Category Archives: Living in Kuwait

Gulf’s expats are living the high life

Though this news is not refering to expats in Kuwait, it is interesting to see how expats are bringing in monies to thier countries

Russia, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are home to the wealthiest expats, with Eurozone countries falling behind when it comes to paying for foreign expertise, according to a new survey of expats.

The third annual report commissioned by HSBC Bank International found finances among expats were generally positive with two-thirds, or 66 per cent, saying they have more disposable income to save and invest since moving abroad.

But the survey found expats in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Singapore enjoyed the greatest wealth overall, having higher salaries, more disposable income and more luxury items such as swimming pools, properties and yachts.

Expats in Russia topped the list for the second consecutive years with a third, or 36 per cent, reporting earnings of more than $250,000 a year – compared to two-thirds, or 62 per cent, of expats in Spain earning below $60,000.

HSBC spokeswoman Lisa Wood said the survey, conducted by research company GfK, showed the wealth gap was widening between the east and west, with expats in emerging economies leaving their counterparts in the Eurozone behind.

“The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies have fared well over the last year and as a result we’ve seen that these expat locations are particularly strong when it comes to expat finances,” Wood said.

“Eurozone countries were the worst-performing when looking at purely financial criteria and all featured in the bottom quartile of our table.”

The Expat Economic survey, part of HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey of 4,100 expats from 100 countries, ranked 25 countries on scores linked to annual income, monthly disposable income and a measure of defined luxuries.

When it came to salaries, Russia topped this table followed by Singapore and Bermuda. The UAE was eighth.

Cost of Living in Kuwait

The cost of living in Kuwait is similar with that of most of the European countries.  If  you choose to opt for locally produced products the cost of living in Kuwait will be lesser than the home country. However, the cost of living, just as is the case in any other countries or anywhere In the world, would largely depend on your personal lifestyle.

The cost of similar related items of utilities have been grouped together into several basket groups. The current cost of living for each basket is as follows:

Household Accommodation costs are very high compared to other places for items such as apartment purchase, mortgage rate, rental, and utilities. The cost of accommodation may be high at times, depending on the facilities offered and the location. Kuwait laws do not allow expatriates to buy house or other properties. Monthly rent for a single bed room flat with a hall and kitchen is about 100 to 150 KD depending on the locality. A two bed room flat with a hall and kitchen will be around 180 to 250 KD. There are many Indian families living in a shared apartment which means two families together will buy a two bedroom flat for rent.

Transport costs are very low compared to other places for items such as fuel (petrol/gasoline), public transport, vehicle purchase and maintenance. Most people have a car, especially women. However, to get a driving license the required minimum salary is KD 400. Most of the people depend entirely on public transport. Call  taxis are relatively easy to find in Kuwait City. They usually charge a fixed 2 KD price for movements within the inner city. This grows up to 5-6 KD for journeys that involve crossing the whole city.

Alcohol & tobacco costs are low compared to other places for items such as beer, wine,spirits,  and cigarettes. Note that the alcohol is illegal in Kuwait. Driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable to the extend of 500 KD and up to one year imprisonment.

Clothing costs are high compared to other places. if you favour designer labels this isn’t peculiar to Kuwait, although there’s little need for winter clothing. Given, the hot climate in the region, plenty of clothing is unnecessary. Office wear for men is mostly shirt and tie, with the exception of formal occasions.

Education costs are very low compared to other places for items such as creche / pre-school fees, primary school fees, high school fees . For those working in government / public sector, and who are sending kids to public schools, the cost of education for kids is free. But, if working in private sector, then you have to pay for their education.

Communication costs are high compared to other places for various communication costs such as home telephone rental, internet subscription, mobile tariff and data costs. You should also allow for the cost of international telephone calls, although these are kept low by Kuwait’s government, who wants to encourage international business and investment in the region.

Furniture & Appliance costs are high compared to other places for items such as dining table and chairs, home entertainment, kitchen appliances, and sofa.

Grocery costs are average compared to other places for items such as consumables, cleaning products, dairy, fresh fruit & vegetables, general food products, snacks, soft drinks. Cost for a family like upto 7 members and with fast growing kids, it would be about KD240 for groceries. If you are smaller family or single will definately cost much less. You can use the above to estimate your basic household expenses but like anywhere in the world, cost of food are going up in Kuwait as well.

Healthcare costs are average compared to other places for doctor visit, hospital stay, non-prescription medicine, and medical insurance. The cost of health service was increased during the recent years due to increase in the cost of labor, medical equipment and medicine, in addition to the increase of population and the increase of prices in general. The public healthcare system of kuwiat provides free or low-cost health care to all its residents.

Miscellaneous costs are high compared to other places for items such as dry cleaning, linen, magazines, newspapers, office supplies, and postage stamps. If you want to buy personal care products and services, the prices are less than other cities.

Personal Care costs are high compared to other places for items such as cosmetics, hair care, shampoo, conditioner and toiletries. Obviously, the cost of personal care items are depends on our lifestyle.

