If you are flying through Doha, the possibility of leaving Hamad International Airport and immersing yourself in Qatar’s captivating capital for a few hours may appeal to your sense of wanderlust. The mere thought of exploring a new destination can be invigorating, especially when faced with a lengthy layover. In this article, we will go beyond the confines of the airport to reveal the ins and outs of turning your layover in Doha into an unforgettable mini-adventure. Whether it’s a cultural detour, a culinary escapade, or simply a breath of fresh Arabian air, we’ve got you covered.
Is It Possible to Leave Doha Airport During a Layover?
Yes, you can leave the airport during stopovers in Doha. However, there are some conditions you need to meet before you can do so. You need to be a citizen of one of the 100 countries that are eligible for a transit visa on arrival. If you’re not sure about your visa eligibility, you can check in advance with your airline or the Qatari embassy in your home country.
How Much Time Do I Need to Make It Worth while to Visit Doha?
To make the most of your layover in Doha, it’s essential to consider how much time you will require to explore the city. You will need at least six hours to get through the airport, head to Doha, enjoy a visit of two to three hours in the city, and then return to the airport, go through security, and reach your gate in time for the next flight. You can decide whether this is worth the trouble.
If your stopover in Doha is eight hours or more, however, you’ll have ample time to immerse yourself in the city’s alluring charm and visit more attractions, so it’s certainly worth the hassle. If your layover is less than six hours, it’s best to remain at the airport because it won’t be worth the time spent in transit for a mere hour or two in Doha. If you have a 12 to 15 hour overnight layover in Doha, it’s worth leaving the airport to explore the city.
It’s worth noting that if you do go into Doha and have a layover of fewer than nine hours, you should check in for your next flight before leaving the airport to avoid having to stop at the check-in counter again. That way, you’ll have more time to spend exploring Doha and less stress worrying about getting to the gate in time.
What Type of Visa Is Required to Leave the Airport?
Citizens of more than 100 countries can enter Qatar visa-free and stay for up to 90 days. These countries include Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and most EU countries. If you’re from one of these countries, you don’t need to apply for a visa before arriving in Qatar. However, it’s always a good idea to check the Qatari embassy’s website or ask your airline for up-to-date visa requirements before your trip.
If you’re not from one of the eligible countries for visa-free entry, you might need to apply for a visa before traveling to Qatar. Alternatively, you can check if you’re eligible for a visa on arrival. The visa on arrival costs QAR 100 ($27 U.S.) and is valid for 30 days.
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All visitors except citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries must hold passports valid for at least three months after the date of arrival.Additionally, since February 1, 2023, health insurance (which can be purchased here for QAR 50—about $14 U.S.) is a mandatory requirement for entry unless you have qualifying international health insurance.
How to Get From Doha Airport to the City
For those seeking to explore the capital of Qatar, several modes of transportation are available from the airport. Taxis are a convenient and comfortable option, with fares ranging from QAR 50 to QAR 70 (about $14 to $19 U.S.) to reach the city center. Uber is another very convenient option. There used to be a local competitor to Uber called Careem but it got acquired by Uber and ceased operating in Qatar in March 2023.
For an even more affordable option, the Doha Metro is a newer addition to the city’s transportation system, offering access to destinations including tourist attractions such as the Museum of Islamic Art and the Souq Waqif marketplace. One-way fare is only QAR 2 (50 cents U.S.). However, keep in mind that public transportation will likely take longer than a taxi or rideshare, so it might not be the best choice if you have limited time.
What Can I Do in Doha During My Layover?
Doha has plenty of attractions and activities to keep you busy during your layover. Here are some popular things to do in the city:
Admire Islamic art. The Museum of Islamic Art is a must-visit attraction in Doha, housing a vast collection of Islamic art from around the world. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, and the museum offers stunning views of the Doha skyline.
Explore Souq Waqif. Souq Waqif is a traditional marketplace that has been restored to its former glory. Here you can wander through the narrow alleyways, browse the shops selling spices, textiles, and jewelry, and sample local cuisine at the many restaurants and cafes of Souq Waqif. Should you spend just one night layover in Doha, you definitely want to witness the vibrant liveliness of Souq Waqif.
