When booking our flights to Bali earlier this year, we noticed that flights with our favourite airway, Qatar, were £100 cheaper per person if we did a long stopover on the way out. We decided that having the money to spend whilst we were on holiday was more important to us than having a better flight time and so went ahead with a booking that included an 11 HOUR stop over.
As the flight crept closer, I realised that 11 hours is a LONG time and started to panic a little about how bored I’d be doing 18 hours of flying plus 11 extra hours of sitting around stuck in an airport in-between. So I turned to google to look for ways in which we could leave the airport on our stopover without too much fuss.
I came across a section on the Qatar website about the ‘Doha City Tour‘ for Qatar Airways customers and was pretty intrigued. However, when I tried to research if it was worth doing, I found little to no information or reviews about it online. I decided to go ahead and book it anyway, as surely nothing can be more dull than sitting in an airport for 11 hours, and I was so happy I did!
The tour costs the equivalent of about £8p/p and you can pre-book online as we did, or you can go to the Qatar desk at Doha airport and book onto it that way. The only condition is that your layover has to be 5 hours + to make sure you don’t miss your onward flight.
You get taken through a fast track security as a group when leaving the airport which ran very smoothly and then are led onto a comfortable, air-conditioned coach with a guide who stands at the front telling you interesting facts about Doha and Qatar throughout.
The first stop of the day is Katara, a cultural village on the eastern coast which has some beautiful architecture and gorgeous views.
In the same area, you also get to see The Pearl, an artificial island spanning nearly four million square meters which is very fancy and very typical of Doha and the progressive Middle East in general.
Finally, you visit Souq Waqif – the absolute highlight for me.
This traditional souq is where you really feel like you’ve stepped into the Middle East you dream about.
It’s notable for it’s shisha lounges, and the sale of traditional garments and spices, although that’s not all that was for sale…
I found the souq an incredible place, so rich in colour and full of life. Even if you come for this part alone, it’s well worth the small amount of money the tour costs.
A few key things to note:
- You don’t get to stay very long at any of these places but this doesn’t really matter and I felt like we had enough time to get a good feel for each area regardless.
- There is a strict dress code in Qatar and both men and women should have their legs and shoulders covered. Although not everyone on the tour adhered to this rule, we personally thought it was important to do out of respect for the culture.
- You don’t need to take any currency for Qatar out with you, but if you do want to buy anything at the souq then think of this before leaving the airport!
- Although it doesn’t look hot in these photos at all as the sun was sadly nowhere to be seen, even on this overcast day it was around 35 degrees so bare that in mind.
All in all, I had an amazing experience and learnt so much about Qatar. I was astounded by how technologically advanced it is (as in, one of the most advanced places in the whole world levels). I was also in awe of the juxtaposition of old and new and how modern, expensive and luxurious it feels – you can really tell that it’s an affluent and influential nation, something that I wasn’t expecting before coming.
I would 100% recommend saving yourself £100 and experiencing something exciting and different like this if you’re in a similar position. It’s the perfect way to get a unique snapshot of a new continent for the first time for a very small price!