If you are reading this, you are probably planning on doing a layover in Doha, Qatar. No wonder. Lately, it’s been fairly popular among urban explorers and travel bloggers to have a stopover over there. I read a few travel blog articles and got the same idea.
Qatar Airways is also well-known for its outstanding reputation in an era where other airlines are downsizing their service and introducing plans where you pay separately for the services that you need. Which is most things pretty much (luggage, food, hello!).
Doha Layover Offers Some Freebies
I don’t normally get to fly to Thailand and Koh Phangan using Qatar because I’m usually traveling with my dog. For once I was able to leave him home to my mum’s so the opportunity arose. The visa-free entry for most Western nationalities is a definite perk and on top of that, you might be able to score some fab deals, such as a complimentary hotel stay. Now, where else could you get freebies like this? More info here: https://www.qatarairways.com/en/offers/plus-qatar.html
Okay, so now we have established that there are some definite benefits included in a Doha stopover but why is my headline implying that to me, it wasn’t really all it cracked up to be.
Service on Qatar Airways
I was fairly happy with the service onboard when flying from Helsinki to Doha. The only problem was that I needed to wait for the drinks and food for a long time, almost 2 hours! And then I got my drinks and dinner at the same time. I was happy to enjoy a gin&tonic but would’ve preferred to have it as an aperitif while growing my hunger. By the way, I had mushroom risotto with parmesan as a main and it was just beautiful! Okay, a bit salty but still delicious.
The vanity bag with slippers, mask, toothbrush, and toothpaste plus a lip balm was quite nice but I was having a hard time falling asleep. Hence, when we arrived at the Doha Hamad airport I was really tired. I wasn’t really super excited about the idea of having to spend the whole day in a new city to me, trying to orienteer while knackered.
As a Woman in a Muslim Country: What to Expect?
I didn‘t have a very positive start anyway. Went to do money exchange and a big, most likely Muslim guy got very agitated because he thought that I was trying to overtake him. I was actually there before him but he probably didn’t notice me. He got very angry at me and started yelling at the male cashier also that how could they let this woman do this to him.
I was horrified. Where was the respect for ladies and good manners? My cashier clearly saw the difficult situation arising and he wanted to be bros before hos (pardon the language), though also not be completely rude to me. He suggested that I’d move on to the next cashier where a slot was opening and he would serve the “gentleman”.
I did like he suggested (though not happy with the whole situation at all). Then the “gentleman” very aggressively pushed me aside and went to the teller where I had just moved. Needless to say, I left and was feeling close to enraged but also sad. I was wondering if this was how it was going to be? I’m happy to say, however, that my time in the town went really good and I wasn’t feeling being started at, catcalled or anything like that (too much anyway). I felt very comfortable in Doha the whole time (I don’t bother looking at the men either or react to any of their inquisitions, to give them the opportunity to make me feel that I’d been noticed).
Oh, one more thing. The currency exchange receipt that I received had customer details under which my “employer name” was described as a housewife. Not liking this!
How to Use the Public Transport and Save Some Money
Doha is relatively compact so taxi prices are not too bad especially if you are travelling with someone. I was on my own and wanted to get by with as little as possible. Hence, I decided to go for public transport, ie. the bus.
When you get to the arrivals hall, turn right and look for the bus signs. There is a vending machine which is very easy to use. I’d suggest getting the unlimited day pass. You can hop on and off as many times as you like. It’s 20 riyals (2,4 euros or 2,75$) compared to 2 trips which cost 10 riyals. Take photos of the bus lines so you know which one to use in case you don’t have Internet later on.
I felt a bit intimidated because there were no other women on the bus. Apparently, the local ladies don’t really use these buses but tourists and some airport workers do. The first seats in the bus are reserved for women, children and the elderly. I had a really cool bus driver from Sri Lanka by the way and who told me a lot about Doha and Qatar. Almost like my own tour guide. On the way back the driver didn’t speak very good English then again and a fellow passenger found it hard to communicate with him when asking for the right bus stop so beware of this.
