Saturday, March 29, 2014
Doha Hotels -- Where to Stay in Doha/Qatar
As an extension to my posts “What to Do in Qatar" and “Where to Eat in Qatar” I figured I'd do a post about trying to figure out a hotel to stay in. If you're not familiar with the city it can be a tough decision as you don't really have a sense of where things are or how close they might be.
Before we begin I will note that I have never actually stayed in almost any of these hotels (why would I stay in any of them -- I live here). These recommendations are based on whether the hotels might be suitable for what you need. Before you book you should also look at a review website like tripadvisor or booking.com to see what travelers had to say about their stays at individual hotels.
With that out of the way, let’s begin with a key consideration when choosing a hotel:
Location, location, location.
As the city Doha is pretty spread out, and with no metro or significant public transport system, the traffic can be pretty bad throughout the day. If you're coming to Doha on business it could save you a lot of hassle to book a hotel that would be close to your meetings. If your meetings are in the West Bay neighborhood stay at a hotel in West Bay, if they’re elsewhere in the city then book a hotel close to there. It can save you a lot of grief in the long run. Otherwise you could be looking at up to an hour or more commuting to your meetings depending on how far away you are.
And don't think you can just step out of the hotel onto the street and flag down a taxi, if it's rush hour you’re really taking your chances that you'll get one quickly. It could take more than an hour depending on where you are, no I’m not kidding. Both the morning and afternoon rush hours are the busiest time for taxis and I've known some people to book them two days in advance. Thus you'll be stuck having to use a hotel car at an exorbitant price. You may want to consider renting a car when you arrive at the airport, a small car could cost as little as 130-170 QAR a day, at some five-star hotels you could be charged that much for just one trip from their “limousine” services.
During the months of May to October the weather will likely be incredibly hot and humid, making even a 10-minute walk outside an ordeal. Having transportation lined up during these months will be especially crucial.
Another solution would be before you arrive in Doha to ask the company(-ies) that you are meeting if they have a driver who could pick you up from your hotel. Most companies do so maybe you could get transportation to your meetings that way.
By the way, not every hotel has alcohol
Only some of the hotels are licensed to serve alcohol, mostly five-star hotels. If having a drink is important to you then do some research in advance to see if the hotel is licensed to serve alcohol. There are a few four-star hotels with a license (but not many) and not all five-star hotels are licensed, so don't assume a five-star hotel will automatically have alcohol.
By law all hotel bars must scan your passport for you to be allowed entry (or Qatar ID if you live here). No passport, no entry, even if you are staying at the hotel. Picture ID like a driver’s license is not good enough, it has to be your passport. Some hotels might be stricter about this than others but that's the law.
So it turns out my meetings are in an area called West Bay, any recommendations?
There are plenty of hotels in that neighborhood, mostly five-star. The Four-Seasons, Hilton, Intercontinental (the City), W, Moevenpick, and Mariott Marquis are just some of them. You shouldn't have trouble finding something. Just a word of caution there are two Intercontinentals, two Mariotts and two Moevenpicks in Doha so just make sure you've got the right one.
What about if my meetings are in an area called Lusail / the Pearl / Katara?
Those are a bit north of West Bay and while staying in West Bay might be all right you could also stay at some hotels closer to the area: Ritz-Carleton, Intercontinental (the other one), St. Regis or the Grand Hyatt are all closer.
What about if my meetings are in an area called Aspire / Education City?
I think there's only two realistic options for hotels near those areas: the Torch or the Grand Heritage.
What about if my meetings are in an area called Ras Laffan / Al Khor / Wakra / Mesaieed?
Those places are not in Doha. Get hotel recommendations from whomever you are meeting with and ask if they can pick you up from the hotel. You still might be staying in a hotel in Doha, just with a bit more of a commute to your meetings.
I'm going to be in Doha on business for more than a week so I wouldn't mind staying somewhere with some variety for dining.
First see above about “location, location, location”
Otherwise a good hotel would be the Radisson Blu, which has something like nine different restaurants and five bars, and is on a busy intersection by what many here call “Cholesterol Alley” where there are tons of nearby fast food places, cafés and other restaurants.
Staying at the hotels in or near Souq Waqif would also provide you with dozens of dining options, but there are no bars in the Souq and I think only a couple of hotels nearby have them.
West Bay hotels might also be an option if they are close to City Centre Mall as there are plenty of places to eat there. The W is close and the Mariott Marquis is attached to the mall.
Also consider the Torch hotel as it is attached to Villagio Mall, but it also has no options for bars.
The Grand Hyatt has, I think, four restaurants and is across the street from a moderate sized mall called Lagoona where you can go for cheaper options.
I'm traveling with my spouse/family and they prefer sitting by a pool and/or beach.
Only the resort hotels on the shore have beaches but there are many to choose from: Ritz, Grand Hyatt, St. Regis, Intercontinental, Hilton, Four Seasons, the Sharq and the Marriot resort. They tend to also have the best pools (but it varies, view pictures from their websites before booking).
Be warned, chances are you will not be served alcohol at the pool or beach: http://dohanews.co/sudden-change-in-alcohol-rules-at-hotels-upsets-customers/
I'm traveling with my spouse/family and they prefer exploring.
A hotel in or near Souq Waqif would be my choice. The Souq has a number of boutique hotels that you can book through a shared website.
If those are too expensive there is also a small hotel (I think 9 rooms) in the Souq most people don't know about called Hotel Khariss but I think you’ll need to Google a travel website to make a booking as it doesn’t have its own site.
Otherwise there are a lot of three and four-star hotels about a 10 minute walk from the Souq, such as Kingsgate, Mercure, Best Western, Horizon Manor, and others.
I'm traveling with my spouse/family and they prefer shopping.
Souq Waqif is an option if they want something more traditional (see above for recommendations near the Souq) otherwise a hotel close to or attached to a mall would be best. The two largest malls are City Centre and Villagio. For City Centre the W is close and the Mariott Marquis is attached to the mall. For Villagio the Torch is attached to the mall.
I'm traveling in the summer.
See the above sections “Location, location, location” and “I'm traveling with my spouse/family and they prefer shopping.” In the summer you will either need to drive everywhere or be in a hotel that is very close to amenities. Malls are where everyone goes in the summer as it is generally too hot for outside activities, being close to a mall will make it easy for you to get out and about without going through the hassle of getting taxis or driving. Some people even find lounging by a pool in July or August to be a chore (unless the hotel chills the pool, ask in advance) and in those months the water in the Gulf is too hot for a comfortable swim.
I've never been to the Middle East before so wouldn't mind staying in a hotel that has a lot of Arabic character.
Souq Waqif boutique hotels are a good bet, as would the Sharq Resort. Honorable mentions -- the Grand Hyatt and the Four Seasons.
I think that's about it, if I can think of any other categories I'll update the post.