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Calculating the cost of living

The currency in Qatar is the Qatari Riyal also written as QAR.

Buying familiar grocery items can be expensive, but there are local replacements that are more reasonably priced. Especially with those grown/made locally, the prices can be very low — prices for Arabic flatbread is negligible, and certain local vegetables and fish are very reasonable. Examples of staples in Qatar: 1 litre of milk = QAR 6.41 ($1.76), 1 kilo of rice = QAR 6.36 ($1.75) and a loaf of white bread = QAR 5.04 ($1.38).

Examples of 2018 prices for eating out — QAR 18.21 ($5) for a cappuccino, QAR 25 ($6.87) for a meal in an inexpensive restaurant and a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant will come in around the QAR 150 ($41.20) mark.

When it comes to household items (like furniture, white goods, and plants), becoming a regular at a locally owned store can gain you a steady loyalty discount. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a lower price especially for bulk buys, e.g. a kitchen full of equipment, furniture, or bedding for your new home.  You’ll find websites such as Doha Sooq will allow you to compare prices on items. When you’re newly arrived, this alone will save you buying something you might not realise is overly expensive. For example, an online search will identify microwaves ranging in price from QAR 169 ($46) to QAR 1,299 ($357). In the Middle East, there are few ad hoc reductions in department stores but seasonal sales are well worth waiting for. Designer boutiques and specialist technology stores offer wonderful discounts at sale times.


Given the lack of public transport in Qatar (buses only run on the most major routes), a car is a necessity. That doesn’t mean you have to own one as taxis are economical (around QAR $0.49 per kilometre) and hire car agencies are everywhere. It is a good idea to swap your licence for a local one as soon as you arrive, and if you’re visiting, you’ll need an international licence. It is illegal to drive on a foreign licence.

Japanese brands in Qatar are reasonably priced and their air-conditioning is excellent, a benefit never to be underestimated. An average-priced Toyota Corolla currently sells in Qatar for around QAR 64,500 (approximately $17,715). European brands are more expensive — a typical BMW 1 Series is sold for around QAR 127,000 (roughly $34,800), more expensive than in the UK, but it may be possible to negotiate.  Cars will need to be annually tested for road-worthiness after the first three years.


For those with families, school-age expatriate children are expected to go to international schools. There’ll be a huge range of nationalities attending, but English will be the dominant language. Often, some allowance for school fees will be included in an expatriate salary package, but it may not cover all costs. As an example of the fees, a top kindergarten can be up to QAR 22,000 ($6,000) and high school fees can reach almost triple that, QAR 65,000 (just under $18,000).

Bear in mind that there can be a shortage of places, so it is good to get your name down on a waiting list as soon as possible.


Fuel prices remain ridiculously low in Qatar compared to other developed countries, and early in 2018 a litre of fuel cost QAR 1.76 (around $0.48).

Eating out

Eating in hotel restaurants in Qatar will often cost as much as you’d expect in any developed city in the world but if you’d like to save a little money, there’s no need to patronise this kind of establishment all the time. Cheap neighbourhood restaurants can be found, and expats will quickly share their recommendations with you. Eating as the locals do is usually a good budget choice — there are a huge number of Arabic restaurants to choose from and you will soon find yourself being able to distinguish between Goan, Punjabi, and Keralan cuisines. One of the cheapest options is the Indian ‘thali’ which involves endless dishes and breads for no more than the equivalent of a few pounds or dollars.

Other costs

Magazines can be very expensive in Qatar and fashion magazines can be censored.

Gold is a worthwhile investment in the Middle East and 18-24 carat is the norm. Sold by the gram, design usually costs nothing — you pay for a chain’s weight and its purity, not the time someone spent making it beautiful. Gold is also easily transportable, insurable, and replaceable. Ensure you go to a reputable dealer — research for reviews if you must, but even better if you can get someone who is a regular to introduce you. Like everything here, establishing a relationship with the owner or manager of an outlet can reap enormous financial benefits, especially over the long-term.

Finally, you will learn by trial and error where to shop for particular things. Some items are worth venturing into the souk (market) for, and some you’ll spend time on building a relationship before you buy (for things like Persian rugs). If you want the big retail experience, you’ll be paying standard prices for familiar brands of clothing, bags, and furniture, at the various sprawling air-conditioned malls.

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