Qatar introduction for Expats

Qatar General Information for Expats

A short introduction to Qatar

Qatar (pronounced KAH-ter) occupies a small peninsula that extends into the Persian Gulf from the east side of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is to the west and the United Arab Emirates to the south. Its territory comprises a number of islands such as Halul, Al Shat, Shira’wa and others.


Qatar has a desert climate with hot summers and relatively warm winters. In summer, the temperature ranges between 25 and 46 degrees celsius. Rainfall in winter is minimal and on average does not exceed 75.2 mm per year.


Qatar generally consists of flat rocky surfaces. It does, however, include some hills and sand dunes which can reach an altitude of 40m above sea level in the western and northern parts of Qatar.

Qatar is characterized by a number of geographical features which are peculiar to the western side of the Arabian Gulf. These include rainwater-draining basins (called al-Riyadh)which are found mainly in the north and central areas of the country. These two areas are considered the most fertile, housing different plants, and have attracted heavy agricultural investment.

Capital City

The capital city of Qatar is Doha, where the government, main commercial and financial institutions are based. The city is an important commercial and cultural centre with a commercial seaport and a modern international airport that links Qatar to the rest of the world. More than half of the Qatari population lives in Doha.


The currency used in Qatar is the riyal (QAR), which is subdivided into 100 dirhams.

Notes: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500

Coins: 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 (1, 5 and 10 dirham coins are not largely circulated)

one US Dollar = QAR 4,0585 (as a fixed rate). Exchange rate date : 25th May 2016

Public Holidays in Qatar 2016

9 February : Sport Day
7 - 11 July: Eid al-Fitr
8 - 13 September: Eid al-adha
18 December : National Day

*Although not a public holiday, Ramadan is an important part of life in Qatar.
*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon


Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Emir: Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani (2013)

HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is the Emir of the State of Qatar. He is born on 3rd June 1980. He completed his secondary education at Sherborn School, UK in 1997 and graduated from Sandhurst Military Academy in 1998. He was sworn allegiance as Heir Apparent on 5 August 2003 and became Emir of Qatar on 25 June 2013.




Sheikh Abdullah ibn Nasser ibn Khalifah Al Thani Prime Minister: Sheikh Abdullah ibn Nasser ibn Khalifah Al Thani (2013)

Sheikh Abdullah is a distant relative of the former Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani; he is the son of Sheikh Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani. Sheikh Abdullah graduated from Durham Military College,UK, in 1984 and received a bachelor's degree in police sciences. In 1995, he also graduated from Beirut Arab University, receiving a bachelor's degree in legislation.

Qatar introduced its first constitution on June 9, 2005. It guarantees freedom of expression, assembly, and religion and calls for a 45-seat parliament. Thirty of the seats will be filled in democratic elections; the emir will appoint the remaining seats. Qatar is a constitutional monarchy.

Flag of the State of Qatar

The national flag of the State of Qatar is maroon with a broad white nine-point serrated band breaking into the maroon side. The meaning of Qatar's flag is as follows:

  • The white color denotes the internationally recognized symbol of peace.
  • The maroon symbolizes the blood that was shed during the several wars Qatar has undergone, particularly in the second half of the 19th century.
  • The nine-point serrated line indicates that Qatar is the 9th member of the (Reconciled Emirates) on the Arabian Gulf in the wake of concluding the Qatari-British treaty in 1916. This is recorded by the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1931 regarding Qatar's national flag's layout and coloring.

Import and Export

As is the case for Qatar's Middle Eastern neighbours, oil and natural gas are crucial components of its trade revenues. 85% of Qatar's export earnings are derived from these industries and reinvested into imports such as food and machinery to sustain Qatar's rapidly growing economy. High oil prices in particular, ensures Qatar operates with a trade surplus.

However, Qatar's reliance on oil is unsustainable. Qatar's oil reserves are expected to run dry by 2023 and the Qatari government has since focused its attention on developing the natural gas industry. Increased Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production in particular has driven Qatar's rapid growth in recent times.


Public Transport

Qatar Public Transport

The public transport system in Qatar and Doha in particular, is developing. Private cars however remain the most popular choice for travel due to cheap fuel, cars and expanding road networks.

