You may have noticed that many of your international flights have a long layover in Qatar!sh Most people don’t leave the airport, which is a shame, because you could turn the long layover into a fun little staycation and mini adventure!
Recently I had a flight from Miami to Tanzania, and the layover was in Qatar, but only for a few hours. I had never been to Qatar and I wanted to see it, so I adjusted my flight manually so that I would have 4 days in between flights instead of 4 hours.
It turned out to be a REALLY fun and fabulous adventure! Here’s how you can play a long layover in Qatar!
How to Create a Flight with Multi-Day Layover
If you just search for flights to and from your end destination, you won’t find any with multi-dagmy layovers. You have to create it yourself.
To do that, simply do the following steps:
- Go to Skyscanner (make sure to clear your cookies and cache)
- Use the MULTI CITY search option
- Enter your departure city, and Doha as the first destination, and the date you want to arrive
- Enter Doha as the second departure city, and then your final destination, and the date you want do depart for it
If you’re looking for cheapest flight options, try to play around with the dates! Or use the flexible dates option. See my tutorial on Flight Roulette if you need help!
There’s a chance this ticket may be slightly higher than the one without the long layover in Qatar, but just think of it as getting a cheap additional flight to a new destination!
Where to Stay During a Long Layover in Qatar
The main city in Qatar is called Doha, and that’s where you should stay. There’s three main areas, and all of them are just a 10-20 minute drive away from each other. I’ll go over the three main areas of Doha, and list my hotel recommendations!
Downtown Doha is the “middle” area of the three, and thus, the perfect central location to explore or do tours during your long layover in Qatar! I would recommend staying at a hotel near the water, especially one with a private beach and pool, because during the day it’s always really hot, and there’s not a ton of options for things to do.
I stayed at the Four Seasons Doha in the Downtown area and it was really fabulous! For luxury travelers, or anyone wanting to feel like royalty for a night or two, definitely check it out! It has four pools, some with waterfalls, and a long stretch of private beach area next to a yacht marina.
Four Seasons Doha also has multiple restaurants, included a shisha lounge and restaurant called Shisha Terrace, and the famous LA-based restaurant called Nobu. Nobu has delicious sushi and other Japanese fusion foods, and this one in Doha actually had a super affordable and delicious happy hour, which is from 6-8pm, or all night on Mondays for ladies! Be sure to make a reservation though!
The other hotel I stayed at and would recommend is the Hilton Doha, which is right next door to Four Seasons. It’s a lot more affordable, and also has a pool and private beach. The Hilton Doha has several restaurants and bars too, including Sushi Club, Trader Vic’s, and Tahitian Village which is the outdoor extension of Trader Vics, that has a DJ at night and gets really busy!
Something super important to know about the Hilton Doha, is that this is where I rented the jet ski from! It was hands down my favorite activity that I did during my long layover in Qatar, and I would definitely recommend it! Prices start at around $70 for half an hour, which is pricey, but you won’t really need a lot of time since it gets very hot!
I didn’t stay in The Pearl area of Doha, however there were several hotels I saw online that I definitely would have liked to check out.
The Pearl is an area of Doha that reminds me of a smaller, quieter, less-intimidating version of The Palm in Dubai. Similarly, it has many man-made islands with luxury homes on them, as well as luxury condos, hotels, restaurants, and businesses.
It’s the farthest from the airport of the three areas, so perhaps not too ideal if you want to be somewhere central, but if you primarily want to be in this fancy area, you’ll want to stay here! It’s definitely the most expensive of the three areas though!
Here’s some of the hotels I saw that looked worth checking out:
If you have a short layover, if you’re on a budget, if you prefer to always be exploring rather than lounging at a pool or beach, or all of the above, you may want to stay in the Corniche/Airport area.
This is where you can find the famous Souk Waqif, the National Museum of Qatar, and one of the many cool looking shopping malls. The view from the Corniche (AKA waterfront walk) is one of the most photographed images of the cityscape of downtown, and you can also see a cool FIFA World Cup countdown clock with tons of flags of different countries!
