Before September Polish citizens (as well as couple of other countries too) who wanted to visit Qatar had to collect some important documents to add to the visa application. Not only the invitation was necessary (sometimes a hotel or an airline could help) but – what was the craziest for me – the bank statement from past 3 months showing that there’s at least 5.000 PLN (=1.250€/1.600$). The nearest embassy was in Berlin so even if the visa itself was only 100 QAR (=23€/30$) costs of sending the passport to Germany etc would have summed up to quite much for only one day.
Somewhere along the way I even visited Qatar Airways office in Warsaw and the nice lady there told me that because QA will start flying to Poland from December on it’s very likely they’ll make all the visa formalities much easier for us. I already gave up the idea to visit Qatar but a tiny hope appeared. Then, 2 weeks before departure I decided to check one more time what’s up with the visa to Qatar. And I couldn’t believe what my eyes had seen! Since 12th September 2012 the whole complicated visa process was abandoned! Now I was able to get the visa right away from the custom officer at the airport! I was literally jumping around the house with excitement! I was going to see Doha after all!
On my way to China my layover in Doha was in the night time so I spent the time sleeping in the corner at the airport or surfing the net (bless you free wifi!). But 2 weeks later I arrived to Doha at 6 in the morning and my connecting flight to Vienna wasn’t to leave until 2:30 am – that gave me the whole day to explore the city! I didn’t want to leave the airport too early so after catching up on Facebook (you can imagine the number of notiffications after 2 weeks…;)) and other random things at 9 am I’ve decided it’s time to try and get out of the airport.
The Doha airport is divided into two buildings located couple of kilometres away from each other. The one I was in was for transfer and departures and I needed to get to the arrivals (that was is much closer to the city). The airport is full of Qatar Airways workers willing to help you anytime. When I asked one how I can get out to the city he first wasn’t really sure if Poland qualifies for the visa at the airport but he still made all he could to help me. And so I was transfered to the arrivals terminal – I was the only passanger in the bus that drove me around the airport to the right building.
I entered the nicely air conditioned building (it was already +35C degrees outside even if it was only 9am) and I was so surprised to see a long queue of people (looking mostly like they’ve come from India – later I’ve notticed Doha is full of them as only they work in services). I was asked by yet another QA worker if I have a credit card to pay for my visa and after confirming I was able to join the queue. It was going pretty slow as all the people before me were inspected really carefully, for example they were asked to put their signature on the piece of paper and then the custom worker compared it with the signature in the passport – if it looked wrong they were taken to some hidden place… All of that made me feel pretty nervous as I wasn’t sure if just the passport and the boarding card on my onward flight were enough. Besides I wasn’t that sure I remember the pin code to my credit card – I never use it to pay in shops, only to book flights and accomodation, not remembering the pin code is my trick to save money from the card;)
Finally it was my time to approach the custom officer. He was a young guy, maybe in my age, and looked exactly like I pictured people from that area (with long white robe and sandals). He was so extremely nice and all smiling that I was confused after I’ve seen how the customs treated all the Indian people. He was really curious about Poland, what language we speak here (he was almost sure it had to be English and couldn’t believe me we have our own language…), how cold it is etc. He just kept the conversation going and I didn’t even nottice when he finished all the formalities. He didn’t even check my boarding card, he was more curious how long I want to stay in Qatar and recommended me all “must sees” in Doha. He wasn’t also all that sure that Poland is among the countries to receive the visa at the airport but if I checked at the embassy website then I must have been right and he believed me. When it came to paying I handed him my credit card but also asked if there’s a way I can pay with my bank card as I’m just not sure I remember the pin code. Again all smiling the custom guy said that of course he can accept the payment from every card, even if it’s the credit one that is reuired, but it’s up to me which one I want to use. The whole visa process took maybe 5 minutes and it was the nicest and easiest ever. At the end the custom officer wished me a lovely stay in Qatar and invited me to visit his country more often. Maybe he wasnted me to be his 7th wife but was too shy to admit that?
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When I was officially in Qatar I just had to sit down for a while to calm down and proceed in my head what had just happened. I don’t know why I was so nervous or paranoid I will not be able to enter. I suddenly found myself in a completely exotic country, the one I’ve never thought I’ll visit. Only couple of months before I didn’t know where exactly it is, I knew only it’s “somewhere there”. When I inspected closer my visa I almost laughed out loud – it was a regular border crossing stamp with some number and “one month” written next to it…
Have you ever had any interesting visa situations?
If you think of visiting Qatar or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
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