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Packing

Expat, Qatar, Travel

Relocating to Qatar – What to Pack

January 23, 2018

Relocating to Qatar - What to PackWhat everyone brings when moving abroad is going to differ from person to person and family to family. Many factors come into play when deciding what to bring. Will you be provided furnished housing? Does that include household goods such as sheets and towels? How much furniture will be included? Here is a link to what my first apartment looked like. When I relocated to Qatar, I failed to ask most of the questions and more. Most of these things are small items as most furniture items are available in Qatar. While I had done some research, I wish there had been more information on what was available in Doha. (The photo above is my stash pre-Christmas stock up.)

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This post may not be helpful for all my readers, but I hope my advice for expats will help you. Also, that you find it interesting to get an insight into what moving abroad entails and if you are thinking about it, that this will help you ask the right questions wherever you are going. I will point out that all things listed here are American focused since I am American. The list would be huge if I tried to include all nationalities. I asked lots of Qatar Expats for their opinions, and this is a collection of their responses. One person only said she wishes she had brought less!

Clothing/Shoes

Seems a bit ridiculous as Qatar has clothing stores! However, I have struggled with this one more than I thought I would. This is due to a lack of familiar options, lack of sizing and the prices.

– Unusual sizes – I am petite, and while there are petite sizes, they are not a lot of petite options. Almost all the pants I have bought here have had to be altered. Also, there are few plus size options, and a friend told me the clothes were not pretty.

– Familiar brands – We do have stores like Gap and a Banana Republic, but the selection is less than half of what you would find in the U.S. There is no Macy’s or Dillards here. However, we did get an Old Navy last year! This also applies to underwear. Only once have I bought underwear here and I didn’t like it.

– Shoes – There are familiar brands of shoes, but they tend to cater to local tastes. I have a hard time finding flats and shoes that aren’t covered in bling. Larger women sizes are also difficult to find.

– Prices – Clothes and shoes are more expensive here than in the U.S. There are also fewer sales because they are heavily regulated. This applies to children’s clothes and shoes as well.

Health/Medical

The orientation material I was given for my job gave me some sense that medicine availability would be different, but I didn’t expect it would apply to over the counter medication. Many of the things I use needed a prescription for such as Neosporin. Bring a couple of months supply of your prescriptions, so you don’t have to worry about that right away.  You also may have to wait a bit for your health insurance to start. Since the list is long, I will just give you the list of what is unavailable or hard to find. (This photo is what I bought at Christmas, not including clothes!)

Relocating to Qatar - What to Pack

  • Tylenol – available but in blister packages of small quantity
  • Advil – same as Tylenol
  • Excedrin
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Alka Seltzer
  • Neosporin
  • Cortisone
  • NyQuil
  • Sudafed
  • Contact Solution – usually available, but frequently runs out, and brands are different
  • Ear/Eye Drops
  • After bite
  • Sleep medication (have only seen Panadol PM)
  • Tampons – rarely find them and not the brands we have in the U.S.
  • Monistat
  • Limited birth control brands – over the counter, though!
  • Benedryl
  • Mucinex
  • Heating pad – order one from the UK
  • Secret deodorant – we have it, but it is double the price
  • Diaper Genie refills

Beauty

Fortunately, this not as much as an issue. However, some brands and things are hard to find.

  • Origins brand
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Non-drug store brands of shampoo and conditioner
  • Quality hair spray
  • Hair color
  • Travel sized toiletries
  • We have Sephora, but the product selection is limited

Food/Household Items

Items marked with an * are available here but are much more costly or are only sold in small sizes. Also be aware that sometimes you find an item, and it disappears for a while, or it never returns.

  • Tortillas – made without lard here and taste a bit like chemicals
  • Vanilla extract – not made with alcohol here
  • Arm and Hammer baking soda*
  • Chocolate chips
  • Crystal Light
  • French’s Fried Onions
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • White gravy mix
  • Pecans*
  • Hidden Valley Ranch
  • Decaf black tea bags
  • Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal
  • Chili Powder – what you see here is not what we are used to
  • Kitchen tools you prefer – I brought measuring cups since Qatar is on the metric system.
  • Dryer sheets*
  • Magic Erasers
  • Swiffers
  • Christmas decorations*
  • Foam mattress toppers – I bought mine here at IKEA, but it costs a fortune. One person said they brought them one-by-one on trips home.
  • School supplies

Entertainment/Crafts

Finding DVDs that work here or finding a DVD player that works here is difficult. Bring what you really want to watch and us the DVD reader in your laptop to connect it to your TV. Bring the connector as well as the one I bought here cost an arm and a leg! Sign up for Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. If you have kids, this is especially important as many of the kid’s tv shows are in Arabic.

