Somewhere near the middle of my insane Qatar Airways mileage run I found myself back in Doha, Qatar for the second time in as many days. This time however, I had a long layover of approximately 20 hours which meant that I could get out of the airport, stretch my legs, and explore Doha. Qatar Airways actually offers a free transit visa to all passengers with layovers between 5 and 96 hours. Using this benefit I could leave the airport free of charge and finally explore Doha.
Additionally, Qatar Airways currently offers a free stopover hotel benefit. Qatar Airways passengers with layovers greater than 8 hours qualify for a free hotel room at various hotels in Doha. Economy passengers can book 4-star hotels while Business Class and First Class passengers can book 5-star hotels. Since I was flying Qatar Airways Business Class from New York to Doha and on to Vietnam I was able to select a 5-star hotel. I ended up booking the Oryx Rotana Doha hotel as it’s close to the airport and affiliated with the airline. I figured this would be a good property to visit as it’s probably one of the more transit hotels in Doha.
Booking My Free Stopover Hotel At The Oryx Rotana Doha
As I mentioned previously, since I was flying Qatar Airways business class with a long layover in Doha I was eligible for a free stopover hotel. I began my booking process by contacting Qatar Airways on Twitter. Using the DM function I send the Qatar Airways team my booking reference number and asked which hotels I could book. In return, the Qatar team told me that I wasn’t eligible for a hotel as they offered flights with a shorter layover. They informed me that I could switch to flights with a shorter layover at no extra charge. I decided against that option as I still wanted to explore Doha with or without a hotel room.
Rather than going through Qatar Airways support, I decided to book the hotel on my own. I began my search by visiting the Discover Qatar website and searched for hotel availability. I had a few options, but ultimately decided on the Oryx Rotana. Once I selected the hotel I proceeded to the payment details page. On this page you enter your personal information and your E-Ticket number. This is number that begins with 157-XXXXXXX (e.g. 157-2315698563). After entering my information and ticket number I hit confirm and received a confirmation email a few minutes later.
At that point I expected an email from Qatar Airways telling me that my reservation was invalid. Since I knew the airline had already said I didn’t qualify for the benefit I figured they’d eventually review and cancel my booking. In the end, the reservation remained and I didn’t have any issues checking in.
Shuttle Bus From Hamad International Airport To The Oryx Rotana Doha
After clearing customs and getting my free transit visa I found myself curbside on the arrivals level of the airport. I quickly located the hotel shuttle pickup area and waited patiently for the Oryx Rotana shuttle. Before long the shuttle arrived and we boarded the fairly cramped bus which would take us to the hotel. At this point I didn’t have to present a confirmation number or any other credentials.
The bus ride takes approximately 15 minutes from the airport to the hotel. Busses leave about every half hour on the half hour.
Check-In At The Oryx Rotana Doha
The complimentary shuttle bus dropped passengers off at the main entrance of the hotel. The hotel reception is just to the right of the main entrance. I walked up to the desk to check-in and was asked for a few documents in order to check in. First, the hotel receptionist asked for my boarding card. Apparently they need to scan a copy of the boarding pass for their records. Next, they asked for my hotel confirmation email. I tried simply giving them the confirmation number, but again they wanted to see the whole email which confirms the free stopover benefit from Qatar Airways. Lastly, they asked to see my passport.
I have to admit I was bit nervous during this process as I thought surely they’d realize that I wasn’t technically eligible for the benefit and send me walking. Instead, I the receptionist handed me a room key and directed me to the elevators.
Immediately after checking into the room I turned toward the hotel lobby and proceeded to the elevators. The elevators are located in the center of the hotel and offer great views of the hotel’s grand atrium.
The views of the atrium from the guest hallways above are also fantastic.
After checking out the main lobby and atrium for a few moments I went to my room to change before heading straight to the pool.
Oryx Rotana Doha Guest Rooms
Considering the Oryx Rotana Doha is essentially a transit hotel I didn’t exactly expect much from the guest rooms. When I opened the door to my room I was pleasantly surprised by nice the room actually was.
As with most hotels you’re given a keycard to unlock the door, but that keycard doubles as your electricity key once inside.
Once inside the room I was immediately drawn to the large comfortable king bed.
