Passport holders of 81 countries can get a free visa on arrival in Qatar. They do not need to do anything in advance. No forms to fill in, no paperwork, no online applications. Everything is done quickly and efficiently at passport control in Hamad International Airport (DOH). Some countries get visas for 30 days stay in Qatar, extendable by a further 30 days. And some are entitled to 90 days, but that cannot be extended.
If you are not a passport holder in one of the countries listed below, then you will need to visit the Visas in advancesectionof Qatar’s Ministry of Interior website.
You can easily buy a new ooredoo or Vodafone SIM on arrival at Doha International Airport
Once you have made it through customs it may be a good idea to buy a local SIM for use during your stay in Qatar. Qatar enjoys absolutely excellent mobile coms, with fast and reliable mobile data. You will need your passport for ID when buying a SIM in Qatar, and they will take a copy of your passport and register it against your SIM.
There are two mobile networks operating in Qatar; Vodafone and ooredoo. Both charge QR 35
to buy a new SIM. And both have very similar pricing for data and calls. It would take a great deal of comparison to try and decide which one to go for on price alone. And I would not want to be sued by either of them by saying one had a better network than the other. So the choice is yours. But ask them both about their Fexi plans because I believe they represent the best value for visitors.
As you step out of the automatic sliding doors that separate customs from land side arrivals you need to turn left if you want a Vodafone SIM, or right if you want an ooredoo SIM.
For Vodafone once you have walked to your left you will quickly come across a WH Smiths store. This is where you can buy your Vodafone SIM.
If you walk out of customs and turn right, you need to walk to the end of the building (follow signs for buses) and you will see a big ooredoo stand by the escalators.
Take you new SIM, pop it into your phone and you are good to go.
When you arrive in HIA (Hamad International Airport) Qatar or DOH as it will appear on your ticket, you can get access to the airports free WiFi. After disembarking from your aircraft simply turn on your phone and connect to #HIAQatar Complimentary
After connecting to #HIAQatar Complimentary you should see the screen below. There are two ways to get free internet at HIA, if you flew with Qatar Airways you should select [Connect using QR booking] if you arrived with any other airline you need to select [Connect using SMS]. If you select [Connect using SMS] you will need to enter the phone number of your mobile.
WARNING: The only disadvantage of using the [Connect using SMS] option is that you must have roaming enabled on your phone to receive the SMS Access Code if you are not using a Qatari SIM. If you are enabling roaming on your phone you may want to ensure that data roaming is turned off to avoid incurring expensive data roaming charges. Make sure you turn off data roaming before turning off your phone during takeoff.
Once you receive your Wi-Fi Access code, you simply enter it and your free WiFi will begin. Then you can turn off all roaming on your phone if you need to.
Now you can use the free WiFi to chat with whoever is meeting you on the other side in arrivals, and let everyone back home know you have arrived safely.
Having been here in Qatar for almost eight years now, there is one tourist destination that has been on my to do list all of that time. A destination that requires a vehicle capable of off roading, and that is something I have never possessed here.
My son on the other hand has got a suitable vehicle and although I have avoided going into the dessert with him so far (because he is a nutter when driving off road), Victoria and I decided we would join him for this jolly to finally go and see Film City.
Film City is located on the West Coast of Qatar in the middle of the dessert, and was used for filming a soap called ‘Ayal Al Theeb’ (Sons of The Wolf) a Qatari soap that was first broadcast in the year 2000. Although no longer used for filming, the location remains, and appears to have people living there and maintaining it.
So last Friday the three of us set out from Doha in the direction of Dukhan. We were being guided by Google Maps, and it turns out that is a big mistake. Apparently there is a much better route which involves going to Zekreet and then on from there. But that is something we have learned since making the trip.
Anyway once we got there we found a very well maintained small compound. If I had not been told it was a film set, I would never have guessed. Personally I found nothing of interest there, and just snapped off some shots on my phone to prove I had finally done it. We weren’t keen to hang around because the wind was blowing like mad, and it was blooming freezing. For me this was worse because I was dressed like it was still summer, something I really regretted. Bri and Vic had dressed a little more appropriately, but even they were cold.