If you are a crafter, you will find limited supplies here. The quality is also not great. Although, you can find fabric here at the fabric souq. Be prepared to order what you need or bring a healthy supply. One person said you needed to bring a whole Michael’s with you and that is not an understatement. Art supplies are also limited and are really meant for the hobbyist and not serious the artist.

Books are another thing we are lacking. There are not many bookstores and the selection is limited. There is now a public library at Education City which is quite large.

As you can see the list is long and there are probably tons of things I have forgotten. A friend of mine here also wished she had brought 3-4 months of all of these things, so she didn’t spend so much time, in the beginning looking for them. If you have space, I would recommend it. Also, I cannot stress enough to ask for specifics on what is being provided to you. I arrived to find two of the smallest towels on earth in my apartment!

Have you relocated to Qatar? What do you suggest bringing? Share with us in the comments.

Expat, Prep, Qatar

Packing is Tedious!

June 5, 2017

Packing is tedious

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Packing to go on a trip is stressful, at least for me. I make lists and usually pack a few days before just in case I have forgotten anything. So imagine packing your entire life up to move back to your home country! The packing is not only stressful, but it is tedious.

Every item that is in your house has to have a decision made about it. Every pen, every piece of paper, every book and magazine has to be touched and a decision made. Do I keep it, toss it, donate it or sell it? Obviously, storing anything is not an option.

Then you realize whatever you decide to keep has to fit into your suitcases since I am not using a shipping company to send my stuff back. This means you really have to get brutal with the keep, toss or donate decision. I am only taking my favorite clothes, shoes, books and the few souvenirs I have collected. I am hoping to go in four or five checked suitcases.

Why so little? Well, I technically don’t have a place to live in the US. All my things will go into storage at my parent’s house along with all the stuff that is in storage there already. I am very lucky they have enough space to keep my stuff, and I don’t have to pay for storage while I am on my long trip.

I know some people would have a hard time purging so much of their stuff because we all become so attached to the things we own. However, I did this when I moved to Qatar, and except for some furniture and one pair of shoes, I don’t remember a single thing I got rid of. Honestly, individual items of clothes and knickknacks, I have no idea what I owned now. So, I don’t miss those things at all.

After this move, I will write a whole post on how I have done this. Have you ever given away or sold most of your things when moving? Do you find packing tedious?

Egypt, Prep, Travel

When Planning Goes All Wrong

February 12, 2016

When Planning Goes All Wrong

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I have a secret to tell you. A travel secret…

I have never backpacked on a trip. Most of the travel bloggers I know have backpacked most of the places they have been. Of course, a few are luxury travel bloggers, and they probably don’t now, but they probably have at some point backpacked on a trip. I have done weekends away in large tote bags, but I have always traveled internationally with a rolling suitcase. So this trip to Egypt has proven challenging for me.

When signing up for the tour, I am going on; the packing list stated that I should pack in a backpack or a duffel bag. I immediately thought, oh great how I am going to do that. I own a backpack, but it is more like something you pack school books in, and I have only ever used it as a carry-on. At first, I thought, I will just buy a backpack, but then I realized that I knew I would never voluntarily pack in a backpack again and didn’t want to spend the money on one. So I borrowed one from a friend. It didn’t need to be a perfect fit as they only requested this because it is easier to pack a van with soft luggage than with hard luggage with wheels. Oh and I am going on a sailboat and who wants to roll a suitcase onto a sailboat.