There’s plenty of affordable hotel option here, so again, it’s reallly a great option if you’re planning on exploring more than lounging!
How to Get Around Doha
Uber is available in Doha, and it’s really easy and affordable to use. It worked easily at the airport and only costed about $10 to get to my hotel in Downtown. I used it to go to all of the sightseeing locations as well, and even out to the desert for my Paratriking adventure!
Top Things to Do for a Long Layover in Qatar
If you’ve seen my social media, it is very obvious that the adventure activities were my top favorite thing to do on my long layover in Qatar. But I also really enjoyed just lounging, and getting over my jet lag too.
I opted not to do the typical tours that are offered, in search of things that were more solo-travel-friendly (many tours won’t take just one person!), but I’ll include the typical suggestions here as well.
These were my top favorite adventures in Qatar
Jet Ski Around the Cityscapes
Rent from: Hilton Doha
Renting a jet ski was probably the best thing that I did on my long layover in Qatar. Although I’ve been on tons of jet skis in my life, it was extremely fun and unique to do it in Doha! I was told that seeing the city from the water is a must, however most of the boat tours didn’t seem ideal for me, so I decided to use the jet ski to go see it by myself!
It was SO fun! The water was flat so I easily cruised over it, and I drove the jet ski solo from the HIlton Doha in Downtown, all the way to The Pearl! That being said, it was also a really cool way to see The Pearl, because walking it is not an option, at least not during the day (too hot).
The highlight of my jet ski adventure though, was going to Al Salfiya Island, which I’ll write more abuot next.
Al Salfiya Island
Cost: $70 (jet ski)
When I was researching things to do on a long layover in Qatar, I didn’t see one mention of Al Salfiya Island. It was something I found out about by zooming in on the map, tapping, and looking at the google images.
I then looked up the name, and I did find one tour, however it wasn’t operating during the dates I was there. Still, I was very determined to see it, and get a cool photo of the sandbar flanked by clear aqua marine water that stretches towards the cityscape in the distance.
So, I drove the jet ski there, which was super exciting, except the rental guy wasn’t too happy about it since they want you to pay for a tour to go there. They also worry about the sand suckign up into the jet ski in shallow water, but as a native Floridian, I knew to turn it off and walk it up to the shore. Anyway, if you want to attempt getting there by jet ski…you didn’t hear it from me 😉 Otherwise, take a tour!
Paratriking Over the Sealine
Cost: $70 for 20 minute flight, $ 40-60 for the Uber out there and back
Paratriking is a super fun adventure on a contraption that is literally a paraglide mixed with a tricycle (get the name now?). It’s a brand new activity that was brought to Doha by some young entreprenuers, and is actually the only paratriking in the entire area at the moment!
Basically what you do is sit behind your pilot in the tricycle as he flies you up and down the Sealine beach, where the desert meets the sea. It’s a stunning view, and you also get a really nice view of the sand dunes. If you’re up for it, they’ll also let you steer the paraglide for a few minutes!
While I much preferred to see the sand dunes from above like this, I have to admit that the Uber drive cost out to where they’re located was a bit steep. Currently they don’t offer a transfer from the hotels in Doha, so you have to do the Uber option.
Pro Tips: To make the most of your expensive Uber drive, plan to stay a few hours longer to go to the Sealine beach before or after your flight! Or if you don’t want to stay longer, ask your driver if he will wait for you, because it may take a while to get another one out there!
Stroll Through Souq Waqif
Cost: Free Unless You Want a Guided Tour
This is always on every blog post about Doha and Qatar, and for a good reason! It’s one of the prettiest, cleanest, safest souks (AKA marketplace) I have been to, and I have been to A LOT. You can stroll through Souq Waqif and take photos, or shop for some souvenirs.
Souq Waqif is particularly well known for its gold souk, and Arabian horse stables. You can also find spices, teas, cool tea kettles, an entire “pet shop” area, and several restaurants! I’d recommend going around sunset so it’s not too hot, and because the colors at that time are really beautiful!
Qanat Quarter (AKA mini-Venice)
When you’re done doing all of the typical recommendations, and want to experience more, head to The Pearl! Although it’s mostly residential or hotels, there’s also still some nice photo spots, and plenty of restaurants and cafes.
