This year saw the first non-stop commercial flight between Australia and the United Kingdom, lasting just over 17 hours. Direct commercial flights are generally becoming longer and longer all the time, and I don’t doubt that it won’t be long before you can fly almost anywhere on the planet non-stop. However, stopovers are still necessary for many of us as even though flights are getting longer, they don’t always fly the exact routes that everyone wishes to take. On my last trip to Australia my return trip included an 11 hour stop off in Doha, Qatar and although I was flying business class and had access to the amazing Al Mourjan lounge, I wanted to leave the airport and do something. In the few weeks running up to my trip I looked into different ways to spend a long layover in Doha, Qatar and discovered that the Qatar Airways website offers a whole range of activities and tours which you can book.
How to spend a long layover in Doha, Qatar
You may wish to leave the airport on your own and make your way into the city, or if you prefer something a bit more organised Qatar Airways, in conjunction with Discover Qatar, offer a range of trips and experiences which can be booked from their website or can be arranged in the Terminal upon arrival. You can choose from half day desert safaris and monster bus experiences to city tours, with options that include meals and even boat trips. The trips on the website are priced in US Dollars and range from $20-$90pp depending on the trip.
My City Tour on my Layover in Doha
During my 11 hour layover in Doha I decided to take the Doha City tour, so I could have a whistle stop tour of all the main sights and points of interest in Doha. The tour cost $20pp and lasted around three hours. I didn’t book my tour in advance, instead I booked and paid upon arrival in Doha Hamad Airport. Online it mentions two tours a day, but upon arrival it seemed there were numerous tours throughout the day which was a bonus to me as I was running a tad late according to the published time for the first tour, but it is also a good sign as it shows that the tourism trade in Qatar is increasing.
The tour headed off at around 10am and lasted just under three hours. You first pass through airport security and have your passport stamped at customs, this took around 20 minutes for the whole group. We then headed out the terminal on a full sized air conditioned coach with an English speaking guide who gave a continuous in-depth commentary about where we were as well as any useful information about our surroundings. They also provided bottled water on the coach for every passenger, which was a nice touch.
Our first stop was a photo opportunity stop at the Dhow Harbour where you can see not only a plethora of local fishing boats and luxury hotel resorts, but you also get amazing views across the harbour to downtown Doha. From there we traveled towards the city and were shown all the main sights and notable buildings on our way to The Pearl Qatar. The Pearl Qatar is a brand new marina residence with luxury villas and apartments, restaurants and shops. We were told that it is currently the place to live in Doha! There was still a lot of construction going on, but from exploring the finished part you could really see it was something spectacular, from the Ferrari showroom to all the designer boutiques.
From the Pearl we headed to Katara cultural village, another new development which is also currently under construction, and only has a few small parts completed. I think the point of this stop, as well as the last was to show the recent fast development of Doha, perhaps trying to compete with their neighbours, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The last stop on the tour was a 30 minute visit to Souq Waqif to explore at our leisure. Souq Waqif dates back over 100 years, and following an early fire, underwent a careful restoration in 2006 to preserve the last remaining area of traditional Qatari architecture. Within the many streets and lanes in the souq you can be sure to find traditional crafts, garments, spices and even souvenirs. The souq is also home to many restaurants and shisha lounges.
From Souq Waqif we headed back to the airport, which was about 15 minutes from the city centre, then we passed back through security ready for our onward flights. I was very glad that I had the opportunity to see the magnificent city of Doha, all for the small price of $20. There is something about cities in the Middle East; they just draw me in with all their immense splendour, stunning architecture and the magical feeling you get when exploring the souqs in the old towns. I would strongly recommend taking this city tour, or a similar tour if you have long enough layover in Doha.