Qatar Airways together with their tourism organisation Discover Qatar offer marvellous opportunities for an unforgettable stopover in Doha and surroundings with their joint venture, +Qatar. Flying with Qatar Airways will grant a free opportunity for all its passengers to do a stopover when transiting through Hamad International Airport in Doha for a minimum of 5 hours and a maximum of four days. For a stopover of only one night, you may be eligible for a free stay in one of the cities fabulous 4-5 star hotels. Yes, free. A stopover is the perfect way to experience an extra destination on your travels. Not all nationalities require a visa, check yours here.
I myself have flown Qatar Airways a few times from Helsinki to Krabi, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.
Explore Doha with +Qatar on your stopover
Qatar may be a small country, but with a lot to offer. +Qatar is a unique offer designed by Qatar Airways destination management division, Discover Qatar, in collaboration with Qatar Tourism Authority, for transit passengers to turn a layover into a stayover. There are several tours to choose from whether you are stopping for only a couple of hours or spending a few nights. There are also options for incredible luxury but also affordable options for the backpacking kind. Some of the tours are designed for a minimum of 2 people.
If Qatar is not a familiar destination to you from before, which to many it is not, I promise it’s worth exploring. I definitely hope to return for a longer stay next time. If your stopover is shorter (still a minimum of 5 hours), it’s a good idea to take the basic 3-hour sightseeing tour around the city where you will stop by at the most famous sights Doha is most known for; The Pearl, Katara Cultural Village, The Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif. If you have a tiny bit more time, there’s also a 4-hour city tour where you get to dine in the city – which I definitely recommend, nothing like local cuisine to get to know a new country. Located by the Persian Gulf, Doha also offers the option to experience a traditional dhow boat cruise.
If you are in Doha for shopping and the options at the airport are not enough, the ‘Stop and Shop’ tour at Mall of Qatar is tailored for your needs.
For the traveller looking for something more extreme outdoors, there’s the option to explore the desert on a monster bus – or also on just a regular off-road vehicle if it’s more your jam. The desert is something I strongly recommend if you haven’t experienced one in The Middle East before. The tour at the sand dunes takes 4 hours, so it can also be experienced without an overnight stay.
If I would have had more time in Doha, I would have definitely wanted to enjoy the historic tour to Al Shaqab and its Arabian horse stables – because, well, gotta love pretty ponies.
Free hotel night in Doha
If your stopover in Doha lasts overnight or you’ve already planned your mini vacation on purpose when booking your flights with Qatar Airways, you can add one free hotel night to your adventure with +Qatar. For guests staying the night, there are more tour options available too. And like I said, the first hotel night is truly free of charge provided to you by the airline and the tourism organisation. How fabulous! The possible second night will cost you 100 USD. The hotels are carefully chosen with their partners and are all 4-5 star. Note though that wifi or breakfast are rarely included in the free stay, but can be easily purchased upon arrival to your accommodation.
Doha is home to some incredibly luxury hotels with great service, which though I haven’t yet personally experienced.
My stopover in Doha: 4 hours with a personal driver
I did my stopover in Doha earlier this spring on my way from Helsinki to Thailand. I booked my flights so I would have the entire day in Doha, but didn’t have enough time to stay overnight. I didn’t make any bookings before-hand, but walked directly to a service desk as I arrived to Hamad International Airport.
While the 3-hour city tour was the cheapest choice, I wanted to get even more out of my time in Doha and booked myself a personal driver for the day.
Qatar Airways is known for its incredible service and I was lucky enough to have the flight attendant write down his favourite places in the city for me on a piece of paper, which I tend handed to my driver Mohamed. My driver spoke reasonable English and was happy to help me to make my day perfect. We started at The Museum of Islamic Art, which I can guarantee is worth visiting even if you aren’t big on museums in general – even the view from the terrace is already worth the visit here. Next we continued our journey to West Mound-Skyline view point, which is worth it when the day isn’t as hazy as when I was there.
Next up was a visit to Katara Cultural Village, which seems to be the pride of the locals here and thus worth exploring. As stated on the villages own website, Katara was born out of a long held vision to position the State of Qatar as a cultural beacon a lighthouse of art, radiating in the Middle East through theatre, literature, music, visual art, conventions and exhibitions. This village is a a glimpse of the future of a world where people of different cultural backgrounds overcome their national boundaries and embrace common causes to promote a united humanity.
Before heading out to my favourite place of the day, we stopped by at the artificial island of The Pearl with its fabulous luxury boutiques and trendy restaurants. I stopped for a quick coffee here but felt like it wasn’t the place to get to know the most authentic Qatar.
My last stop was The Souq Waqif, where I’d recommend having a minimum of 1,5 hours to explore and eat. The souq is best explored by getting lost in its little alleys and trying its local flavours along the way. I stopped here for breakfast at one random local restaurant and it was literally one of the most delicious meals I’ve yet enjoyed on my travels.
The private driver is perfect if you want some alone-time with yourself or your travel partner and when you just want to travel in your own terms, which I most often do. And as a photographer, I always need a little extra time to capture the places I visit while still making sure I have the time to experience what the world around me has to offer – there’s no rushing through Doha, you need to live it too.
How to book your +Qatar tour?
You can book tours for Doha directly here. But also +Qatar can be easily booked when you reserve your flights. To be eligible for a stopover tour, you need to have 5-96 hours before your next departure from Hamad International airport with Qatar Airways flights.
Must experiences during your stopover in Doha:
- The Museum of Islamic Arts
- Souq Waqif
- Katara Cultural Village
- Desert and its sand dunes
- The Pearl