With technology continuing to improve, the holy grail flight could take place in the future. London to Sydney. Non-stop. Reliably (it’s possible at the moment, but conditions need to be perfect). Given this, most people look for the shortest available layover that fits in their budget. I can see the benefits of this, but next time you are booking flights, consider taking a look at 15+ hour layovers.
There are plenty of countries you and I currently have no major interest in seeing. I’ve gotten to check 5 of these countries for a day thanks to 15+ hour layovers giving me entire day to check out these countries and get a little taste of them. Here is my initial thoughts on the 5 countries I have utilised long layovers to explore.
And on a scale of 1 (never want to visit again) to 10 (OMG OMG OMG) how eager I am to get back to the country.
Seoul, South Korea
Chiang Mai -> Seoul -> Las Vegas
South Korea was having some slight issues with North Korea during my stopover here so I interested to see if I would notice anything crazy. Nothing crazy, but I’d definitely come back to South Korea again. The city was not nearly as overcrowded as I expected and seeing the mountains nearby intrigued me a lot. Such easy access to snow during the winter! I talked to a couple of people and they got me even further interested in returning. One day I shall be back. The Koreans are very sociable people which makes Seoul, and no doubt all of South Korea a great experience.
Check out what i got up to in Seoul.
Route: Vancouver -> Shanghai -> Manila
China was never on my radar and after running around the older side of the city (and a quick trip to the modern side), I still wasn’t convinced. While I didn’t hate the place and came across some random things (crazy taxis, slow trains, minimal English), the tea festival scam left a sour taste in my mouth and there is nothing that makes me want to return to Shanghai.
Scale: 4 (based on Shanghai alone).
UPDATE (Aug 2018): I once again had a layover in Shanghai in July 2018, but this time I earned $300 for doing so thanks to Airmule.
Kuala Lumpur -> Singapore -> Chiang Mai
The country at the bottom of mainland Malaysia, I envisioned to be very ‘space age-y’. What I didn’t expect was to find so much culture. China Town and Little India were fun to walk around and I was so happy to get a coconut in my hands. There were also parks in the city. The reason Singapore gets ‘just a 5’, it isn’t massive and I feel like there’s no more ‘must dos’ for me in the future. Though I did forget to have a Singapore Sling.
Check out what I got up to in Singapore.
Dubai, UAE and Muscat, Oman
Istanbul -> Dubai -> Muscat -> Chennai
The home of the tallest building in the world. Dubai is a frequent layover for kiwis enroute to Europe. It is essentially a man-made city. While you can get into the desert, it seems to inauthentic to me and while wandering the city I just didn’t dig the vibes. The aquarium in the Dubai Mall? No deal. The waterfall in the Dubai Mall? Impressive! Other than in Dubai Mall and public transport it seems like everyone is sitting in their car all day.
Oman was the place I was most interested in out of the five above. Mmmmm dates, Oman is home to a whole lot of date trees. My experience was not what I expected. Dubai is full of people, Muscat definitely isn’t! Turns out there is an Old Muscat but that isn’t even where everyone hangs out, nor is it ‘New Muscat’. Most people I found were near Qurum which is a lovely beach area with locals grabbing chairs out of their cars to relax beachside as the sun sets. I also discovered the grand canyon of the Middle East is 70km or so from Muscat and a bunch of other day trips are possible. Dates? I ate probably 35 or so. On the next visit that will be 235. Muscat just needs to work on their public transit.
Tips For Finding/Booking/Completing Long Layovers
- To search for long layovers, I use SkyScanner.net and insert my departure and arrival country and scan for 25+ journey times. Once I figure out the airline that enables the long layovers, check out the airline website directly to check out all the options.
- Make sure the country you wish to have the layover in allows visa on arrival. A quick way (it’s Wiki, don’t take it as gospel) to check is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_(insert your nationality here)_citizens
- Make sure the layover is in daylight hours. Public transport usually stops during the night and exploring cities for the first time isn’t exactly ideal in darkness
- Some countries organise free city tours from the airport for layovers of 5+ hours. I haven’t taken one yet, but could be worth a look (let me know if you have done this)
- Ensure your bags are checked through to your next destination, otherwise you will need to sort storage out (most of the time it’s available at the airport). Hauling bags around Dubai wasn’t ideal
- Plan a couple of ‘must sees/dos/eats’ in advance to ensure you don’t feel like you have wasted a day
- If you plot a layover on two separate tickets, try and make sure they arrive/depart from the same airport for ease of bag storage if you need to recheck bags
Have you taken a long layover? Would love to hear about your experience.
I will continue to do these layovers where possible, Japan and a couple other Middle Eastern countries (Qatar and Bahrain) will likely be next. It’s interesting, most of the time my expectations came through. Is that related to manifesting my own travel experience?