying furniture.
A one-bedroom apartment in the center of Doha ranges between QR3,500 and QR9,000; the average cost, though, is about QR5,500. This can shoot up to over QR10,000 at luxurious properties in expat-heavy areas, such as the Pearl Qatar development.
Property prices in Qatar
Foreigners are limited to buying property in specific areas of Qatar, like The Pearl and the West Bay Lagoon. However, if you do buy property there, you and your family will be granted residency for the full duration of your ownership.
In Doha, prices begin at about QR10,000/sqm and shoot up to QR30,000/sqm; the average is around QR18,000. At The Pearl, a Riviera-style development on the Doha cost, a resale two-bedroom freehold apartment goes for about QR13,000/sqm. If you are looking at a mortgage in Qatar, you should know they are approximately 48% of your income, and interest rates are 5% for a 20-year mortgage.
Cost of domestic bills in Qatar
Utility bills in Qatar
Utilities such as electricity, gas, and water are partially subsidized by the Qatari government so these are generally cheaper than you will find in European countries. On average, you can expect to spend QR250/month on home utilities in Qatar; this can shoot up to over QR400 in the summer, though, when you will be relying on air-conditioning to cool you down.
Telecommunications in Qatar
The cost of telecommunications costs is generally much higher than what you would find in other parts of the world, especially in comparison to Europe and North America. Of course, this depends on what type of package you get and which mobile phone provider in Qatar that you opt for. Despite the elevated cost, it’s hard to imagine life in Qatar without a mobile phone, as plenty of public services (including banks and public transportation) rely on their mobile apps to serve users.
Vodafone offers mobile phone plans between QR300 and QR700, which is comparatively very expensive; but you will get roaming, unlimited calls and data, and even free WAVO TV and streaming. Local provider Ooredoo bundles internet, landline, and TV into smart (but expensive) packages ranging between QR300 and QR1,500 per month.
Healthcare costs in Qatar
Healthcare works a little differently – and will probably cost more – than whatever you are used to. The state healthcare system, Hamad Medical Corporation, offers free emergency care to all registered users, and you can even get decent public health insurance for around QR200 per year. Those who are insured can expect to pay QR25 for a visit to the doctor.
As there can be long waits for treatments and specialists, most expats opt for private health insurance, either through their company or personally. This means that you will be using private hospitals and clinics. If you are insured, a doctor’s appointment at a private hospital usually costs between QR100 and QR250; for specialist consultations, this can skyrocket to QR250-QR600. However, you also have the option to get a Hamad Health Card at a cost of QR100/year. This will allow you to visit the Primary Health Care Center for free.
Childcare costs in Qatar
While there is a range of private nurseries and pre-schools in Qatar, you will find most of them in Doha. For full-time enrollments, costs can vary between QR1,000 and QR3,000 per month. Many expats also choose to hire babysitters, nannies, or au pairs, however, the costs for this depend on whether you need a live-in or live-out helper, what skills they have, and exactly what services they provide.
Ad-hoc babysitters usually charge between QR25 and QR35 per hour (or QR75-QR100 per day), and you will also need to factor in transport costs of up to QR25. Live-in nannies are usually paid around QR1,000/month, while live-out nannies charge up to QR2,500 month because of additional accommodation and transport costs.
If you want to hire an au pair, you will need to get a work visa for them and provide a range of benefits including a stipend of around US$300/month and live-in accommodation. Because of all the costs associated with bringing in an educated childcare specialist from overseas, au pairs are one of the more expensive options.
Study costs in Qatar
While Qatar has a fairly good free public education system, it is only open to nationals. Therefore, if you are planning to have your kids attend a school in Qatar, you will need to enroll them in private international schools. Basic tuition for primary schools ranges from between QR18,000 and 50,000 per year, and this can go up to QR70,000/year for high school. You will also need to take into account the costs of transport, uniforms, extracurricular activities, and so on. This is certainly more expensive than public education in Europe and the rest of the west, however, private education is on par.
