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Monday, June 29, 2009

Qatar Travel Insurance: Update

At the airport
Once again, it seems, half the population of Qatar are getting ready to leave the country. If you are like me, your thoughts may turn to everything that has gone wrong in the past, or nearly went wrong, or could go wrong in the future... In any case, as we have not done a post on travel insurance for Qatar residents since 2007 , here is an update.

Qatar Travel Insurance

We last looked at this in 2007 in our post Qatar Travel Insurance, when we recommended Columbus Direct. At the time we felt Qatar Insurance Co., though far cheaper, did not offer sufficient cover. In addition, Qatar Insurance are rather inflexible - having booked and paid for travel insurance you can not change the dates of the insurance; your only option is to take out a new trip.

Qatar HSBC Travel Insurance

Another alternative is HSBC travel insurance. They offer travel insurance for "around" QAR20 a month, offered via the AMG Memsa insurance company. This does seem to be excellent value. However, I don't think the maximum cover ($50,000) is really sufficient - the British Foreign Office say that air ambulance back to the UK can cost up to £45,000 (currently around $75,000). However, if you feel $50,000 is sufficient you can ring them on +974 442 4722.

World Nomads

A major factor in my own choice of travel insurance is ease of booking. I don't want to have to visit HSBC or Qatar insurance, find a parking space, walk through the summer heat and then sit around twiddling my thumbs for an hour. So one insurance company I am checking out this year, again on recommendation, is World Nomads, which can be booked online, came to me recommended by a friend and are also the chosen providers for Lonely Planet.

This company offer rather better coverage, with a maximum cover of $300,000. Family cover is rather more expensive than some of the other options, coming to $314 for a two month vacation. One thing I liked about the policy was that you can cover longer holidays. I also really liked the interface, which was extremely quick and very easy to use.

However, reviews of the company on The Review Center have been rather mixed. It is difficult to know with reviews - I found one user complaining (on a different review site) because his lost binoculars hadn't been replaced; obviously this would not be greater than the excess. I also found no mention of legal fees on their website.

Columbus Direct

For the same period of time (two months) Columbus Direct offered insurance for a family of four (two adults two children) for $405. Annual insurance came in at $356.29, but only up to 60 days. As always with Columbus, it is difficult to find out how much they cover you for, which is silly because it is actually very generous. When I finally rang them (no reply to my email) they offered $10 million in travel insurance and $10,000 in legal expenses.

(Update - Columbus Direct have now replied to my email, telling me that you have to go through the quotation system before you can details of coverage.)

The website isn't as easy to use, but for the additional cover I think I will go with Columbus this time. Again, reviews have been mixed - just be careful to take any receipts for medical treatment.

Your Thoughts?

If you have any alternatives you could recommend, please leave them below! (Affiliate/self promotional links will not be published - we want genuine customer recommendations.)

Also see: Life Insurance in Qatar

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

New: What's On Guide

This month we are trialling a new feature for our newsletter - a round up of what's on next month. The round up has been very kindly provided by Qatar Happening. In our newsletter you can also find the latest updates on news, with a special emphasis on any jobs and visa news, links to the best of our new content and regular competitions (next one scheduled for the autumn!) If you want to join nearly three and a half thousand other readers, sign up using the form on the sidebar.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Qatar Jobs Survey

Update: The survey is now complete, and the results are being anaylsed. Thanks to everyone who took part!

You may have noticed a new link to the side of the blog. This is for our Qatar jobs survey. We are currently collecting information about people working in Qatar. We are asking for information such as:

  • how you found work in Qatar
  • qualifications before coming to Qatar
  • experience before coming to Qatar
  • gender (male of female)

Our intention is to find out who is finding work in Qatar, and how. This will hopefully be of great use to people searching for work in Qatar. If you are a Qatar employee, please consider completing the survey!

Browse a List of Qatar Jobs or Upload Your CV

Monday, June 22, 2009

Paper Publications in Qatar: The (very) beginning of the end?

