How to Survive a 20-hour layover at HIA (Part 1: The free stuffs)

My wife and I commenced our journey to India on Thursday 19 November, 2015 and it seems we’ll only arrive at our first city in our exploration of India around 3pm on Saturday 21 November, 2015. This is in part due to having a 20-hour layover at Hamad International Airport (HIA), then boarding a plane to Mumbai, catching another flight to Cochin and then a train to Alleppey, Kerala.

This is the longest layover I’ve had in recent years. Fortunately, HIA has been reconstructed and has enough activities as well as free and paid lounges to keep you busy and comfortable during your layover.

Some perks of HIA -the 2nd largest airport in the Middle East after Dubai- that definitely beat Dubai Airport is the reliable free wifi and quiet rooms with an excess of reclined seats on which to sleep. This means you need not go searching long and far for a decent place to catch a nap, nor having to scout for passwords to the First Class Lounge’s wifi.

Here’s a list of some of the free activities you can do in the airport

  1. Catch-up on sleep: The airport has some pretty neat quiet rooms. These are significantly quieter than the busy boarding halls and are sectioned-off with thick 12mm glass to dampen the sound. There are also quiet areas (not rooms) that have recliners like those outdoor poolside ones.
    • Travel tip: The family areas have big couches. These are flat and make for better sleeping surfaces than the 150-degree recliners in the quiet rooms. I totally forgot about them.
  2. Read a book: If you’re like me and never get the time to catch up on an ever-growing reading list, pack a book and bring it along, or download it to your ebook reader.
  3. Try to get an STPC (stopover-paid-by-carrier). This may be pre-arranged if you qualify, or you can check at the transfer desk once you arrive. STPC usually entails Visa services, accommodation and meals for the duration of your layover if it exceeds 8 hours. Conditions usually apply. We tried this, but were unsuccessful as I had booked promotional tickets with specific STPC exclusions.
  4. Explore the City for free: Qatar Airways and the Qatar Tourism Authority offer a free tour to four sites in Doha. It’s well worth getting out of the Airport and will take about 2h45min. Try not to book the tour for Fridays during the Midday prayer times as most places will be closed. You can grab a coffee or a snack, and purchase some souvenirs in the local shopping district, learn more about Qatari heritage and culture, and make friends with other tour members. Read more about the tour here.
  5. Roam the airport: Exploring the airport itself will definitely kill a few hours. Play games at the electronics stores, or surf the internet using your own device or one of the many Apple iMacs available in the departure terminals. You can also explore the duty free shopping. Even if you don’t end up buying anything – looking at luxurious items is still fun.
  6. Write a blog, like this one!

See the gallery of our short city tour. The FB version is available here.

In the next post, I’ll go through some of the not-so-free things to do.

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