9 Hour Stopover in Qatar: Is It Worth Exploring?

Having seen the overstretched Doha International Airport for 2 hours on the way to Vietnam I knew I didn’t want to spend 9 hours there on the way back. We couldn’t even get anywhere to sit for an hour, never mind lay down.

I’d been debating for a few weeks before we left for our two-week trip to Vietnam whether to fork out for a hotel or stay the night in Qatar airport. Other Qatar Airways passengers can get a hotel voucher when they have a stopover as long as ours, but apparently our super cheap flight meant there was no budget for this. I tried to pull some strings at work, but was firmly told it was up to me to sort my own hotel.

Should you leave Doha airport?

I had a look around and found a relatively cheap hotel near the airport called La Villa, where double rooms were going for around £34. It was right in the centre and close to the seaside Corniche boulevard. I decided to just go for it and get it sorted on booking.com – I was bored of weighing up the pros and cons. Click, click, yep, done, then I received an email thanking me for my booking.

Please be advised that couples checking in to the same room must present a marriage certificate upon check-in as per Qatari law.

Damnit. There was no getting around that one, me and my boyfriend would need two rooms. Pushing it up to £68 and doubling the price.

Leaving Doha airport stopover

Cancel that then, and I booked two singles knowing that there was a free cancellation option upto 48 hours before check in. Although in moments of boredom I carried on the debate in my head as to whether I’d done the right thing, right up until we were actually there.

Leaving Doha Airport in 3 easy mistakes

I might be a travel blogger, but I’m inexperienced in layovers and changing planes. We only had 9 hours in Qatar and we wasted over an hour because we had no idea what we were doing, and just kept going wrong. Lucky for us our flight did actually get n about 30 minutes early, but if you’re planning on leaving the airport here’s what to do for a quick escape.

9 hours in Doha Airport

1. Get off at the first terminal,  arrivals

The announcement on the airport bus told us that if we have yellow tickets we must go to Departures. This may sound obvious to some, even me now, but we followed that instruction and carried on to Departures, rather than Arrivals. And so we couldn’t get out the airport once we’d arrived in the terminal.

We had to sit and wait with the other dumbasses for a bus to take us back to Arrivals.

Time wasted: 40 minutes

2. Know if you have a hotel voucher 

If you have a hotel voucher given to you by the airline go to the hotel voucher desk just as you get in the Arrivals doors. If you have booked your own hotel join the passport and immigration control queue.

Doha for 9 hours

We joined the hotel voucher queue, as there was something vague like ‘hotels’ written across the desk. We waited for ages and then were told to join the passport queue as they were getting ferried directly to their hotels supplied by their airlines.

Time wasted: 20 minutes 

3. Have the visa cash ready 

If your passport was issued in one of these 34 countries you can get a visa on arrival for 100 Qatari Rial (about £17). If you don’t have the correct currency make sure to check the people in front of you are paying with card and clearing the desk ok. I sailed on through, but my boyfriend ended up being directed to the only desk where the card machine was broken. This meant he had to walk across the airport to the ATM, queue there to get some cash out, then queue to get some special prepaid card, then join the queue of people who’d suffered the same fate. Apparently he couldn’t just go to another desk because they’d already started his entry process. He also had to pay more as he had to buy the prepaid card.

Time wasted: 25 minutes

9 hours in doha

Doha Airport to Hotel

We cleared the last security checks easily and went outside to pick up a taxi. The second we stepped outside the heat hit us and both of us immediately fogged up, thanks to our glasses. Men in white  jalabiyas were offering us taxi rides and asking where we wanted to go, but neither of us could see a thing. Little bit nerve-wracking, but through the fog I could see ‘Karwa’ written on the taxis over yonder, and the magazine I’d read on the flight said to use those, so off we went.

9 hours in qatar

We paid 50 Rial (£8.50) for the 5-minute journey to La Villa Hotel. On the way we saw huge skyscrapers, beautiful mosques and the uniquely designed national museum. I could also see big flash cars, huge new roads and looming bank buildings. There weren’t many people about though, especially compared to Ho Chi Minh City where we’d just come from. There wasn’t a soul in sight.


MONEY OFF BOOKING.COM


The hotel was fine. Nothing fancy, but we each had a nice big bed and a big TV, which I was too tired to even turn on. By the time we got there it was 11:30pm – we decided to just go to bed and get up early to do a taxi tour instead – by midnight and after a quick look out my window I was asleep.

Taxi tour of Doha

We booked a taxi at the front desk for 5:30am and told the man we wanted to see The Pearl. I slept lightly, although slightly paranoid about waking up in time seeing as you couldn’t phone each other’s room, Waiel’s phone didn’t work and the Wi-Fi was next to useless.

9 hours in Qatar

After a quick shower I was in the lobby for 5:25am and the taxi was there right on time.

