Flight stopovers: worth the wait?

A typical flight stopover involves too many cups of tea, disappointing airport paninis and huddling on a departure lounge sofa – note the awkwardly placed arm rests – with 5 hours left to wait.

The best long-haul flight tip: embrace the humble stopover and explore. With many airlines offering a flight stopover when you travel long-haul, you have the opportunity to visit, at no extra cost, an additional destination. Some of our handpicked stopovers even featured in last year’s top 3 on the world’s best airport list. So, whether you have 5 hours or 48 hours, here is how to maximize your time.


Taking 2nd place in the Skytrax Airport Awards 2012, Changi airport is a treasure trove of freebies: over 200 internet kiosks, a movie theater, a complimentary bus tour of Singapore or for just €10, you can access the rooftop bar, swimming pool and gym. Or enjoy a snooze in Terminals 1, 2 and 3 on free padded reclining chairs, built-in vibrating alarm clocks, head and foot rests and massage.

Airport to City Centre: 27 minutes by train

To Do List: The retail stretch along Orchard Road is a well trodden tourist path but a must on any trip to Singapore. The waterfront location of the open-air hawker centre makes this a great spot to try local cuisine from quirky stalls and vendors. If your sleeping patterns are a little out of synch, the Botanic Gardens are open from 5am to midnight. Zouk has been the steadfast club of choice for most of Singapore’s young bright things over the past 20 years.

The boutique Shophouse The Social Hostel offers air-conditioning, a rooftop terrace and stylish rooms. Alternatively, the hip Hangout @ Mt. Emily is located close to Orchard Road.

Hong Kong

In humble 3rd place, Hong Kong International offers spa facilities, a sports-simulation game arena, a free PlayStation gaming centre and Asia’s largest 4D movie screen. But the safe, largely English-speaking city of Hong Kong and its great bilingual signage are on your doorstep. So, go through the super-efficient customs and immigration clearing, drop in to one of the best tourist information offices around and let cheerful platform assistants assist you onto the nice airport shuttle train.

Airport to City Centre: A cheap 25-minute journey

To Do List: A good slurp of noodles will leave you restored and re-energized. If you are up at dawn, visit Victoria Park to admire tai chi practitioners of all ages.  Forget the airport’s ‘duty free shops’, the whole of Hong Kong is duty free; shopping malls and open-air markets are what this city does best. Ride the historic Peak Tram for one of the best views of the city skyline and catch the Symphony of Lights from 8pm. Most dim sum eateries are open 24 hours but we recommend Lin Heung Tea House in Central at 160-164 Wellington Street.

At the Bishop Lei International House, experience Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels Escalator, one of the longest moving walkways that carries Hong Kongers half a mile from the residential neighborhood to central district. The hotel is 25-storeys high and stands majestically next to the Catholic Cathedral. The outdoor swimming pool has marvelous views of the illuminated skyscrapers at night.


What a fantastic place either to start or end your holiday. Good weather all year round and marvelous scenery make this a great stopover. The airport kicks you out at 11pm, but they do have pleasant Japanese Garden, which lessens the blow. Yes, there are crooning honeymooners and too many cocktail umbrellas, but somehow Honolulu manages to keep its cool factor.

Airport to City Centre: 1hr 30 minutes by bus or a 5 mile ride by taxi.

To Do List: For a city beach try the Waikiki beach suburb or Ala Moana Beach Park for a less touristy option. You could try a ‘swirl of change’ sundae – the local President Obama ice cream special – or picnic with a burger on the white sands. The dramatic Diamond Head peak makes the perfect backdrop and Waikiki beach has waves just right for beginners if you want to try surfing. Hire a car and make the hour-long journey past Pearl Harbor along Highway 61 to the Windward coast to watch the thunderous waves and surfers on the North Shore.

Stay a night or 2, and you will experience typical warm Hawaiian hospitality. Hostelling International Waikiki is just 2 blocks from the beach and offers a free breakfast and some great activities. No need to unpack, you can borrow a variety of useful beach accessories.

In the Know…

  • Pack swimming or exercise gear in your hand-luggage ready for the city beach or airport gym
  • Pack a light weight blanket
  • Plan ahead and book tours or activities with your chosen hotel
  • Allow more time if you are traveling at rush hour and take a map

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Thanks to ViernestSee-ming Lee 李思明 SMLlexovator and Praziquantel for the images from Flickr! Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.

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