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What to do on a Long Layover in Doha

What to do on a Long Layover in Doha

Are you wondering what to do on a long layover in Doha? Wondering “Can I leave the airport during a layover in doha” and if so what can I do to make the most of my time in this amazing city. Well keep reading to find out what to do with a long layover in Doha itinerary which includes information on the best way to get around, where to stay and a guide on the dos and don’ts of Qatar.

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Can I leave the airport during a layover in doha?

What to wear in Doha Airport / Can I leave the airport during a layover in doha?

What to wear in Doha Airport / Can I leave the airport during a layover in doha?

If you are wondering if you can leave the airport during a layover in Doha the answer is it will depend on how long you have but generally speaking if you have a long layover in Doha you should be able to leave the airport. 

However if you are planning to leave the airport we recommend checking whether or not you require to have a transit visa in place and if you are traveling to Qatar for the World Cup  be sure you meet the requirements for this period which include having a Haya card and accommodation booked before arrival.

This long layover guide is designed for those who have between 24 – 48 hours in Doha. For those with less time in the city be sure to check out our one day in Doha guide.

However if you only have a few hours in Doha for transit i.e. 6 hours or less then I would strongly recommend not leaving the airport as it is too risky.

Note: Doha Airport does not have a dress code when you are airside and if you are not passing through immigration and heading out into the city on your long layover. However if you plan on leaving the airport be sure to check out this what to wear in Doha airport post.

Before you leave the Airport

Qatar isn’t a completely cashless society so be sure to get some Qatari Riyals before you leave home or grab them at one of the ATMs in the terminal building.

How to get around during a long layover in Doha

Essential Qatar Apps - Doha apps for getting around

Essential Qatar Apps – Doha apps for getting around

Doha is actually a very easy city to get around during a long layover. The options you have from transiting from Doha airport to the city are:

  • Karwa (The state taxis identifiable by their bright blue color). 
  • Uber and Careem – the app based taxis that operate in Doha
  • Hotel Transfer
  • Doha Metro – the public transit rail system.
  • Hire car
  • Bus

I personally would chose from either the Karwa or the Metro depending on how much luggage you have to take with you on this long layover. There is a Karwa taxi rank just outside of the terminal building and the rate of taxis starts at 25QAR when a journey starts at the airport (only 4QAR from other destinations). 

I personally wouldn’t pick an Uber or Careem from this location as it will take longer to find your car than it will just joining the queue at the Karwa taxi rank. I also wouldn’t use a hotel transfer as you are usually charged a premium and it is very easy to use Karwas in Doha. 

Similarly I would not choose to hire a car on a long layover in Doha as it really isn’t worth your time and as public transport is so good. I also wouldn’t advise taking a bus either as it is the slowest method of transport listed above and doesn’t tend to be used by tourists.

Note: there isn’t usually a large queue at the taxi rank at Hamad International Airport however if you are visiting during busy periods i.e. Eid, Christmas or during the Qatar World Cup I would expect there to be a longer line

Or if you don’t have too much luggage then we recommend the Doha Metro as a great way to get around. Doha Metro is very effiencent and is the best option for those visiting Doha on a budget or those worrying about whether Doha is expensive for tourists. The Airport is on the red line and is easy to connect to key tourist sites and some of the best places to stay in Doha. 

Be sure to download the Metro app as this is one of the key Qatar apps for your trip. 

There are several options for getting around Doha either via public transport or taxi – click here for our full getting around Doha transport guide! 

Where to stay a during a long layover in Doha

As you only have limited time on a long layover in Doha I recommend choosing a place to stay in Doha that will cut down your transfer time to and from the airport and that will allow you very easy access to the main tourist sites you will see in this itinerary. 

For that reason I recommend West Bay as the best place to stay in Doha for a long layover. Our favourite hotels in West Bay are:

  • JW Marriott Marquis
  • Marriott Marquis City Centre
  • Four Seasons Doha – perhaps top of the list for those who want a luxurious stay
  • Sheraton Grand Doha Resort. 

I have selected these because they are all close to public transit and are easy to get to the museums, Souq and even to Katara. 

For those who plan on doing lots of sightseeing during this long layover any of these hotels will work however if you wish to prioritise relaxing around the pool and hitting one of the best beach resorts in Doha then I would recommend looking at the Four Seasons or the Sheraton Grand Doha Resort. 

Note: Sometimes if you have a long layover in Doha you will be able to take advantage of some discounted hotels by choosing a Qatar Airways partner hotel. If this is available it is worth considering as it will be a great cost saving. 

How to have the perfect stopover in Doha: Day One!

Note: Although this Qatar itinerary starts with in the morning you can jump in at any point depending on when your flight lands in Qatar. However I would not recommend moving the time of things you do things unless you are very short on time for instance you can visit Souq Waqif in the morning but your experience won’t be as good as if you were visiting in the evening. 