We soon realised there had been a misunderstanding on ‘The Pearl’. I’d wanted to see the flats and man made island, which was apparently 30 minutes drive away. We only had 30 minutes till we had to be at the airport.

Our taxi driver took us to The Pearl monument via the ATM. Thanks to Doha’s one-way system we got to see The Corniche, and get close to the skyscraper filled skyline. We saw a palace and the football stadium in the distance, getting ready for the World Cup 2022. The sunrise was incredible – one of the brightest and harshest I’ve ever seen. Getting out the car was like hitting a wall of heat though, it was sweat inducing to just cross the road, and it was still early. Not sure how all those footie fans will cope with it in a few years time.

Our friendly taxi driver dropped us at the airport for 6am and we sailed through with our hand luggage – the checked in baggage was all taken care of. One coffee later and we were at our boarding gate, mission ‘9 hours in Qatar’ accomplished.

The cost of our stopover in Qatar

Qatar airport escape

Stopover time: 22:25 to 7:55

  • Visa: 100 (£17)
  • Hotel: 200 (£34)
  • Taxi to hotel: 50 (£8.50)
  • Morning sightseeing taxi for 30 mins: 100 (£17)

Cost of seeing Qatar: (£76.50)

If you can spare £76.50 I’d definitely recommend getting out of the airport in Doha. The taxi ride, getting a tiny glimpse at a new country and not feeling crappy at the airport thanks to no sleep made it totally worth it. If we needed any more reassurance we only needed to look at these guys trying to sleep on the floor to know that we’d done the right thing.


*BOOK YOUR TRIP NOW TO SAVE TIME LATER*


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'Sleeping' on the Overnight Trains in Vietnam
Visiting The Egg Mud Baths in Nha Trang
tagged in airports, qatar

36 Comments

  1. by Hogga on September 24, 2013  3:43 pm Reply

    from the pictures alone, i would say yes

    • by Vicky on September 24, 2013  6:24 pm Reply

      Ah thanks, pretty cool hey?!

  2. by Adrienne on September 24, 2013  5:41 pm Reply

    I had the same debate about Singapore and decided to save cash and stopover in the airport - that was a big mistake - I think I managed a total of about 30 minutes sleep on a hard wooden bench, so I would definitely plump for getting out of the airport in the future!

    • by Vicky on September 24, 2013  6:24 pm Reply

      Yeah it's a difficult choice when you know it will mount up, but sometimes you've just got to splash out and see it as an opportunity to see somewhere new. It's not like I'd ever go to Qatar on holiday so I just wanted to check it out.

  3. by Nicole on September 29, 2013  11:07 pm Reply

    And you didn't have any more time than that. I dislike long layovers because it means I don't have enough time to see everything at the place I'm stopped at.

  4. by Adam Evans on November 12, 2013  4:48 pm Reply

    I had a similar opportunity in Bahrain but ended up just staying in the airport due to not really having a plan to make the most of the layover...
    Some good advice on leaving airports quickly. I shall bear it in mind next time.

    • by Vicky on November 12, 2013  10:46 pm Reply

      Happy to be of service Adam. It was quite stressful, in a way, but I'm someone who'd rather be stressed than bored, so I was alright!

  5. by Gerard ~ GQ trippin on January 24, 2014  7:32 am Reply

    My fiance & I may have a 7.5 hour layover in Qatar, but it will land 6pm in the evening. Still think it's worth leaving the airport to see the city at night?

    • by Vicky on January 25, 2014  2:42 pm Reply

      Hmmm, to be honest there's not much to see. 9 hours was tight, but I guess we did sleep and you wouldn't have to. The city isn't lit up particularly, or wasn't where I was. It was just banks. I'm going to say no. I wouldn't bother again.

  6. by AB on March 2, 2014  11:06 am Reply

    Hey there,

    so i'm wondering if you think it is worth getting out of the airport for my stopover at Doha, arriving 10:50 pm-departing 8:30 am (about 10 hours)? I am also a single, female traveler. I would like to maybe drive by a couple sites but more importantly don't want to struggle for a place to sleep that night. Any suggestions you may have is greatly appreciated!

    • by Vicky on March 2, 2014  5:24 pm Reply

      Hello, all the info I have is in the article above really. It was an expensive few hours, but in my eyes worth it to see what Qatar was about, and to have a quick look around.

  7. by kristin on June 22, 2014  4:58 pm Reply

    what about a stop over of 24 hours?
    we'll 22 hours till 23 next day..

    • by Vicky on June 23, 2014  8:29 am Reply

      Oh yeah, definitely then! I'd hate to stay in the airport for that long...

  8. by Saiful Bari on September 4, 2014  9:20 am Reply

    Hi Vicky,
    I have 10 hrs layover at Doha in December. I really don't know what to do lol. Seems so long specially the last time i traveled was about 10 years ago. Any suggestion?

  9. by Roma on February 5, 2015  11:32 am Reply

    Great post Vic, I'm looking at 24 hours in Doha and thinking to myself, surely one of the bloggers has done this before. Hazzah! Vicky has!

