Flying non-direct routes can be a good way to cut down on flight costs, but they do result in those dreaded layovers. If it’s a short layover, you’ve got a chance to stretch your legs, freshen up in a washroom that isn’t the size of a small closet and go for a wander around Duty-Free. If it’s a really long layover, you’ve got time to visit a new city. The most troublesome layovers to deal with, however, are those pesky 5- or 6-hour ones where you don’t have quite enough time to leave the airport but you have a bit too much time to just hang around the gate.
Luckily, certain airports and tour operators have caught onto this problem. Rather than leaving you with the stress of navigating a new city’s public transport system while the clock is ticking, they’re offering organized trips that’ll whisk you around the main sites, minus the hefty cost of a private tour. Plus they’ll get you back in the departures lounge with plenty of time to board your next flight. Pretty nifty, right? Here are our picks for the top airports for these fast, affordable layover outings.
Keflavík International Airport, Reykjavík, Iceland
Flying with Icelandair or WOW air to get to Europe and beyond involves a layover at Reykjavik‘s Keflavík International Airport. Although the airlines allow you an extended, multi-night stopover, you can get a quick snapshot if you schedule (or find yourself) with a long break between connecting flights. Make the most of your time with a tour that hits the nearby highlights and gives you at least a flavor of Iceland. Travice, for example, offers tours lasting 3-4 hours, which will include a stop at the Blue Lagoon and several quintessentially Icelandic towns.
Cost: 12,700 ISK (approximately CA$152)
Changi Airport, Singapore
If you’ve got at least 6 hours on your hands, Changi Airport offers free tours around the island state of Singapore, free of charge. There are several tours throughout the day and transit travellers can choose from a Heritage Tour, which explores Singapore’s past and present architecture, or a City Sights Tour, which will include stops at some of Singapore’s most famous sights, including the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Flyer.
Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
If your Qatar Airways flight includes a layover in Qatar itself, you can arrange a Complimentary Doha City Tour if your transit is between 5-12 hours long. There are around 4 tours a day that run on a first-come, first-serve basis. You’ll get a quick snapshot of Doha, with stops at the Dhow Harbour, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Katara Cultural Village.
Cost: Free for Qatar Airways passengers.
Incheon Airport, Seoul, South Korea
Seoul‘s Incheon Airport runs Free Transit Tours throughout the day, which cover a range of times and locations depending on the length of your layover. Those opting for the 5-hour tour, for example, can choose from attractions including Gyeongbokgung (a 14th-century palace), Myeong-dong (one of the city’s main shopping streets) and Namsan Seoul Tower.
Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo‘s Narita Airport offers free tours to transit passengers, as well as visitors staying at a hotel near the airport. There’s a choice of guided tours or self-guided tours available that’ll suit culture vultures, foodies and shopaholics alike, with trips to nearby shopping outlets, restaurants, temples and shrines.
Cost: Free (tours that include food or shopping may incur extra fees)
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Amsterdam, Netherlands
A tour from Amsterdam Layovers offers a great overview of the Netherlands’ capital, with a walking and canal tour lasting roughly 4 hours (including the drive to and from the airport). You’ll get to see some of the Amsterdam‘s main sights too, and you’ll also stop off at the Rembrandt Windmill during a drive through the picturesque Dutch countryside.
Cost: €150 (approximately CA$226)
Toronto Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Canada
ETours offer a layover tour for those landing into Toronto Pearson International Airport. You’ll cover some of the city’s major sites and neighbourhoods in the 2.5-hour tour, including St. Lawrence Market, the CN Tower and Chinatown, as well as lesser-known attractions such as Casa Loma, a period castle set in 5 acres of gardens.
Cost: CA$83 (plus admission fees for CN Tower and Casa Loma)
Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
If you’re stopping off in Los Angeles for at least 6 hours, you can explore the city with LA City Tours. This tour departs from LAX and whisks you around some of the West Coast’s most iconic sites, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Sign. You’ll also enjoy a visit to Santa Monica and the Beverly Hills Sign before heading on to a Farmers Market for a lunch stop.
Cost: US$92 (approximately CA$115)
Would you try one of these quick-and-easy excursions on your next layover? Share with us in the comments.