Recreation and Culture costs are high compared to other places for items such as books, cinema, sport and theatre tickets, DVD and CDs.

Restaurants and Hotel costs are very high compared to other places for items such as hotel daily room rates, meals and beverages in restaurants, and take away food and beverages. In case, you choose to purchase internationally branded food items and household goods, you have to paying higher prices than in your home country.

Getting a Kuwait driving license – A fresh driving license

To get the driving license in Kuwait, one should apply for a learner’s license and pass a driving test. Residents holding driving licenses of some western countries shall follow a different path and use those driving license for obtaining a Kuwait Driving License According to a ministerial decision, expatriates applying for driving license should have

1. a university degree, (attested by the ministries)
2. a salary of not less than 400 dinars per month ( as per the shoon paper)
3. and a valid residence. They should have resided in Kuwait for at least two years before applying for a driving license provided they meet the conditions on age and health

Persons who are not allowed to get a Kuwaiti driving license on the strength of their national license must go to the License Section in the main Traffic Department in Shuwaikh and obtain approval for a learner’s license (istimara). To obtain approval, an expatriate must satisfy conditions mentioned above. However certain persons (see facing box) are exempt from these conditions.

* Drivers for companies and public bodies
* Domestic servants
* Advisors, judges, public prosecutors, experts and lawyers
* Doctors and Pharmacists
* Professors at universities, colleges and institutes of higher education
* Teachers, social workers and laboratory operators
* Engineers and assistant engineers
* Foreign women married to Kuwaiti men
* Foreign divorcees and widows of Kuwaiti men
* Foreign husbands and foreign children of Kuwaiti women
* Mosque imams, prayer callers and teachers of the Holy Quran
* Librarians employed by government authorities
* Nursing staff, first-aid assistants, and laboratory and x-ray technicians
* Journalists and pressmen
* Managers and graduate accountants
* Professional sports players and coaches
* Pilots, air-stewards and air-hostesses
* Housewives, provided they have children or provided their husbands have been resident earn at least KD 400/- a month
* Students
* Graduate computer programmers
* Undertakers and those in charge of burials

This is totally depending upon the designation in the shoon paper / work permit.Once you get the learners driving license, the applicant must go to the Licence Section in the Traffic Department in the governorate in which he or she lives. Documents required include

* Passport
* Original and copies of civil ID
* 4 passport-sized photographs
* Letter and attestation in a form by the Company, if employed and copy of work permit from Ministry of Social Affairs & Labor or   letter of employment from a ministry.
* Eye & blood test result (To get the eyesight certificate, a paper from the local traffic department must be obtained and taken to the Ministry of Public Health (MPH) testing clinic in Qortuba.)

The results of the tests can be picked up after two days of the test Submit all these to the License Section for registration for the driving test. A KD10 stamp must be affixed to the application form. Then the learner must go to the driving test center at the governorate’s Traffic Department to fix a date for a driving test, for which a KD10 booking fee is levied. KD10 must also be paid on the day of the test.

Kuwait amends expat driving license rules

The amendment to the law adds that after a license obtained by a driver or a company representative will be discarded as the persons of the mentioned profession change their profession or lose their residency. They can only apply for another license after a period of no less than two years.

RENEWAL OF DRIVING LICENSE

To renew a driving license in Kuwait, applicants have to apply before one month from the date of expiry of the same. If the application is late for more than five years after the date of expiry of the license, the applicant should undergo all the formalities to obtain a fresh license.The procedure required for renewal of driving license is to visit the general traffic department concerned and submit the required documents.

Requirements:

1. Expired Driving License.
2. Original civil ID and a copy.
3. One personal photocopy

Applicants up to the age of 40 are exempt from the test and are given a ten year renewal of their driving licenses for KD10.

Note: If the applicants who are older than 60 years old must have the medical check-up again.

Sheesha Place Picks

Gautam Raj asked me for my recommendations on nice sheesha places. While I don’t sheesh, I go to a lot of nice places with my friends who do. I also have problems breathing where there is poor ventilation, so my picks are based on places with good air circulation.

Here are the Desert Girl picks. Please feel free to recommend your own. Help a sister out and recommend places where incredibly handsome/sexy men frequent, please! And note: I’m not looking to go to gins thaleth (“3rd gender”)/transvestite hang-outs! Keep that info for somebody else’s blog, k? (I gots my own drama and it doesn’t come in that package.)

* Movenpick Bidaa. Tree-lined outdoor terrace facing the sea. Really good buffet.
* Crowne Plaza: Ayam Zaman. Good for indoor sheesha when it is too hot to smoke outside. Terraces provide good privacy. Good ventillation.
* Movenpick FTZ: Nice outdoor garden and tents.
* Awtar Libnan at Marina Mall. Nice outdoor terrace and good, inexpensive food.
* Valdez Palace, Humood Tower, downtown Kuwait. Nice outdoor terrace and large indoor area.
* Hilton. Several nice outdoor areas facing the sea (but sheesha is expensive from what I hear). They have tents on the beach with buffet/sheesha.
* Ruby Tuesdays next to Kuwait Towers has sheesha outside. I like this as I can get an actual REAL crabcake and sit next to the sea.
* Ibis Hotel Salmiya. Italian/continental restaurant has a large outdoor terrace facing the Gulf Road/Sea.