A Qatar tourist guide today decided to shut down its paper publication, and to concentrate instead on its website.

It's not a huge or frequent publication (Qatar Explorer only updates its book every two years) but it is significant in that it is the first sign of a global trend coming to Qatar.

Across the world newspapers are going bankrupt. Faced with new competition from community news sites and from aggregate news sites like Google and with competition only ever just a click way, online brand loyalty has disappeared and online revenue is increasingly unable to support bloated newspaper and magazine outfits.

Yet despite the explosion of online web content - and traffic - in Qatar (we have seen our own website go from a few hundred visitors a month to over 70,000 in just two years) newspapers and magazines seem to have continued on oblivious.

Half hearted attempts at websites often break multiple web standards and SEO guidelines, and high prices are charged for advertising - often many multiples of what companies can pay for equivalent online exposure.

Qatar media has been warned - very directly. At an ICT media conference the founder of Now Public, who had jettisoned the traditional new business to form a participatory news service fuelled by a mixture of traditional journalism and crowd reported, urged Qatar newspapers to get their online act together.

That's not to say that every organistion in Qatar is behind the times. In addition to Qatar Living, Al Jazeera, the Qatar based Arab News Network, has been groundbreaking in its use of the Internet. Not only has it leveraged social media sites such as You Tube and Flickr to reach an audience previously unavailable (and in some cases consciously blocked by US censorship), it has also enabled citizen journalists to report directly from areas such as Gaza. But Al Jazeera is not a newspaper threatened by falling print sales!

The real effect of the Internet in Qatar may be concealed by the huge population explosion, which has seen Qatar almost triple its population in the last four to five years. With a steady flow of new customers the effect of the Internet revolution on newspapers in Qatar could be hidden.

However, with one newspaper editor telling me she got more response to a classified in Qatar Living than in an ad in her newspapers, the days of print publication may well be numbered!

Also see: Qatar Newspapers

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Qatar Sponsorship Law: New Criticism

New criticism of the Qatar sponsorship law has arisen, along with hopes that Qatar may follow Bahrain in abandoning a law which some highly placed Qataris have criticised - but which others see as essential for business.

A Controversial Law

The Qatari sponsorship law is a system where expats are sponsored by their employers, and need their sponsor's permission to leave the country, open an account, obtain an alcohol permit, change their job and numerous other activities which are counted as a basic right elsewhere. If people leave their job, they can be blocked from returning to Qatar for two years - devastating for those brought up in Qatar and who have their lives and families here.

It's an unpopular law amongst expats who feel their freedom cramped by it. And it has been criticised by America, human rights bodies and even the Qatari prime minister.

Nevertheless, Qatari business people feel that the sponsorhip law is essential in a country where the employer often has to bear the cost of bringing employees into their country.


A series of laws have weakened the effect of the sponsorship system.

Some individuals working in the financial sector do not require sponsorship.

Many people can also now obtain multiple expert visas, meaning they do not need to obtain specific permission for each time they want to leave the country.

Laws have also been passed to prevent sponsors from retaining employees passports, and if a sponsor refuses permission to leave the country his employee can now take the issue to court.

Nevertheless, any suggestion of getting rid of the system always draws strong opposition.

New Criticism

New criticism from no less than Sheikh Hamad Bin Jaber Al Thani, secretary general of the General Secretariat for Development Planning (GSDP), now argues that the sponsorship law is holding back the development of the country.

According to the Peninsula the secretariate argued that the law was discouraging locals from learning skills and competing in the job market. The story didn't explain why.

We'd also argue that sponsorship is hampering job mobility. The current system encourages skilled people to leave the country instead of finding a job with another company. What's more, it blocks talented individuals from returning to Qatar for two years.

Hopefully, Qatar will one day follow Bahrain in getting rid of sponsorship. The country will first have to persuade local business men to overcome their fear of staff being poached. One logical step might be to insist that new companies pay back a portion of an employee's travel costs when they do take poach staff from competing companies.

