People often ask, “what’s the difference between a layover and stopover?” Ramsey Qubein in an Afar’s article defined layover and stopover as:

A layover typically refers to a connection point between cities, sometimes as short as 30 minutes or as long as 23 hours, whereas a stopover refers to staying longer than 24 hours in any given city when traveling internationally (on domestic itineraries, the limit is reduced to four hours).

Some people seek out long airport layovers so they can have a quick tour of a city. Meanwhile, most would rather fly to the intended destination with the least amount of connections and would avoid long layovers like a plague.

Would you choose a long airport layover if there was a chance to visit the city without the need to purchase an extra air ticket?

Trippy member Aliotte Kassa from Amsterdam asked:

Next flight in…8 hours! What to do during a long layover?

What do you do when you are stuck in an airport for hours in between 2 flights. I get so bored after having visited the shops, read a book or be geeky on my phone (if wifi is available).

I found one entertaining option. I go the bar/pub and seat at the bar. It’s funny to observe people there and you get to speak to lots of people from everywhere.

Why get bored if you can explore these 11 cities when you find yourself in a long layover?

Before you start planning your trip, here is Katie Hale’s advice:

If you have enough time, and if visas aren’t a problem, it’s always worth heading out of the airport to look around. Feels like you’re getting an extra holiday! I have an 8-hour layover in Brussels Airport in January, and I’m actually really looking forward to it. Just need to make sure I’m back in time for my flight and to get through security!

1. Doha

While planning my trip on Qatar Airways to Kuala Lumpur with an open jaw ticket (return ticket from Bangkok), I was hoping I could have a long layover in Doha to join the complimentary two hours and 45 minutes city tour. The tour cannot be pre-booked and eligibility is subject to immigration approval (including complimentary visa).

You need at least a five-hour layover to make it. I was in Doha both ways for just under four hours. The airport organizes four tours per day and you can find out more information on Qatar Airways’ website.

Doha airport

2. Singapore

Singapore Changi Airport is one of the best airports in the world for long layovers. If your layover is over five and a half hours and during the free tour hours, you are in for a treat. The City Sights and Heritage tours are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The City Sights Tour runs twice a day and is only open to transit passengers with at least a six-hour layover. The Heritage Tour runs four times a day. You must register upon arrival at the airport. Read the details of the tour and meet up places on Changi International Airport’s website.

3. Tokyo

Stanley Conan from Montana asked:

I have a layover in Tokyo from 8 AM to 6 PM. I plan on making my way into the city during that time and will be traveling light. This will be my first time in Tokyo, so where’s the first place I should head to after landing? Just putting this out there, but I’m pretty adventurous and will eat anything!

Stanley has around 10 hours to spare. Justin Schmid said:

Tough situation … it will take you a good two hours to get from Narita Airport to anyplace fun in Tokyo. I’d say get as close to Akihabara as you can and just walk around. There is no place on earth crammed with as much wondrous stuff to gawk at per linear foot. Seriously.

But Stanley could also consider the free tours offered by Narita International Airport to the neighboring towns. The airport offers four volunteer-guided tours and four self-guided tours. The volunteer-guided tours are to Narita City, Tako Town, Shibuyama Town and Sakae Town.

These tours are only offered to those who are eligible to enter Japan and they are free however, it will not include transportation costs, entrance fees, and personal expenses. The airport provides the tour guide for free. Check out the Narita Transit Program.

4. Dubai

Flo and Leslie from Cologne asked:

Hello! On our way to Bangkok we will have a layover of about 15 hours in Dubai (7AM – 22PM). What are the essentials we could see in this time? We thought about taking a tour on top of Burj Kahlifa, is it worth the 30$? Also we need to leave our bags somewhere – are there lockers at the airport or is it possible to already check-in our luggage once we arrive? Thanks a lot!

Dubai airport was voted one of the best layover airports in 2016. There are no free tours but according to Jacey and Scott Mahaffy:

If you are flying on one airline or one airline alliance, your bags should be checked all the way through. That just leaves your carry ons, which you may be able to take with you/around town if they aren’t to cumbersome.