I don’t know if they still serve sheesha, but the Rotana Al-Manshar rooftop used to and it is GORGEOUS. Although I haven’t been there yet (invitations accepted), I have heard that 7 Bars rooftop is really nice.

Comment on the original post at Desert Girl. This post is cross posted from and authored by Desert Girl.

DG’s Short List of Great Places/Services Kuwait

Nothing is “short” in my world, but…

You’ve read my bitching, moaning and complaining about places in Kuwait, and I know, you’ve probably been thinkin along the lines of Papyrus… One of my readers, Papyrus, has left very kind comments and has made me see the err of my ways in terms of keeping an equal balance of good vs evil; positive vs negative. It is at Papyrus’ suggestion that I offer the following Desert Girl opinion of outstanding places to go in Kuwait – where the standard of quality is consistent (more times than not). Thanks, Papyrus!

… Sidebar: This is rather ironic because only last night I stared to re-read a book called “Count Your Blessings” which advises to equally balance all things: good and bad. Children, that is our lesson for today.

Restaurants

Definitions: What makes a good restaurant in my opinion? 1) Food. 2) Good Service. 3) Atmosphere. By #3, I also mean – no screaming kids/a quiet place where you can hear what your companions are saying. I’m not rating loud restaurants because I never go/return to them – me no like.

I’m going to have to go back to these places and get exact names of meals so I can update this later to be more specific.

Sushi

Who doesn’t know by now how much I love sushi? Purgy… wait for it… Well, I’m in a conundrum: I have been going to Sakura for 12+ years (13 in October) and have always loved it… until lately. They seem to be slipping – not in service, which has actually improved a lot – but in the quality of fish and the variety. I’m thinking Maki and Sushi Club are starting to kick their ass on the playground battle for best sushi in Kuwait. Maki pisses me off (Yo! DG – stay focused on positive!) because they are a rip-off on price, and yet no one can beat their variety. Their fusion thing in a martini glass is awesome. I also like the way they go above-and-beyond being imaginative. I have also had sushi from Sushi Club recently and yum-mers! They rock.

Kuwaiti

Shatiya Watiya Restaurant in downtown Kuwait: I’ve never had a bad meal there. The portions are enormous. The wait staff remembers you and SMILES. It is a traditional Kuwaiti restaurant with meals that taste like home cooking – and portions to match being in your living room with the family. If you make friends with Manager, Nasser, you’ll have a friend for life. What do I like the best there? Hard to say: Tashreeba, murabian, qaboot…. There are many. They have only just increased their prices – slightly – in the past 10 years, but they are still incredibly reasonably priced.

Freej Suwaileh: Also a Kuwaiti restaurant. I like their food. Service needs improvement and the ambiance isn’t terrific, but did I mention the food? They do a little DG trick: Serve gaymat as soon as we sit down. WHO wouldn’t love THAT? It is also open all night.

Mubarakia open-air restaurants: Everybody has got to try the little cafes and restaurants at Mubarakia at least ONCE during their stay in Kuwait. Try shrimp hameesa – it is similar to shrimp fajitas (if you like that). When the weather gets a little cooler, it will be a great place to go for cheap eats. Most places serve tea after dinner. Its just a cool place to visit.

Café: The One Café. They practice continual improvement and they care. They have a comments book – if you have a comment, you can write it then and there and they will show it to other guests and take the time to explain how they made improvements. I complained about something there – once – long ago and the next time I came in, they actually remembered me and went out of their way to fix it. Great breakfasts, great coffee, great squishy chairs to get lost in. Deserts will rock your world! They change their menus all the time, but they always have something interesting and good. My definite all-time favorite on the menu (usually around Christmas) is pumpkin cheesecake. Oh. My. God.

Thai: There is only one Thai place in Kuwait that has won my heart: Oriental Cuisine across from the Dasman Model School in Sharq. It is a hole-in-the wall with only 4 tables, but outstanding Thai food; better, in my humble DG opinion, than the Blue Elephant and waaaaay less expensive. Great service (especially when the owners’ young son is helping!)

Chinese: Peking in the Radisson Hotel. Scallops – yummmm. Expensive, but worth it.

Elegant/Romantic: Probably the most romantic restaurant (so Desert Girl says) is Ricardo in the Sheraton. It’s also purty pricey. This is a “know thy fork” type of restaurant – the kind that my mother spent years teaching me about. The Italian food is great, the wait staff keeps a distance, but a watchful eye. Everything is crystal and roses. Guys, if you have phucked up bigtime with your lady and want to make amends, Ricardo is THE place to take her.

Steak: Gaucho. Argentinean steak house. Need I say more? Ask for server, Desmond. He’s from South Africa and such a great guy with an amazingly sharp sense of humor. There is also a French restaurant at the back side of Fanar Mall (again, feeble mind syndrome – can’t remember the name) that only serves steak, salad, and pomme frittes (French fries, chips, freedom fries – whatever you wanna call ‘em). I have yet to try the Brazilian steak house in the Movenpick at the Free(less) Trade Zone and I’ll let you know on that one later.

