I recently spent 12+ hours in transit at Hamad International Airport in Qatar and it wasn’t nearly as painful as I expected. Doha’s new international hub opened in 2014 but feels as slick and shiny as if it opened last week. While not the cheapest place to spend a long layover (the showers in particular are more pricey than average) it can be a fun place to transit if you head to the pool or nab yourself a place on a free Doha tour.
For anyone about to transit through the Qatar here’s my lowdown on the best things to do at the airport.
Connect To Free Wi-Fi
After working there for 7 hours straight on my return leg 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.
Grab 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 lounge access you can pay to use the shower facilities at the Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre (head to the lifts behind the big teddy).
Use of the shower room costs 90 QAR (approx. $30AUD) which is on the higher end 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.
(Note: They accept credit cards throughout the airport so there’s no need to take out local currency if you’re just in transit.)
Have A Swim
If you’ve got enough time you can shake off those airplane aches with a few laps in the Vitality pool. The pool was temptingly empty on my visit but sadly I hadn’t come prepared with swimmers. Entrance to the pool costs 175 QAR ($60 AUD) and you also get to have a dip in the hot tub, use the gym and freshen up in the showers mentioned earlier.
Kip At The Airport Hotel
Depending on how long you’ve got to kill it might be worthwhile checking into The 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 HIA to check in. 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 stay starting from 5 hours. When I checked online overnight stays in December 2017 started from 765 QAR.
Take A Free City Tour
For daytime layovers between 5 to 12 hours you may be able to enjoy a free city tour of Doha. The tour take approx. 3 hours and covers 4 key landmarks including The Pearl-Qatar, Katara Cultural Village, Souq Waqif and the Museum of Islamic Art.
Tours are available on a first come first served basis and cannot be prebooked – simply approach the Doha City Tour desk upon arrival to find out if the timings work for you. (Sadly my 7 hour layover didn’t coincide with any available time slots. Maybe next time.)
(Note: The Doha City Tour desk is a little tucked away underneath some escalators. Ask at the info desk near the teddy if you’re struggling to find it.)
Want to explore independently? Find some tips for a Doha, Qatar stopover by Calculated Traveller.
Spend The Night In Doha
If you’re flying with Qatar Airways and have a layover of between 8 and 24 hours you may be entitled to a free hotel. Transit accommodation is at the discretion of Qatar Airways and depends on your fare type, so call the airline or visit the transit desk at HIA for more information.
If you’re yet to book your flight, you might like to take advantage of the +Qatar package, which offers travellers a free stay in a 4 or 5 star hotel if you book a stopover in Doha. More details are available on the +Qatar website.
Head To A 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.
Get Good 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.
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 that’s good to buy here is gold!