My favorite area of Dubai was around Dubai Creek. Have a taxi drop you off at the Dubai Museum, then take a dhou across the creek and wander around the souks. Don’t miss the Deira Spice Souk and especially don’t miss the Gold Souq.

5. Taipei

Free half day tours are available to:

Transit passengers with at least seven hours layovers, has a valid R.O.C. visas or from visa-exempt countries.

There are two half day tours available. One from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to Sanxia Temple and Yingge and the other is to Taipei 101 Mall, Longshan Temple, and Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

Andrew Chou from Tokyo said:

It will take around an hour each way to get into town (depending on what time you arrive / leave), so including check-in / check-out time you’ll probably only have around 6 hours at your disposal.

6. Panama City

Panama City (Panama) was another city I wanted to have a long layover at. Copa, Panama’s official airline has a few flights per day to Quito, some with layovers of 15 hours in Panama Tocumen International Airport. My husband was not keen on the idea. It would have been wonderful visiting these places suggested by Jackie Laulainen from Bozeman:

Have you already been to the Panama Canal? If not, it’s easy to grab a taxi out to the Miraflores Locks, you only need a few hours to do the museum, watch the ships, etc. I would suggest taxis over uber, just because they are very cheap in Panama City. Also, I would say the downtown, modern part of Panama city is safe to walk around, much safer than Casco Viejo, in fact. There are some nice restaurants with big outdoor decks where you could easily lounge for a drink.

7. Honolulu

Jack Burgin from Colorado asked:

My wife and I have a 10 hour layover in Honolulu before our flight home. We plan on renting a car during this time.

Does anyone have some suggestions on what we should see and if it’s worth driving around the island?

Rick Schulze responded:

Hi Jack. Yes, it’s worth driving around the island, at least part way. Take H1 from the airport toward town and bypass Honolulu and Waikiki. Where H1 ends, Hwy 72 begins. This is a beautiful drive with numerous scenic stops along the way: Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, some scenic overlooks (including a Blow Hole and Eternity Beach), Sandy Beach, Makapu‘u Lighthouse, Makapu‘u Beach, Makai Research Pier, Waimānalo Town, and the beach at Bellows AFB (open to the public only on weekends). You can follow Hwy 72 all the way around the SE corner of the island until it meets Hwy 61. If you have time, take a right into Kailua Town and check out Lanikai Beach. Otherwise, take a left and drive over the Pali Hwy back toward the airport.

You can venture into Honolulu and Waikiki if you have the time and patience. Beware, traffic and roads can be maddening. Include a visit to Diamond Head if you go into town.

Another option is to spend a few hours at the Pearl Harbor historic sights. (Follow the signs to the USS Arizona Memorial, rather than to Pearl Harbor.)

8. Amsterdam

Supun Edirisinghe from California wrote:

I arrive at 11:20am on a Thursday and my next flight leaves at 10:25pm that same night.

What do you recommend I try to do while I have a few hours? I’ve never been to Amsterdam, so I’d like to take the opportunity to see what it’s like outside the airport.

Claire Armstrong replied:

I think you should take a train into the Centraal Station, Amsterdam, which should take about an hour. Lock up your luggage in a locker, then rent a bike. From there, ride down to Vondelpark (12 minute ride) and cruise around. Stop at a cafe there, like ‘t Blauwe Theehuis or Groot Melkhuisand watch people, ducks, and eat toasties and frites. Cruise around some more, maybe pass through the Bloemenmarkt.

9. Seoul

Lindsey Anderson asked:

I get in a 8pm on a Monday and leave at 4pm the following day. Where is the best neighbor to find a quick/simple crash pad in the heart of the city? I want to be immersed in the culture, have authentic food options, and ideally it would be all walkable despite their wonderful transportation system.

Transit passengers can choose a free Incheon City Tour, Seoul City Tour, Temple Tour, and length of tours are one hour, 1.5 hours, two hours, three hours and five hours. Each tour is accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide. Guests have to pay tourist site admission fees and meals.