    Cheers mate, you saved me some work!

    • by Vicky on February 6, 2015  7:13 am Reply

      Ha, no worries! 24 hours? I'd definitely recommend getting out and exploring – get yourself a private driver, go on, you deserve it.

  10. by Shiraz on July 25, 2016  3:44 pm Reply

    i'm going this October. we have a 15 hour layover... should be enough time to see the city.

    • by Vicky on July 26, 2016  7:16 am Reply

      Hope you enjoy it! Sounds like a good amount of time.

  11. by neal on October 22, 2016  11:13 pm Reply

    Hi Vicky,
    I will have a layover in Qatar. Will arrive there at 5:30pm and my outbound flight is 9 hours later at 3AM.
    I ready that Qatar airlines offers a complimentary 3 hour tour. I read the tour starts at 8pm.
    Do you know anything about this and is it worth doing?
    Because it is complimentary it is on a first come/first serve basis. Only 22 people can get the tour.
    I am a family of 4.
    I am afraid if I miss it, I will be stuck at the airport for 9 hours.
    Any suggestions?

    • by Vicky on November 2, 2016  4:56 pm Reply

      Hi Neal,

      I’m afraid I don’t know anything about this tour. Is there no way to book onto it? I’d recommend that you try and get on the tour, but if you don’t, you can arrange your own travel. There are many taxis outside that can take you to your destination, or even just for a tour. As you can see that’s what my friend and I did last time. It was all very easy.

      That way you’re covered if either event happens.

      Let me know what you decide, I’d be interested to know.

      Thanks,

      Vicky

    • by Ryan on November 5, 2016  4:08 pm Reply

      I have the same flight on the 12th of November. Did you find out anymore information or do the tour? I'm sure you would be unlucky to miss out on a spot.

    • by Lisa on December 28, 2016  7:36 pm Reply

      Did your plans include flying from Qatar to Denpasar by chance? I have the same flight and wanted to see what you ended up doing at the airport during the 9+ hour layover?? Thanks so much!

      • by Vicky on December 28, 2016  8:02 pm Reply

        Hi, no it was Qatar to Ho Chi Minh City. Everything I did is in the post above :)

  12. by Andy on December 7, 2016  9:20 pm Reply

    18 hour layover, but we arrive at 01:30am so I guess it's a two night stay to ensure early check in and late check out? Has anyone else had this type of stop and can advise?

    • by Vicky on December 8, 2016  3:38 am Reply

      Hey Andy, can anyone help him?

  13. by Hillary on January 15, 2017  3:26 pm Reply

    I will have a layover in Doha arriving at 23:50 and leaving 07:10, would it make sense to leave the airport by taxi to do my own mini tour through the city?

    • by Vicky on January 31, 2017  1:09 pm Reply

      If it's overnight I'd get a taxi. I'm not sure how much you'd be able to see during those hours?

  14. by guineveruca on January 2, 2018  3:04 am Reply

    Thank you for this post! I am flying Hanoi-New York with an 18-hour layover in Doha, on a similar super-cheap ticket, so probably not eligible for the hotel voucher (which I only just learnt about; yes, I've been traveling for an entire year and still make mistakes). This is SO helpful.

    • by VickyFlipFlop on January 2, 2018  9:50 am Reply

      Great! Happy to help. I hope you enjoy Doha, 18 hours is definitely a good amount of time to explore :).

  15. by Eppie on January 11, 2018  5:29 pm Reply

    Hi,

    Because i wanted to buy cheaper tickets for my family (cheaper by usd 480 for 2 adults and 2 kids), i bought us the long 9,5 hours layover instead of 2,5 hours layover.
    We will reach Doha 15 23:30 then connect out flight at 09:00 the next day.
    The airport hotel rate is super expensive. I would like to have some sleep but the hotels rate are so expensive that wud end up the same if i have bought the more expensive tickets. What wud u recommend me if you were in my situation?

    • by VickyFlipFlop on January 12, 2018  8:58 am Reply

      Hello Eppie, how about the Villa Hotel I recommend above? It's difficult because of the timings of your flight but if you get up super early you'd be able to have a taxi ride round Qatar like I did. That would make the extra money worth it?

  16. by Mar on January 27, 2019  5:34 pm Reply

    In my trip to Namibia I had the chance to stopover in Doha for almost one day and we really enjoyed! It is worth it!

    • by VickyFlipFlop on January 28, 2019  2:46 pm Reply

      Yeah I totally think it's worth it for the day. I wouldn't really want any longer, but fun to be able to check it out for a few hours. Definitely recommend getting a private taxi driver to show you round.

  17. by Sofia on March 7, 2019  10:07 am Reply

    Very nice article, I loved reading about your experience :)

    • by VickyFlipFlop on March 8, 2019  11:37 am Reply

      Oh thanks! Hope it helps with your trip planning :).

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