If you need to do a 9 hour layover in Doha, this is your guide to what to do to make the most of your time there. Also, how to leave the airport on a Qatar stopover!
Having seen the overstretched Doha Hamad 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.
There must be a way to make the most of our Qatar stop over while we were there, I thought. Turns out, there is!
If you’re wondering what to do in Doha airport for 9 hours, I’d say leave it, ASAP.
9 hour stopover in Qatar
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 in Qatar, or stay the night in Qatar’s Hamad 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 (I worked at Flight Centre), but was firmly told it was up to me to sort my own hotel to stay the night in Qatar.
Check with your airline though, to see if there’s any complimentary transit accommodation before you start doing all this…
I had a look around online 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.
Dammit. There was no getting around that one, me and my boyfriend would need two rooms. Pushing it up to £68 and doubling the price of our Doha 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.
Read more: The BEST HOTELS IN DOHA FOR YOU
Can you leave Doha Airport during a layover?
Leaving Doha Airport in 3 easy mistakes
I might be a travel blogger, but at that time I was 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 in about 30 minutes early, but if you’re planning on leaving the airport in Qatar, here’s what to do for a quick escape to make the most of your 9 hour layover in Doha.
1. Get off at the first terminal, arrivals
If you’re leaving Doha Airport during a layover, you need to listen!
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 in Doha join the passport and immigration control queue.
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
Doha Airport to Hotel
We cleared the last security checks easily and went outside to pick up a taxi for our layover in Doha.
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.
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.
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.
Me in my room and my boyfriend in his.
Is your budget higher? Here are the best hotels near Doha Airport for you!
Book this special Qatar layover sightseeing trip!
“When travelling through Qatar, there’s no need to wish your time away at the airport. If your transit at Hamad International Airport is 8 hours or more, you can turn your stop into an extended holiday. We make this as simple as possible for you by taking care of all of your transit arrangements and ensuring you are back in good time for your onward flight. You can then make the most of your transit time by taking a break from your travels to discover Qatar, and explore its unique Arabic heritage, before connecting to your final destination.” – Transit Exclusive – Discover Doha / GetYourGuide
AMAZING! This is what we needed!
If you’d rather have a private tour on your Doha layover, read on for more special Qatar layover tours.
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, my boyfriend’s phone didn’t work, and the Wi-Fi there was next to useless.
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 coped!
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.
With the time we had we could only get a quick look at all the great things to do in Doha, the taxi tour ended up being a great idea. Or, you could book one of the special layover tours from and to the airport. They didn’t have them when I travelled through but they seem to be the answer to all the airport anxieties and worries about leaving the airport in Doha.
Doha: Desert and Inland Sea Beach Layover Tour
- Leave the airport and explore the Qatari desert with an experienced guide.
- Experience one of only three places in the World where desert meet the ocean.
- Private Dune bashing drive with a professional 4WD driver.
Doha Layover: 4 Hours Private Tour
- Explore Doha city With Experience Guide
- Discover Multipole Site Of Doha in 4 Hours
- Get Picked Up and explore the city and drop-off back to your destination
- Spend your quality time during layover to visiting Doha City
- Visit Main Sights: Souq Waqif, Doha Corniche, Katara Cultural Village, The Pearl
From Doha Airport: Private City Tour for Transit Passengers
- Drive along the fabulous Doha Corniche and West Bay area.
- Discover the extraordinary Pearl Island.
- Visit the Souq Waqif local market.
- Explore the Katara cultural village.
Make sure you get your travel insurance sorted before you go on a solo road trip. HeyMondo offer 24/7 worldwide assistance with travel cancellation and interruption cover. They also have tailor made policies and cover medical expenses up to $10 million. Click here and you’ll get 5% off your travel insurance with HeyMondo.com too. Check out their App for more details.
The cost of our stopover in Qatar
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 each: (£76.50)
If you can spare £76.50 I’d definitely recommend getting out of the airport in Doha. I’d much rather spend my layover in Qatar in Doha, rather than in Doha Airport.
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 people trying to sleep on the floor to know that we’d done the right thing.
Q&A on a Doha Airport layover
Can you leave Doha Airport during a layover?
Yes, you can. If I was to do it again it’d probably seem pretty easy, but as this was my first stopover, ever, we wasted a lot of time. Please read the guide above to learn from my mistakes!
What can I do in Doha airport for 9 hours?
First recommendation would be to leave, like we did.
Otherwise there are a few shops, and a lot of people trying to sleep on the floor. That’s your second option.
Here’s a round up of the best things to do in Doha Airport, if you don’t want to leave.
- Visit the airport lounges: Qatar Airways’ Al Mourjan Business Lounge and Oryx Lounge offer comfortable seating, showers, dining, and Wi-Fi.
- Explore the airport art: Hamad Airport is known for its impressive art collection, including sculptures, paintings, and installations. Take a self-guided tour to appreciate the artwork throughout the terminal.
- Eat: The airport offers a variety of dining options, from international fast food to upscale restaurants. Try some Middle Eastern cuisine or enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes.
- Shopping: Explore the duty-free shops and boutiques for luxury goods, electronics, clothing, and Qatari souvenirs on your Doha layover. The airport is known for its high-end shopping.
- Qatar Airways tours: Qatar Airways offers city tours for passengers with extended layovers. Explore Doha’s key attractions like the Souq Waqif, Museum of Islamic Art, and the Corniche. See the tours listed above!
- Relax and refresh: Use the airport’s quiet zones, relaxation rooms, and spa facilities to unwind. You can even take a shower to freshen up.
- Exercise: Stay active at the airport gym or take a swim in the Oryx Airport Hotel’s pool.
- Connectivity: Stay connected with free Wi-Fi throughout the airport. You can catch up on work, stream entertainment, or connect with friends and family.
- Prayer rooms: If you need a place for prayer or meditation, the airport provides well-equipped prayer rooms.
- Kids’ play area: If you’re traveling with children, let them burn off energy at the airport’s play areas.
What can you do in 9 hours in Doha?
The fact that we were there overnight, from around 11pm to 7am, did kinda of limit what we could do in Doha for 9 hours. We managed a shower, a sleep and a quick tour, which was just fine.
If your 9 hours in Doha is more daytime, then see how many of these fun Doha activities you can fit in.
PIN 9 hour layover in Doha for LATER