With a growing number of airports enhancing their connectivity to the city centre, it is becoming easier for those who have enough transit time to step out, explore and have some fun. Here are five interesting options.
CHANGI AIRPORT, SINGAPORE
Destination: Changi Village, a laid-back neighbourhood on the north-eastern end of Singapore
Clearing immigration: About 10-20 minutes
Passports that enjoy visa-free status: Most nationalities can enter Singapore without a visa. Countries include members countries of Asean as well as the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. People’s Republic of China and India passport-holders, who possess a valid visa/long term pass (validity of at least 1 month) issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, UK US, Germany, and Switzerland, do not require visa when transiting in the country. For more information, click here
Directions: Take a cab from any of the taxi ranks outside Terminals 1, 2 or 3 for the less than 20-minute ride to the area. All drivers will be familiar with the place. The fare will cost approximately S$10 (US$8.30).
Travel time: The train ride from the airport to Tanah Merah station is about eight minutes. From Tanah Merah station to Changi Village, the bus ride takes about 15 minutes, with buses running every nine minutes on average.
What to see/do:
- Changi Village Market and Food Centre – Located at Block 2 Changi Village Road, this is one of the most bustling areas of the complex. Be sure to have a meal at any of the small hawker stores that serve up delicious and low-priced local delights like fried Hokkien mee and chicken rice. The International Food Store on the corner of the block serves the city’s best nasi lemak, but be prepared for long queues.
- Changi Boardwalk – A mere five minute walk from the village market and food centre, this facility is a 1.2km path of wooden planks (pictured) that leads visitors through lush greenery and past the Changi Beach Club and Changi Sailing Club offering picturesque views.
- The Changi Museum – The world-famous centre documents significant events of the Japanese occupation during World War II. As it is located on Upper Changi Road North, which is a five-minute bus ride away from Changi Village, visitors will need to take either bus no. 2 or 29 from the Changi Village bus terminal and alight at the Johore Battery bus stop.
Return time: Taking a cab back will not be a problem.
Extras: At peak periods, usually between 8am to 11am and 7pm to 11pm at Terminal 1, 8am to 10am and 6pm to 9pm at Terminal 2, and 8am to 10am and 9pm to 1am at Terminal 3, it can take up to 15 minutes to pass the security checks (up to four checks from point of check-in), and another 15 mins to walk from the immigration counter to the furthest gate. Passengers can choose to use the travellators if they prefer not to walk.
FRANKFURT AIRPORT, FRANKFURT
Destination: Hauptwache, central Frankfurt
Clearing immigration: Approximately under 10 minutes
Passports that enjoy visa-free status: Includes member countries of the EU, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong (Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Region passports), Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and the USA. For more information, click here.
Directions: Go to Platform 1 and board the S-Bahn (suburban railway) S8 or S9 trains from the Flughafen Regionalbahnhof station, directly connected to the airport, to Hauptwache station.
Travel time: About 15 minutes with trains running every 15 minutes.
What to see/do:
- The Hauptwache – This café (pictured), dating back to 1730, used to be Frankfurt’s downtown guard station with a prison. Try the local Ebbelwoi (cider) or a serving of Handkäs (a specialty cheese).
- Zeil – Zeil is Frankfurt’s main shopping street, lined with shopping malls and many boutiques, located to the right of the café. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the eastern end of the street, Konstablerwache, features a farmer’s market selling cheese, fresh produce and fine wine.
- Paulskirche (St. Paul’s Church) – Though this place initially opened as a Protestant church back in 1789, it is now a political symbol in Germany as it was venue for the first German national assembly back in 1848. It is located on Berliner Street, a short walk from Zeil.
- Historisches (Historical) Museum Frankfurt and Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt Art Association) – These two museums are just a short stroll away, which are also conveniently close to the river front, lined with some great drinking places.
Return time: About 15 minutes. Board the S8 or S9 train back to the airport.
Extras: At peak periods, usually between 7.30am to 9am, 12.30pm to 2pm, and 4.30pm to 5.30pm, it can take up to 10 minutes to pass security checks, and another 15 minutes to reach the gate. Note that when travelling to the US and high security countries like Iraq, passengers have to go through two security checks.
HANEDA AIRPORT, TOKYO
Destination: The Ginza, one of the oldest areas of downtown Tokyo, and long associated with upscale shopping and entertainment activities.
Clearing immigration: Up to 20 minutes
Passports that enjoy visa-free status: Up to 62 countries can enter without a visa, including EU member states, Hong Kong, Korea, the US and Singapore. For more information, click here.
Destinations: There are two ways to get to the Ginza. First, you can board a train on the Keikyu Line at the Haneda Airport International Terminal Station, which is directly connected to the International Terminal. There is a direct train operation to Shinbashi station, which is a 10-minute walk away from the Ginza shopping district.
