I once spent just over 12 hours in transit at Doha Airport, Qatar on the way to the Maldives and it wasn’t nearly as painful as I expected. Doha’s Hamad International Airport opened in 2014 but is so slick and shiny it feels as if it just opened last week.
While not the cheapest airport to spend a long layover (the showers in particular are more pricey than average and there are not nearly as many free things to do as there are at Singapore’s Changi Airport) it can be a fun place to transit if you head to the pool or nab yourself a place on a Doha city tour.
Plus, if you fly with Qatar Airways you may be able to turn your transit into a short holiday with one of their amazing Qatar Stopover deals.
So, for anyone about to transit through Doha Airport or book a short stopover in Qatar, here’s my lowdown on the best things to do at Hamad International Airport, and beyond.
Disclosure: This post is not sponsored but contains some affiliate links. Read the disclosure policy for details. All prices and info correct when updated in February 2020.
What to do at Doha Airport
Connect to the free Wi-Fi
After working there for 7 hours straight I can confirm that the Wi-Fi at Hamad International Airport is free, fast and unlimited. Simply connect to ‘HIAQatar Complimentary WiFi’. I was asked to pop in my Qatar e-ticket number to log on – you’ll find this on the boarding pass if you don’t have your booking handy. There are also iMac computers near the gates if you didn’t bring your laptop.
Take a shower
My top tip for surviving a transit is to head to the nearest showers – it works wonders for your mental health on a long-haul flight, aside from the hygiene benefits! If you don’t have access to a lounge with free showers, you can pay to use the Doha Airport shower facilities at the Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre or the Be Relax Spa.
Use of the shower room at the Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre costs 90 QAR (approx. £20 GBP or $25 USD), which is fairly expensive for airport showers, but they are sparkling new facilities with lockers, towels, Rituals Spa toiletries and use of hair dryers included. You have max 40 mins to use the facilities and they hold your boarding pass at the front desk until you leave.
For a cheaper option you can shower at either of the Be Relax Spas (found on Concourse A and Concourse D/E) where a 10 minute shower costs 70 QAR or the price is 95 QAR for 25 mins. That price includes towel, shower gel and shampoo, plus an extra vanity or shaving kit if you go for the longer option. You can also book a number of express beauty treatments and massages – find the full price list here.
(Note: They accept credit cards throughout the airport so there’s no need to take out local currency if you’re just in transit.)
Visit the swimming pool
If you’ve got enough time you can shake off those airplane aches with a few laps in the swimming pool at Doha Airport. The Vitality pool was temptingly empty on my visit, but sadly I hadn’t come prepared with a swimming costume.
Use of the 25-metre indoor swimming pool costs 175 QAR (approximately £38 GBP or $73 AUD) but that price includes use of all Vitality Wellbeing and Fitness Centre facilities, so you can also have a dip in the hot tub, use the gym and freshen up in the showers mentioned above.
Sleep at The Airport Hotel
Depending on how long you’ve got to kill it might be worthwhile checking into The Oryx Airport Hotel, which has chic airside rooms and grants guests free access to the gym, pool and jacuzzi at the Vitality Wellness Centre.
As the hotel is airside you do not need to go through passport control but must have a valid onward ticket from Doha Airport to check in as this hotel is for transit passengers only.
Remember, you won’t have access to your checked luggage, so pack a change of clothes in your hand luggage if you plan to stay over.
You can book a room for day use (9am to 5pm) or by hourly packages starting from 8 hours. When I checked availability online, overnight stays in March 2020 started from 1050 QAR (approximately £225 or $440 AUD) if booked directly. I found deals from £200 a night on booking.com though.
Head to a designated family or quiet area
There are a number of interesting sculptures dotted around the airport, some of which children can climb on and one of which (I’m talking about you teddy) everyone seemed keen to get a selfie with.
There are also quiet lounges for those looking to get some shut eye and family lounges for those travelling with kids. I found a quiet spot in the eating area near Burger King that had a power socket under the table so spent a lot of time here.
Drink decent coffee
The coffee at Soho Coffee gets my rarely handed out seal of approval.
Food-wise you can get a number of sandwiches, snacks, curry and burgers in the food court. Soprafino by celebrity chef Massimo Capra does delicious pizza at a decent price. Find all dining options at Hamad International Airport here.
Shop for gold
My only criticism of Doha’s Hamad Airport is that the shopping doesn’t really appeal to me. There’s lots of designer labels but little in the way of affordable fashion. (Where’s a Zara when you need one?). Aside from your usual duty free items the only thing you can buy in abundance here is gold!
Join a Doha City Tour from 75 QAR
If you have a transit time of more than 6 hours you can book a Discover Qatar City Tour from 75 QAR. The guided tour is designed to be an introduction to Doha and includes stops at city highlights such as The Pearl-Qatar, Katara Cultural Village, Souq Waqif and the Museum of Islamic Art.
(Note: The free Doha city tours for transit passengers have been replaced with this option.)
Tours are bookable in advance online up to 48 hours prior to arrival. You can also book a tour upon arrival by heading to the Discover Qatar Transit Tour Desk. Full terms, details and booking forms can be found here.
Nationals from a total of 80 countries can now take advantage of visa free entry into Qatar so there’s no need to worry about applying for a tourist or transit visa if you are from one of these countries.
Want to explore independently? Find some tips for a Doha, Qatar stopover by Calculated Traveller.
Book a Doha Stopover
If you’re flying with Qatar Airways and have a minimum transit time of 12 hours you might want to take advantage of one of their Qatar Stopover deals. Through their website you can book a 4 or 5 star hotel from just 23 USD or 84 QAR per night.
You’ll also receive a free transit visa (if necessary) and can add on a number of different tours and activities.
Qatar Airways make it really tempting to turn your Doha stopover into a luxury holiday. Find information and book your flight and hotel here.
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