Fish/Seafood

No doubt about it – Housny in Hawalli. I have tried many many other seafood restaurants in Kuwait, but I keep going back to Housny. It doesn’t have the ambiance of other more expensive places, but definitely has the best shrimp and grilled fish in all of Kuwait. The service is remarkably good for a less-expensive place also.

Nicest Place to Eat Beside the Sea

Hands-down it is the (what the Hell is the Name) buffet restaurant at the Movenpick, Bidaa. Waaaaay pretty with tables on a terrace facing the sea. “some enchanted eeeevning…” 2nd best: Blue Elephant (Thai) at the Hilton.

Where to Go so the spouse won’t see you together

I don’t do this, but just incase you are wondering: Gulf Royal Chinese restaurants have “cabinas” (small private rooms). Sakura has private rooms (usually for parties of 4 or more). Housny also has cabinas (which might actually work out better if you are a sloppy seafood eater –especially if you like crabs).

Best Restaurant for Where to dine if you want to B.Y.O.B.

They do exist in Kuwait and some places will even bring in the appropriate glasses and de-cork/serve you. I don’t know of ANY specifics and even if I did, I would never tell. If you want to send me guesses – be my guest.

Sheesha I don’t smoke sheesha, but I like the smell. I have friends who like it, so when I want to eat with them and they want sheesha, I want to be somewhere that is well ventilated and also serves either food or coffee that I want while they’re smoking. I like the atmosphere in Ayam Zaman in the Crowne Plaza. Bless their hearts – they really do try to give good service. The Movenpick at Bidaa is also a nice place to go for sheesha.

The “Way-Home” Breakfast

Bayan Restaurant in Salmiya very close to Noodles. You can take home chapathi and eggs, chai/7alib starting at 4:30 am….well before McDonald’s…

Light food/Sandwiches

I have a few favs.

Ayami (Damn, I can’t remember the name – above Starbucks at Marina Crescent). It is a fusion restaurant – kind of a mixture of Lebanese and Moroccan. Me likes. They have a different variation on the standard Lebanese dips. Check it out sometime. The food is great, but unfortunately, the service needs improvement (I didn’t say “it sucks” – I am trying to maintain positive). The food is great. I like the pizza thingys and the spinach/hummos dip.

Awtar Libnan is Lebanese and I’ve been to their locations at Marina Mall and in Jahra. Both are great – good service, good food, very nice appropriately-spaced tables (so you aren’t sitting on top of other patrons like some restaurants). Grilled halloommmmm.

I just re-visited Grillo on Restaurants Street for the first time in several years and their shrimp fajita sandwich rocks. I remember their sandwiches being small, but this was meal-sized and quite a few shrimps. An extra added bonus is that the restaurant is situated right next to the front entrance of the male-only Platinum Gym. You can see all the talent coming and going while you are chowin down; feasting your eyes (one in every 100) while you feast on sammich.

Doo-Doo in Salmiya for falafel sandwiches. It’s way better than “doo-doo” or “poo-poo”! 🙂

(Sheel-o-meshi used to be my favorite place for a steak sandwich, but they reduced the size and the quality and now you have to buy about 5 of them to make it the size of the one they used to serve – and on different bread.)

Take-out

I’ve tried a lot of the restaurants on http://www.6alabat.com/ (which ROCKS by the way!). Casper & Gambini is consistently good with good customer service/drivers. It gets to you quick. Also good for lunch meetings when you have guests at work. Good salads also. Indigo is Indian home-delivery only and those guys ROCK. Again, quick service, great food (try the hamoor biryani). If you can get Fresh Fish (name of the restaurant) delivered where you are – go for it. The prices are so reasonable and they deliver fresh seafood to your door. I love grilled fish and can’t get enough from this restaurant. I wish they had steamed crabs, but no one in Kuwait does.

Here is my restaurant wish-list for Kuwait:

* Crab House (what I wouldn’t give to bang on a crab on a brown paper covered table, sippin on a cool Barbican….)
* Authentic Mexican (not the pseudo crap!) Large-variety salad bar (salad only!) Why doesn’t anyone in Kuwait serve a good salmon salad??
* “Happy Hour” – I don’t know why restaurants here can’t do happy hour at 5:00 without alcohol. It would be a great marketing gimmick and they could offer finger foods and non-alcoholic drinks. Even if you started a restaurant CALLED “Happy Hour”… People already go to coffee shops to meet other people. Why not start happy hour for working professionals?

Spas

The Royal Hyatt Elements Spa. By far, my favorite so far. I don’t know if it caters to men, however. It’s gorgeous. They understand good, quality services and products. The Royal Hyatt is managed by Banyan Tree Resorts and the spa is totally Thai.

