You’ll want to make time between connections when flying overseas for these mini stopover tours.
Heart of Seoul
Seoul’s Incheon International Airport offers nine different free transit tours daily ranging from two to five hours long, from Terminals 1 and 2. English speaking volunteers host the tours which include traditional palaces and temples, the historic Songdo Hanok Village, Insa-dong (the popular neighbourhood known for its shops and folk-art galleries), markets, parks and beaches. Visitors will need to go through immigration and have relevant visas if required to join a tour.
Highlights of Singapore
Changi is recognised as the World’s Best Airport by global review site Skytrax so it’s worth having a longer layover just to have time to explore the gardens (there are about 10), artworks and architecture which are on the itineraries of three different, free, guided hour-long tours in the terminals. Travellers with about five hours to spare between connections can choose from a daytime Heritage Tour visiting cultural districts such as Little India and Kampong Glam or an evening City Sights tour which includes stops at Merlion Park and the giant Avatar-like supertrees at Gardens by the Bay.
You can get a taste of Japan’s food, culture and history without staying overnight, just by taking one of the tours available as part of Tokyo’s Narita International Airport Transit & Stay program. You will need to exit immigration and customs to join a tour and be back inside the airport at least two hours before your next flight departure but a guided walk along the historic Omotesando Street to browse its craft shops, inns and restaurants on the way to Naritasan Shinshoji Temple provides a snapshot of traditional Japan.
Get more interactive at a traditional tea ceremony, taste unagi (freshwater eel) cuisine, be dressed in a kimono for great Instagram photos, watch a fire ritual or practise the meditative art of shakyo or sutra copying available at extra cost ranging from 500-5000 yen (about AUD$6.50 to $65) per person. Nine different tours are available, each about three hours long.
Temples and towers in Taipei
Savvy travellers can time their international connections to fit in a free half-day tour from Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport and soak up the city’s history. Two tours depart each day – one morning, one afternoon – visiting sites from the modern, including the towering Taipei 101, to the traditional such as the Qingshui Zushi Temple built in 1769, Sanxia Old Street lined with renovated red-brick buildings dating back to the late Qing Dynasty, and Yingge Ceramics Old Street which is the pottery capital of Taiwan and home to more than 800 resident artists and 100 outlets selling different ceramics.
Shop a bargain in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has been ranked the world’s fourth best shopping destination and has three major sale festivals per year making it a great stopover for shopaholics to bag a bargain while in transit. From the international airport there’s a free shuttle every 20 minutes to Mitsui Outlet Park. International brands such as Versace, Bally, Brooks Brothers, Hugo Boss, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike, and Under Armour are just a few that have stores in the centre, which also has flight check-in kiosks, online check-in access and free baggage storage. Allow two to three hours to explore and shop with a tourist privilege pass (available at the centre) that provides discounts to many stores.