Sometimes you may find yourself stuck at an airport for multiple hours on a layover. Whether it’s the only option available due to flight schedules or you’re taking advantage of lower fare with a less than desirable schedule, long layovers can actually be something to look forward to.
Take a Free City Tour When Flying Through These Cities
To help entice travelers through their hubs, some airports offer free city tours to help you pass the time. Here are five airports that offer free city tours during layovers.
Flights on 5-star rated Singapore Airlines will take you through Changi Airport in Singapore (SIN), which is well-known for its amenities. A swimming pool with a Jacuzzi, movie theater, and multiple gardens have kept it at the top of SkyTrax world’s best airport rankings for multiple years. You can find plenty to do within the airport, but if you want to get out and see the city, take advantage of a free tour.
As long as your layover is between 5.5 and 24 hours, you’ll be eligible to hop on one of two free 2.5 hour guided tours. The Heritage Tour runs 5 times daily and will take you through Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam. There is also a 20-minute stop at Merlion Park where you’ll get some great photo opportunities of Singapore’s national symbol. Bearing the head of a lion and the body of a fish, the Merlion is a symbol of the Lion City’s beginnings as a fishing village.
The City Sights Tour runs twice daily and also stops at Merlion Park, but the rest of the tour focuses on modern Singapore. Since this is an evening tour, you’ll be able to enjoy the night lights and the futuristic Gardens by the Bay.
To join one of these tours, look for one of the Free Singapore Tour booths located in the transit area before you clear immigration. Present your passport, boarding pass, and entry visas (if applicable) to register for one of the tours. Registration closes 1 hour before the tour starts and availability is on a first-come-first-serve basis.
When flying on Turkish Airlines through Istanbul (IST), if your layover is between 6-24 hours, join one of the six daily tours in the Touristanbul program. These tours will take you through some of Istanbul’s most famous sites like the Blue Mosque, Taksim Square, Walls of Constantine, and Hagia Sophia. Each tour follows a different itinerary and your flight schedule will determine which tour you’re able to join. Some of the free tours even include a free meal so you’ll be able to taste some local cuisine while taking in the sites.
To join one of these tours, just look for the hotel desk in the international arrival hall after clearing passport and custom control. There is no need to book in advance. All that is required is that you sign up at least 30 minutes prior to the tour’s departure time. Tours depart at 8:30am, 9:00am, 12:00 noon, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm, and range from 2.5 – 9 hours in duration. For a complete look at itineraries and schedules, visit the Touristabul site.
You must be flying on an international Turkish Airlines flight both inbound and outbound to participate in a free tour and you cannot combine a free tour with a free hotel stay. If you’re itinerary allows for a free hotel stay, you’ll have to choose between one or the other.
If you spot a cheap flight to Asia on Eva Airways or China Airlines, you’ll be routed through Taipei (TPE), and if your layover is between 7-24 hours, you’ll be eligible to participate in a free half-day city tour. There is a morning tour that departs at 8:15 am and an afternoon tour, which departs at 2:00 pm. Both tours are approximately 4 hours and visit attractions such as the Qingshui Zushi Temple, Sanxia Old Street, and Taipei 101, which is one of the world’s tallest buildings.
Seats are available on a first-come-first-serve basis by booking at the at the tourist service center in the arrivals lobby. Alternatively, up to 6 seats are available to book in advance by filling out an excel file application form and emailing it in between 14 and 30 days prior to your arrival. For more information on how to register, tour itineraries, and eligibility requirements, check out the Free Half-Day Tour page.
If you find yourself on a Korean Airlines, Asiana, or another flight transiting through Seoul’s Incheon Airport (ICN), there are a number of free tours offered throughout the day. This is a great opportunity to pass the time if you have a long layover and don’t wish to stay at the airport all day. Tours range from 1 hour to 5 hours, and you can choose from activities such as visiting a local beach, nearby temples, shopping, or exploring Gwangmyeong Cave.
Tours can be booked in advance online at the Transit Tour website, where you can also view detailed itineraries and schedules that coordinate with your flight schedule. If you’re the last-minute type, any remaining seats can be booked at the Transit Tour desk located in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. In order to join the tour, you must register at the Transit Tour desk 30 minutes prior to the tour’s departure or your seats may be given away to any last-minute travelers.
Japan Airlines and ANA are the largest carriers that have flights connecting in Tokyo’s Narita Airport (NRT). If you happen to have an extended layover, check out the Narita Transit and Stay program where there are a range of tours including free volunteer guided tours of cultural experiences such as Narita-san Shinsho-Ji Temple or cosplay tours where you can dress up as a samurai, ninja, or lady in kimono. There are also self-guided tours, bus tours, and even special seasonal events.
Although the tours are considered to be free, it is stated that you are responsible for any transportation costs and any necessary entrance fees. Most tours are around 3-4 hours in duration and the transit tour site displays a recommended budget for each tour.
Tours can be pre-booked in advance and are only available to non-Japanese travelers who are eligible to enter Japan. If you haven’t booked in advance, look for the Narita Transit Program counter in Terminal 1 or 2, where you can sign up for a tour between 9:00 am – 12 noon, or receive information on self-guided tours through 5pm.
Other Airports That Offer Paid Tours During Layovers
If you’re flying Qatar Airways via Doha (DOH), with a layover over 5 hours, there are city tours of Doha starting from approximately $20 USD and desert tours starting around $70. Discover Hong Kong offers paid tours for travelers transiting through Hong Kong (HKG) on Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, or other multi-airline connections. And if you’re traveling to South America on Avianca, LATAM or other itineraries via Bogota (BOG), check out Bogotravel Tours layover tours.
Featured image by egd via Shutterstock.