There is a little shop there where you can buy drinks and snacks, but we were keen to get away as soon as possible.
Once back in the car we decided to take in another point of interest located nearby. We actually drove past EAST-WEST / WEST-EAST BY RICHARD SERRA on the way to Film City, but decided to go and see it on our way back. This piece of dessert art was of much greater interest to me, and made the trip worthwhile in my opinion.
All in all, a nice ride out. We left Doha around 12 noon, and were back around 6pm including a stop in the Mall of Qatar to get supplies on the way there, and a much needed coffee beak on the way back in Mc Donalds Dukhan.
So back on October 24th 2015 I announced that I had saved a whopping QR 5,198 by flying Cebu Pacific instead of Qatar Airways Click Here To Read. And as promised I am now writing about how that worked out for me.
Well the first thing to disclose is that I messed up my online booking with Cebu Pacific and erroneously failed to pay for any luggage. I thought I had, I was sure I had. But for some unknown reason I did not. Something that I fortunately spotted before flying thus avoiding outrageously priced excess baggage fees during check in.
Having spotted my mistake I was easily able to go online with Cebu Pacific and add as an option 30kg for both my son and I at a total cost of QR 554. Of course this brings my perceived saving of QR 5,198 down to QR 4,644.
We arrived at the airport 4 hours before departure and began cueing for check in. Oh boy did I regret not checking in online. The cue was insane. However I did notice after cuing for a long time that the dedicated online check in desk could only be accessed having cued in a much longer ‘everyone’ cue first. Which seems a bit strange. Anyway having endured the cursed zig zag cueing, check in was simple and no different from any other airline I have flown with.
We went to the gate 2 hours before departure which was scheduled for 4:15am. Outside the gate there was hardly any seating so hanging around was not very comfortable. And a long cue had formed waiting for the gate to open. At 2:55 we finally made it inside the gate and were able to sit down. At 3:33 we were in the our next cue to board the aircraft. Something triggered everyone to jump up out of their seat and form a cue to board without an announcement telling them to and we joined in. However there must have been a technical problem with the aircraft. Through the window we could see the bridges being withdrawn from the aircraft as though it was departing, then we think they did an engine test or something, then the bridges were moved back into position. The frustrating bit was that there was no announcements advising us as to what was happening.We were in that cue for 1hr 25 mins grrrrr!!!
At 4:58am we finally boarded the plane. At 5:02am we were told they still had paperwork to do (at least they were making announcements now) and at 5:11am we finally pushed back. At 6:34pm (Philippines time) we touched down 19 minutes late. Which wasn’t too bad as we departed an hour late.
There is only one class, economy class. And boy is it economical. The seats were hard with virtually no padding. The legroom seemed the same as on Qatar Airways, but the seats seemed narrower and more tightly packed.
There was no LCD screen and no in flight entertainment. Even after moving to a seat where I had no one sitting next to me I had real trouble getting comfortable. During take off (before I moved seats) I was sat next to my son, and I can tell you now if I had had to stay in that seat for over 9 hours it would have been intolerable. Our elbows were digging into each other and we were fighting for armrest space. That said, later in the flight I noticed quite a few people managed to get to sleep even in such cramped conditions. I was sooooo…. envious of them.
There is no pillow, and no blanket supplied. But they can be bought on the plane, which we did not. And once I was in a seat with no one next to me, I began to settle down and watch movies I had placed on my iPad ready for the trip. Time to order a beer. Oh no! The beer was warm! We had to drink it with ice to reduce the temperature. Not too expensive at P130 (QR 10) but they only had San Miguel Pale Pils, which when diluted with ice made a very weak tasting drink. But they must have put some in the fridge, because by about our 3rd or 4th it had finally started to be served cold. We brought our own supply of spicy snacks to enjoy with our beer.
I had pre ordered one hot meal and could have opted for a second one as well if I had wanted. Like the seating the meal was also very economical.