Next to the bed I found my new favorite hotel room feature; the hotel light control center.
With this panel you can control every aspect of the room. You can adjust the temperature, operate all of the room lights, and even set an alarm. This quickly became my favorite feature of the room.
Next to the bed, near the floor to ceiling windows was a small love seat and table. I didn’t end up sitting on this couch, but the pillows ended up being the perfect size to put beneath the blackout shades to eliminate all light from the bedroom in the middle of the day. Opposite the bed was a fairly small wall mounted TV and a desk.
One of my favorite things about this room was the modern and spacious bathroom.
Oryx Rotana Guest Room Restroom
The first thing I noticed when I walked in the bathroom was the large shower. The shower featured an overhead rain shower head and accompanying handheld shower head. A long shower was exactly what I needed after the 13 hour connecting flight from New York.
In the center of the bathroom was a standard sink surrounded by black countertops.
In the lower right drawer of the sink was a hair dryer which required a separate light switch on the outside of the bathroom to use. Beneath the sink was a scale which I didn’t dare step on.
To the right of the sink was a toilet and a bidet.
Oryx Rotana Doha Amenities
When I was trying to pick a hotel to stay at in Doha I had two requirements. First, I wanted to book a hotel with a fairly modern gym and second I wanted an outdoor pool. The Oryx Rotana Doha checked both of those boxes which ultimately helped me decide to book this particular property.
The gym, spa, and pool are all located on the second level of the hotel. To use the gym you must first visit the fitness center check-in desk to sign a health and safety waiver. At that point I was given a gym towel and directed into the fitness center. The gym features modern equipment and plenty of cardio machines. Overall the gym offered plenty of equipment which made it worth the visit.
After a quick run I returned to the fitness center reception desk to grab a beach towel for the pool. I then walked down the long hallway from the check-in desk to the pool entrance.
Oryx Rotana Doha Outdoor Pool
After spending nearly 3 straight days on airplanes I can’t tell you how nice it was to go outside and sit by the pool. I visited Doha in early November and it was still about 90 degrees fahrenheit outside. After sitting by the pool for about 20 minutes I needed to get in to cool off. That’s when I realized the Oryx Rotana Doha features one of the most comical pools I’ve ever been in.
The pool entrance (to the right of the above photo) is a set of stairs which leads into the pool. After two steps down you’re fully in the pool and the water is maybe knee height. The pool gets deeper as you move toward the far end, but even at the deepest point the pool is only about 3 foot deep. It was honestly hilarious how shallow the pool was.
A string of Qatar flag colored buoys lined the center of the pool which I assumed was for lap swimmers. However, I can’t fathom how anyone could swim laps in this pool. If you tried to swim freestyle your hands would hit the bottom of the pool as you swam toward the shallow(er) end.
It was still great just getting in the water and floating around for a while to cool off, but it was still one of the most interesting pools I’ve ever been in. At the shallow end of the pool is an outdoor bar which wasn’t open at 10AM.
As far as airport transit hotels go, the Oryx Rotana Doha is plenty nice. It’s hard not to appreciate a free hotel stay, but I can’t help thinking I made the wrong choice. The hotel is closest to the airport when compared to other properties near downtown Doha. I wasn’t sure how I’d be feeling at this point in my trip so I wanted to be close to the airport in case I wanted to get a little extra sleep.
However, after a quick nap I had plenty of energy to explore Doha. I then needed to grab a $10 Uber to take me to the Cornish in downtown Doha. I wish I would have instead just stayed downtown. Also, The Pearl is nearly a 40 minute cab ride from the Oryx Rotana Doha which prevented me from exploring that area as I didn’t want to waste 80 minutes of my layover in a cab.
Overall, the Oryx Rotana Doha is a perfect hotel if you have a short layover in Doha and have no interest in exploring the city. The free shuttle to and from the airport takes about 15 minutes, the rooms and bed were perfect for catching some shut-eye, and the property offers a gym, spa, and pool which are perfect for relaxing during your layover. However, if you had a longer layover and actually want to experience Doha I recommend looking elsewhere. In the end, I wish I would have booked the Marriott Marquis City Center or Souq Waqif Boutique as both would put you closer to all that Doha has to offer.