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Published: March 22nd 2017
So here I am on the road again, this time en route to the Middle East countries of Oman, Israel and Jordan. I was able to secure a very attractive flight with Qatar Airways, arriving in Muscat and departing on the way home from Amman, with a transit in Doha each way. The transit on the way was 6 hours, which is much longer than desirable, but my research have given me a great option to spend that time. Or so I thought!
Qatar Airways offers a free City Tour service (including transit visa) from Doha airport, which takes 3 hours and is available for any passenger who has a transit stop of six hours or more. Given my stop was between 3pm and 9pm, I found out there was a tour between 4pm and 7pm, which couldn't have fitted my timing better. So on arrival, I made it down to the City Tour desk, which I read was open from 3pm to 4pm, only to find that this is the period in which they book the following 8pm tour and that I should have been there at 11am to book the 4pm tour. So go figure that perverse logic!
Not one to be easily discouraged, I then hot-tailed it down to Immigration to see if I could get a transit visa for the duration of the day, only to find an enormous queue there that was likely to take over an hour to get through. So I asked an official if there was any way I could bypass this queue given that I only wanted a transit pass. He graciously directed me to the 'special' queue, which is used by the crews and which only had around a dozen other passengers waiting. The only problem is that there were no Immigration Officers serving this queue, somewhat defeating the purpose of having a 'special' queue! Fortunately, after around half an hour, some crew came along, as did an Officer, and I finally got out into the Doha sunshine with my transit visa (not cheap at around USD30) by 5pm.
Not keen to change money for such a short stay, I found a cooperative taxi driver who took me for the short drive into the Corniche and allowed me to pay him in USD, accepting a $20 note and giving me 20 dinars (around USD6) as change, so a
net cost of around USD14. He advised me that there was a surcharge on fares from the airport, so I should in fact be able to return to the airport later in the day cheaper than that.
I spent a pleasant couple of hours just drifting around the Doha Corniche area, and given it was a Saturday afternoon the area was teeming with families. There was also a very large outdoor market nearby, which provided interesting viewing as well as a magnificent mango and sticky rice which I couldn't resist and which relieved me of my 20 dinars.
So I had to find another helpful taxi driver to then take me back to the airport and again accept USD as payment, which I did easily. He seemed a nice guy, or so I thought, and gave me a rundown on the construction plans for the Qatar 2022 football World Cup, as well as stressing to me the considerable safety and honesty aspects of Doha. So blow me down if he then doesn't charge me USD30 on arrival. I told him he was a crook, so he immediately changed his mind and said he would accept 20 instead. I
told him he was still a crook, and advised him that two could play that game. So I promptly gave him a 10 dollar note, hopped out of his car and told him if he wasn't happy he could call the police. Needless to say, it didn't go any further, but it left a bad taste in my mouth regarding Doha in general.
Fortunately, the story finishes well, as I didn't realise that my Qantas lifetime Gold pass got me access to the Business Class Lounge, so I managed to get a drink and a small feed before taking off on the final leg to Muscat.
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