Long airport layovers can be agonizing. Expensive Wi-Fi, expensive restaurants (or McDonalds…again), hard plastic seats with metal armrests that don’t permit sleep are aspects that are synonymous with the experience. But does it have to be that way?
Recently, I wrote an article highlighting airlines that offered free and amazing stopovers and I thought it would be great to highlight cities that offer free tours for if you happen to find yourself with an extended layover but short of a stopover.
4 GREAT CITY TOURS
In no particular order, let’s dive in…
I connected through Istanbuls new airport recently but was unable to take advantage of the free “touristanbul“ program. But if you have more than six hours between flights, you can sign up at the Hotel Desk in the International Arrivals Terminal of Istanbul Airport (IST).
The Tour will give travelers a brief tour of the city and some of its most iconic landmarks, including Hippodrome Square, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace.
How to book it: When you arrive, look for the Hotel Desk in the international arrivals hall. There, you can sign up for one of the five daily tour departures. To read more about the program, CLICK HERE.
Seoul hasn’t hit the radar for many tourists but the bustling city is a “hidden” gem and offers a lot of unique opportunities.
While some airports require you to have excessively long layovers to take advantage of tours, Incheon Airport – the primary airport serving the Seoul Capital Area – has tour options for as little as one hour.
Travelers can spend from one to five hours on either a temple-focused or city-focused tour with English-speaking guides.
Additionally, the airport provides “insider tours” of the airport itself, which is pretty amazing considering the airport has consistently been rated as one of the best airports in the world every year since 2005.
How to book it: Depending on your location, you will need to determine which one is closer, but to head to either the:
- “Hana Tour” desk by gate 8 or;
- the transit desk between Gates 25 and 29.
Speaking of the best airports in the world, let’s take a look at THE BEST AIRPORT IN THE WORLD. This is one NOT TO MISS!
Ahhhh…Singapore’s Changi Airport. This airport will blow your mind! Many people lovingly refer to this airport as “the mall that just happens to have planes that leave from it.”
The airport has so many amazing features (i.e. a butterfly garden, massage chairs, a movie theater, etc.). If you don’t want to leave the air-conditioned comforts of the airport, I get it! But make sure you take The Jewel Tour.
Changi also offers two free city tours for people transiting through the airport who have six or more hours to spare. The Heritage Tour focuses on exploring cool neighborhoods like Little India and Kampong Glam while the City Sights Tour will give you glimpse into the downtown area and areas like the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands, and the famed Gardens By the Bay.
How to book it: DO NOT CLEAR IMMIGRATION, instead head to:
- Terminal 2: Level 2, Transit Area, (near Transfer Lounge E)
- Terminal 3: Level 2, Transit Area, (near Transfer Lounge B)
- Other Terminals: Please take the skytrain within the Transit area and proceed to Terminal 3 for registration.
If you find yourself in Tokyo, I highly recommend you get out to see the sights or experience a bit of the culture. Tokyo’s Narita Airport offers a Transit and Stay Program which helps you do just that by offering a range of both guided and self-guided tours for travelers on a budget.
It’s worth noting that the tour is free but transportation in not included.
However, the unique aspect about the tours is anyone can take advantage of the opportunity. If you have a layover of several hours at Narita Airport, or if you are staying at a hotel in the Narita area and are looking for a way to spend a half-day, you can jump right in.
If you opt to go out with a guide on a cultural tour, you can explore the towns of Tako or Shibayama, go on a forest walk, or visit the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences; on-your-own you can shop at one of two malls that are accessible from the airport (via train).
Pro-Tip: If you go shopping, make sure you have enough space in your suitcase for all the stuff that you bought during the layover or you’ll have a slight problem on your hands.
How to book it: The airport has a desk call the Narita Transit Program Counter, and is in Terminal 1F of the Central Building or you can ask anyone and they’ll direct you to it. I love Japan!
These airports have turned the whole idea of an “exhausting layover” on its head, offering mini city tours so that you can make the most of your time between flights.
Additionally, its a genius way for you to determine whether you would enjoy returning to the city on another trip. Best of all…it’s free! Or more simply, an 8-hour layover has never looked so appealing.
I’ll be traveling to Singapore and Japan soon so I’ll be sure to provide tips and reviews of the tours.
Has anyone taken advantage of these specific tours? Have you taken a tour that you would like to add to the list?