Frequently Asked Questions - Qatar

A) LIFESTYLES

What is the climate like in Qatar?

The climate is characterized by a mild winter and a hot summer. Temperatures range from 7C/45F in January to around 45C/115F (and even hotter) in the summer. It is usually dry, with the prevailing winds coming off the Saudi deserts, but occasionally the winds come off the Gulf, making it extremely humid.

What type of accommodations will I have? How far are the accommodations from the hospital?

You will be provided with either hospital housing or a housing allowance. There are a number of different housing sites throughout the city and in the area surrounding Doha. As a result, commute times will vary.

Can I drive in Qatar?

Both men and women can drive in Qatar. A Qatar driving license is required to drive after your first week in the country.

A Canadian driver's license is endorsed, so Canadians may apply for a Qatari driver’s license upon arrival. But it is more complicated for Americans. See: Traffic in Qatar.

Who makes up the expatriate community?

The expatriate community in Qatar is made up of citizens from around the world: Americans, Canadians, Australians, British, German, Irish, Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Malaysians, South Africans, etc. See: The Population of Qatar

What is there to eat in Qatar?

Qatar has an array of world-class restaurants, with something to offer everybody. Hotels in Qatar serve not only their own guests but also cater to a large number of local residents. Doha also has countless cheap, cheerful, and clean restaurants that serve quality food. For around QR20 (US$6) you can enjoy Arabian grills, local fish, local sweet desserts and coffee. There are numerous juice bars where visitors can buy a fresh juice cocktail or a milkshake.

Is there anything to do at night for entertainment?

Doha has many lively after-dark scenes. The nightlife is varied, with many bars and discos open until the small hours. Hotel bars range from sophisticated cocktail lounges to typically informal Western-style bars. Most of them serve food and many feature live bands nightly. After-dinner revelers can dance to the latest sounds in a number of hotel discos, each with their own ambience and the best of DJs around. Doha is also increasingly attracting top names from the world of entertainment. These include popular singers and entertainers from both West and East. Stage plays from London tour regularly, as do major dance groups from Europe and Asia.

What kind of recreation clubs are there to join?

  • Dana Club is situated inside Khalifa Complex for Tennis and Squash. It offers its members many sports and recreational facilities such as open and indoor tennis grounds.
  • Doha Club lies in Ras Abu Aboud area overlooking the Gulf waterfront. It has a fine beach and a vast swimming pool equipped with water conditioning systems. The club also has seven flood-lit tennis courts, two indoor squash courts, and a private marina.
  • The Diplomatic Club lies in the West Bay area and offers luxurious facilities such as a gymnasium for various sports activities, businessmen's meeting hall, and an all-purpose hall that can accommodate up to 400 people. There are also tennis and squash courts, a library, a beauty center, and restaurants.
  • The Racing & Equestrian Club has a grass track and a sand track as well as courts for camel and horse beauty contests and local championships.
  • Doha Golf Club boasts one of the finest golf grounds in the Middle East, which has made it the focus of international attention and a suitable venue for Qatar Masters Golf Tournament.

You can also watch major sporting events and/or join the local Hash House Harrier group!

See: Creating Memories in Qatar - A Guide to Recreation in Qatar

Is English-language reading material available?

There are two English papers: The Gulf Times and The Peninsula. Of course, you can also go online to Al Jazeera English. There are several English-language bookstores, but the stock can vary. Books can also be ordered online from websites such as Amazon.com. If you're an avid reader, consider getting an eReader.

I have tattoos/facial piercings/body piercings. Is this a problem?

No. However, it's best to keep tattoos covered, and piercings in non-traditional locations (e.g., the eyebrow, lips) may be frowned upon.

Is there anything I should be sensitive to in Qatar?

  • Liquor is a very sensitive subject. It is available for purchase by non-Muslim expatriates, under a permit system, for consumption at home. Hotel bars and certain clubs also sell alcohol to non-Muslims. Public consumption and resale are forbidden. Public intoxication is forbidden. Do not drink and drive! For more details, see the question below: "Is drinking alcohol legal or illegal in Qatar?"
  • Gambling is forbidden.
  • Swimwear is acceptable at the beach/pool, but elsewhere wearing of short-shorts, short dresses, vest tops/tank tops, etc., are frowned upon. This does vary according to where you are - in the old parts of town you would be expected to dress conservatively, while people at the western-style malls are more liberal.
  • Taking of photographs can be sensitive; ask permission and avoid secure areas (airport, military camps, official buildings, etc.).

Are there churches for Christians?

Yes. In 2005, an agreement was signed by representatives of several denominations for a long-term lease on land on the outskirts of Doha, where the denominations could erect six churches (at the churches' expense). The property includes a Catholic church (opened 2008), an Anglican Church (opened 2012), an Indian Christian Church, St. Thomas Syro - Malabar Church (now open), a Coptic Christian Church (open), a Greek Orthodox Church (opened 2008), and an Eastern Orthodox church (opened 2009). There is also an Inter Denominational Christian Church (IDCC), "a conglomeration of twenty eight different Indian expatriate Christian communities in Qatar."