Alternatively, you can take the Tokyo Monorail Line. The ticket gate is at the departure lobby on the third floor of the terminal. Take the train to Hamamatsucho station. From there, board the JR Yamanote line and alight at Yurakucho station, which is just a short walk away from central Ginza.
Travel time: Keikyu Line- About 26 minutes. Frequency of train is about 10 minutes.
Monorail – trains to Hamamatsucho station take 13 minutes via the Haneda Express, 15 minutes via the Rapid Train, and 18 minutes on the Local Train. Frequency is about 3 minutes. Total travelling time can take up to 23 minutes.
What to see/do:
- The San’ai Building – Located at the junction of Ginza Street and Harumi Avenue, this is one of the most iconic landmarks of Ginza. This glass cylinder-like building houses local boutiques of Tokyo’s biggest brands as well as cafes.
- Ginza Wako: This clocktower (pictured), built in 1932, is another landmark in the district and boasts as tenants, luxury goods stores selling watches, jewelry and porcelain.
- Kimuraya Sohonten – Visitors come here to grab a renowned local delicacy, the Anpan bun, which is made with sake yeast and filled with sweet red bean paste. Each bun costs from JPY147 (US$2). There is also a café on the second floor of this building and restaurants on the third and fourth floors.
- Ginza Kyubey – One of the city’s most famous sushi restaurants, often frequented by Japanese celebrities.
Return time: The quickest way is to board the JR line from Yurakucho station to Hamamatsucho station, and transfer to the Tokyo Monorail bound for Haneda Airport. Frequency is about 3 minutes. Total travelling time can take up to 23 minutes.
Extras: At peak time, usually between 6am to 9am, and 9pm to 11pm, it can take up to 20 minutes to pass security checks, and up to 10 minutes to reach the gate. There are travellators available after check-in if you are in a hurry.
HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, HONG KONG
Destination: Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s largest island
Clearing immigration: About 15 minutes
Passports that enjoy visa-free status: Passports from up to 161 countries are permitted visa-free entries. For more information, click here
Directions: Take either bus S1, S52P, or S64 from the Ground Transportation Centre located right outside the main terminal building to Tung Chung Bus Terminus.
Travel time: About 10 minutes. Frequency of buses is approximately 10 minutes.
What to see/do:
- Citygate Outlets – At the bus stop, the Citygate Outlets mall is the first outlets mall in Hong Kong, housing up to 80 international brands. There is also a spa, cinema and a wide range of restaurants.
- Ngong Ping Tung Chung Cable Car (pictured) – For a bird’s eye view of the island, board the cable cars, located adjacent to the bus terminal, for a 25-minute ride across Lantau. At the end of the 5.7km cable car journey, you can take a short stroll around Ngong Ping Village, which consists of many attractions like Walking with Buddha, and the Monkey’s Tale Theatre, among an array of retail and dining places.
- Tian Tan Buddha Statue: This mammoth, the world’s tallest outdoor bronze Buddha statue, is just a five minute walk from Ngong Ping Village.
Return time: Take the cable car back to Tung Chung, which takes about 25 minutes. From Tung Chung, board either bus S1, S52P, or S64 to the airport. The ride takes about 10 minutes. Frequency of buses is approximately 10 minutes. Or, visitors can take a taxi back to the airport from Tung Chung, which would take up to 10 minutes and would cost HK$50 (US$6).
Extras: While the airport does not have a defined peak period, most passengers can pass security checks within 4.5 minutes, and another 3 mins to reach the gate. For those gates located further away, there are Automated People Mover (APM) trains which depart at one-minute intervals. For those going to the North Satellite Concourse, shuttle bus service is provided inside the restricted area of Terminal 1, with a waiting time of no more than 4 minutes. Frequency of the transportation services will increase during peak hours.
INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA
Destination: Eurwangni Beach (pictured), located southwest of Yongyudo Island – a favourite summer getaway location for many locals.
Clearing immigration: Five to 10 minutes
Passports that enjoy visa-free status: Up to 49 countries. For more information, click here
Directions: Board public buses no. 302, 306, 301, or 111 at Gate 2 on the third floor of the airport.
Travel time: All buses take about 20 minutes to reach and run at a frequency of 10 minutes.
What to see/do:
- Eurwangni Beach – Visitors can lay back on the plush white sand or enjoy any of the available water sports at the beach, including banana boat rides and jet skis.
- Caffe Ora – This hilltop café, housed in a gorgeous building with an angular, chic-looking terrace, is a recipient of the 2009 Korean Architecture Culture Award. It serves freshly brewed coffee, cakes and pasta.
Return time: Take the same buses no. 302, 306, 301, or 111 back, which take about 20 minutes to the airport.
Extras: At peak periods usually between 9am to 12pm, 2pm to 3pm, and 7pm to 10pm, it can take up to 4 minutes to pass security checks, and another 10 mins to reach the gate. For those departing at Gates 101 to 132, they can take the Starline, an automatic skytrain that operates every 5 minutes from the passenger terminal to the concourse building.