How about getting a BONUS TRIP in between long haul flights?
While searching flights for my husband, I’m intrigued to find an extra short trip like we had at Doha, Qatar in 2016. We deliberately chose a flight with a long layover (18 hours) at Hamad International Airport. Altough we didn’t spend our time as planned but we’re happy with our decision ^o^
Right after i booked the flight, I contacted Qatar Airways to ask for Free Stayover but we are not eligible to get that offer because there were other flights without a long stopover to choose. However, they could arrange a transit service for us with an extra fee because you need to book a hotel include airport transport from them.
We read about free Transit Visa to stay max 4 days in Doha. On Desember 2016 there was still limited information that I could find on the internet relate Visa Transit review, nor official statements. This program is a new initiative from Qatar governance to boost their tourism.
Updated 2018: Nationals of the eligible countries do not require any prior visa arrangements and can obtain a visa waiver upon arrival to Qatar, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.
Indonesian could spend up to 30 days in Qatar, during single or multiple trips. Check here for other nationals.
We booked a hotel for one night, unfortunately, we end up slept in the airport since Transit Visa could not be issued on arrival back then. Alhamdulillah, the place is one of the best Airport to sleep over, their “Quite Room” have long chairs and they have seperate Male, Female, or Family Room.
It was 1 am and desperately need to sleep, but Najwa seems more interested to explore the room, so for safety reason, I tried to keep my eyes open. Well, yeah, several times I’m just gone blank….. it’s unbearable. By 4 am finally I could have a proper sleep when Najwa with her Dad. Just a short one, because we need to register for Free City Tour by Qatar Airlines.
3 Hours City Tour
We’re eligible to got FREE City Tour service because we still have more than 8 hours transit time when we registered, and we’re Qatar Airlines passengers. Finding the City Tour desk would be tricky, the keywords are Concourse B, between the Mont Blanc and WH Smith Shop. Note that there are several WH Smith Shops at the airport so look for the Mont Blanc’s first.
We start to queueing since 7 am because they limit the participants per trip, and there just six tours per day. At that time we already in the line from two hours before the tour starts, also we need to show our passports and flight tickets. They will organize the transit visa so we could pass thru the immigration desk together with the group.
Updated : From Qatar Airways’s website said this tour is bookable online until 48 hours prior to arrival via this link. But i notice they charge from QAR 40 per passenger.
Our city tour started at 10am. We rode on a bus with a tour guide, and they give us a bottle of mineral water. We briefly visited The Pearl of Qatar (sightseeing), Katar Cultural Village, and Souq Wakif. We’re supposed to visit Museum of Islamic Art but we were stopped by the police when they clear the road for their mayor, so we went directly to the last destination, Souq Wakif. At the market, we had a longer time (40 minutes) to explore, buy foods, souvenirs, etc. Unfortunately, we were busy to get data connection to contact my friend there, which we end up met them at the airport.
So how’s the tour? Because it was a really brief tour we could only take some photos without getting much explanation on the spot. Still, it was a fun bonus experience 🙂
Don’t forget to tip the tour guide. Almost at the end of the tour, our tour guide said that “Tipping the tour guide is legal and allowed in this tour,” clearly asked for tip which we will give him anyway eventough if he didn’t make that kind of announcement hehehe.
While on the tour, one of the passanger asked him if he is a local in Qatar? probably in Bahasa, he answered “Menurut ngana? Kalo gue orang asli Qatar masa iya kerja di Bus kaya gini?” I’m not really sure what he meant, but I could sense a light bitterness in his tone. Finally after met and chat with my friend that lives in Qatar I could understand why.
Experience at The Airport
Hamad International Airport is one of the best 5-star Airport in the world. We could enjoy our long layover without even going out of the Airport, and yes with a toddler. The first thing we look at were playgrounds, and we found at least three playgrounds with a different theme one with another.
Aside from their playground, we’re looking around to find food and beverage options that fit with our last QAR (local currency). We enjoyed free (and fast) wi-fi too, for more internet surfer experience we could use some iMac Computers near the gate, but we prefer stay around the playground and found a power socket there.
Playground + free wifi + power socket = happy family at airport hehehe ^o^