Make Your Layover Count with these City Tours
The next time you have a long layover between flights, don't just idle away the time at the airport in an uncomfortable plastic chair. In many cities around the world, it's possible to zip downtown, do some sightseeing and make it back to the airport in time for your next flight. Here's some of our favourite places to do a mini-tour during your layover.
Toronto Pearson Airport, Canada's main airline hub, is just 25 minutes from downtown's Union Station on the UP Express, a new train that bypasses Toronto's famously jammed-up highways. Since the arrival of the every-15-minutes route in 2015, it's become possible to zip into the city and back with time to spare. (There's even a half-price fare, the "Long Layover Return," for day trips of less than seven hours; you'll pay $12.35 return, or $25.70 for families.)
Once you arrive at Union, you'll be just minutes away from the iconic CN Tower and kid-friendly attractions like Ripley's Aquarium and the Hockey Hall of Fame. And if you skipped the airplane meal, the St. Lawrence Market -- recently named the No. 1 food market in the world by National Geographic -- is a scenic 15-minute walk to the east. (Three of our food faves: Carousel Bakery's legendary peameal bacon on a bun, the intimidatingly large eggplant sandwiches at Uno Mustachio and the Portuguese tarts from Churrasco.)
Whatever your interests -- shopping, art galleries, vintage clothing, spas, beaches, bars -- you'll find it all close enough to Union to let you get a taste of Toronto without fear of missing your next flight. Find maps, e-tickets and suggestions at the Tourism Toronto website and look for restaurant, activity and spa deals at Travelzoo.ca.
The tours in the Narita Airport Transit & Stay Program aren't limited to travellers with stopovers; if you're staying in a hotel in Narita, you can join too. That's a good thing, because once you've sampled the culture and cuisine of this city 50 km east of Tokyo, you might want to stick around. Choose from four guided tours (focused on a themes such as cuisine or countryside), or pick up maps and guides for one of five self-guided tours. Each takes about three hours and can be customized to suit your interests.
From Vancouver International Airport (YVR), it's a quick, free ride on the TransLink Canada Line to Templeton Station and the McArthur Designer Outlet (pictured), which features brands including Levi’s, Coach, J.Crew Factory, and Polo Ralph Lauren Factory.
This same transportation system can be used to get in/out of the city center with ease; you can get to the waterfront downtown in just 25 minutes. Tourism Vancouver has an excellent guide to Vancouver in 1, 2 or 3 hours, with sightseeing itineraries that take in the city's highlights. The local Travelzoo team recommends renting a bike and taking in the waterfront views on the cycle path bordering Stanley Park; it's the perfect way to counteract all that time in a cramped airplane seat.
Changi International Airport is a destination unto itself, with a free 24-hour movie theater, two-story butterfly garden, rooftop pool, high-end shopping and the efficiency that Singapore has seemed to perfect. If you're going to have a layover, this is the place.
If you have time, though, it's worth leaving the airport on a Free Singapore Tour. These guided trips, which last about 2.5 hours, come in two itineraries: The Heritage Tour covers Singapore's colonial and cultural districts, while the City Sights Tour focuses on modern neighbourhoods and attractions.
When you're flying into Qatar, you can get a free transit visa that allows you to spend up to 96 hours in country without additional fare charges. If you’ve only got a few hours to spare in between flights, head into the center of Doha, which only takes about 20 minutes from Hamad International Airport. Ask your taxi driver to take you to the Corniche, a four-mile stretch of waterfront promenade along the Doha Bay.
Here, traditional wooden dhow boats line the bay against the backdrop of a modern, cosmopolitan city. Locals use the promenade for biking, walking, and jogging. It’s also a great place to sit and people-watch. Alternatively, head to the Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by internationally renowned architect I M Pei, the Museum of Islamic Art is home to thousands of artifacts, ranging from ceramics and glass to weaponry and textiles, manuscripts and jewelry. Free audio guides are available in English in the atrium.