Beef curry, a chocolate brownie and a small bottle of water for P500 (QR 38). This was paid for in the total ticket price at the time of booking.
It was edible but for me not quite enough and I was left feeling like I needed another one. Qatar Airways gives 2 hot meals included in their ticket price, which consist of slightly more in quantity and variety.
But in my opinion both airlines offer meals that were similar in quality and taste. And I do remember being highly critical of my last QA in flight meal. There is lots of snacks you can buy off the trolley including noodles, chips etc. at reasonable prices, so there is no need to go hungry. And they don’t mind you bringing meals onto the flight either. I noticed a number of people eating meals they had prepared themselves.
Service was ok. The cabin crew were very similar in performance to QA staff. Nothing notable to comment on there.
Would I fly Cebu Pacific Doha to Manila again? Oh yes! I would have been happier on a Qatar Airways flight. The beer would have probably been colder, the meal slightly larger and the seats more comfortable. Oh and there would have been in flight entertainment and we may have left on time. But would I have been prepared to pay an extra QR 2,322 each (remember total QR saving 4,644) for those improvements? Nope! A 3rd person could have traveled with us with the money we saved and we would have still had cash left over.
The fact it was the Christmas period undoubtedly increase both airlines prices and this makes the saving appear more. Now if the difference in price between the two airlines was less than QR 1,000 it is possible I would be flying with Qatar Airways again.
One last thing. At the moment there are only 2 flights a week each way DOH-MNL-DOH with Cebu Pacific, so your traveling dates are much more restricted. Oh and on the flight back Cebu had no beer!!! What!!!
With little or no drainage on the roads, and buildings that are not that weather proof. When it rains in Qatar, the results are quite severe. Gridlocked roads, and heart breaking property damage.
Obviously today’s rainfall would be a light shower in comparison to what other countries get hit by. But Qatar is normally hot and rain free, so when it does rain, it’s a bad day.
I only have a little car, and I nearly drowned the poor thing going to work today. The engine started to struggle and I decided to try and reverse out rather than try and proceed forwards. And I’m glad I did, I have seen too many images today of cars stranded in the middle of road lakes.
At last a swimming pool you can do laps in, instead of lengths.
It was heart breaking to see the awesome Qgym suffering rain damage. I love the place so much, and to see it in such a mess made me so sad.
Checkout Doha News for a more comprehensive story on today’s rain.
So after over 6 years here in Qatar, I have finally made it to the Inland Sea. Not having an all terrain vehicle has meant I could never make the trip myself, and I never got around to going on one of the paid tours of the area.
A friend in church (Kevin) goes there every weekend after the service. He has been inviting me for quite some time to join him, but to date I haven’t taken him up on the offer. However last Friday I decided I would go along for the ride. I figured it would be a good opportunity to release some of the stress I am under at the moment.
Two other members of the church, a lovely couple called Edna and Bob also decided to come along for the trip. And as soon as we had finished some light snacks in the church canteen we headed out. To our complete surprise, and in complete contrast to when we entered the church, when we exited we were met with a thunderstorm. Now that was a surprise indeed. We asked Kevin if the trip was still on, and he said indeed it was, but because of the lightning we would have to be careful where we park when we got to the Inland Sea.
It was quite a road trip down to the edge of the desert. The wind was blowing a gale, there was a sandstorm and occasionally very heavy rain. There was loud thunder and lightning kicking off all over the place.
Once at Mesaieed we pulled into a Woqod petrol station for Kevin to let air out of his tires and for all of us to take a bathroom break and grab a coffee. Only there was no coffee as the coffee machine was broken doh! It also gave my travelling companions the opportunity to pop into the bathrooms and change out of their church clothes. Something I didn’t have to do because I am one of those people that doesn’t dress up for church, and I was already in my shorts.
Then down to Sealine where the road ends and off into the desert we go. And that’s when the rain stopped 🙂
We drove a lot of the way on the salt flats, that were quicker but not very exciting. However I managed to snap a few images of some nice sand dunes along the way.
