It has been an annual tradition for me to take atleast one or 2 trips to Europe every year. And from Singapore, the cheapest way to do that, is through the many middle-eastern airlines that make cheap connections possible with Transit in their respective countries.
Qatar Airways, Saudia airlines, Oman Air and Turkish airlines compete among each other to offer the cheapest fares from Asia to Europe. The price is usually very cheap, but the only problem with these airlines, is the long transit time. And one is often forced to spend a few hours (some unfortunate transit situations could go up to 12 hours, as I found out in Melbourne, a few years ago)
And Qatar airways has taken this line by storm. With connections to more than 150 destinations, there is almost always a Qatar airline flight that flies somewhere to Europe. And I have ended up taking this airline for almost all of my trips to Europe so far. And subsequently, spending some quality transit time in Qatar’s Hamad International airport.
Not all transit venues are as cool as Qatar. Read about my experience in Riyadh airport, in Saudi Arabia.
Hamad international airport is relatively new, opening in April 2014. Specifically designed keeping the A380 flights in mind, HIA soon replaced the Doha international airport, but retained the airport code DOH. As Qatar airways expanded their route-map to include more places around the world, Hamad International airport also started seeing some serious number of transit passengers.
It may not be as splendid as Mumbai’s airport (Read: India’s largest museum), but HIA does have a few things that can keep you occupied for some of those transit hours. And in case you happen to be one of those people who want to go through your transit times without spending too much money, below are some of my favorite ‘free’ things to do here.
Note: This list only comprises the ‘free’ things to do. If you are willing to spend, there are plenty of additional things that you can do at Hamad International Airport. This includes shopping in the multitude of duty-free shops, watching airplanes from a swimming pool, or even get an aromatherapy massage at the Vitality Wellbeing and fitness centre.
Click here for a link to the airport guide and map for Hamad International Airport.
1) First things first: Get the free wifi.
Unlike nearby airports like Istanbul and Dubai, the wifi at Hamad International airport is not only free, but also very efficient, especially if you hand out near the lounges or gate-hubs. And there is no time restriction unlike most other wifi networks.
2) Take a complimentary doha city tours
Qatar Airways and the Qatar Tourism Authority 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.
3) Take the kids to the Tom Otterness playground
Tom Otterness is a well-known (or well-seen) artist in New York, and the city thanks him for some of his large sculptures around the parks of New York City. So it wasn’t surprising when the Qatar Museum Authority invited him to do up a playground in the Hamad International airport. And he didn’t disappoint, creating a bedazzling array of bronze sculptures that also double up as slides and other interactive fixtures.
4) Click around at the Oryx
No, I dont mean the Oryx lounge, for which you’d have to shell out USD55 unless you are a premium flier. This being the middle-east, something is always named after this Arabian animal. But the Oryx here, refers to the series of sculptures at the arrival hall, designed by the Dutch artist Tom Claassen.
5) Check out the fast cars and bikes on display.
The Hamad international airport duty free not only has a wide array of options for every kind of shopper, but also has a few raffles for a Bentley Continental GT and a Ducati Monster. The best part? These bad boys are kept on display right in the transit area for you to gawk at, take a selfie with, or doing anything which does not involve scratching their expensive finish.
6) Visit the lamp bear
At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a joke. Right in the middle of the transit area, is a 7m high gigantic lamp bear, designed by artist Urs Fischer. Like the Tom Otterness playground, this is also constructed in bronze, and casually weighs a mere 20 tons! To be frank, I did find him a little creepy at first, but the sight of some Russian girls clicking away in front of this cute Mishka (thats Russian for teddybear, mind you), made me warm up to the prospect of actually liking him.
7) Screw it all. Get some rest!
HIA is huge, and if you are in one of those situations where you just want to rest instead of seeing all the sights, the airport has gone it sufficiently covered. You dont have to sleep off in a chair, as you can find plenty of quite lounge areas for that. The airport offers “quiet rooms,” with soft lighting and even designated male and female sections.
8) Visit ‘the Arctic nurseries of El Dorado’.
No, there are no actual nurseries here. Once again, we find out that bronze is the metal of choice upon laying eyes on the mysterious sculpture crafted by Marc Quinn. And it is interesting to note that he fashioned it completely out of different plants.
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.
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