Spa Aquatonic at the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza: Wow. Again, a gorgeous atmosphere. It is huge and clean and new. I have only been there for one treatment so I can’t give anything other than an initial impression, but I loved it and will definitely go back. If you’ve been up in Iraq for a while (or driving in traffic in Kuwait – same thing), book yourself a treatment (male or female). It is guaranteed to de-stress.

Rental Car Agency

I have only one on my list: Automall (formerly Payless) in Rai. Talk about service! They will drop off/pick up to you anywhere in Kuwait and do their best to get you a car in your choice of colors. Consistent with their policies and procedures, kind and professional. Reasonable rates. Unfortunately, they only do GMC and Subaru rentals.

Doctors

GP: Dr. Eman Badawi at the International Clinic. She is a GP but also specializes in asthma.

OBGYN: Dr. Gazawi at Royal Hyatt. I love the RH. It is like a peaceful resort rather than going to see your personal doctor. They make having your vajayjye looked at seem like a tranquil experience.

Dentist: Don’t have a favorite – they all frighten me (this is not limited to Kuwait). I have heard that Gulf Clinic is good (and I want to go there for Invisilyn braces as soon as I have enough cash). Slapps goes to Dr. Sexy at the International Clinic. We just call him that to give him a hard time. His real name is Dr. Edgar.

Hotels

Ok, it really isn’t fair for me to make a pick because there are only 2 that I have actually slept in: The Kuwait Plaza (now the “Swiss Inn”) and the Holiday Inn Salmiya. I HAD to stay at the Swiss Inn and no – not going to make a recommendation on that one. I chose to stay at the HI Salmiya and it was noisy. I have heard that the 4-Points Sheraton is fantastic. I have had several friends at different times stay there on business trips to Kuwait and highly recommended it.

Now, I can tell you about the ones that I think are the prettiest without having seen a room: Marina Hotel (on the sea), Movenpick at Bidaa (on the sea), Hilton (on the sea). Hotels with the best overall restaurants: Sheraton and Crowne Plaza.

2010 Updates

Kuwaiti: Al Setinat in Hawalli. Service is still so-so, but the food is the best and they deliver. 22665559

Steaks: Desmond has moved! He’s at The Meat Co. now in 360. The Meat Co replaces Gaucho as my favorite, but only if you can afford to pay their OMG ouch prices!

The Meat Co. also has a good salmon salad! (Someone heard my prayers.)

Anybody know where to get decent fish & chips in Kuwait? The Ritz used to own that, but not anymore.

Comment on the original post at Desert Girl. This post is cross posted from and authored by Desert Girl.

How to find an Apartment in Kuwait

Christopher all the way from Cambridge, Massachusetts (“Ma shooft Yousef” bil Arabi), sent me a little e-mail recommending that I “write a few lines” about how to find an apartment in Kuwait. Well Christopher, it like dis: I can’t ever just write a FEW lines about anything, so here goes the entire deal on how to find a home in Kuwait. By the by, this goes for finding a villa also (pretty much).

What you will need

A good attitude: Patience. Lots of it; However you can get it, get it. A “happy place”
Chocolate (or whatever your crutch is)
Kleenex (incase it gets to be too much for you and you need a good sob).
A car (taxi) Lots of relaxing/tranquil music (maybe Yanni or Kenny G). Gas.
Someone who speaks Arabic
Copies of Waseet or Alhadaf classified papers

The process

Remove all weapons and sharp objects from your vehicle and/or person. This will help avoid a prison sentence when dealing with realtors and building guards (called “hariss” here).

Ok, seriously, if you are an English-only speaker, you really do need someone to help you translate – either from the classified ads or by going around building-to-building and asking the guards if there are vacancies. Sometimes, you can find a mandoob (expeditor/gopher guy) where you work or you can ask them to refer you to someone who can translate for a small amount of money. If you can’t find someone at work, or don’t feel comfortable asking for personal favors, taxi offices can often help and they can play a dual role in driving you around to find a place if you are new.

Zero to 30 days in Kuwait

If someone is new to Kuwait, they probably won’t get their civil ID for the first 30 days, so the employer should provide accommodations during the first month.

30 days to 6 months in Kuwait

After the first 30 days in Kuwait, I strongly recommend getting into a short term or furnished place first, so you have the time to look for your ideal home. It isn’t a quick/easy process.

During this timeframe, you are still in culture shock, but you are beginning to get it. You have to look for a place to live, but you are still freaked out by the idea and don’t really want to be locked into something permanent because it is all so new. AAA Housing and Frost Real Estate are the two most reputable companies in Kuwait. I see them as “halfway houses” for people who are new to Kuwait and transitioning into life here. They provide the comforts of home in familiar surroundings and se haba English.

AAA only does furnished accommodations; Frost will provide unfurnished with benefits (phone, satellite TV, maid and laundry services on request). Both AAA and Frost furnishings are to western standards (both have websites). Expect to pay more for both.

6 months plus in Kuwait

So you are ready to find your ideal place. You have a pretty good “lay of the land” since you’ve been here for 6 months. You know what the traffic is like. You have either seen or heard about the places that you want to live. You have several options: Realtors, classifieds, and “hoofing it” by driving around to places you might want to live and asking for vacancies.