Will I be safe in Qatar?

There is relatively little crime in Qatar, and the level of violence is far less than one would find in a city of comparable size in the United States or Canada. Generally, Western people say they feel safe.

What happens if I don't like living in Qatar and don’t feel I can complete my contract?

If, after much thought you feel that you do not want to stay, you are free to return home. But if, at a later date you decide to re-apply, it will be very difficult to get another position in Qatar.

Should I register with my country's embassy or consulate in Qatar?

When traveling abroad one should always register with one's embassy or consulate. For Canadians, the Canadian Embassy in Kuwait is responsible for representing Canadian interests in Qatar; there is no Canadian embassy in Qatar. The United States has an embassy in Qatar.

You can also register in advance of going overseas:

Americans: See the State Department's Travel Registration page

Canadians: See Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's Registration of Canadians Abroad page

Where can I get additional information about travelling abroad?

  • Canadians can contact the website of The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This is a useful site. It provides a variety of information (in English and French) for Canadians planning to go abroad. Some information includes: passports; travel reports; consular services; regional characteristics.
  • Americans can contact the website of The Department of State. This site provides information for Americans planning to go abroad, such as: passports; travel and health reports; consular services; regional characteristics; currency exchange.

B) WORK ISSUES

What are the details of the work week (hours and days)?

Officially, working hours are Sunday through to Thursday (weekends in Qatar are Fridays & Saturdays) and the staff commences work at 7:30am. Officially, the work day finishes at 3:30pm (there is a 30 minute lunch break).

Who are my coworkers?

Your coworkers will be healthcare professionals and support staff from Qatar and countries around the world: Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Jordan, the Philippines, Sudan, Somalia, South Africa, etc. See: The Population of Qatar

Who are the patients?

The patients are Qatari nationals, expatriates, and Qatari hospital staff and their dependents. You will see all types of patients including heart disease, common cancers, and interesting genetic diseases.

What language is spoken at the hospital?

Although English is the working language at the hospital, your colleagues come from all over the world, so English may be a second language to many of them. Some patients may speak English, but many speak only Arabic; translators will be available.

When can I start taking my paid vacation days?

Generally, paid vacation days are pro-rated and may be taken after six months of employment. These may be split up into multiple short breaks, if the employee prefers, in accordance with the needs of the department and with the approval of the department Director.

What holidays do I get?

There are a total of 10 (ten) paid public religious holidays: Eid Al Fitr (four working days); Eid Al Adha (five working days); and Independence Day (one working day).

How is the healthcare system in Qatar organized?

The Hamad Medical Corporation is currently the primary treatment hospital in Qatar. The Sidra Medical Center, a hospital being managed by Qatar Foundation and affiliated with Education City (which hosts branch campuses of five American universities), is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in December 2012. For a more detailed overview, see our article on the healthcare system in Qatar.

C) MONEY MATTERS

What is the currency in Qatar?

The Qatar Riyal (QR) is fixed against the US dollar at QR3.64 = US$1.00.

What does "tax-free income" mean?

There is no income tax deducted in Qatar, and there is no sales tax. However, your foreign income may be taxed in your home country:

  • Americans are excluded from paying taxes on any amount up to US$97,600 (tax year 2013) if the person was out of the country for at least 330 full days out of 365 days of a consecutive 12-month period. Exclusion amounts are subject to change, so please refer to: Internal Revenue Service; especially see "Publication 54."
  • Canadians have a more complicated situation which involves severing residential ties to Canada (e.g., spouse, dependent children, non-investment property, etc.). For information, please refer to: Canada Revenue Agency

Can I open a bank account in Qatar?

Yes. And there are no exchange controls, so money can be moved in and out of the country very simply.

What should I do with my money then?

Since no interest (see: Islamic banking) is paid on accounts in Qatar, most people keep only basic spending money in their Qatari bank account. Instead, people transfer most of their savings to offshore accounts. Internet banking is common.

Can I use my ATM card?

Yes. ATM machines accept cards from all over the world via systems like Cirrus and Plus.

Can I use credit cards in Qatar?

Credit cards are accepted in most major department stores, restaurants, and in the gold souks (markets). Some outdoor souks may not accept credit cards.

Is Qatar expensive to live in?

Brand names and imports can be expensive, compared to the prices at home (where they may not be imports!) Also see: Costs in Qatar.

D) CONTRACT & VISA PROCESS

Do I need a visa to work in Qatar?

You need a residency visa to work in Qatar. Helen Ziegler & Associates, Inc. will coordinate obtaining one for you with the hospital.

