During my trip to Japan, I chose to fly with Qatar Airways and had a long layover in Doha on both legs of my journey. Because of the strength, or lack thereof, of my Nigerian Passport, I often find myself stuck at the airport during long layovers like this one..

Luckily, this was not the case this time around as I have a valid US visa, which I could use to get a visa to Qatar as a Nigerian passport holder. I applied via the Hayya website and received my 30-day entry visa after 48 hours.

Stopover or Layover in Doha Qatar tour

Getting a Visa to Qatar

Nigerians need a visa to visit Qatar (or to leave the airport during a stopover or layover in Doha) and two options are available. The first one is to apply for a Tourist (A1) visa and the second option works if you already have a valid visa for or residency in any of these countries – UK, US, Australia, Canada, Schengen and New Zealand.

In this case, you can apply for the Qatar Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) visa which allows a stay of up to 30 days for travellers that meet the category above.

Regardless of which option suits you, the process and visa costs remain the same. I recommend applying for the ETA (A3) visa if you already have any of the visas listed above.

How to Apply for a Visa to Qatar during Your Layover in Doha

Applying for this visa category is easy and to do so, simply follow the steps below;

  • Visit the Hayya Website and log in or sign up for an account. This process sends a confirmation code that may get lost in spam, so be sure to check just in case.
  • Choose a visa category (in my case, I chose “visa with ETA”) and for purpose, I entered Leisure
  • Fill in the requested personal details and upload a scanned copy of your passport and passport-sized photo
  • Upload a copy of the visa or residency card that you hold
  • Enter your accommodation details and any other required information and submit after confirming the details to be correct.
Layover in Doha Qatar

After submission, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to make payment. The visa costs 100 Qatari Riyals (QAR) and this fee is non-refundable. You should receive your visa shortly after making the payment.

Tip: You should apply for your visa close to your travel date. It is typically issued for one month from the time it is approved and there is no way to specify the exact dates that you want.

Now to the good part – how to spend a long layover in Doha.

Art in Doha

The easiest way to optimize your time in the city is to book a layover tour. You can either do this directly with Qatar Airways as they have multiple transit tours available or you can book one privately.

I chose to have a private tour, mainly due to fatigue after just travelling around Japan and a fairly long flight from Tokyo.

colourful buildings in Doha Qatar

What to Do on a Long Layover in Doha

After going through immigration, I took a taxi into the city and headed to have breakfast and freshen up at the Holiday Inn hotel. From there, I hired the services of a taxi driver to take me around Doha.

Our first stop was around the Dhow Harbour and Corniche. It was a beautiful morning, the weather was cool and pleasant and it was great to admire the dhows parked against the backdrop of the city.

Doha city skyline

Layover in Doha: Visit the Museum of Islamic Art

Later, we decided to head to a Museum and the choice was between the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar. I chose to save the latter for another visit and spent about an hour exploring the different exhibitions at the Museum of Islamic Art.

I say it was time well spent and more than the exhibitions, I enjoyed being in the building itself. My favourite spots were the open courtyard and the ground floor area, with its lovely cafe.

Layover in Doha: Visit the Souq Waqif

Next, we drove over to Souq Waqif, which is a marketplace where you can find cafes and shops that sell traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. I enjoyed strolling through the maze of shops in this area and the people-watching opportunities were also fantastic!

Now that I am writing this article, I do wish I stayed longer to enjoy a meal in one of the cafes. However, my preferred choice only had a set meal for two. It wasn’t very pricey, it just seemed like I would waste a lot of the food in the end and I wanted to avoid that.

Layover in Doha: Visit the Katara Cultural Village

By the time the taxi driver picked me up from the souq, I was spent! But there were still a few stops left on the itinerary. One of them was the Katara Cultural Village, a cultural hub showcasing music, art, theatre, and other cultural activities.

Katara Mosque

I walked around a bit and quite liked it but it was time to call it a day. I was just too tired and decided to skip the rest of the stops on the itinerary, ignoring the driver’s suggestion to make a quick visit to the desert.

Instead, we headed back to the airport, where I spent the rest of the time waiting for my flight in one of the Qatar Airways lounges.

9hr layover in Doha Katara Mosque

How to Spend a 9hr+ Layover in Doha: Hammad International Airport

If you do not qualify to get a visa on arrival or did not get one beforehand, you’ll find that there are many ways to spend your time fairly comfortably within the airport. Some options include booking a room or spa session at the Oryx Airport Hotel or opting for the cheaper option, sleep ‘n fly.

Alternatively, there are quiet rooms in the airport where you can lounge for free; you can spend some time in the Orchid Garden and of course, there are multiple Qatar Airways lounges, shops and restaurants where you can also while away your long layover in Doha.

Souq Waqif Doha layover in doha itinerary

Tell me, have you transited or had a long layover in Doha’s Hammad International Airport? How did you spend your time and will you consider a transit tour or even a longer stopover during your next trip? Let me know in the comment section below!

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