Stroll the Corniche. While walking along the Doha Corniche (Doha Bay promenade), you can take in breathtaking views of the bay and the West Bay business district. The district boasts some of the most amazing and futuristic architecture in the city, making it a must-see for architecture enthusiasts. The waterfront promenade stretches for seven kilometers (more than four miles).
Visit Katara Cultural Village. The Katara Cultural Village showcases Qatar’s rich heritage and traditions, where you’ll find an opera house, an amphitheater, movie theatres, and even a beach. As the cultural hub of Doha, don’t be surprised if a festival or other major event is underway during your visit.
If you don’t want to venture out on your own, transit tours organized by Discover Qatar/Qatar Airways provide a hassle-free way to explore the city’s main attractions during your layover.
What Can I Do if I Don’t Have Time to Leave the Airport?
If your flights are too close together to have time to head into the city, not to worry. Hamad International Airport has an abundance of facilities to keep you occupied during your layover. Here are some of the things you can do:
Explore the airport
Hamad International Airport is not just a convenient stopover location but a destination itself, with impressive art installations, duty-free shops, and numerous restaurants. It has been consistently recognized as the “best airport in the world” and “best airport in the Middle East” for six consecutive years, a testament to the outstanding service and experiences provided to arriving passengers.
Take the time to explore the airport’s art pieces, including the popular giant teddy bear and lamp bear.
Have some food
If you’re feeling hungry, you can indulge in both local and international cuisine, as well as enjoy tea, coffee, pastries, fine dining and fast food options. If you’re into gourmet burgers, check out the Burger Federation. It presents a variety of options, including the Qatar-inspired Lamb Burger with zataar and yoghurt sauce. Qataf Café, inspired by the national Qatari flower, offers a warm, welcoming atmosphere and serves Middle Eastern delights like mezze-style platters, Moroccan tajines, and Arabic sweets and coffee. If you’re health-conscious or vegan, you’ll love Evergreen Organics, a 24-hour vegan café which serves cold-press juices and plant-based meals.
Finally, Visit Harrods Tea Room to end your food break in style and enjoy afternoon tea accompanied by finger sandwiches and plain scones, served with raspberry jam.
Take a rest
If you need to unwind during your layover, consider taking advantage of the airport’s lounges. Depending on your ticket or airline club membership, you may be entitled to complimentary lounge access. Alternatively, you can pay for lounge access or unwind in one of the airport’s quiet rooms that offer recliners and soft lighting. And, of course, there is always the option of indulging in some retail therapy at the airport’s shopping outlets.
Visit the fitness center
If you’re between two long flights, there’s no better therapy than to get your body moving to offset the effects of all that sitting—or maybe a massage to relieve your tight shoulders. The Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre within the Oryx Airport Hotel is just what you need. The facility includes a gym, swimming pool, spa, and wellness treatments.
Tour the airport
For layovers exceeding four hours, you can now take in one of three exclusive transit tours organized by Discover Qatar within the airport:
Discover the art of the airport. During this two-hour tour, you’ll be treated to a glimpse of the airport’s art installations, demonstrating that art can be appreciated beyond the walls of traditional galleries.
Discover squash at the airport. Why not engage in a game of squash while waiting for your next flight? This ’tour’ lasts two hours and includes access to the airport’s showers and all necessary equipment and sportswear.
Discover golf simulator at the airport. Enjoy a one-hour simulated game of golf. The state-of-the-art Golf Simulator at the Oryx Airport Hotel offers a high level of realism and precision, and all necessary equipment is provided.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a transit visa if I stay inside the airport in Doha?
Not in most situations. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if you have booked two separate flights with different airlines or made two separate bookings with the same airline. In such cases, you will need to collect your checked baggage, which means you must meet all the requirements for a regular visa, including health insurance.
Is a free transit visa still available for Doha Airport layover passengers?
The previously available free 96-hour transit visa, introduced in 2016, is no longer available for now.