Are multiple exit/re-entry visas provided?

Yes, but a multiple exit and re-entry visa cannot be purchased until after the employee has received a Residency Permit.

How long do my eligible dependents (spouse and dependent children) have to be in Qatar to be considered a resident of Qatar?

Dependents (eligible for benefits) must reside in Qatar for at least eight months of the year to receive benefits from your employer.

I have friends and family who would like to visit me. Can they?

Of course! They will simply enter Qatar on a visit visa, which they will obtain when they enter the country. 14-day tourist visas are issued at border points (i.e., airport immigration) for the nationals of more than 33 countries (including the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, the Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Lichtenstein, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea). Tourist visas can be extended for an additional 14 days while in Qatar. A 14-day visa costs approximately QR105 (US$29).

Who will arrange my flight to Qatar?

Helen Ziegler and Associates, Inc. works with the hospital to arrange your flight from your point-of-hire to the city where you will be working. The hospital pays for your flight.

If I book my own flight, will the hospital pay me back for it?

No. Nor, for logistical reasons, the hospital cannot honor requests to fly specific airlines, or accommodate requests for additional or extended stops on your way to Qatar.

Are interviews required?

Yes! We will interview you in person or via Skype. Additionally, an interview with the hospital in Qatar is likely.

What is HZA's recruitment process?

Our comprehensive recruitment process is outlined on our Application Process page.

E) PRACTICAL ISSUES

Do I have to share my apartment/house?

Physicians and most senior administrative positions are entitled to non-shared housing. All other contracts usually receive shared accommodations, with a maximum of two other housemates.

Is the voltage in Qatar different from Canada/United States?

The voltage in Qatar is 220V, so most North American appliances will require transformers. It is therefore recommended to purchase most household appliances in Qatar (however, most of the appliances are already included in the accommodation).

Do people usually get cable or satellite?

A cable package is installed in the accommodation at no cost to you. It has about 100 channels, largely Arabic and notoriously unpopular amongst tenants. There is one (1) English language movie channel; two (2) English language sitcom/serial channels, plus several English news channels (including BBC World, CNN and Al Jazeera news). Most people sign-up for Satellite TV (e.g. Showtime or Orbit) and the cost can vary from approximately QR 285/month (US$78/month) to QR 500/month (US$137/month) depending on the package.

How easy is it to communicate with home?

  • Telephone: A good international service is available. Local calls are free, but line rental is approximately QR100/month. You cannot have a fixed line installed until your residence permit is complete.
  • Mobile phones: The country uses the GSM standard. If you own a GSM phone you can bring it with you and insert a local Q-Tel or Vodafone SIM card. A service using pre-paid cards is also available.
  • Email: There are several Internet cafes around Doha. It is possible to set up private internet access via your home telephone, either pre-paid, pay-as-you-go, or with usage billed to your telephone account.

How does auto insurance work in Doha? How much is it and how would I go about getting it?

Auto insurance in Qatar costs approximately 3% to 4% of the car's value. There is also the option of third-party insurance, which is cheaper, but covers only the damages to other vehicles (in the case of accidents).

Is drinking alcohol legal or illegal in Qatar?

Restrictions on the sale of alcohol means some visitors will opt to stay within the confines of the major hotels (where beers, wines, and spirits are available) but the choice is sufficiently wide to cater for all tastes. For example, there are French/Mediterranean restaurants at the Ritz- Carlton, the Sheraton, the Ramada and the Mercure Grand; Italian restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton, the Sheraton, the Ramada and the Inter-Continental; and Tex-Mex restaurants at the InterContinental and the Marriott. (Restaurants located outside hotel and club premises are not permitted to serve alcohol.) Non-Muslim expatriatess may also purchase an individual liquor permit, and purchase alcohol legally through the Qatar Distribution Company. Under the permit system, the amount of alcohol one is allowed to purchase varies by income. However, liquor is not sold during the holy month of Ramadan.

Where can I go shopping and what is there to buy?

  • Souq Waqif (Traditional Market) is located in the city center, its shops open early in the morning, close for noon recess, and open again in the evening. Most of the traditional handcrafted objects, incense, perfumes, and spices are displayed here.
  • Thursday and Friday Market displays goods in stalls in a spacious open area on Salwa road. Shoppers gather in this market from Thursday and Friday morning till late in the evening.City
  • Center Markets include Souq Faleh, Souq Al Aseeri, Souq Al Jabr, Souq Al Deerah, and Souq Al Ahmed. They sell fabrics, clothes, and small electrical goods, and they are open day and night.
  • Modern Shopping Centres include Villagio, City Centre, The Mall, Landmark, and others. These centers sell various goods imported from America, Europe, and East Asia, and offer recreational facilities as well. Restaurants, cafes, cinema houses, and children's play areas are located in these malls.

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