Living in Qatar?
Health and Housing for Expats in Qatar
Qatar’s Healthcare System
The Supreme Council of Health is in charge of Qatar’s healthcare system, supervising medical facilities and implementing reforms. Qatar’s primary healthcare system was introduced in 1954, but it was not until 1978 that a comprehensive scheme was developed. The government began to establish modern hospitals and facilities all over the country, offering dentistry, pregnancy care, vaccination, and health education.
Throughout the last 20 years, reforms have modernized Qatar’s health system. Health centers have opened throughout the country, providing different kinds of therapy and treatment, including oncology and psychiatric services. Unfortunately, Qatar’s healthcare system is still suffering from unnecessary bureaucracy.
Due to its many expats, Qatar also offers a lot of private clinics with international staff. Although public healthcare is relatively cheap in Qatar, it may make more sense for expats to purchase private health insurance and visit private facilities, thus avoiding the nerve-wracking bureaucracy of the public health sector.
The Health Card
Currently, residents have to pay for public healthcare. However, costs are low, as the sector is heavily subsidized. A single visit to a clinic in Qatar, for primary treatment and a referral, costs about QR 30 (8$). Those who purchase a health card don’t have to pay anything, as health card fees cover the costs for one year. Unfortunately, hospital consultation and treatment cost extra.
To purchase a health card, residents need to visit the health card office at their local clinic or at Rumeillah Hospital, bringing the required documents:
- Copies of passport and visa
- Two photographs (4 x 3 cm)
- Appropriate fee
- Completed application form
The application form should be completed in Arabic and English. The card is available within two weeks and can be renewed at the general post office. This is a comparatively easy process. All that expats need to provide is their current/expired health card and a fee of QR 100.
Since 2004, foreigners may purchase property in designated areas of Qatar, especially The Pearl, West Bay Lagoon and Al Khor. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to provide reliable information on property and rental prices, as they are often subject to severe fluctuation. Over the last few years, prices have sometimes risen and fallen by 50% within a few weeks.
Expats can obtain a residence visa by buying property. They need to provide proof of ownership as well as proof that they are free of diseases and have no criminal record. Additional paperwork is required, and most expats hire an expert to help them with it. Avoiding the legal trouble that comes with bureaucracy is usually worth the cost!
Finding Accommodation in Qatar
It is best to use professional estate agents such as Barwa or Mirage to help you find property to rent or buy. Their employees are usually fluent in English and can help expats negotiate prices and repairs. Those expatriates who are fluent in Arabic can also try to find housing on their own by checking the classified sections of local newspapers.
Most rental places are located within compounds, which range from the size of a small village to only a few houses. They often have their own security, tennis courts, pools, and other facilities. Expats can rent individual villas as well as serviced or non-serviced apartments in Qatar. Many international hotels feature furnished apartment suites, too.
Utilities in Rented Accommodation
When renting a place in Qatar, expats should check if their electricity and water supplies are connected before moving in. To set up an account with Kahramaa, the Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation, expats have to submit the completed application form, a copy of their lease, a copy of their ID, their phone number and PO Box number, as well as their reference number for electricity and water. This number can usually be found on the outside wall of your building.
Expats should prepare to pay a large deposit. You will be charged a monthly estimate until the first reading of the meter. Energy consumption is extremely high as air conditioners require enormous amounts of electricity. However, sometimes bills are incorrect or not sent regularly. Keep an eye on the meter to avoid unpleasant surprises!
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