Gold exchange, dune bashing, accommodation reviews and more, read on to hear more about our GM Simone’s recent visit to Doha, Qatar with Qatar Airways.

 The flight

After a smooth check in at Sydney airport, the group boarded an A380 with a business class boarding pass through to Doha.

  • Cabin crew provided great service with personal introductions and a professional manner
  • Seats were comfortable with a drawers and compartments for ease of placing personal belongings
  • Aisle side arm rest pops up and down to suit seat in upright or flat bed mode
  • Meals are available on demand if your preference is to have a meal on take off
  • Light meal option great for the late departure – after a snack in the lounge, canapes at the bar, a light meal is perfect before a good sleep.
  • Bar area is also a nice resting place in the morning when the main cabin is still dark with shades down and you want some daylight to read by.
  • There are seatbelts provided in the bar so no need to return to seat during turbulence.
  • Crew on the flight back to Sydney seemed rushed on departure despite half hour delay after everyone had boarded, but still very impressive in-flight service.
  • Customer feedback….Dreamliner better than  A380  – smaller more intimate

Arrival in Doha

Not many people actually got off in Doha so immigration not so busy – but slow. With visa issue on arrival it is a slow process. There is a special arrival lounge for first & business class passengers – they should definitely use it. You can pay visa fee on arrival and exchange money at FX counter in the baggage hall. The trip into town is approximately 40 minutes. Keep an eye out for the terminal exclusively for the Royal Family on the left as you leave the airport.

Accommodation

The W Hotel is in a quiet location near the waterfront, it is opposite building sites so may lose views in the future due to a waterfront build. The rooms are a good size (approx 40sqm) and equipped with Bose speaker to sync via blue tooth to own music. Pay TV otherwise regular programs average… CNN best option.  Nespresso plus tea making facilities.  Full mini bar including alcohol provided.  Mocktails only poolside before 5 pm. The breakfast buffet is mostly Arabic and very good.  If you prefer poached eggs or omelet then easy! The W Café is good for lunch or an afternoon tea. The pool bar serves drinks after 5pm only. The mall nearby wasn’t great.

The Westin Hotel is located in a quiet area, there is a new office high rise to open next door soon.  It is approximately 15 mins to shopping at Vellagio in good traffic.  The accommodation rooms are big (50sqm).  No music system, no mirror near power point to plug in hair dryer.  It’s an open bathroom to bedroom.

Breakfast buffet – average Western food selection.   Not much in the way of Arabic food.

Bar for hotel guests only has happy hour and a big outdoor deck. As we did group check in reception didn’t take an imprint of our credit cards, so not able to charge anything to our rooms nor open a tab.  Instead we had to pay for each drink as they were served.   All in all a bit underwhelmed with this hotel.

St Regis Hotel (dinner & hotel inspection – did not stay).

The hotel has a grand entrance up a long drive, it reminded me of arriving at Mina A Salam in Dubai. There was a harpist playing live music in the lobby – hostess meets and greets arriving visitors.  Very relaxing.

Nice rooms – great size. Restaurants by Gordon Ramsay.

Qatar in general 

  • Lot’s of construction, not many tourists. Because of the distances between everything and all the roadworks & construction there aren’t many people walking about.     They say the park area around the Wafiq Souq livens up at night.
  • No alcohol except in 5 star hotels. In hotels, usually no alcohol served until 5pm earliest – with exceptions.
  • Normal taxis use the meter and are cheap. There are private taxis also usually lurking around the hotels – they are fixed price so ask before and they will be more expensive than the metered cab.   Ask the hotel doorman if you want the private taxi as it didn’t seem like they offer them unless specifically asked to.  Taxi drivers seem to not know their way around – or maybe the roads keep changing.
  • Gulf Mall – high end shopping (I’m told – didn’t go there) Closer to St Regis
  • Vellagio shopping mall – just like Vegas. Gondola ride down centre of the mall. All the regular retail brands plus all the high end shops in a separate strip.   For taxi best to go back to main entrance – not so many cabs at other entrances.

To exchange gold… Bring old and outdated gold with you to sell.   Market price will be offered based on weight.         It doesn’t matter if it’s large pieces or just slithers of gold.   A more complicated process than Dubai.   First go to the official office.  (Shop will guide or point the way ) You show your id… Eg passport with visa entry sticker, and the gold you wish to sell.  You pay Riall 10 by credit card and get a certificate of criminal clearance.  Then take the certificate and your gold to a shop that buys and trades for cash.  Don’t worry – you get paid market price for gold and they don’t care the condition….      Take the cash and run or go to any other shop to buy new or 2nd hand jewellery.

Dune bashing
Toyota Land Cruisers out into the desert with an hour or so crazy driving on the dunes.   Other companies have dune buggies or quad bikes.  Stop at the camels while the tyres are being let down.   A longer wait to get tyres filled up again due to the sheer number of cars waiting for same service.

Katara Cultural Village – supposedly the arty centre of Doha where visitors can see art being created, music being played.   We went for dinner and not much happening – pretty deserted.   Maybe everything happens earlier in the day.   The restaurants are good though and many to choose from.