When Planning Goes All Wrong

The weeks wore on, and I kept looking at the backpack thinking, I don’t want to pack in that. I will never find anything. My back will hurt. So last week, I convinced myself I needed a duffel bag instead. The hunt was on, but shopping in Qatar is difficult, to say the least. And apparently the market doesn’t call for duffel bags that don’t have wheels built into them. Then I got sick at the beginning of the week and the day before a holiday, in which I had planned to go looking for a duffel bag and write-up all my posts for while I am gone. (This is why there was no Monday post this week.) The day off came and I dragged my ill self to the mall and looked for a duffel bag. In the end, after wandering around for about an hour and feeling pretty awful, I bought a cheap duffel bag at Carrefour (the French version of Wal-Mart) and decided it would do. I am packing today and we will see how that turns out, as I am still trying to wrap my head around how it will all fit. Wish me luck!

The other issue with this has been the weather. For weeks, the weather in Egypt was going to be warm during the day and cool at night. That also means for me, cold at night as it rarely goes below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in Qatar and I get cold easily. I had shopped for thermal underwear for the night on the boat and a suitable sleeping bag. Now, as of yesterday, the highs are in the 90s and the lows in the 50s! Why does there have to be a 40-degree temperature swing on my trip! It’s like I am back in Texas!  So now all the planning of what clothes to bring is out the window and the day before my trip, I am having to rethink this all. The real question is how do I fit all my layers for the different weather in a duffel bag!

Do you have any packing tips for us inexperienced backpackers? Leave a comment!

Packing, Prep, Rome, Travel

Travel Rules I Break and Why!

February 28, 2015

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Everyone one has a travel style. Many people avoid checking bags, only bring backpacks, look for the cheapest flights and take tons of photos. Others do the exact opposite and over pack, bring lots of suitcases and buy tons of stuff.  I probably fall somewhere in the middle of all this. Here I explain my reasoning for why I travel the way I do.

Packing light – No, I don’t pack everything I own and I do try to pack only what I think I will need, but I don’t think you need to pack light. You should enjoy your trip and if that means having your favorite clothes and shoes then pack them! (Or for me, my favorite travel pillow) Travel should be enjoyable and that means feeling good about yourself. You should wear what makes you feel good. I also like to have a backup outfit. You never know what can happen (staining your shirt or being invited to a party) and I don’t want to waste my travel time by shopping.

Checking bags – So this goes along with the first. I rarely don’t check a bag. This is for several reasons. I don’t like to carry a backpack as my only suitcase. I am very short and they get very uncomfortable for me. Usually my shoulders hurt by the time I have arrived at my destination and that is only with carry on items in it. Of course, this could be that I am out of shape!! I also have a hard time getting suitcases into the overhead bin because of my height. I also usually don’t change hotels once I arrive somewhere, so it isn’t a big deal to me to roll my suitcase to the hotel and back to the airport.  I have the four-wheeled ones that are great for this! I also usually fly Qatar Airways and I don’t have to pay to check a bag. That being said, I also don’t mind paying for one bag. It is a small price to pay for not having to lug my stuff around on my back!

Cheap travel – We all love a good travel deal, but I also want the schedule to be right for me. That usually means as few stops as possible (non-stop is best) and not traveling overnight. I know how my body operates and I need sleep. I am a terrible person to be around when I have had very little sleep and my joints ache. This means I usually end up paying $200-$300 more per flight as I want the schedule that everyone wants, but I also enjoy my trip more. It also means, I look for good deals on hotels or Airbnb instead. On my trip to Rome, I scored an Airbnb apartment for one week for $500!

Photos – I fall into the takes lots of photos category. Not thousands, but hundreds. Since I travel alone, this isn’t a big deal as I am not making someone stop to take photos. I also tend to take several shots of each scene to get it right. This is because I am trying to improve my skills. That being said, I still want to see the things I came to see without the camera. Take time to look at everything. I read a study that said taking lots of photos causes us not to remember what happened.

Talk to strangers –  I talk to strangers! I am from Texas and this comes naturally to me. It doesn’t matter if I am traveling alone or with someone else. Sometimes it doesn’t happen because I am in a place where English in’t spoken and my poor language skills don’t allow for it. But I will speak to strangers. I love learning about people and their stories! It’s one of the main reasons I love living abroad. Just do it, you won’t regret it. Start by saying hello or commenting on what you are both looking at.

What are some of your travel “rules”? Is there anything you can’t live without while traveling?