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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Doha

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  • Juan Garcia

    The Persian Gulf is a long way from home, so I was especially glad to discover this super expat community for Doha.

Relocating to Doha

Expats who have chosen to work in Qatar will most likely be moving to Doha, as about 70% of Qatar’s population lives there. What is now a metropolis was nothing more than a pearl-fishing village in the 19th century. Today, work opportunities and the excellent location are two of the reasons why expats move to Doha. Expats often find work in the petrochemical industry or the real estate sector, and enjoy the advantages of a city which is in constant development.

Expats moving to Doha will live in Ad Dawhah municipality, also known as the capital municipality. It is also the seat of the government and the home of Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and his family.

Visa Requirements for Doha

If you’re travelling to Doha for a preliminary visit, you may be able to enter the country without obtaining a visa beforehand. Citizens of 33 countries are granted a tourist visa upon arrival, for a period of 14 to 30 days. Fees for a single travel visa are QR 100 (non-refundable).

Those moving to Doha for a long-term period or to do business need to obtain a visa beforehand. Work visas for expats are valid for up to three months.

However, expatriates need a sponsor in order to receive a valid work or business visa. Sponsors also have to sign permits and arrange exit visas. While most expats moving to Doha are sponsored by their employer, they can in turn sponsor their family members once they have obtained a residence permit themselves.

You can find all the relevant application forms for your visa on the website of the Ministry of Interior. To learn more about the different kinds of visas available for foreigners, have a look at our article on Moving to Qatar or contact Qatar Airways for current visa information.

Doha International Airport

Doha’s international airport does not only make it an important location for imports and exports, but it also provides all kinds of amenities to expats moving to Doha. Thanks to its seaside location, visitors and expats enjoy an exceptional view of the Arabian Gulf from the airport.

To its visitors, Doha International Airport offers a lot of services. The passport section issues visitor visas and processes work and exit visas. Travellers can pass the time before or between flights in one of the numerous business-class lounges.

Some high-class hotels provide a transport service from or to the airport for their guests. Those who have to organize transportation on their own can use the airport’s limousine service for a fee between QR 80 and QR 120. Additionally, car rental companies are located in the airport’s arrival lounge.

To ease your arrival when moving to Doha, the international airport offers the Al Maha meet-and-greet service. Passengers who book this service meet a member of the multilingual staff at the arrival gate. The Al Maha employee arranges for the passport to be stamped and then helps passengers get through passport control, baggage claim and customs. Foreigners moving to Doha can use the online contact form to book the Al Maha service. But remember, this service has to be booked at least 24 hours ahead of time.

Doha's Districts and Local Transportation

Doha is a relatively safe city with a low crime rate and no particularly rough districts. However, the industrial areas are not a nice place to live. Pollution, dust and muddy roads during rainfalls make them an unpleasant environment. In some of the nicer neighborhoods, Doha offers different housing options, such as apartments, accommodation within compounds, or stand-alone villas.

Districts of Doha

  • Al Muntazah includes new apartment blocks and office buildings, some of which were built not too long ago. This district is located in the heart of Doha. Here, expats can find cheaper apartments and single family villas. Especially the newer apartment blocks come with excellent facilities.
  • Bin Mahmoud is a centrally located and relatively cheap district of Doha. While it has its own unique charm and is full of life, some buildings are rather run-down. Many companies make use of the low rents, leasing apartments for their employees. Hence, a lot of Indian and Western expats (or people with a lower income) live in Bin Mahmoud.
  • Al Sadd is one of Doha’s livelier areas, where offices, independent shops, restaurants, small cafés, and apartment buildings are located side by side. It is easy to walk the distance from the shops to one’s office or apartment.
  • Landmark (Duhail)/ Al Rayyan is popular among expats, offering mostly single family villas, some compounds, parks, and one of the nicer malls. As Education City is nearby, this district is with the right choice for expat families.
  • Najma / the Mall & Airport area is an older part of town with local shops and chain stores, offering residents everything they need. This area is home to many single men. Single expat women may receive a high amount of (often undesired) attention, which is why only few decide to move here. The area around the mall and airport is more expensive and upscale, with compounds and single family villas.
  • Salwa Road and Abu Hamour have experienced extensive development throughout the last few years. New compounds and roads have been built, and many different kinds of shops have recently opened. Families in particular enjoy living in this district, with the biggest schools close-by.
  • West Bay and Al Dafna belong to the more upscale part of Doha. There are many foreign embassies and some beautiful parks in this area. It is a place for families who prefer villas and compounds to small apartments.
  • Villagio Area (Al Waab and Al Aziziyah) is among the most popular parts of the city. In close proximity to Doha’s newest shopping mall and several parks, this district is ideal for expatriate families. While there are a lot of family villas to rent, residents have travel a bit further for restaurants and stores.
  • Old Ghanim/ Old Ghuwailina stays true to its name, hosting mostly older buildings which date back to a poorer time. While the rent is cheap, the parking situation is a nightmare and the maze of backstreets is confusing. This district belongs to Doha’s poorer parts; it is home to many Asian expats and less affluent Arabs.
  • The Pearl is one of Doha’s biggest developments, a property construction project on a man-made island in Doha’s bay. In 2009, the the first residents, as well as many luxury retailers, had moved in, although the $2.5 billion project was still under construction at the time. Upon completion, the Pearl has ten residential districts with villas, apartments and town-houses.

Transportation in Doha

The company Mowasalat introduced modern public buses in Doha in 2005. They operate on different routes all over the city, including the industrial areas and offer expats an alternative mode of transportation to commute to work.

In recent years, the company also introduced Karwa smartcards as an easy way to pay the fare. They are mandatory and can be used instead of cash on all buses in Doha. A rechargeable smartcard costs QR 30 and can be purchased at the Karwa bus station or at one of the 86 outlets.

Mowasalat also operates taxis and airport service shuttles in Doha. Normal taxis can transport up to 4 passengers and can be found at taxi stands or booked in advance. Airport service shuttles are fit to transport up to 6 passengers, including bulky luggage.

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  • Juan Garcia

    The Persian Gulf is a long way from home, so I was especially glad to discover this super expat community for Doha.

  • Amarilis Castillo

    I loved the InterNations expat gatherings in Doha, and I hope we'll have another opportunity to meet up at 'La Villa' or the golf range.

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