Realtors

Don’t expect miracles: Bait and switch is common. Untruths are common. It will be frustrating to say the least. You will make an appointment to meet and they will be late or send someone else. Some realtors will smoke and have poor personal hygiene. They will never ever have photos of their properties.

Finding a realtor: Ask questions of people you work with, check online and in the Kuwait Pocket Guide. Classified papers like Waseet and Alhadaf will have listings of available apartments and realtors (in English when/if you can find them).

Realtors generally work in specific areas: Seaside/Salmiya, Salwa/Rumaithia, Fahaheel/Mangaf. Ask what areas they work out of.

Work the list: Compile lists of realtors and go through the list to touch base. Don’t expect them to follow up; they’re generally not that professional. Don’t expect them to respond to you through their websites as many don’t ever check their e-mail. Call.

Realtors who commonly deal with Westerners: Target, Saba Real Estate, Eastern Homes, York Real Estate, Century 21. (There are more, but these are the ones I deal with.)

Commission: Note that realtors take a half month rent commission from you as the renter and another half month rent from the building owner. This is standard.

Be Aware of Con Artist Realtors: I met with a building owner and discovered something quite scary: Harisses who work with realtors to dupe you into paying a commission that they don’t deserve. What happens is that YOU go to see a building and the hariss tells you that the building is being managed by a third-party realtor and that even though YOU have gone to the building and found it yourself, you must pay the commission to the realtor handling the building rental/management. I have had 2 experiences with this lately. At one building, the hariss didn’t speak English and a bee-bop man walked right past the hariss and told me that I had to pay a commission to him. Thankfully, I knew the building owner and dropped his name. Just heard a story about a management company that rented a complex with 4 buildings for 3 months. They turned around and rented out every apartment in the complex and got tenants to pay 6 months in advance plus a security deposit. Then, skipped the country. Here’s the skinny: They may ask you to sign a rental agreement with the realtor and you might not know that you actually have to sign with the building owner. Since the hariss is the one working the deal, you wouldn’t know it. The building owner told me that this is a very dangerous con because then you are out not only your deposit but you don’t have a valid rental agreement. So, how do you find out what is real and what isn’t? The hariss should immediately tell you who the building owner is: if the realtor commission is legitimate, then they will have no problem with you contacting the building owner’s office. If they are hesitant, then you know something is hinky. I’ll write more about this when I find out more.

Write to me you would like to get my personal list of favorite realtors. I’m not going to post it as it is subject to change and I’m too damn lazy to update it all the time.

Hoofing it – going building-to-building

Driving around in an area where you might want to live is probably the best way to find a good deal in the exact area you want to live. This is where your interpreter/cabbie comes in handy. “Fee shuqqa fathi?” means “Is there an apartment available?” Kuwaitis generally drive around Kuwait looking for apartments because landlords often don’t advertise or use realtors (both cost money). Wear comfortable shoes because there will be lots of running in/out of places. Most apartments in villas won’t have elevators.

Note: if you find a place you LOVE and it is completely occupied, make friends with the hariss and offer to give him some money (I recommend 30 to 50 kd) to get you in as soon as one becomes available. I take this money to be an investment. Get the guy’s number and call him back every now and then to see if anyone has moved. Take him some cookies. (I have my eye on 3 properties for both myself and The Romanian right now.)

Dreams of grandeur

Please don’t expect to find what you are used to in the West in Kuwait’s local apartment market. Aint gonna happen. Many buildings don’t even use interior designers for placement of walls. Most places do not require occupants to re-paint or even clean the apartments once they have vacated. Many landlords won’t even sweep the floors before showing the apartments to potential tenants. Some apartments still have squat toilets (which you can ask the landlords to remove/replace; they are stinky. Purchasing your own sanitary equipment is not expensive either.) Landlords often won’t change water boilers, so that is an expense you may have – don’t freak out. They aren’t expensive compared to the West (around 70 kd). The building guard can generally get you another and have it installed.

Zoning – We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Zoning!

If you live on a farm (in Western countries), you might hear roosters crowing in the morning. If you live in a high-rise residential complex in Kuwait you might hear roosters crowing in the morning. You might see a sheep tied to a lamp post in your neighborhood (means that it will be slaughtered by homeowners/landlord – take your children away from windows). Get used to it. “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Unfurnished apartments in Kuwait often do not have kitchen appliances or closets. If you have a lot of clothes and are a single occupant, consider getting a 2 bedroom so you can create your own walk-in closet (SHOOOOOES!). Many apartments here also have a “maids” room (which is more like a cell) that can be used for storage (I had shelves put in). (Large wardrobe closets can be found at the Friday Market for around 85 KD each. There are also lots of carpenters (inexpensive) if you have something special in mind (Carrie Bradshaw, eat your heart out!)

The good thing is that many places in the local market don’t ask you for asecurity deposit – although that trend is changing.

