Doha, Qatar Report of what it's like to live there - 07/10/22

Personal Experiences from Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar 07/10/22

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

3rd overseas tour.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Florida. When we first arrived, Qatar Air had broken their code share with AA so the direct flight from DC was no longer applicable. You had to take either United/Lufthansa via Frankfurt or AA/BA via London, then still connect with Qatar Air. Both options made one eligible for a rest stop, so instead of taking at 14-hour direct flight from DC, the travel time was over 20 hours and cost thousands of dollars more (hotel, per diem, baggage charges - QA charges per kilo out of the EU). Our cat took the direct flight from DC a day after we left and still arrived a few hours before we did.

The good news is QA/AA are playing nice now so you can take the direct flight.

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3. What years did you live here?

2018-2021

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4. How long have you lived here?

3 years

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic Mission

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is between two compounds (for those with kids) and apartments downtown. Houses (ok villas to be exact) are large. We had a 3-story, 5-bedroom villa. The laundry is up on the 3rd floor (along with a MIL suite and housekeeper's quarters). Housing is fine, but expect little things to constantly break. The good news is the management companies are very quick to send someone out to fix things.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Almost everything is available, and at about the same cost as DC. The only thing you can't find in the local economy is pork products and alcohol. You can get a membership to the local package store and buy overpriced alcohol and pork. The Embassy also has a shop where they bring in beer, wine, and liquor.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, as you can get most anything here. I seem to recall it is/was strictly forbidden to bring in alcohol in your HHE shipment.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything!! Get the local app Talabat and you can have anything delivered. Feel like a DQ blizzard on a Friday night? Talabat will deliver and it's still frozen. If you don't want Western food Baladna (a local dairy company) has a good restaurant and the price is low. Lots of good shwarma options too.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None. Occasional ants and geckos.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Ok, so a previous poster talked about losing APO and going pouch. This is/was somewhat accurate but here is some context. The local Army base closed down (where the Embassy got APO from). The AF Base which also has an APO operation did not want to offer APO services to the Embassy. So for a period of time, Pouch was the only option, but that was for less than 6 months. DPO has been operational for about a year now.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available. We had a part-time house cleaner who came twice a week. Others hire full-time, live-in help. You will probably go through a few people to find the right fit. Note if you have full-time, you have to fully sponsor them (housing, a trip back home once a year, etc). It can add up so just be aware and talk to HR about all of the rules you need to follow.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Segregated gyms everywhere. People also hired personal trainers. The gyms at the housing compounds are not segregated.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are taken everywhere. When COVID hit more places stopped taking cash.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, everyone speaks English.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably. While Doha is a "new" city, sidewalks, etc are in bad shape.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Uber is widely available and inexpensive. There is a local bus service but we never used it. There is also a metro system but you may have to walk to a train station (but it will get you to a lot of places).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Probably an SUV. You could get by with a smaller car buy everyone has an SUV.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. There are only two companies, Ooredoo (a national company) and Vodafone. Vodafone uses Ooredoos lines. Ooredoo has fiber to the home and the speeds are good. Vodafone is only 4G I think. You cannot set up your service until you have your Dip ID. Same with post-paid cell phone service (pre-paid is no problem). It will take a month-ish to get your credentials and then just a few days for internet installation. You will need a VPN as things are blocked. Set up your VPN before you arrive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone. Embassy staff will be issued a work phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes. Lots of vets and dog walkers, etc. Pets have to fly in via excess baggage or cargo but Qatar Air really takes care of pets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Few jobs at the Embassy for EFM's due to the size and number of people.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I don't think volunteering is a big thing.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

You will see people in suits all the way to jeans. In public dress more conservatively but I've seen men in shorts at the malls. Women should be mindful and dress appropriately.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Other than the crazy drivers and heat, no.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None really. Lots of health care options and they are very good. People have had surgery, given birth, etc in Doha.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is very bad due to the dust and sand.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

COVID really wore on a lot of people. In the summer people tend to leave Doha due to the heat (even Qataris) but with COVID travel restrictions people couldn't leave. Add into the work never stopped, lots of morale issues in the Embassy.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot. Did I say hot. Oh and very humid too.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American School of Doha (ASD) is the one most of the Embassy uses. It's a huge campus, think small US college. They offer top-notch facilities (the only regulation baseball field in the Gulf) and classes. My kids really enjoyed their time at ASD and miss it a lot. ASD has busses from the compounds to the school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Probably not a lot, but I'm not sure.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are some daycares but most opt to hire a nanny.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are lots of options, sports, Scouts etc.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large. There is a large number of expats in the oil and gas industry. There are also expats from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, etc in the service industries.

Now, the Embassy is in a converted palace. It's a small, old building that is bursting at the seams. More and more agencies are coming in, but there is no room. A NEC is supposed to be built but that will be in 10-15 years probably.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Doha is a make your own fun Post.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for those with kids since the Qatari society is built around the family. Singles are fine I think and make their own fun (Friday brunches, etc) but I think singles and those without kids tend to get bored.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

You will have more expat friends than friendships with Qataris.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. That being said there is a decent underground population.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

If you are of Indian, Pakistani, etc decent people will think you are a laborer. Obviously, Qataris are at the top of the chain, Caucasians are next. We never had any issues but if you are a single Indian male you will be singled out and not allowed into some venues, etc.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travel was easy but pricey. Many people did a quick trip to the Maldives.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The souq is really neat. The inland sea is a 30-minute drive from Doha. Honestly, you can see the highlights of Qatar on a weekend.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really. Nothing is really made in Qatar. Visit the Rug Man (just look him up), he imports a wide variety of rugs and will tell you stories about them. The quality is good but he is used to that Exxon money (we still got a few rugs from him).

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

This is hard. COVID really changed our perception of Doha. Being stuck for 1.5 years and loosing an R and R really soured our mood and we were ready to get on the plane and leave. That being said, the living isn't bad in Doha and I'd probably go back to the Gulf at some point.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter jackets unless you go to Europe in the winter for skiing.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and patience.

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