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Monday, April 16, 2007

Salary ranges and cost of living in Qatar

"It's terrible here. It's slave labour."

I was at a party. The man speaking was an American engineer working for an oil company in Qatar on a tax free salary of 12,000 dollars per month with benefits.

"Are you talking about the labourers here?" I replied.

"No, us man."

I spoke to another man recently when I was visiting an independent school. He was leaving the school for another job.

"It's a really good job," he told me. "It pays 800 dollars a month." He looked around the classroom. "Some of these guys earn 4000 dollars a month," he whispered to me in awe.

As you can tell from this discussion, and from a quick search under salary ranges on Qatar Living, what is a good wage in Qatar is open to interpretation. The range of wages are huge - starting from the 100 dollars paid to some cleaners (recently revealed by the papers - the cleaners had actually been promised more), 160 dollars for labourers and climbing to huge amounts to highly skilled Western expats.

What people need also varies hugely - Qatar National Bank recently suggested an expat family needs nearly 8,000 dollars to live in Qatar. However, my family (with accommodation and bills paid for) spend about a quarter of that, even after paying nursery fees for two children. I have single male friends who live without skimping on about 1000 dollars a month (the ladies seem to spend rather more for some reason). Meanwhile, shop workers I know save most of their 400 dollar a month wages.



This is the biggest cost and hassle, and one you really want your employer to sort out for you. Many low paid workers share rooms - often with 4 or more sleeping in one small area. While you might get a small one bedroom apartment for around 1600 dollars a month, Qatar National Bank have estimated the average cost for rent and utilities for a family with two children at more than 3000 dollars a month. See Cost of living: renting accommodation in Qatar for more details.

Food and day to day needs

Vegetables are relatively expensive. Expatriate food is imported, and is usually sold at a premium to the country it is exported from. This can be seen at Mega Mart, where I have seen mince pies with a price tag of 1 pound (around 7 riyals) and a Qatar price tag of 24 riyals, Meat, however, is reasonable, fish is often incredible value and you can reduce costs by buying vegetables from the market off Salwa Road or fish fresh off the boat on the Corniche. Nappies and infant formula is more expensive than the UK. We generally spend about 700 dollars a month to provide for three adults and two small children (including eating out).

Paradoxically eating out seems cheap to Westerners such as us. Many labourers will pay a restaurant fee in the region of 70 dollars a month for three meals a day for a month. Prices go up from there, but even at the top range value is normally far, far better than in the UK.


Taxis start at less than a dollar and cost 25 cents a kilometre - not bad, considering Doha's a pretty small place and nowhere is very far away. Buses charge a flat fee of two riyals (50 cents) inner city and 7 riyals (2 dollars) between towns.

Motoring costs

New vehicles are cheaper than the UK but more expensive than in America. A new four wheel drive costs from eighty thousand up. Older vehicles are expensive because of the huge demand for second hand cars. Maintenance and repairs are cheap, although parts for American cars can be expensive. Petrol is ridiculously cheap. Fines can be pricey (3000 riyals or over 800 dollars for shooting a traffic light) and are due to increase. (see Driving in Qatar for more information.)

Out and about

Most things to do and watch are either free or very good value. Exhibitions are free, museums are free, horse racing is free and you can see world championship level motor racing for around sixteen dollars. (See our posts on what to do in Qatar, Superbike racing and Losail racing track.)

Alcohol and clubs

For prices at Doha's only offie see our previous post on the cost of alcohol. Clubs are usually free for women, and vary for men - 40 riyals is normal, although you can pay a lot more. Drinks out are obviously expensive - beer at its cheapest is at around five and half dollars a pint.

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