Things to look for/things to ask

Who are the neighbors? If a building is full of single guys, it will most likely be used as a party place only on the weekends. “F flats” as they are known is where many a married guy will bring his mistress on the weekend for a drink and more. If the apartment has 2 doors and the windows are covered by either aluminum foil or lining sticker rolls, for sure, it has been used for either a party or an F flat. Be cautious as you may have unwanted visitors at night if they don’t know that the former occupant has moved. The best way to find out what is going on in a building is to go back and visit on a weekend night after 10:30 pm. Keep in mind that the audio systems used for parties here can be heard from passing planes (I jammed out on a BA flight leaving Kuwait one night, flying over a party in the desert playing 50 Cent…)

Something to consider: While you think it might be nice to be in a complex with 100% Westerners, know that the company housing the majority of Western employees in Kuwait (CSA) has a policy specifically against this. They house their employees in buildings with a percentage of westerners to a percentage of occupants of other countries (locals, etc.) for security purposes. Don’t make yourself an easy target, even though I personally have never found this to be a big concern (it may be to others). (I’ve always lived in multi-national buildings/areas in the US.)

Where is the mosque? If the mosque minaret is next to the bedroom window, you might want to consider another place unless you like to be woken up at dawn and reminded to pray. Westerners usually aren’t accustomed to the call to prayer; No disrespect to anyone’s religious beliefs.

Where is the pool? Little people can be mighty noisy and you are in a country where parents believe that it is ok for children to be up all night without a bedtime. Check out what the pool sounds like at night or on the weekends when the kids are there. (Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Anonymous 11/6)

Does the apartment have both central A/C and heat? Lots of apartments here won’t have heat in the winter and it gets coooooold. When they tell you that you don’t need it, consider getting out of the shower in the morning when the temperature is down around zero (not saying that it will actually get that cold in Kuwait – but it has).

Do the windows have double-paned glass? A big selling point for apartments in Kuwait is that they are “on the main road”. As Westerners, we might not like the fact that the place is 5 feet from a highway. People like to honk their horns in the morning – especially when they are picking up kids for school. Double-paned glass is also important when the temperature gets up to holy-shit-that’s-hot.

Are there temperature controls on the water? This is kind of a trick question because most realtors and building guards won’t know the answer. Consider this – it is holy-shit-that’s-hot degrees outside and you want a cold shower: if there is no temp control on the water, you gonna boil like a lobster at a Cape Cod outing and there is nothing you can do to get cold (turning off the water boiler and using the hot for cold in the summer sometimes resolves this issue).

Does the apartment have internet/DSL and satellite TV? If not, no big deal. There are lots of places who will install it for you, but that means additional running around and cost.

Who pays for electricity and water? Often, the landlord will pay or you can pay slightly extra per month (around 5 kd) and they will take care of it for you. If not, refer to “Utilities” section below.

Is parking provided? Believe it or not, I know of 3 new buildings with a maximum of seven spaces to each building. Don’t assume that there will be underground parking. Don’t assume that there will be any parking! If you are looking for an apartment during the day, go back there at night to see how people are parked. Drive by and see what the traffic conditions are. Also, it gets holy-shit-that’s-hot here and shaded parking is a factor.

Responsibilities of the building guard (hariss)

Takes out your trash. Kuwait buildings are not equipped with something as simple as a trash shoot. Trash is generally left in the stairwell and the hariss collects it at night.

Washes your car. If you drive a high-end car, you might want to consider buying and providing cleaning equipment to your hariss and asking him to wash it only with water. Sometimes they will just wipe it down with a rag and your paint job suffers tiny little scratches.

Porter: Assists you in carrying items to your apartment.
Assists in small handyman jobs.
Brings cooking gas.

Payment to the hariss: For washing the car and taking out the trash, the standard payment is 5 kd per month (required or your trash will pile up). If he demands 10kd (1. too much and b. he shouldn’t demand), then there is a problem, Houston; unless it is your decision to pay him extra. I’ve found that if you bring your hariss a covered plate once in a while, tip a little extra, or maybe even bring him some used/new clothing, he will do just about anything in the world for you.

Lease agreements

You will need a civil ID in your name for the lease and perhaps a copy of your passport. Make sure that they provide you a copy in English.

I freaked out when I came to Kuwait because I didn’t know if I was going to like the place that I selected after a few months. I was new and I couldn’t tell, so I was worried about breaking the lease and having to pay up (as it is in the US). Not so in Kuwait. You have a 1 year lease, but you can leave by giving your landlord 30 days written notice.

Furnishings

There are lots of furniture stores in Kuwait: Ikea, Midas, Safat Al-Ghanim, The One/Bo Concepts. Kuwaitis like to change furniture all the time, so there is lots of competition. However, the prices are high compared to the US (dunno about the UK cause I’m ‘merican). Dhajeej area (between 6th Ring Road and the airport) has lots of small places that will build furniture for you. I brought one of these guys a photo of a Roche Bobois sofa and Crate & Barrel table and I had both of them made within 2 weeks at 1/3 of the price. After 5 years, both pieces have weathered very well. The cool thing is that I’m indecisive and so I had 3 sets of sofa covers made. These shops will also coordinate curtains to furniture. If you are into decorating, it can be a lot of fun.

