Not only does Qatar Airways have one of the top business class products out there, but almost every week there seems to be an incredible sale.
But there is even more value to be had!
The + Qatar program, which was created to promote Qatar as a destination instead of just an airport hub, offers one free stopover & hotel night in Doha. Additionally it sponsors visa fees, so if you are not belonging to the 80 nationalities which now get visa free entry (full list here) you can apply for a free transit visa here.
While the program has been extended for travel until April 2018, this is only valid if you book until December 31!
Thankfully Qatar have extended the program to be valid for all of 2018!
Please note that you need a transit time of at least 12 hours to be eligible for the promotion.
If you have an existing booking which has the minimum transit time, go ahead and book your stay. You also need to book at least 7 days prior to your arrival.
The free hotels
Once you have done your booking on Qatar Airways (not eligible for code shares) or via a travel agent you can book either a free night stay or a two night stay for a fee of $US 100 on the +Qatar website.
You can choose from any of the below hotels.
If you have booked economy, you can choose one of the 4* hotels like the Holiday Inn or Villa (PLUS QATAR_PREMIUM), whereas the 5* hotels (PLUS QATAR_LUXURY) are reserved for business class and first class bookings .
For my booking in November I chose the Intercontinental Doha the City.
While I have been very happy with my stay at the Intercontinental , based on location I would actually recommend staying at one of the Souq Waqif Boutique hotels. The Souq is the one place you really need to visit in Doha, especially when you stay only one night.
You can also book a tour during the process, so you can be sure that you get to all the must-see places.
Arrival at Hamad International Airport
Make sure that you make use of the excellent business & first class arrival lanes and lounge if you are traveling on business or first. Speed up the immigration process and get some refreshments and take a shower.
If you want to get a local SIM you can do so at the airport, with either Ooredoo or Vodafone. The first shop on the way to the arrivals lounge sold Vodafone, so I took a Vodafone prepaid which set me back about 10€ incl two day passes with 300 MB of data each. Each day pass expires at midnight.
I found uber to be the most convenient way to get around. The 20 min, 20 km ride from the airport to the hotel costs less than 40 Qatari Riyal, so just a little bit over 9€.
Intercontinental Doha The City
One note: you will not be eligible to collect points or a qualifying stay with the hotel chain loyalty programs, but you should be able to earn points for any actual spend you have at the hotel. Just ask to add your loyalty details during check-in. While you are also not eligible for any status benefits, I still got my welcome points as a Spire Ambassador and an upgrade to a higher floor.
I will add a review of the hotel itself shortly.
The first place to visit should be the Souq. It’s very popular with locals and foreigners alike, especially in the evening and on the weekend.
You will find traditional clothes, antiquities, souvenirs, jewelry, animals and good galore.
As my stopover wasn’t too long, I unfortunately missed out on spots like the Museum of Islamic Art or The Pearl.
As usual for Muslim countries, Friday night is the busiest night of the weekend. Many events happen only on this day of the week.
As a foreigner, be sure to bring your passport (driving licenses or national ID cards are usually not accepted) if you go to one of the bars or clubs. If you are looking for alcohol, then you are restricted for the most part to the upscale international hotels.
The Backyard at the Marriott is an established event which is pretty popular with the international crowd. Again, this happens only on Friday nights!
I highly recommend taking advantage of this promotion. Often you can get cheaper flights when your connection times are longer in Qatar. With the +Qatar program long layover times are now a benefit (if you have the flexibility). You can explore an interesting place while staying a nice hotels for free, even when you fly economy.