Things to See in Doha
The Museum of Islamic Art was just breathtaking. Such a beautiful building. I was in awe! However, I felt that the art collections weren‘t that interesting and there wasn’t too much to see either (you need max 90 minutes, I’d say). Luckily it’s free! The cafe in the hall is very modern and airy, and you get a magnificent view of the city centre with its grandiose skyscrapers.
I walked on the Corniche Promenade waterfront, checked out some shops in the area and then caught the bus to the Pearl (a new and posh neighbourhood). We drove through the city centre which boasts some unique and expensive-looking skyscrapers built with oil money probably. I wasn’t interested in stopping there, however.
The Katarra cultural centre is also en route if you’d be into that. I was too tired for it despite my initial plans. Do remember though that if you wish to visit it, do it en route to the Pearl. One lady wanted to do it on the way back from the Pearl but it doesn’t work that way (unless you want to change the bus again in the city centre).
The Pearl was a beautiful new area, built to remind us of Southern Europe vibes and architecture. I loved the tranquil piazzas and al-fresco restaurants. But as you might’ve guessed, these places don’t come cheap. I had a cappuccino which cost 24 Riyads, it was served to table though and I also received a complimentary petit four on the side.
I walked around a little bit but not loads. I was beat. Would’ve been nice to stroll a bit longer but I just couldn’t. I was so happy when I saw the bus and hopped on it.
The best was yet to come. I had really wanted to visit Souq Waqif and now I made it there. I indeed enjoyed walking down the narrow alleys and seeing some local products, such as spices and dried fruits. I wasn’t too happy with the pet section as you might guess; all the animals were in cramped conditions in cages. Just broke my heart.
They had numerous parades/dance shows with different styles during the evening (Turkish, Palestine but also Brazilian). It was really fun to look at these. I wanted to find a local restaurant serving traditional delicacies for supper but at this point, I had hardly any energy left in me and I wanted to sit down somewhere where I felt comfortable (ie. not an eatery with only local men). Therefore, I sat dining al-fresco to a touristy looking restaurant that had a cozy terrace and a mixed clientele. I ordered a vegetable-prawn pasta and it was actually really good, around 12 euros with a bottle of water.
On the way back I went to take the last photos at the Corniche Promenade. The skyscrapers across the shore were lit with different colours and it looked just fab. In the park, they also had some local men dressed in traditional clothing and riding their Arabian horses.
I mean, wow! The most beautiful horse breed and Qatar is known for breeding superior Arabs. If I had had more time, I would‘ve visited the famous equestrian center, al Shaqab. More info: https://www.alshaqab.com/. I had also planned on visiting the Msheireb Museums next to Souq Waqif but you already probably know why I didn’t make it there, haha.
Hamad International: The Review
I got to the airport much earlier than I had initially planned but sometimes you’ve got to do what‘s best for you. Sightseeing is not fun if you are falling asleep while walking (I was dozing while going around the Museum of Islamic Art). Passport control and everything went smoothly and soon I was back in the departures hall.
I took a nap and was planning on using the complimentary wifi to catch up with some writing and stuff. Unfortunately, the wifi is only half-decent. It kept disconnecting every once in a while which is obviously infuriating if you are trying to do some work. The airport itself is pretty swanky with good amenities but it’s crazy expensive.
One thing it’s lacking, in my opinion, is some quiet corners where you could take a nap. I ended up using earplugs and an eyeshade while dozing away in the corner of the kids’ playground, LOL. One downside was that it was relatively cold/cool at the airport. There were very few places/chairs (TV corner and the family quiet room) you could use for sleeping. All the “regular” chairs had armrests making it impossible for sleeping.
Tip! Don’t throw away your water bottle. There are numerous water fountains that refill your bottle. This way you save some money and the environment.
Doha Stopover All in All
So is Doha layover really worth it? I think I would’ve enjoyed it much more had I not been so tired. Perhaps a shorter stopover would’ve been just fine, too. Okay, the 2,5-hour organised tours would most likely be inadequate but maybe something in the middle would be the best. I had almost 20 hours in Doha, Qatar and it was just too much. Qatar Airways offers an easy way to get to know Doha but be prepared to have enough energy to enjoy this opportunity.
Have you done a layover in Doha? Do you have similar or different thoughts to mine?
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