There are also antiques places around Kuwait, but most of the treasures aren’t Kuwaiti, they’re Indian. Write to me for info on antiques places around Kuwait.

Decor

Now, this is something that you might not think about right away, but in the US, most landlords are very particular about what you can and can not do to decorate apartments. I lived in one building where they wouldn’t even allow you to hang pictures on the wall. Kuwait is a free for all on interior decor. Don’t like the flooring? Change it. Don’t like the kitchen tiles? Change them. I’m leaving my apartment now after 11 years and I have changed just about everything. It was fun. Consider this: There is no minimum wage in Kuwait, so anything labor-intensive will be less. You can have things done cheaper than in the US.

Appliances

Al Ghanim is the biggest and most reputable. Their service is pretty good and they pick up/deliver. You can purchase appliances through them on monthly installments.

Considerations: If you are buying a refrigerator with an ice maker, check the water hook up in the apartment first. Most stoves (“cookers”) are heated with propane gas. Tanks are switched out once they are used. The hariss or the neighborhood convenience store (called “dikan” or “baqala”) will deliver for less than a dinar.

Utilities

Landline phone: Ask your company’s mandoob for his help. You can get a landline for 100 kd per year and all local calls are free. You will need your civil ID. You will not receive a bill or notification when payment is due. You should go to the ministry of communications in the area where you live (or have a mandoob go for you) annually to pay up.

Electrity and Water: Often provided by the landlord. If it isn’t, again ask the mandoob for his assistance. You will need to go to the Ministry of Electricity & Water in your area with your civil ID and 100 KD deposit to have the electricity put on. 90% of the time, you will never receive an electricity bill. The average is 5KD per month on an apartment. You should have your mandoob (if possible) go to check with the ministry annually to see how much you owe and to pay up. (Personal note, I got busted after 11 years with an 800 KD bill. I giggle.)

Miscellaneous

Convenience stores: Lots of neighborhoods have convenience stores that you can call and they will deliver just about anything (including propane for the stove)

Addresses in Kuwait are almost non-existent. Until very recently, most streets weren’t named/identified. Note your address on your lease. Mail will usually NOT be delivered to your residence. Consider a post office box (at your areas Ministry of Communications for 4 kd per year) or having mail delivered to your office.

Emergency Services: 777. They may/may not answer. Have a plan. Know where the closest ER is. Know who to call (your employer, a friend, etc.)

Security: If your apartment doesn’t have a peep-hole in the front door, have one installed. Beggars often find out where a Westerner lives, and will knock on your door relentlessly. Inform your hariss. Security cams are available at some places in Hawalli and you can have them installed over your door. Consider an apartment starting on the 2nd floor and up because thieves can break in through windows while you are out. If you are away for a long time, put your valuables in a bank safe deposit box. Break ins are becomming more common in Kuwait.

DG List of Realtors
With the exception of Chrissy, almost all realtors ask for 50% of the first month’s rent.

* Eastern Homes – Fionna – 22412697/8
* Chrissy – 66722793 Saba Co Real Estate Division Chrissy will drive you around Kuwait for a fee of 25kd per hour to search for apartments. 25% commission.
* Dana, 2468388, 2406582
* Wael Sulaiman, York, 9930-1217
* Marty, Frost Real Estate, 9972-3196 (furnished and unfurnished)
* AAA Housing (furnished ONLY) 2246-5888
* Mazin Shilbaya, Century 21, 9965-9427
* Mojgen, Target, 6661-9151.
* Joey, 6670-5800 (mostly Salmiya)
* Joanna, Capital Real Estate, 99136410
* Sofia, 97134433
* Aziz 66770840
* Spanish Villas (multiple properties) 25658983, 99826883
* Northern Star 25639183
* Wael Sulaiman, York, 9930-1217
* Amr, Al Kawthar, 9901-0315 or 243-3325
* Abu Ahmed, 66920123
* Catherine, 25632813
* Dana, 2468388, 2406582
* Nelly 9932-1096
* Nadi 9723-5252
* The Accommodators – 99746024 or Fax: 25630918

Comment on the original post at Desert Girl. This post is cross posted from and authored by Desert Girl.

Kuwait Climate

It is very important for us to know the changing climate of Kuwait. Kuwait is located in the Arabian gulf and is a dry desert.

It has intensely hot summers and cool winters. The temperatures range from 6-8 centigrades in December to up to 50 in August

Occasional heavy rains are seen in Kuwait and minor rains are seen sometime between October and April. In some cases rains can damage or flood the roads.

Sandstorms and dust storms are very often in Kuwait throughout the year and is most common during the hot weather which is between March and August

Current weather in Kuwait

How to beat the heat in Kuwait

Kuwait being in the middle east has very hot summers. The temperature reach around 50 or more at the peak. So how to stay protected from the heat in Kuwait?

  • Stay in the shades & Use of suncream
  • Dress right
  • Eat right Have lot of fluids, Avoid oily and heavy food
  • Play water games
  • visit the beaches often
  • Visit water parks
  • Allow kids to play in the water