Long connecting times/stopovers/layovers can be a mighty hassle or a blessing in disguise depending on how prepared you are for them. We’ve put together some pretty helpful information in the context of flying with Qatar Airways which is based out of Doha Hamad International Airport and always has a Doha stopover for international flights.
Have you ever spent 5 or more hours sitting around while waiting for your connecting flight? Coupled with how tired you feel and how much you need a shut-eye but can’t get a nap on the semi-uncomfortable airport seats, it’s pretty much hell. International flights on Qatar Airways can have up to 24 hours layover at Doha, so it’s a definite advantage to get some place to rest while you wait. The secret to this and more amazing bonuses depends on how well you plan before you even book your ticket.
It turns out that Qatar Airways (and even other airlines) offer Stopover Paid by Carrier (STPC) service which includes free transit hotel accommodation, as well as entry visa, airport transfers and meals for long layover passengers if the following conditions are met:
- The layover is over 8 hours and there isn’t another available flight option with a less layover/connection time in Doha;
- The booking does not originate from a Gulf country;
- The booking was made more than 3 days before departure date;
- The ticket class is not a promo fare.
Most times we ask for the cheapest possible fares and end up denying ourselves the possibility of accessing some amazing features such as the STPC service. For Qatar Airways non-promotional Economy tickets (marked ‘N’ or above) up to First Class tickets are eligible for free STPC service.
The STPC service is also available for promo tickets (marked T, O or W), although this is at a price of about $130 for a single trip or $260 (double the fee) for a return trip. In most cases, the cost of the STPC fee for a return promo ticket will equal the cost difference between the promo fare and the next cheapest economy ticket which is eligible for free STPC. Therefore, it might be more economical to choose the cheapest STPC-eligible Economy ticket rather than the promo ticket when booking.
If you book an STPC eligible ticket, you will need to contact the Qatar Airways office to request this service at least 3 days before your trip. Also note that Qatar Airways provides transit accommodation at their discretion, so in rare cases transit accommodation privileges may be denied even though the passenger meets all requirements.
The transit hotels used by Qatar Airways include Oryx Rotana which is 5-star and reserved for business class ticket holders, Retaj Al Reyan (4 star), Safir Hotel (4 star), Movenpick Hotel (4 star) and Grand Doha (3 star average). They are all decent and you may be assigned to either of the last four as transit accommodation at the hotels is assigned randomly.
If you’ve already booked a promo ticket (or you insist on getting one regardless of the above) and you do not wish to pay for STPC service, another option for a stress-free layover is to use the Oryx Lounge at the Doha Airport. It costs about $50 for every 6 hours spent and includes food and shower facilities. Flat beds for sleeping are not provided in the lounge. You could also stay at the Airport Hotel (4 star) which is located within the terminal and has hours-based packages. You will not require a visa for either of these options, although this means you will be unable to leave the airport for a bit of tourist action.
A final option if you’d book promo ticket (no SPTC) and wish to explore Doha is to look for good hotels and book directly. This means you will have to secure a visa from the Qatari Embassy before your trip as Nigeria does not qualify for Qatari Visa on Arrival, except through booking with Qatar Airways.
We hope the above information guides you next time you’re facing a long connecting time in Doha. Don’t forget to book with us at www.odarion.com to help you choose the best ticket option for the most stress-free connections when flying international. Now we get to the fun part!
Things to Do in Doha when you have a long layover
A free Doha city tour is available for passengers with layovers longer than 5 hours and it runs 3 times daily, although it fills up really quickly and is operated on first come-first serve basis. It’s a good opportunity to explore Doha during your layover.
If you’re unable to catch the bus tour and you have a visa, you can explore on your own with Doha Bus tours or a private tour guide service (these go for an average of $60 for 3-4 hours) requested from the airport help counter. There are Souqs (marketplaces) to visit such as the Souq Waqif, museums, cruises and malls. TripAdvisor also has a good list of things to do in Doha.
UPDATE: Transit passengers with >5 hour layover at Hamad International Airport can now get free 4-day transit visa regardless of nationality and ticket class. More on this in our latest blog post.