Part 3 (SE Asia) of our Round-the-World trip begins! Via Qatar Airways, we booked a flight from Europe to Asia. Our flight had a layover in Doha, Qatar, and we qualified for a free 5-stay hotel stay for our transit in Doha!!
I know this sounds like a too good to be true offer, but it’s not. Let me clarify some things and answer some questions that I had when I first heard about this in the blog post below. Official details are here on the Qatar Airways website.
Don’t worry, I had to look this up too when I first heard of this! Doha is a city in the country of Qatar, and a popular flight transit hub in the Middle East. Most North Americans can’t even point to Doha on the map, we probably may have only vaguely heard of this country because it’s the upcoming World Cup host in 2022.
Why are they doing this?
This is a tourism promotion in partnership with Qatar Tourism Authority to promote Doha as a travel / vacation destination.
How Long Does the Layover Have to Be?
12 or more hours. Our layover in Doha was 18 hours.
Is this Country Safe?
We took Uber everywhere (including to/from the airport) and stayed at a reputable 5-star hotel. It’s culturally different, that’s for sure. You will see women dressed head to toe in a black burka, and men wearing traditional Arabic garments. Not unsafe, just different. (I felt a bit out of place in my stupid cut-off denim shorts and sleeveless tank top — looking back now, I probably would have worn something different but the rest of my clothes were in checked baggage!)
Is This a Trick?
There is fine print, but I didn’t get the impression that this was a promotion trying to “trick” tourists into something. The fine print which we read through carefully only seems to be in place to prevent people from taking advantage of this offer. For example: this offer is not applicable on codeshare flights, subject to hotel availability, one booking is allowed per e-ticket number, only applies to layovers (doesn’t apply if your departing city is Doha), entry into Qatar is subject to the discretion of the immigration authorities, you must show your boarding pass to the hotel, your hotel booking name should match your boarding pass name, blackout dates apply, etc.
What Hotels Were Available?
When we booked, we had 12 partner hotels to choose from, a mix of well-known North American chains as well as Middle Eastern / local brands: Marriott Marquis Doha, InterContinental Doha, Radisson Blu Hotel Doha, Holiday Inn Doha, Millennium Plaza Doha, The West Doha, Millennium Hotel Doha, Hiton Doha, Oryx Rotana Doha, Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel, Warwick Doha Hotel, Al Aziziyah Boutique Hotel.
What Hotel Did You Book? How Was It?
We booked with Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel which was located in the “old town”, in hopes that we would have some time to explore that area during our layover. Turns out, Souq Waqif is actually a collective of several boutique hotels in the area. We arrived past midnight, had an amazingly comfortable and hospitable 5-star stay. Tea and local dates were served in the waiting area, everything was very clean, and the air conditioning and wifi worked perfectly. After 6 months of travelling in basic accommodations, it was luxuriously wonderful to stretch out in a big, clean and comfy bed with fluffy pillows.
What’s There to Do in Doha?
I wish we could say we did more “cultural” things in Doha, but we needed to buy some nice clothes for a wedding we were attending the next day in Vietnam, so we headed to the fancy Italian-designed Villaggio Mall and did some shopping. However, we heard the Museum of Islamic Art is worth checking out (make sure you’re dressed conservatively) and also the Souq Waqif market area.
Did You Need a Visa?
As a Canadian, we had a free visa upon arriva in Doha. Canada is one of the 80 countries that offers visa-free entry into Doha.
How Long Is This Offer on From?
According to their website, this promotion is offered until December 28, 2018. However, this promotion has been extended before and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets extended again.
Overall this was a cool experience. Our layover in Doha made a long flight from Stockholm to Ho Chi Minh more bearable, we had an amazingly comfortable sleep at the Souq Watif hotel, and we got to see a quick glimpse of life in Doha and the Middle East.