There is a bus system between Doha and other towns and a taxi service run by the government. Busses are often overcrowded and there is a severe shortage of government run taxi's which can make your journey to the shopping mall a bit of an adventure. This is also why there are a lot of illegal taxi's around shopping malls, supermarkets and local souq's. Another alternative is booking a private taxi at FOX Transport, which is one of several private taxis and limousine companies in Doha who have opened up shop to meet the ever increasing demand of a reliable taxi service.

At the moment there are no train, tram or metro systems in any city in Qatar, they are working on a metro system, but newspapers are saying completion will be in 2020 at the earliest.

Doha's International Airport functions as an international hub which gives access to the rest of the world by Qatar Airways, which has a very good international reputation.



Water & Electricity

Water and electricity is administered by Kahramaa, the Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation. To apply for electricity and a water connection, visit a Qatar General Electricity & Water service centre with the following documents:

Completed application form signed by your sponsor:

  • Copy of Qatar ID
  • A letter from your employer
  • QGEWC reference number (you will find this on your home's front door frame if you have an apartment; if you have a villa, look on the electricity box)
  • Copy of your lease
  • QR2,000 for deposit (QR 1,200 for electricity and QR 800 for water)
  • Current meter readings

Please note, it can take up to 48 hours for electricity and water supply to be connected to your home.

Once your account has been set up, payment is easy if you have access to internet banking at a commercial bank. All you have to do is register your Kahramaa account as a beneficiary within internet banking and you can make your payments online.

Landline phone and internet

Landline services in Qatar are provided by Qatar's primary telecommunications service provider Ooredoo. Their home services include landline, broadband internet and TV packages. You can apply by visiting a Ooredoo shop or dealer, where you can fill in an application form.

You will need to bring the following supporting documents:

  • Copy of your passport
  • Residence permit/Qatar ID
  • Bank details in order to set up direct debit payments, if required

For mobile telephone services in Qatar, you can choose between Vodafone and Ooredoo. To acquire a pre-paid mobile connection, you only need a copy of your passport or Qatar ID card. For post-paid connection, you will need to show your Residence Permit. It's good to keep your bank details on hand in order to set up direct debit payments, if required.


Health services in Qatar

Qatar Healthcare

Government-run Healthcare and the Health Card

The government-run, non-profit healthcare provider in Qatar is Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) runs five hospitals and 24 primary health care centers or community clinics. Healthcare services are available to citizens and residents of Qatar at a heavily subsidized rate at HMC clinics and hospitals. These subsidized healthcare services can be accessed using the government-issued Health Card.

  • Hamad General Hospital
  • Rumailah Hospital >>Rumailah Hospital became a rehabilitation center for disabled adults, elderly people and handicapped children; it also includes plastic surgery, ENT surgery, ophthalmology, day surgery and a stroke unit
  • Women's Hospital
  • Al Khor Hospital (located 50km outside of Doha)
  • National Center for Cancer Care & Research (treats hematology/oncology patients aged 15+; provides radiation oncology service for patients of all ages)

HMC also operates numerous primary care centers.

How to apply for a Health Card?

Once your Residence Visa process has been finalized, you can then apply for a Health Card at the Health Card Office in any HMC Clinic in Qatar or at the Rumailah Hospital.

Remember to take:

  • Copies of your passport and visa
  • Passport photographs (4cm x 3cm) - the official requirement is two, but in actual fact you need more. You can get passport photographs done at minimal cost and since you need a fair number for the entire Residence Visa and health card process, print off at least 12
  • A fee of QR100.

If you are applying for a health card for your child, in addition to the documents mentioned above, you will also need to bring:

  • valid birth certificate
  • A vaccination card

If you have just moved to Qatar and do not have your Residence Permit or Health Card yet, you can still visit HMC hospitals and clinics. Doctors and specialists will help anyone who requires medical attention, however you will not be eligible for subsidized rates without your Health Card.

Private Healthcare

Although the public health care system in Qatar is efficient and affordable, there are also a number of private healthcare facilities. These facilities adhere to the national standards adopted by the Supreme Council of Health, their services however are not covered under the Health Card. This is set to change in the coming years.

Qatar has launched its National Health Insurance Scheme. The first phase covers only nationals. Subsequently, even expatriates will be covered in this. That would mean that under the National Health Insurance scheme, it would be compulsory for employers to provide health insurance for all their employees. This is currently optional.

If you prefer private medical care, you must take out a private insurance.