Also you if you have less than 48 hours in Doha you can choose which of these days and activities to prioritise depending on when your flight lands and departs etc and although I have out these as Day One and Day two it is very easy to rearrange the days. 

Also be sure not to venture out of Doha or on a dhow cruise before you are scheduled to leave Qatar as you never know when you can get delayed in Qatar. So be sure to modify the itinerary to make sure it works to leave you ample amounts of time to return for your flights. 

Long Layover in Doha Morning One – Breakfast

To make the most of you day on day one we recommended having breakfast in the hotel on one day however for this day we recommend heading to the souq to the local Qatari eatery Shay Al Shoumous (sometimes also spelt as Shay Al Shoomos).

I was always surprised at how hard it is to find Qatari food rather than general Middle Eastern food in Qatar and Shay Al Shoumous is one of the few places serving traditional Qatari cuisine and they specialise in breakfast and should not be missed on your long stopover. 

Once you have finished breakfast it is on to activity one. 

Long Layover in Doha Morning One – Museum Visit

Doha is full of some amazing museums and it has a museum for you no matter what you love from sports to journalism, from modern art to natural history. 

As you are limited on time however we recommend visiting either 

  • Museum of Islamic Arts
  • National Museum of Qatar

As these are the most conveniently located on the Doha Corniche and can be reached from the National Museum Metro stop on the red line. 

The Museum of Islamic Art (locally known as MIA) is one of the most beautiful places in Qatar to visit.  Designed by starchitect I.M. Pei (also famed for having created the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre) the museum is iconic in Doha and is a must see. 

Inside the museum also houses a great collection of Islamic Art works such as carpets, astrolabes, jewelry to more traditional art pieces. 

Please note: the museum is closed for refurbishment until Fall 2022. 


Long layover in Doha

Long layover in Doha

Once you have finished looking around this museum we recommend heading out into the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Arts Park, which is one of my favorite parks in Doha because it has a great playground for kids but also the cafe with the best view in the city. We love having a drink and looking across West Bay.

However if your interest lies outside of the Arts or perhaps you are traveling to Qatar with kids we recommend changing the Museum of Islamic Arts for National Museum of Qatar for your museum visit.

National Museum of Qatar - one of the most beautiful places in Qatar

National Museum of Qatar – one of the most beautiful places in Qatar

The National Museum of Qatar tells you the story of the country from its natural history and geology through its Bedouin and pearl diving days to the discover of oil and modern life. It is the best place in Doha to learn about Qatari history. It also has a small children’s gallery which makes it more suitable for families on a layover in Doha.

Long Layover in Doha Day One Afternoon itinerary

Once you have finished in at the museums, we recommend heading to the Doha corniche to the Dhow port. 

Dhows are the traditional wooden boats of the region. Previously the Doha waters would have been filled with dhows that would have been used for the traditional industry of Pearling however today you can see a variety of Dhows on the coast taking tourists for a leisure cruise to get some of the best views of the Doha skyline in West Bay. 

Many of these cruises will also provide food and drinks in the form of an Arabic style BBQ onboard the boat but be sure to check before travel so you have appropriate supplies,

To book a Dhow Cruise in Doha click here!

Note: If you are visiting in Qatar in the summer however I would recommend inverting the day and going on the dhow cruise early in the morning and doing the museum in the afternoon when the heat is at its highest. 

Alternatives for this day: 

Katara Cultural Village in 24 hours in doha itinerary If there are things on this itinerary that you don’t fancy or you are worried about making it back to the airport alternatives could be:

  • spending the afternoon at your hotel beach or pool
  • The pearl or a mall for dining and retail therapy
  • heading to Katara – the cultural centre of Qatar where you will find many artisan products and exhibitions. There are some great restaurants here to including Mamig an Armenian – Lebanese restaurant, Boho Social which has a more Western menu or Qatari hotspot Chapati and Karak. This place is extremely popular and there are usually queues. It is in fact so popular that there is now also an outpost in Knightsbridge London. But it is worth the wait. 

Please note: Although there is a public beach at Katara we do not recommend tourists using this.  The reason for this is beaucse it is a public beach which has a strict and enforced  Qatar dress code however it is a nice place to walk along the board walk

Perfect 24 hours in Doha evening!

For the evening we recommend visiting the place that I think is the best thing to do in Doha – the Souq. Souq Waqif, meaning the standing market and is the number one tourist destination in Doha and is in my opinion is the best place to do  some great Doha souvenir shopping.

Souq Waqif - the answer to what to do in doha for a day

We recommend waiting to head to the Souqw until the sun is down as this is the time when the Souq really comes alive. And one of the things I love about the Souq is that it is a great mix of tourists, expats but also nationals using the Souq so you get a true idea of the local culture. 