Then we arrived at what Kevin described as the Inland Sea Inlet. Kevin also mentioned that it has been known for unscrupulous tour operators to tell their clients that this is the Inland Sea and that’s as far as they go. When in fact it’s just where the Inland Sea begins.
With the sun starting to go down, this was very pleasant. And we could see 4×4’s driving around the dunes in the distance next to the inlet. The bad weather on the way down was now nowhere to be seen.
Then off we went again heading further south towards the Inland Sea. Along the way we came across a ‘Dune Bashing’ casualty. Dune Bashing is one of the favourite weekend pastimes here in Qatar, and many 4×4 owners head into the desert to bash the desert. Climbing, rounding and descending dunes for thrills. But sometimes they get it wrong and end up wrecking their car.
We came across these guys shortly after getting a decent wrong. Kevin explained that this particular dune is actually named ‘The Stopper’. Sometimes weather changes the base of the dune into a shape that if you come down too fast will quite literally stop you in your tracks. And that is exactly what had just happened to these poor chaps.
We drove up to them and enquired if they were ok, and if they needed any help. They did not, and in fact were calling in for assistance from their friends at that very moment. Then we were a little bit un-feeling by taking photographs of their miserable situation. Which I’m sure must of been a little irritating for them.
They had blown out both of their front tiers and sustained some front end damage, but fortunately no one was hurt. However in the past this very dune ‘The Stopper’ had cost lives when people got it wrong. And we could see car parts strewn around from previous mishaps.
Then off we went again. Along the way, there was numerous vehicles passing in either direction.
We could see in the distance the inlet to the Inland Sea once more. The sun was starting do sink quite quickly now.
We paused near the inlet to take in the view, and I grabbed a group shot with Saudi just visible in the background.
Then we dropped back down to the salt flats to continue down to the Inland Sea.
There was a brief stop on the flats while I snapped a couple more shots of the inlet.
I discovered it’s not that safe to leave the vehicle to take snaps of bushes growing out of the side of sand dunes when a cavalcade of 4×4’s came charging around the corner while taking this one. On this occasion we were in no danger as they spotted us early. But it brought home to me the fact that without warning a dune bashing 4×4 could suddenly appear over or arround a dune and flatten me.
Then off we went for the final drive to the Inland Sea. Speeding along through the desert with the sun reflecting off the Inland Sea in the distance. My camera hanging out of the window shooting the spectacular scene.
And finally we arrive. Just as the sun is about to disappear.
Wow what a sight! Absolutely beautiful. Cars parked around the coast, people swimming, picnicking and just unwinding in the wonderful place. We headed to the top of a dune and setup base camp there.
Then settled back to watch the watch the sun finally say good night with some nice snacks and drinks.
Once the sun was gone, the noise of engines in the distance began to reduce and finally for the most part stop. The stars came out, and we just sat and told stories and enjoyed each others excellent company in almost complete darkness and silence. What a fabulous excursion.
Thank you Kevin for driving us, and thank you Bob and Edna for being such fabulous companions on this wonderful trip.
Ok, this is my first time in a long time that I have been in an airport without lounge access. But you know what, it’s not that bad. I am sat comfortably in a nice food court with a splendid view out onto the pad. The variety of food is extensive and not that expensive. Ok it’s not free like in the lounges, but the selection is way, way better and so is the view.
There is plenty of seating, with a nice hastle free atmosphere. The seating isn’t much different to that available in the lounges (unless you are travelling First Class), and in many respects is actualy better. I have always found the lounges here in HIA to be dark and depressing. It’s light and vibrant here in the food court.
As regards food, there are many options. Pasta, noodles, sandwiches, pizza, Burger King etc. And I have just spotted a very decent 6 item breakfast for QR 26, although that wasn’t in this food court that was in a restaurant called Marche. You would need a second mortgage to afford a breakfast in Heathrow.
Burger King here is excellent value with a Double Whopper Meal costing just QR 29 (USD 7.97). Not much more than the high street in Qatar.