Also see:

Qatar Jobs

Qatar Visas

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Monday, June 15, 2009

10 Ways to Find a Job in Qatar

Over the last few years we have written about virtually everything under the sun in Qatar - nature, history, culture, food, hotels, clothes, forts, malls, souqs and much more. Yet over and over again we have seen that what people are really interested in is jobs. So here are a list of ten ways to find a job in Qatar:

1. Find an agency (we list several job agencies here: Qatar Job Agencies) but be careful - some of the more disreputable ones will illegally charge you money for the privilige of using your services.

2. Browse local ads in newspapers like the Gulf Times and the Peninsula.

3. Browse online Qatar jobs sites such as our Qatar jobs listing.

4. Let the employers find you: Upload your CV to a site such as Bayt.com. (Make sure your CV is in tip-top condition - read our article on CV advice before submitting it!)

5. Make use of Linked In and other professional networking sites. I have one friend who got a job interview when he met the CEO of a major company via Linked In.

6. Browse industry specific jobs sites such as PlaneJobs.com or catererglobal.com. (This is how I found my job here!)

7. Go directly to the websites of companies in your industry. Companies such as QP maintain large vacancy sections where they directly advertise jobs. You can read about the benefits of QP jobs and find a direct link to their website on our webpage here: QP Jobs.

8. Send out speculative CV's. I worked for one company that only ever recruited from random CV's sent to their office.

9. Network. Qatar Living is a mine of useful local information. Don't spam with your details, but do take ask friendly locals about where to look for jobs, job opportunities e.t.c. Also check out our own forum Qatar Chatter and I Love Qatar.

10. Coming to Qatar: The final method is the one we least recommend, but for the sake of completeness we are adding it here. Coming to Qatar is expensive and risky (you might not find a job) but it does work for some people. In particular, I met a couple who found a job with the a hotel after coming to Qatar and visiting all the hotels in turn. Be aware, though, that 'local' contracts' are not always as good as international contracts.

Also see our website article: Finding work in Qatar

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Qatar Jobs


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Being ill in Qatar

Flu is going round Qatar at the moment, and has already hit my household. (I am just recovering from a particularly nasty dose of it.) It's never nice being ill far from home, when you don't know how things work, so we've tried to come up with a few tips for newbies to Qatar.

Clinics: If you have health insurance by all means use a private hospital. (Al Ahli is good.) Otherwise, the government clinics are perfectly good, while the medicine from the clinics costs a fraction of the price. You will need to find out which clinic is your local, and which emergency clinic you can use on Friday and Saturday. If you get a health card (cost: QAR100) you get free care at your clinic for a year and discounted medicine. Otherwise QAR30 gets you to a doctor, and repeat visits for two weeks. All the doctors in the clinics speak English.

At the clinic you will find men and women's sections separated, although in fact it does not seem to be as strict in the past - on my most recent visit both men and women were waiting for the same doctor.

Clothing at the Clinic: Take warm clothes to the doctors: It sounds crazy when temperatures are getting up 50 degrees, but when you go to the surgery take a jumper. It may be hot outside, but the AC at the surgery is set to freezing! At the surgery you can always see expats shivering in t-shirts, but the locals are well wrapped up, as always!

Antibiotics: In the UK, doctors are now very reluctant to give out antibiotics unless you really need it. The opposite if often the case here - doctors give out antibiotics for viral infections (i.e. when they have no effect.) Sometimes they even ask you if you want antibiotics ( shouldn't they know better than us?) I assume the reason is they are used to being pressurised by patients who see antibiotics as the cure for all. Ask your doctor if you need the antibiotics, and they will often say that you don't.

Pharmacies: Pharmacies are plentiful, and carry a good stock of flu-related medicine, but you won't find all the brands from back home. (If you want lemsip, for example, you will have to bring it home.) A lot of the brands available are now manufactured in the Middle East. As in the UK, medicines like antibiotics need a doctor's prescription.

For more detail see our web article: Qatar Health

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Solitary Climb

A solitary climber reaches the top of a dune.

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