Parts of the Souq we recommend you visiting are:

  • the spice souq – the smells are incredible and the prices are very reasonable.
  • the artisan souq – where you can buy local arts and crafts, our favorite purchases from here are glass lamps
  • the gold souq – one of the most expensive places to go shopping in Doha and 
  • the falconry souq – falconry is the number one national sport in Qatar and in the falconry souq you can see some of the best breeds of flacons – whose price tags incidentally run into the thousands. You can also see the world renowned Falcon hospital 

Other things that are worth seeing are the Emir’s horses at the stables in the souq and checking out the camels at the camel souq. 

It is also my favourite place to get dinner in the whole of Qatar as there are some really great restaurants in the souq. However some of our favorite restaurants in the Souq Waqif are:

  • Parisa – a Persian restaurant that has the most stunning restaurant interior in Qatar! 
  • Damsca One – a restaurant that has a great terrace which is brilliant for people watching
  • Bandar Aden – a Yemeni restaurant where you can eat on the floor and is one of the best cheap places to eat in Qatar

Once you have finished dinner in the Souq then I would advise browsing all the stores and doing some shopping! The Souq is one of the best things to do in Doha for a day and certainly the best thing to do in Doha at night.

Note: There is also an animal/ pet Souq! I personally avoid this area as I find it upsetting! 

Day Two of your Long Layover in Doha

Long Layover in Doha Morning One – Breakfast

On the first day of the layover itinerary we recommended eating at a local Qatari eatery however today to maximise your day we recommend having breakfast in your hotel. 

Stopover In Doha Morning Day Two

For more no visit to Qatar is complete without a trip into the desert. We recommend doing this in the morning as the weather can get very hot in the afternoons. You may want to move this to Day one however to ensure you have enough time to get back to the airport depending on when your flight is. 

Going out into the desert in Qatar usually involves

  • a spot of dune bashing 
  • a BBQ at one of the camps
  • camel riding (an additional charge)
  • stop at the beautiful inland sea. 

Just be sure to book your dune bashing experience in advance with a reputable company. Do not be tempted to drive out into the desert on your own. Firstly it is difficult to rive on sand and it isn’t safe for tourists to do but also it will invalidate your car hire insurance. 

Stopover In Doha Afternoon Day Two

Once you are back in Doha we recommend choosing from one of the two below activities: 

  • enjoying an afternoon at your hotel beach
  • hitting a Doha mall – for a full breakdown on the best malls in Qatar check out this post. 

There are lots of great beach hotels in Doha but as we mentioned above we recommend the Sheraton or the Four seasons for those short on time in Doha as they have some of the most beautiful Qatar beaches

But if you aren’t staying at a hotel at the beach or don’t want to sit round your hotel pool we recommend heading to one of the many malls in Qatar. Although Dubai Mall is known as a shopping Mecca, Doha is also an excellent place to go shopping. 

Out favourite malls in Doha are:

  • Villagio – designed after a Venetian canal
  • The Mall of Qatar and 
  • Qatar Festival City

but all of the malls offer something.

Evening Two

What to do on a Long Layover in Doha

What to do on a Long Layover in Doha

For your final evening in Doha we recommend choosing one of many five star restaurants! Our favourites are the international franchises of Nobu at the Sheraton and Hakkasan at the St Regis.

What to do in Doha on a Friday

If your day in Doha happens to be on a Friday you will need to tweak this itinerary as Friday is the holy day and things are often shut on a morning. I recommend heading to one of the five star hotels for a beach morning and heading to a famous middle eastern brunch in the afternoon or hitting the shops once the morning prayers have finished. 

Further Reading on Qatar:

For Booking Your Trip:
Ultimate Guide of Where to Stay in Doha

What to see in Doha Qatar:

What to See in Doha Qatar 
What to do with Kids in Qatar
Qatar’s Most Beautiful Places
Hidden Gems in Qatar Public Beaches in Qatar 

Qatar During Ramadan
Ramadan in Qatar
Eid Escapes from Qatar 

Food and Drink in Qatar
A-Z of Best Restaurants in Doha 
Drinking in Doha

Flying From Qatar 

Best Holiday Destinations from Qatar
Using Al Maha at Hamad International Airport Doha


Thursday 14th of June 2018

I don't know what I would be doing on a layover in Doha, but I'm definitely in for the Museum of Islamic Art. I would love to learn more about the role it has played in Islamic history! #Citytripping

Lins @ Boo & Maddie

Wednesday 13th of June 2018

This is such a useful post, we quite often head out to Asia and have been looking at places to stop en route, thank you for sharing X #citytripping


Tuesday 12th of June 2018

It is not somewhere I have ever thought about visiting but looks beautiful! #citytripping

Cathy (Mummytravels)

Tuesday 12th of June 2018

I love the idea of making the most of having to change ones by having a long stopover like this - it seems perfect to get a taste of the country and see some of the highlights. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping


Tuesday 12th of June 2018

I really want to go shopping in a souk #citytripping