When in Doha’s Hamad International Airport and transiting for 8 hours or more, you are eligible for a Free Doha City Tour if you are flying with Qatar Airways. Don’t worry if you do not have an entry visa to Qatar. The tour is free and visa is not needed, provided you don’t stray from the group tour. Here’s what you can expect from a Free Doha City Tour.
Doha City’s Hamad International Airport
Check your Doha visa requirements
Before you opt for the Free Doha City Tour, check your Doha visa requirements, first. Some nationalities are eligible for a Qatar tourist visa on arrival. You may check here or at your country’s Qatar embassies prior to your travel.
For example, Philippine passport holders are eligible to Transit Without Visa if transit time does not exceed 24 hours. Holders of a pre-arranged Stopover Paid by Carrier (STPC) issued to those in transit for 8 to 24 hours are permitted to leave the transit area, if holding passports valid for 3 months and subject to approval by immigration. We got our tickets on promo and there are in between flight options to our final destinations before our flight schedule. Hence, we are not eligible for STPC. It is best to check with your airlines prior to travel.
If you are willing to pay and it’s possible to get a visa upon arrival (for selected nationalities only), and you think you have a long enough transit time to explore Doha, then exploring on your own might be an alternative.
One of the bronze sculptures at the Hamad International Airport
Arranging for your Free Doha City Tour
Look for the Doha City Tour desk upon arrival at the Doha airport. At that time, the desk was located near the big yellow bear at Concourse B. We checked with the staff at the counter for the tour schedules, then chose the next scheduled tour. She borrowed our boarding pass and passport for the enlistment. Reservation is on a first come first serve basis, and can only be booked once you are at the Doha airport. View the schedule here.
We were advised to go back to the same desk an hour prior to our scheduled tour for checking-in and assembly. A staff guided us through the immigration section. We were provided with a cardboard pass which sort of served as our city tour visa. We showed this to the immigration officer, together with the usual documents (passport and boarding pass). The staff waited for everyone listed in the tour to go through the immigration. We were then escorted at the arrival hall and were endorsed to our English-speaking tour guide.
Three Hours of Exploring Doha City
The free Doha City tour on bus takes about 3 hours to complete, i.e., you’ll be back in the airport in 3 hours. During free tour reservation, the staff will know whether you’ll have enough time for the tour and for the pre-departure procedures.
Our guide also told us that our stamp/pass is only valid for 3 hours. As he said this, I could imagine my immigration stamp slowly becoming invisible as the third hour approaches. If you applied for a visa on arrival, then you could explore Doha city on your own after the tour. Otherwise, you have to stick and return to the airport with the group.
While on our way to our first stop, our guide introduced us to some facts about Doha. He said that the price of water in Doha is more expensive than the same volume of oil. That only means that just like in other oil-rich Middle East countries, energy efficiency is a far-fetched concept.
Major construction works are on-going in preparation for Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. A bit related to this is the fact that 85% of Qatar’s population is composed of foreigners, most of them male.
Even at the airport, many of their workforce are foreigners. A large portion of that, I could confidently say, are Filipinos. In fact, I could almost a hundred percent of the time converse in Filipino when ordering something to eat because the counters are filled with Filipino workers.
First stop: View of the Museum of Islamic Art and Doha Seaside
We stopped here for about 5 minutes. Note that the tour will take you to the seaside where you’ll have a view of the museum and the Doha skyline. It will not take you inside the museum, but you’ll be on a spot to appreciate the architecture of the Museum of Islamic Art and the modern buildings along its skyline.
By the way, I went with the tour twice, while I was inbound and outbound, one was during the night and the other during daytime. Hence, you’ll see photos of the sights both at night and day.
View of Museum of Islamic Arts from the seaside
Second stop: Katara Cultural Village
We stopped here only during the second time I took the tour, which is at daytime. I don’t know why we didn’t stop during the night tour, but it would have been nice to see the lit structures such as the pigeon tower and the beautifully tiled mosque at night. We just walked past the mosque to see the modern amphitheater behind.
Third stop: The Pearl
The Pearl Qatar is an artificial pearl-shaped island surrounded by luxury apartments, hotels, commercial towers and high end shops. If you’re in for luxury travel, this is the place for you.
Fourth stop: Souq Waqif
This is the last and longest stop at 30 minutes. Souf Waqif, which means standing market, is my favorite among all the stops. I guess it’s because it’s a pleasant break from all the modernities of Doha City. I would love to stay here even longer and explore the inner stalls but doing so will get me into trouble.
One of the Shisha lounges at Souq Waqif
Just off the end of the market is a pen with camels
To sum it up, the tour is well-organized. The stop at each itinerary is too fast to take in the sights. For those who love photography like me, it would be a disappointment to not even have enough time to work on your composition. The longest as I’ve already mentioned is at the Souq Waqif. However, for a free tour without a visa, I can’t really complain. Having the opportunity to step outside the airport to see a glimpse of the city rather than spending all your waiting time inside the confines of the airport was already a bonus.
What I’m most thankful of is the opportunity to see my cousin, together with her husband, who’re both working as nurses in Doha. I intentionally joined the tour twice so I would know how the tour goes the first time. On my second time, I communicated with my cousin beforehand so we could meet at the Souq Waqif even for about 30 minutes. That was a quickie meet-up enough to make me happy. 🙂
Enjoy your stay at the Hamad International Airport and at the same time check whether you’re qualified for a free Doha City Tour. Remember that to be eligible for the Free Doha City Tour, you must hold a Qatar Airways ticket and your transit time should be 8 hours minimum to 24 hours maximum.
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