Spending a long layover exploring Doha is an easy and fun way to break up a long bout of travel, so here are my tips for doing so.
When most people hear Doha, Qatar they think of layovers and Qatar Airways. In the midst of becoming a frequented layover city, Doha has worked hard to urge travelers to set foot outside of the airport. The airport offers incentives to entice travelers to spend some time in the city. From discounted hotel stays if your layover is a particular length to free city tours straight from the airport.
WHERE TO STAY
The Movenpick Hotel Doha cost $70 USD for one night and is located in the well-known Corniche Road area. Its central location makes it within walking distance of the Museum of Islamic Art, the waterfront and the Doha skyline viewpoint. The National Museum of Qatar is a five-minute walk away from the hotel and the Souq Waqif is 15 minutes via taxi or Uber. The location is only a 15-20 minute ride away from the airport, which makes the hassle of getting to and from the airport easy to navigate after a long flight.
WHAT TO DO
Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) + MIA Park
In the evenings, the freshly manicured and well-maintained greenery surrounding the lively Museum of Islamic Art Park is filled with people enjoying the nightly drop in temperature. You’ll see families, couples, groups of friends and even people working out.
The MIA has free admission and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., except for Fridays when it’s open from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. My flight got in too late, so I was unable to go inside, but the cubist exterior of the museum doesn’t go unnoticed. There’s a large path that leads into the building, which is bathed in perfectly placed lighting that makes the building look like a painting against the dark night sky. When you exit the MIA you’ll find yourself staring across the Persian Gulf to the colorful and sparkling Doha skyline. The view of the Doha skyline brought light to what I imagine was previously total darkness.
Wander around Souq Waqif – A traditional market with a new-age swagger. Souq Waqif is an intense market within stone walls and made up of tiny alleyways that feel like they’ll never end. It’s easy to both get lost in Souq Waqif and to wander aimlessly. I suggest getting lost because that’s how you’ll find the most interesting shops. One area I stumbled upon was called the Animal Kingdom and sold all things furry, scaly, cold-blooded, hot-blooded, clawed, feathered and in between. There are also cafes and coffee shops where you can sit and enjoy some hookah and people watch.
Marvel at The Pearl – a man-made island that will satisfy anyone’s craving for luxury. In the area, there is luxury shopping, luxury cars on display, a yacht marina and fine dining.
Indulge in a Desert Safari Tour – this option is available as a day tour and a night tour. On the tours, you can ride a camel, cruise the sand dunes and visit different bodies of water and beaches.
After many years of wanting to eat at the iconic Nobu I did so in Doha and it was just okay. The sushi was good, but it was nothing to write home about, and my drink, the MIA Margarita, wasn’t good at all. For 205 QAR ($55 USD) While I did expect more from the meal I could complain because the view Nobu offered of the Doha skyline paid for itself.
I had a meal at the Souq Waqif, which was sold to me as a “light meal.” For 55 QAR ($15 USD) I received three dishes: chicken and rice curry, beef curry and mystery meat and macaroni curry. The dishes were straight-up bad and flavorless. I would suggest not eating at any of the restaurants within the main walking area of the Souq Waqif because it’s overpriced and caters to a tourist’s palette.
Uber is the best and cheapest way to get around. The front desk attendant at Movenpick Hotel suggested using Uber and it turned out to be a great way to save money. During the daytime, public transportation is affordable and quite easy to navigate if you want to save even more.
I budgeted 350 Qatari riyal (QAR), which is equivalent to $100 USD for my 16 hours in Doha. As far as budgeting, Doha was no more expensive than spending a day in New York City or Bangkok.
Taxis: 70 QAR ($20 USD)
Uber: 70 QAR ($20 USD)
Nobu: 205 QAR ($55 USD)
Souq Waqif: 55 QAR ($15 USD)
Total spend: 400 QAR ($110 USD)
Doha was cool, clean and safe. I was able to see quite a lot within a 16-hour span of time. While I wouldn’t go and book a five-day holiday in Doha, I would definitely book another long layover to do a desert tour and visit some of the beaches.