Private clinics and hospitals in Qatar are expensive and prices can sometimes be excessively high without health insurance. There are a number of local and international health insurance providers in Qatar and they offer comprehensive health coverage packages based on your needs. Before you go shopping for insurance, check with your employer if health insurance is part of your employment contract benefits.

If you are planning to move to Qatar and currently have private health insurance, it might be worth checking with your insurance provider to see if you will be covered for any medical services that you and your family members may need to have in Qatar.

Paediatric and Neonatal Healthcare in Qatar

Qatar has one of the best neonatal care programmes in the world, it even offers a programme where newborn babies are screened for inherited diseases.

The immunisation programme is run by the Supreme Council of Health and covers all vaccinations a child in Qatar needs up to the age of six. It currently offers vaccinations against 12 diseases: tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, haemophilus influenza, polio, pneumococcal infection, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox).

All babies born in Qatar receive a vaccination card, which states the inoculation schedule and should be taken whenever a vaccination is due. Babies born outside Qatar will need records of any immunisations already received, plus a birth certificate, in order to be granted a Qatar vaccination card. You can obtain the card at the Vaccination Centre Unit at Abu Hamour. Vaccinations can be given at most government clinics with this card.



Qatar Education

The education system in Qatar is jointly directed and controlled by the Supreme Education Council (SEC) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) at all levels.

The SEC is responsible for overseeing independent schools and the MOE is responsible for providing support to private schools. Primary schooling is obligatory for every child and is free in public schools.

Education in Qatar is very diverse, with several schools representing a variety of international curriculum systems. There are approximately 338 international schools in the country and several prestigious universities from around the world.

Qatar is becoming one of the most significant players in the field of education innovation, supporting a raft of projects from grassroots basic literacy through to high-end university research. As well as trying to fast-forward its own education system, it is supporting projects in some of the toughest environments.

The man at the centre of many of Qatar's education initiatives is Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, a member of Qatar's ruling family and a former university professor.

For a comprehensive list of all international schools in Qatar, please visit our Qatar International Schools and Education


Buying/Renting property Real Estate in Qatar

To buy property in Qatar

Expatriates can only buy property in specific large-scale developments in Doha , these include The Pearl-Qatar, West Bay Lagoon and Al Khor Resort Project. Regardless of whether a property developer claims that foreigners can legally buy property in their development, it is wise to always verify this information with the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (Baladiya) before making a commitment.

In order to buy property in Qatar, an expatriate must have a Residence Visa with a validity of five years to live in Qatar. The visa is processed by the Ministry of Interior. Please visit our Qatar Visa Requirements page on Qatar Property Planet.

Registration of property bought by non-Qataris is done at the Office of Registration of Real Estate for non-Qatari nationals, located in the Baladiya offices in Al Sadd.

In Qatar there is no property tax for expatriates who are willing to purchase property, but you do need to pay the transfer fee which is 0.25% of the whole property value.

After the transfer fee has been paid, the property buy has been completed. Please note, additional fees can be charged such as parking fees, maintenance fees and other miscellaneous service charges. Make sure you understand all the hidden fees before buying the property.

To rent property in Qatar

If the employer is organising your accommodation, they will negotiate the lease with the landlord.

If not, you should expect to pay one year's rent upfront and therefore It is strongly suggested you employ the services of a local real estate agent. The real estate agent will negotiate the lease for you, will take away the language barrier and will help you to find your dream property. This is well worth the extra fee.

Most popular property choice for Expat families are the compounds, suburbs with 24/7 security and amenities like pool, club house and fitness centre.

Housing in expat compounds in Qatar often comes fully furnished (FF), so it may not be necessary for you to ship your belongings overseas. If you would like to bring your own belongings, unfurnished (UF) and semi-furnished (SF) options are also available, although those who are interested may want to include an adequate shipping and start-up allowance in their employment contract to cover furnishing costs.

Up market options are The Pearl/Qatar Riviera and West Bay with enormous villa's and a western atmosphere. The flagship residential development is the Pearl-Qatar, situated on an artificial island off the coast of Doha. This will include 8,000 villas and apartments housing up to 30,000 people, as well as world-class hotels and other amenities. The accommodation is on sale at prices between US$275 for a one-bedroom apartment, to around $500,000 for a large four-bedroom apartment, and the return on investment is expected to be in excess of 10%.

Please use our search engine to buy/rent property in Qatar or contact one of the real estate agents by clicking on the Contact real estate agent form.

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