Five transit tours for long layovers

25 Jul 2012

Long layovers are no fun, even if you get to hang out at the lounge. You can't work anymore, and you feel like you're just wasting life. Luckily, a number of major transit hubs are offering transfer passengers city tours designed to fill their waiting time. Many of them are free while one example here is affordably priced.  

Changi Airport free heritage tour

Who can participate? Transit passengers with at least five hours before the connecting flight.

Visa requirement: Holders of passports issued by many countries enjoy visa-free status. Nationals of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Georgia who are on transit to or from a third country, with a confirmed onward air-ticket, enjoy a 96-hour visa free entry. Travellers with travel documents issued by China, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, among others, are required to have a valid visa to enter Singapore. Click here for more information.

Duration: Two hours, four times daily. Tours start at 0900, 1130, 1430 and 1600.

Itinerary: The guided tour will introduce the Merlion Park, Colonial District, Central Business District and Chinatown or Little India.

Highlights: Participants have the chance to see the 165-metre tall Singapore Flyer, the iconic Esplanade and The Fountain of Wealth – the largest of its kind in the world. 

How to enrol? Registration is at designated booths in Terminal 2, near transfer lounge E, or Terminal 3, next to transfer lounge B. You need to be there at least one hour before the tour starts.

Taiwan Taoyaun Airport free half-day tour 

Who can participate? Transit passengers with seven to 24 hours to spare.

Visa requirement: Passport holders of 42 countries enjoy visa-exempt entry to Taiwan, for up to 30 or 90 days. Citizens from India, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia who hold a valid visa or permanent resident certificate issued by the US, Canada, Japan, U.K., Schengen Convention countries, Australia or New Zealand, and have never been employed in Taiwan as blue-collar migrant workers are also eligible for the tour, but they need to apply for visa-exempt entry with the National Immigration Agency beforehand. For more information, click here

Duration: Five hours; departing daily at 0800 and 1330.

Itinerary: Morning tour brings participants to Sanxia and Zushi Temple and Yingge, while the afternoon tour includes visits to the Longshan Temple, Presidential Office Building, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Martyrs' Shrine and Taipei 101.

Highlights: Yingge is famous for pottery with outlets featuring vases from Ming and Qing dynasties as well as the Yingge Ceramics Museum. The 508-metre Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world from 2004 to 2010, when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai surpassed it. Longshan Temple is the oldest and most famous of its kind in Taipei.

How to enrol? You may call in advance to register or sign up at the tourist service centre at the arrival lobby. Note that there is no room for luggage on the bus and travellers are advised to store their luggage at the baggage storage counter before boarding the bus. 

Seoul Incheon Airport free temple tour

Who can participate? Foreigners to Seoul. The airport does not specify how long a transit time one needs to join the tour and those interested need to judge for themselves.

Visa requirement: Visa exemption from 30 to 90 days for holders of passports issued by the US, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, UK, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bangladesh and other countries with visa waiver agreement with South Korea. Residents from other countries require a transit visa to join the tour. Click here for more information. 

Duration: One hour. Four tours daily, at 0900, 1100, 1300 and 1500.

Itinerary: Visit the Yonggungsa Temple by a coach with an English-speaking guide.

Highlights: The temple is famous for its 1,300 years old zelkova tree and a statue of the Buddha.

How to enrol? Apply for the tour at the transit tour booth on the second floor. Passengers may leave their luggage at the transit tour main desk between gate six and seven on the first floor after going through the immigration and customs. 

Turkish Airlines free Istanbul city tour at Atatürk Airport

Who can participate? The airline's passengers with over six hours of transit time between 0900 and 1800.

Visa requirement: Travellers with a Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia or New Zealand passport, or travel document issued by other exempt-visa countries can enter Turkey without a visa for 30 to 90 days. Travellers with passports issued by Australia, Canada, UAE, UK, US and more can obtain a three month-multiple entry visa at the Turkish border gates. Others are required to apply for visa at Turkish missions. For more information, click here

Duration: "Six hours in Istanbul" starts daily at 0900 and 1200, while "one day in Istanbul" is nine hours long, beginning at 0900 every day.

Itinerary: "Six hours in Istanbul" includes visits to the Blue Mosque, German Fountain at Hippodrome Square, Serpentine Column, Obelisk of Theodosius, Hagia Sophia Museum or Topkapi Palace, and Underground Cistern. Breakfast and lunch are provided. "One day in Istanbul" includes two more items: shopping at the Spice Bazaar and a visit to New Mosque.

Highlights: The Blue Mosque is renowned for combining Byzantine elements with a traditional Islamic architecture, while the underground cistern built in 532AD offers a mystical ambiance. The Spice Bazaar is the second largest covered shopping complex in the city, after the Grand Bazaar. Prices here are more honest but bargaining is still advised.

How to enrol? After passport and custom control, sign up at the designated desk next to Starbucks in International Arrival Terminal.

Vigor Tours Hong Kong transit tour

Who can participate? Transit passengers with more than five hours to spare.

Visa requirement: Visa free period of 14 to 180 days available for nationals of Australia, UK, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, USA and more. Other travellers are required to have a visa to join the tour. For more information, click here

Duration: Around five hours, starting daily at 0930.

Itinerary: The English guided-tour, onboard an air-conditioned tour bus, takes participants to the Tsing Ma Bridge, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, Avenue of Stars, Man Mo Temple and antiques shops along the Hollywood Road, as well as the sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck at The International Commerce Centre – the city's tallest building. Also included are a Star Ferry ride and a journey on an Airport Express train back to the airport.

Highlights: Tsing Ma Bridge is the world’s longest road-and-rail suspension bridge, while the Star Ferry ride to Central presents an exquisite view of the iconic Victoria Harbour. The sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck is the highest indoor observation deck in the city, offering a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of the city.

How to enrol?: Book the tour at the transit tour counter, opposite Arrivals Hall exit B. The tour costs HK$270 (US$35) per person, with all transportation expenses and admission fees included.

Michelle Fong

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