Yes, you heard it right!
A long layover or a stopover in some countries can be turned into a mini vacation in itself. You can explore an additional country before proceeding to your actual destination.
We give you a small preview of what it looks like. Sometimes you incur a small cost or sometimes it may be absolutely free. But to get to see a whole new city and not having to while away your precious time in the airport is worth even a small spend.
But first, let us understand how this works.
More often than not, when you book an international flight, you get a break in a journey in an additional international city to catch your next connecting flight. This break can be anywhere between 30 minutes to even a day. More than a day it turns into a stopover. Usually, it has to be a natural transit point for the airline you are flying with to your key destination. But there are few airlines which offer stopover destination tours or packages with or without accommodation which you can opt for staying a longer duration at the host city. You can intentionally decide to take a break in the journey and avail of these and the carry on to your destination. Long or short stopover, if you get to see the city and do some sightseeing, soak in its culture and spontaneity, we say it is way better than waiting at the airport to board your next flight with nothing to do. The icing on the cake - you get to tick off one more international destination on your list.
A Word of Advice
Check with the airlines you are planning to book for their offers before you go ahead and plan your stopover. If you are availing a sightseeing tour through a tour operator at the stopover city then make sure all your queries are answered including the visa rules & regulations.
We know you have been waiting for this. Below are some cities where you can make the most of your layover.
Istanbul: Flying through Turkey through Turkish Airlines? If you have a layover of more than 6 hours in Turkey’s capital city, Istanbul, you can go for a historical excursion through the city with Touristanbul free of charge. Lunch is on the house along with all the entry tickets during this tour. Sightseeing covers Basilica Cistern, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazar etc.
London: They call themselves “original founders of the layover tour.” Get in touch with London Magical Tours and book a customized tour of London, Windsor, Hampton Court or Oxford. They offer Chauffeur driven cars for Private tours with transfer services to and from Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, City Airport, as well as the Cruise Ports of Southampton, Harwich, and Dover, plus the Eurostar Trains from Paris and Europe at St Pancras Station. Although these tours aren’t free, for a little extra spend you get to tour a new city instead of waiting at the airport for such long hours.
Singapore: Changi Airport is considered one of the world’s best airports. But if you have more than 4 hours on hand and airport is not the only place you would like to spend your time, then you can avail of the Free Singapore Tour offered by Singapore Airlines in partnership with the airport. Or you just book a multicity tour while booking on Singapore Airlines and avail of a free stopover or pay a small amount and buy a stopover package for a small charge for accommodation and transfers and be free to wander around the city to experience some Singapore nightlife and the delectable street food it is so famous for.
Reykjavik: This one is really neat. But yes you have to book your flights with Icelandair and mostly people traveling between the US or Canada to Europe will seem to benefit from this. Your layover here can turn over into a mini-vacation of sorts. The airline allows a week of stay in the city free of charge. Reykjavik Excursions provide with airport transfers and sightseeing tours around the city as per your budget and requirement.
Beijing: This one is not free. And the layover has to be 8 to 14 hours. You can visit a number of themed destinations like Olympic sites or Tiananmen square and Forbidden city. Beijing Layover Tour will make arrangements for a private tour with a driver to go on an excursion to the city. For this one get your facts really clear before booking your tickets.
Bogota: They claim to offer the BEST Layover tours in Bogota, for people who want to see a lot of Bogota and the most outstanding attractions of the city in short time during a Layover at the international airport of Bogota (El Dorado). You need at least 5 hours to avail this service at the airport. They will customize the tour according to your itinerary along with airport pick up and drops.
More interestingly you also get to choose between a bike tour and car to go around the city. Get to know the history of Colombia, about the best coffee in the world, visit the historical areas, the social - bohemian areas outstanding attractions, museums, political - historic center of Colombia´s capital, the Best Bogota´s street art and much more.
Abu Dhabi: Etihad Airways have made it easier for booking stopovers at Abu Dhabi by introducing its stopover packages. One of the packages offers second night free if you book a two-night stay in Abu Dhabi and you can choose from over 60 hotels and enjoy 2 for 1 activities, an offer which will tempt to check out the wide range of activities the destination has to offer.
Bangkok: Amazing markets, a wild nightlife along with beautiful Buddhist temples all this and more makes Bangkok an alluring destination to visit and check out for yourself. If you have more than 6 hours at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok then you can go on a short city excursion of Bangkok and its surrounding provinces through one of the tour operators like Expique - Bangkok Tours and Experiences or Oriental Escape who offer layover tours.
Doha: Qatar Airlines along with Qatar Tourism Authority offers a complimentary tour of Doha during a layover between 5-12 hours at the Doha International Airport.
Visit four key landmarks including The Pearl-Qatar, for the finest quality shops and restaurants; Katara Cultural Village, a center dedicated to celebrating arts and heritage; Souq Waqif, for traditional jewelry, spices and handicrafts; and the Museum of Islamic Art, for its stunning architecture and beautiful seaside park. Passengers with transit time between 5 and 12 hours with a valid passport and boarding pass for their onward travel are eligible for this tour (based on seat availability). Eligibility is subject to immigration approval (complimentary visa is included).
You can also opt-in for a break in journey and avail of Qatar Stopover Program. You must have an onward ticket to your main destination and the duration of stay has to be between 5-96 hours. Transit visa is free of cost and airport transfers are taken care of.
South Korea: Got more than 3 hrs to spare at South Korea's Incheon Airport? Avail the Free Transit Tour without any cost and without a visa and explore the city. The tours range from 2 to 6 hours. Although you'll have to pay for your meals and entry tickets to any attractions you want to explore. Be near the airport with the Temple Tour in Incheon, or go for a longer tour with the Highlight of Seoul city tour. Almost all tour programs are free except 8 am Seoul city tour 1 and 10 am Seoul city tour 3.
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia Airlines with its new stopover option lets you take a break between two successive flights. You can stay over and explore Kuala Lumpur and some other tourist spots on the way to your main destination. You can do the same on your return flight via Kuala Lumpur.
With their new stopover option, you can now have a break between two consecutive flights. That means you have the opportunity to take a breather, stay over and explore the city of Kuala Lumpur and other exciting Malaysian tourist spots en route to your destination. You even have the choice to opt for the second stopover on your return flight.
The Stopover/Layover packages keep changing and also the Visa rules and regulations. The listed city and airlines are currently giving out these options but do keep a tab on them if you plan to detour into mini vacation before the actual on.
Other Airlines you can scout for some stopover ideas:
Did you find this list cool? For avid passionate travelers, this actually satiates their desire to globetrot around the world in a cost-efficient way. A vacation where they can cover two destinations at the cost of one meets that passion halfway.