A random mini adventure in the richest country in the world? Don't mind if I do.
Booking with (price dipping) bestjet.com and having my ticket unconfirmed and refunded at the last minute, meant that I was then had to pay $300 AUD extra and reroute via Qatar on my way to England. At first I thought the occurrence would be a nuisance, however, turned into being a great option. Before arriving at Melbourne airport, I researched online and discovered Qatar Airways offer a free city tour of Doha if your layover at Hamad International Airport is between 5 and 12 hours long. A random mini adventure in the richest country in the world? Don't mind if I do. On departure from Melbourne, the woman at the Qatar Airways check-in counter scared me by saying I would be ineligible because my flight was less than a 7-hour layover; what, what, what? I would have to trust my research and still try to make it. I would have to wait and see.
My plane landed in Doha at 6:30am and due to scheduling, meant I only had 15 minutes to find the tour desk before the check in closed. I was a moving swiftly as Hamad International Airport seemed large and was new to me, however, following the natural flow of people until I located the duty-free shopping area, the desk wasn't too hard to find (outside of WH Smith). I showed my passport to the tour desk operator, he wrote some information down, handed my passport back along with a Doha City Tours passenger info/ID card (which is returned to officials once arriving back at the airport after the tour). I was told to meet him back at the desk at 7 am in order to go through immigration to begin the tour by 8 am.
Meeting back at the desk at 7 am the group were led by the tour desk operator through immigration via express lanes and to meet our tour guide, Mark, who then led us to the bus. Mark was full of knowledge about Qatar and filled the bus trip with many interesting facts as we made our way into the city. We got stuck in quite a bit of traffic, the drawback of being on the rush hour tour, and we didn't get to stop off at the Museum of Islamic Art as a consequence. The first stop on our tour was Dhow Harbor for a spectacular (postcard) view of Qatar from across the harbor, from there we continued down Al Corniche Street, past some incredible architecture and into the heart of Doha. Next stop on the tour was Katara Cultural Village, Qatar's multi-cultural hub with beautiful theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries and cutting-edge facilities, where we spent time walking around the grounds as well as visiting the amphitheatre. Third and final stop on the tour was a visit to Souq Waqif, popular with tourists and locals alike and known for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. We were given half an hour of free time to walk around, do some shopping, eat brunch etc. I spent the time walking around, taking as many photos as possible and looking for a magnet (my travel souvenir weakness).
I was in awe of the town, Doha is an incredibly beautiful city and thanks to this tour, is now on my list of places to visit in the near future. It is incredible to think that 15 years ago the city as you see it today, didn't exist at all in the current design. The Doha free city tour offered by Qatar Airways is a brilliant marketing scheme and adds excitement to your long layover at Hamad International Airport. If time permits, I definitely recommended going on this tour to anybody looking at a long layover at . It leaves you wondering why these free city explorer tours aren't the norm in every airport you travel through.
Qatar Airways DOHA TOUR info
5 - 12 hour transit.
2 hrs and 45 minutes approx.
Zero, zilch, zip, null, nada, nought, cero... Free.
Register on arrival at the Doha City Tour desk (labelled as “City Tours”) located outside of WH Smith. You must be flying with Qatar Airways to qualify → Select here to book with Qatar Airways.
Museum of Islamic Art, Katara Cultural Centre, the Pearl-Qatar, and Souq Waqif.
Timetable & info
Four tours daily. Tours start at 8 am, 11 am, 4 pm and 8 pm.