- Download our Moving to Qatar Guide (PDF)
Official sources and on-the-ground experiences tell different stories about the cost of living in Qatar. The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Index ranks the capital, Doha, at 126th out of 227 cities surveyed, placing it well below other major cities in the region, such as Dubai and Riyadh.
Qatar’s wealth is on par with other Gulf regional power players, and the country is among those nations with the highest GDP per capita in the world, creating the impression that all residents benefit from a high standard of living. In reality, though, there is a huge wealth gap in Qatar, with the highest echelons of society mostly made up of locals. Below them are wealthier expats, middle management and unskilled workers.
Lucrative employment packages are the main draw for many expats, but salaries in Qatar are not as attractive as they once were, while goods and services have become more expensive. Recent reports of pay cuts for expats, primarily those working for the government, are even more worrying.
This might make the country seem less appealing but, following financial and economic issues, there are still opportunities to make and save money in Qatar.
Cost of accommodation in Qatar
Rent prices in Qatar depend on the type of property and its location and can be ridiculously high for expat accommodation. Prices also depend on whether a place is furnished or unfurnished, but it doesn’t hurt to try to negotiate a lower price.
Most expats in Qatar are based in Doha and choose to live in an area based on availability and its proximity to work or their children's school. Of course, some areas are more expensive than others.
Some expat salaries include a housing allowance that is either paid in monthly instalments or in one lump sum, so it is good to double-check this. Others might include a shipping allowance, which could be used to bring over larger or more expensive items, depending on how long an expat intends to stay. Furniture, home accessories and electronics are expensive in Qatar, and local stores may not have the range or quality expats are used to.
Utilities are reasonably priced, but extra accommodation costs can add up. Some apartments have maintenance fees, so expats should find out whether the tenant or the landlord is responsible for paying those.
Cost of transport in Qatar
Petrol in Qatar is cheap, which adds to the enthusiasm people have for cars in this part of the world and may explain the limited public transport system.
Hiring a driver and buying or renting a car are all viable options. While drivers might be less hassle, they may not allow as much freedom. Still, they might be economical for expats who only intend to travel for work and grocery shopping. There are plenty of car rental companies in Qatar, many of which offer better rates for longer lease periods.
Buying a new car is not a problem, but the high turnover rate of expats means that there are superb deals on used vehicles. When deciding on a car, it is important to note that most European and American car parts are more expensive and harder to source than Asian brands.
Free parking in Qatar is available in certain public places and shopping centres, but parking and speeding violations come with hefty fines.
It is also essential to remember that Qatar is not the cheapest travel destination. Most employment packages offer expats a travel allowance or annual flights to their home country, but getting there is often expensive, especially during the summer and at the end of the year.
Cost of groceries in Qatar
Qatar imports most of its food products, so while expats may be able to find familiar brands, they will be far more expensive than local equivalents. Organic produce, meat and dairy products are available but come at a price.
A small selection of local fruit, vegetables and fish can be quite reasonable, while fresh Qatari flatbreads are downright cheap. Depending on the size of their family, expats may spend at least 10 percent of their salaries on food.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Qatar
There are several options when it comes to eating out in Qatar. Small, independent restaurants are cheaper and offer better value for money than the chain eateries and posh establishments found in hotels.
Alcohol is expensive, can only be purchased from one warehouse and requires a permit, but drinking out is even more expensive.
Cost of education in Qatar
The free public school system in Qatar is almost exclusively for locals, so foreigners will have to pay for their children’s education. Although the quality of private education is good, it can be costly.
Many employers offer an education allowance, but it's good to verify this. School fees vary depending on the school and the child’s grade level. There will also be additional costs such as application costs, excursions, uniforms and transport fees.
Cost of healthcare in Qatar
Healthcare in Qatar is distinguished by its high-quality and comprehensive coverage, with services available to all residents, including expats. However, the cost of healthcare can vary significantly, depending on whether individuals are covered under the public healthcare system or require private healthcare services. For those covered by the public system, many services are provided at little to no cost, thanks to government subsidies.
Expats not from the GCC region must secure private health insurance, which can be a considerable expense, particularly for those requiring frequent medical care or specialist treatments. Insurance plans vary widely in coverage and cost, so it's advisable to thoroughly research and compare options. Registered insurance providers offer a range of plans to suit different needs and budgets, but premiums and out-of-pocket expenses can be high.
Cost of living in Qatar chart
Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Doha in February 2024.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Food and drink
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Big Mac Meal
|Bottle of beer (local)
|Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Gasoline (per litre)
What do expats say about the cost of living in Qatar?
"Qatar has some of the most luxurious options when it comes to shopping. Many of the world's most well-known brands such as Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Polo and Tommy Hilfiger can be found around every corner – a true 'rich man’s world'. Still, due to large class diversity, Qatar manages to have services and options for every budget."
Learn more about moving to Qatar in our interview with South African expat Ryno.
Are you an expat living in Qatar?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Qatar. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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