As for accommodation, Karla Aguilar Perez from Montreal suggested:

One of the best areas you can stay in Seoul is Gangnam-gu.

You can take the any airport limousine (luxury bus) straight from Incheon International Airport and head to the hotel for the night.

I suggest Samjung Hotel which is right next to the Ritz Carlton & is half the price 😉

You will find excellent restaurants, nightclubs, shopping areas in the neighborhood. So you can spend some time there after settling in.

10. Madrid

Nellie Beck from New York City asked:

I have a 15hr layover in Madrid in December. I get in at 3pm and leaving at 6am. I’ll be traveling alone and it’s my first time in Europe. Need some ideas on what to do, where to go etc. I’m a New Yorker so subway travel is second nature to me. Don’t want to waste my time there. Any suggestions?

Trippy member Travis Huyghebaert from Kamloops, Canada answered:

Madrid is a great city, and you can probably do a lot in the time you have. I would take the express bus service (5 Euro paid directly to the driver) which will drop you off in Plaza Cibeles (30-40 min ride with only one stop).

From there you have the option to go to all the major sights – you can wander down the Gran Vía to the Plaza de España, down to the Royal Palace of Madrid, and back through the Plaza Mayor to the Puerta del Sol.

Bus line 203 or Airport Express bus (Exprés Aeropuerto) runs 24 hours connecting to Atocha train station from Madrid-Barajas airport.

Madrid is one of the best places for an overnight layover. Taylor Leen from Pennsylvania said:

You’ve probably picked the best city to have a layover. I would argue that Madrid rivals NYC as the city that never sleeps. ; ) If you are into museums, I would try hitting one up. The free hours at the Prado are 6-8PM and the Reina Sofia’s are 7-9PM. Take metro stop Atocha to get to either of them. The metro system is super easy and especially coming from New York you won’t have problems. Before hitting the museums you should take a stroll through Retiro, one of Madrid’s beautiful and most famous parks. It’s right in the same neighborhood as the museums and there will be plenty of people out walking around even in December. Definitely take advantage of late night eating and get some tapas.

Taylor offered more suggestions for places to hang out and you can read it at Madrid Layover Ideas.

11. Munich

Brian Fortier was happy to receive answers when he asked:

I have a 10 hour layover in Munich and looking for suggestions. Probably have 7 hours in the city.

Sean Kelly offered these suggestions:

There’s a lot you can do in Munich with seven hours. However, the answer really depends on what you enjoy.

Do you like museums or art? Go to the Alte Pinakothek der Moderne. It’ got Rubens up the wazoo. The Deutsches Museum is the Bavarian equivalent of the Smithsonian.

Architecture? Go down to the Marienplatz. The town hall is stunning, and the clock is the best free show in town. Church of Saint Johann Nepomuk is right downtown. It’s a surprise and a delight for the eyes.

If you’re into recent history, try the former Olympic Stadium and village. It’s both impressive and poignant.

Planning a trip soon? Why not take advantage of a long layover in one of these cities and have a quick introductory tour without paying extra for airfare. Have more questions on airport layovers? Become a Trippy member today. It is easy to join. Just use your Facebook account to set up a membership.

Photos and article by Claudia Looi

Mentioned in this post
  1. Kuala Lumpur
    City in Malaysia

    Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
  2. Bangkok
    City in Thailand

    Bangkok Thailand
  3. Doha Corniche
    Attraction in Doha Qatar

    Doha Qatar
  4. Singapore

    Singapore Singapore
  5. Tokyo
    City in Japan

    Tokyo Japan
  6. Dubai
    City in United Arab Emirates

    Dubai United Arab Emirates
  7. Taiwan

  8. Panama City (Panama)
    City in Panama

    Panama City Panama
  9. Honolulu
    City in Hawaii

    Honolulu Hawaii
  10. Amsterdam
    City in Netherlands

    Amsterdam Netherlands
  11. Seoul
    City in South Korea

    Seoul South Korea
  12. Madrid
    City in Spain

    Madrid Spain
  13. Munich
    City in Germany

    Munich Germany