There are two main local universities in Qatar, as well as local branches of elite international universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, and Georgetown. Tuition is around QR75,000 per semester, which is only slightly cheaper than out-of-state fees in the US, but more expensive than international fees in the UK and Australia.
Cost of food and drink in Qatar
Groceries in Qatar
Because much of Qatar’s food is imported, you can expect grocery prices to be higher than places like the UK, Europe, and the USA. On average, you should expect to spend between 10% and 20% of your salary each month on groceries. For reference, here are a few common grocery item prices:
- 1 liter of milk: QR7
- 1 loaf of bread: QR5
- 1 dozen eggs: QR15
- 1 kilo of bananas: QR5
- 1.5 liters of water: QR2
Restaurants in Qatar
Like any other country, Qatar is home to a wide range of restaurants. You will find everything from exclusive fine-dining experiences to chain eateries and holes-in-the-wall. To put things in perspective, a quick meal at McDonald’s will probably cost you around QR25; this would be the same for your average local restaurant. Prices rise steeply for fancier places.
For a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant, you can expect to pay up to QR400, however, the average is about QR200. Unsurprisingly, restaurant meals are probably more expensive than you would find in other western countries, although still cheaper than what you would expect in places like Dubai and Hong Kong.
Beer, wine, and spirits in Qatar
As is the case in the rest of the world, it is cheaper to drink at home in Qatar than go out to a bar. The average price of a draft pint of domestic beer at a bar in Qatar is QR50, compared to a bottle of beer bought at a supermarket, which is QR30. Cocktails at a bar are, on average, QR75, while a bottle of wine in an off-license will set you back QR130.
Coffee in Qatar
Coffee is coffee, no matter where you drink it. A cappuccino at a café in Doha will cost about the same as it would in London or Melbourne, however like in any other city, the exact price will vary depending on where you are drinking. You can expect to pay between QR15 and QR25.
Transport costs in Qatar
Public transport in Qatar
Public transport is still in its infancy in Qatar – even in Doha – so if you are environmentally conscious, you will probably be relying on buses. One-way tickets range from QR3 to QR10, depending on the distance of your journey, while the price for monthly tickets varies between QR100 and QR200.
Private transport in Qatar
Cars are the most common way of getting around Qatar, so get used to being driven around (or driving). Taxis are readily available, and the normal starting tariff is QR10; you will be charged an additional QR2 per kilometer, plus waiting time.
Many expats invest in cars as overall, it is more cost-effective. A Volkswagen Golf will set you back QR70,000, while a Toyota Corolla comes in a little under that at QR68,000; both of these are higher than what you would find in other countries. Petrol is priced the same as diesel, and you will pay QR2/liter.
Clothing in Qatar
Generally speaking, clothing is cheap in Qatar and you can find some real bargains if you hunt for them. Even if you are looking at high street brands, you can expect to pay a little less than normal – think QR220 for Levi’s jeans, QR200 for a Zara dress, and QR350 for Nike runners.
The one caveat is designer brands. Due to import taxes, designer clothing and accessories are significantly higher than in Europe; therefore, save up to buy these when you are home.
Leisure activities in Qatar
A lot of people say there isn’t much to do in Qatar by way of leisure – but that doesn’t mean you will be sitting at home twiddling your thumbs. Stay active by going to the gym (QR500/month), catch a film at the cinema (QR35), or enjoy a night out at the theatre (QR350). The downside? Like everything else, it will be more expensive than at home.
Taxation and social security in Qatar
Qatar doesn’t currently have VAT or sales tax, although it has been said that VAT may soon be implemented at 5%. There are no taxes on property or personal income. Similarly, employers only have to pay social security to Qatari nationals; so don’t expect to see this.
Assistance with living costs in Qatar
Foreign workers in Qatar are not entitled to benefits from any of the country’s social welfare schemes, except for its healthcare. As an expat, other benefits such as childcare, pensions, unemployment, and housing won’t be available to you.