One of the increasingly popular areas to visit in Doha is Qanat Quarter in The Pearl, because it looks like a (brand new) colorful version of Venice, Italy! There’s little canals with bridges over them, and gondola-ish boats that cruise through sometimes as well.
While you’re near The Pearl, you may want to go check out Ink Cafe, which is also currently going viral on social media, but because of the one in Dubai. The one in Qatar looks smaller, and I didn’t go to it because it seemed too difficult to film/photograph by myself, but I think it would be worth checking out if it’s something you’re into!
National Museum of Qatar
Also a typical recommendation, but I quite liked it still. The National Museum of Qatar is in a really cool, artistically designed building, that you should definitely take a photo of before you start sweating to death.
Inside the main exhibit, you can learn all about the history of Qatar, the culture, religion, and past/present worldly affairs. Even if you’re not super into museums, this is a good way to learn about the country AND beat the heat outside!
There’s also a really popular art-light exhibit at the end that’s included in the ticket price!
Relax at The Beach
While there are a couple of public beaches in Doha, I would strongly recommend going to one of the private ones at a hotel, especially if you plan on wearing a bikini. Keep in mind that Qatar is a Muslim country, and therefore you should dress modestly, otherwise you can potentially offend someone, or at least cause a lot of stares!
If you’re not staying at a hotel with a private beach like the ones I mentioned above, you can try to go to one that offers a day pass for non-guests.
Smoke Shisha at Shisha Terrace
Shisha, or “hookah” is very popular in Qatar, and most of the Middle East. It’s similar to going out to a bar or lounge for drinks, but instead, you smoke! This isn’t exactly healthy, and I’ll still never fully get why smoking is acceptable but drinking isn’t, however it’s a cool experience and the flavored tobacco is quite tasty!
At Shisha Terrace you can also order a delicious selection of Middle Eastern foods as well! Again, slightly strange to not be able to order a glass of wine with your dinner, yet everyone has THEIR OWN hookahs, but, when in Rome!
Enjoy the Live DJs at Tahitian Village
As I mentioned in the hotel section, Tahitian Village is the outdoor extension of Trader Vic’s located at the Hilton Doha. The menu is the same as Trader Vic’s, and the main differences are that Tahitian VIllage is outside and with a DJ, while Trader Vic’s is indoors with live music.
Tahitian VIllage was POPPIN’ every night that I was staying at the Hilton, so if you want to “go out” in a comfortable setting, I’d recommend it!
Have Happy Hour at Nobu
Price: $7-20 per item
As a former Los Angeles resident, I am of course a huge fan of Nobu. That’s why I absolutely had to go there when I realized there was one in Doha!
The Nobu in Doha is located at the end of the yacht marina of the Four Seasons. The restaurant and lounge are located on the second floor, and I believe there’s a couple floors above it that are actually hotel rooms!
Most importantly, Nobu Doha has a happy hour from 6-8pm, and all night for ladies on Mondays. I say this is important because food and drinks are very pricey in Doha, and considering that Nobu is normally very expensive as well, this is a really great deal!
Here are the typical popular tours that I didn’t do, but might be of interest to you!
Desert Sand Dunes and Inland Sea
This is the number one tour that’s offered, especially for a long layover in Qatar. I didn’t do it, because absolutely NONE of the tour companies offered the option to book for a solo traveler. Womp womp.
I did see one under Airbnb Experiences, but by the time I found it, the dates available didn’t align with my availbility. So definitely try to figure this one out in advance!
The desert tours should pick you up or otherwise tell you where the meeting points are for pickup in Doha. Then you’ll drive an hour or so into the desert for “dune bashing” in the 4×4 trucks.
Most offer camel riding, which I personally don’t recommend doing, but I do recommend just tipping in order to take photos with them instead! Last they take you to an “inland sea” which shares the border with Saudi Arabia. It’s pretty cool if you think about it, but also pretty hard to see unless you have a drone. Which, you cannot have in Qatar.
Have any other tips for Qatar? Comment them below!
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