The shopping in the HIA is excellent with plenty to keep your mind busy while you wait for your gate to open. The thing is I used to turn up here, and go direct to my lounge and stay there until my gate was open. And that was a huge mistake. Man I used to get so bored. Down here there is much more to do and see, the food is better and it’s much more spacious. I’m not missing the lounge at all today.
I lost my lounge access because I haven’t flown enough this year to re-qualify for Qatar Airways Silver Membership. And although my Qatar Airways co-branded Mastercard gives me free lounge access throughout the region, incredibly it doesn’t here in Qatar. How crazy is that? And I found my Priority Pass to be a waste of money on the routes I am flying.
Right that’s enough about HIA, next blog will be from Manila while I am killing time in Terminal 3.
So this morning I lost my Silver Status, and was informed by the following email:-
Dear MrCANDY, As a valued Privilege Club member, we are writing to advise you of a change in your membership status. Your membership status has been renewed at our Burgundy level.
At first I was major disappointed, but then I though fair enough, I haven’t traveled enough this year to deserve it, I will be flying long haul another 2 times this year and that should get me back up to silver again.
But then I thought how disappointed I was with my Silver Membership, and questioned if it was worth the extra money to stay loyal to Qatar Airways, or if I would be better off switching to lower cost airlines and enjoying the extra money instead.
I got an upgrade to business class when I flew to the Philippines last Christmas, and that was awesome. But most of the time the only real benefit is lounge access at the airport. And to be honest the Silver Lounge in Qatar is nothing like as good as those in Dubai, and the lounge in Manila is pathetic and not really worth anything at all.
Now that Cebu Pacific have started flying direct to the Philippines from Doha, I’m seriously considering flying with them. If I still had my Silver membership I would most certainly stay with QA, But now I’m more tempted to save around QR 1,500 (£265 or 18,559 Pesos) and sit with my fellow peasants in the public departures area, and not worry about trying to regain my Silver status. Especially now that Manila has refurbished their departures facilities at T1, and it has better food than the lounges do. I can do a lot with QR 1,500 it may be time to switch to Cebu Pacific.
Well all good things must come to an end. And the free parking enjoyed in the HIA long stay has ceased to be. Unfortunately it’s a little more expensive than I was hoping for. QR 2 per hour, and QR 45 per 24 hours.
I’m planing a 10 day trip soon, and that would cost me a massive QR 450 while I am away at QR 45 a day. And that stings just a little too much for me.
Of course I could just do what these guys are doing and park on the road. The cars in these images are all parked. You are not looking at a stream of traffic frozen by my camera, they are all driver-less. They have all parked on the road and walked in I guess.
But I will probably just take a cab. Which is what I guess a lot of other people are doing as the long stay car park is looking very shall we say empty these days. When it was free it was really well used, and there were no cars parked on the roadside. A more reasonable price would have been a better option in my honest opinion. It’s a fabulous facility, with lots of security roaming around and air conditioned shuttle bus waiting rooms. Just a little too pricey for me. Which is good news for the taxi companies.
Oh and if you plan to pop along to check out the car park in advance of travelling, be aware once you drive in, it’s QR 2 even if you come straight back out. My 6 minuet stay was QR 2, which I didn’t mind paying to find out how everything works and grab these images.
The new Souq Waqif being constructed in Al Wakra is due to be opened on December 18th 2014, which is of course Qatar National Day.
Built to look old, aged and traditional it is very convincing. You feel like you are walking in a commercial area that has existed for generations. Yet it is completely brand new.
And the location is breathtakingly splendid, right on the sea shore next to Wakra Marina. With cafés, restaurants and retail outlets it’s going to have a bit of everything for everyone. I can already see myself sat outside Al Aker Sweets enjoying a nice plate of kunafah, watching a beautiful sunset with the salty smell of the sea in the air. Perfect!
There is no doubt about it, Al Wakra is evolving. And this development has been well planned, with what appears to be ample parking. Although I truly hope the guy who designed Souq Waqif Doha’s car park has had nothing to do with the parking here. Because this place is going to be a fantastic family destination that is going to be simply buzzing with people driving here.