Notes from the Road: Layover in Doha

When we booked our flight from Copenhagen to Singapore, we found an option with a long layover that would allow us to explore another city along the way. Score! We were especially drawn to this option because of the layover in Doha, Qatar, a place that wasn’t previously on our radar. The best part was that our airline offered a city tour for a little over $20 each that included transportation to and from the airport, so we didn’t really have to worry about making it back in time for our flight; that was all part of the deal.

You can book the Doha City Tour with Qatar Airways at the airport, but we booked ahead of time. We landed in Doha around 3:30 p.m., leaving us plenty of time to grab something to eat before our tour at 6. Before heading to the food court, we located the tour desk—in front of gate A3—so we’d know where to go when the time came. We then took our time eating and returned to the desk at 5:30 p.m.

Here’s something the confirmation email doesn’t tell you: you have to be at the desk an hour before your tour to account for going through immigration. I eventually found that note buried on the website, but I had to search for it. We were so frustrated because we had been at the airport/by the desk more than TWO hours before our tour time! Luckily, because we had such a long layover (about 10 hours), they were able to transfer our reservation to the 9:30 p.m. tour. So…we killed time in the airport, stayed close to the tour desk and made sure we were ready to go an hour before 9:30. (Why they don’t just call it the 8:30 tour is beyond me.)

Beginning the tour

Going through immigration was super easy because the airline gave us all forms with our information pre-filled and, since we were only leaving the airport for a few hours, we didn’t have to get a visa. Once everyone was through, we boarded a nice air-conditioned bus (thank goodness—it was still 100 degrees outside) and headed into the city.

Cookies on the tour bus
We got cookies on the tour bus.

The downside to taking our tour at night was that our pictures didn’t turn out very well. The upside was that Doha has some pretty cool light features. For example, the highway leading to the city from the airport is lined with light poles that change colors and are covered with the national anthem in Arabic. Seeing the skyline all lit up was also a highlight. 

Four stops around Doha

Our first stop on the tour was Souq Waqif, a market that was surprisingly lively for a Thursday night. On the bus, we learned that the business week in Doha is Sunday through Thursday, so it was basically what we would equate to a Friday night. Lots of people were out eating, shopping, and sharing hookahs with friends. We had about 20 minutes to walk around. Riki and I shared a chocolate Turkish ice cream, which was extra creamy and rich and perfect in the heat. The vendor also put on a hilarious show, flipping the cone out of my hand multiple times. We didn’t get it on video, but it was similar to this.

The other three stops were mainly photo opportunities, and we didn’t get to see everything because it was so late. We stopped at Dhow Harbour, where we got an awesome view of the skyline; The Pearl, which was basically an island with luxury shops and canals like Venice; and Katara Cultural Village, which hosts exhibitions and festivals. Along the way, our guide told us about local culture and customs. Overall, the tour was a great way to get an overview of the city and country, and we felt like we learned a lot, especially for only being out in Doha for three hours.

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