We all know the necessary evil of a long wait in an airport with nowhere to sit, tired, and time that seems to stretch on forever. The uber-modern and outrageously luxurious Hamad International Airport is here to show you that a layover can be time well spent and might actually enhance your journey.
Say hello to free Wi-Fi, over 80 stores for duty-free shopping, and complimentary Doha City Tours. This is the first airport ever designed with the A380 specifically in mind and it’s the second largest hub in the Middle East, costing a reported $16 billion to build. From gold-plated coffee counters to every modern amenity, you’ll find yourself secretly hoping for a longer layover.
Good To Know
- Hamad has replaced Doha International Airport but still carries the airport code DOH.
- From December 17, 2015, Qatar Airways will be flying directly to Durban.
- Check out these detailed maps of arrivals, departures, lounges, and duty-free to make navigating the airport easier.
- Qatar is visa-free for South Africans.
1. Kids Can Let Off Steam On The Tom Otterness Copper Playgrounds
These attractive sculptures by American artist Tom Otterness are clamber-friendly and provide a much-needed play area for kids to go wild after being cooped up in the plane. They’ll also have fun counting the little copper figures dotted around the big sculptures.
2. Free 3 Hour Bus Tour
Experience a journey within a journey with Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority. They offer a complimentary 3-hour tour of Doha which visits four key landmarks, namely the Souq Waqif for jewels, spices and traditional art, the beautiful Museum of Islamic Art (set by a seaside park), the Pearl-Qatar, (shops and restaurants galore) and the Katara Cultural Village. A bonus is that you don’t have to pre-book. You’ll get an English speaking guide and a free bottle of mineral water.
The tour is available for those passengers who have a transit time of 5-12 hours and who arrive in Doha between 04:00-19:00 local time (GMT+3). Simply present yourself at the Doha City Tour desk on arrival to get on the next scheduled tour.
Find out more about the Doha City Tour.
3. Watch Planes from the Pool
Passengers can book a room in the plush Airport Hotel for a minimum of 3 hours. First thing on your list should be a dip in the amazing temperature-controlled 25m indoor swimming pool with a view of arriving and departing planes. Enough with ankle exercises, break a sweat on one of the two squash courts, enjoy the hydrotherapy tub and catch up with friends and family using the free Wi-Fi. VIP travellers can enjoy the use of its Presidential Suite for three-hour layovers.
Good to Know: if there’s no available connection of less than 8 hours (and the transit time in Doha is between 8 and 24 hours) Qatar Airways will arrange accommodation, entry visas, airport transfers, and meals to passengers facing extended transit times in Doha.
4. Visit the Lamp Bear
5. Chocology and the Marmalade Market
It’s well known that flying dulls your taste buds. At 35,000 feet, the first thing to go is your sense of taste, except weirdly your ability to taste savoury foods, which is why tomato juice tastes so good on a plane. Revive them by indulging your chocolate craving while watching master chocolatiers at work at Godiva. Follow up with Marmalade Market for more foodie delights. You’ll discover beautifully packaged baklava, fresh dates, nuts and high-quality coffee. The hard part will be knowing what to choose. If your tastes run in the high-end couture direction you’re spoilt for choice with over 80 luxury stores.
6. Fine Dining At Le Grand Comptoir
There’s no such thing as wilted salad and miserable cafeteria food in Hamad International Airport. Dine at Qataf Café for traditional Arabian cuisine, Le Grand Comptoir for delicious french brasserie eats, Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar for prawn delicacies, and Soprafino for Italian done the right way by celebrity chef, Massimo Capra. With 30 restaurants to choose from you won’t have to settle for Burger King.
8. Power Up
There’s nothing worse than your phone on its last power bar. While you charge your iPad/laptop/phone at the charging stations provided you can make use of the Macs free of charge.
9. Skip the Queues with Al Maha
Al Maha Service Packages are available to help you fast-track your way through the security check at Hamad International Airport, then relax in the Al Maha Lounge with drinks, snacks, and unlimited high-speed Wi-Fi. You’ll also get priority boarding. You need to pre-book the service you require, but there are also Al Maha service counters inside the passenger terminal for booking on arrival.
10. Lounge in Style
For QAR200 or $55, you can spend 6 hours in the Oryx Lounge (walk-ins are welcome). This may feel a little steep against the weak rand, but you’ll have access to the business centre, a quiet room, a smoking room, a gaming room for kids, as well as food and beverage services. Good news is it’s free for kids 3 years old and below.
Al Mourjan Business Lounge
This incredibly spacious 33 000 square foot lounge is available for Qatar Airways and Oneworld First Class and Business Class passengers only. The lounge has a fully-stocked bar, snacks and gourmet meals available according to your whim. You’ll also find seats with individual charging stations, private family areas with widescreen TVs, game rooms, and a children’s nursery among many other amenities. There’s even a replica, life-size Formula One Racing Car in the kids’ game room.
This is part of our “Beat the Layover Blues, Discover The Best Of” International Airports Series.
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Featured image credit: Qatar Duty Free