Planning some flights? Kate Gibbs, our travel writer gives you the lowdown on 3 of the world's best stopovers to consider to bring more joy to your long-haul journey.
There’s nothing like long-haul flights to make travelling feel less like the worldly experience of a discerning nomad and more like an interminable grind of bag hauling and traipsing around the airport half way to anywhere looking for a souvenir that will travel, and a block of chocolate that will comatose you for the second leg. But book your trip from any major Australian city right now and the stopover can become a thing of beauty, stage one of the destination that will refresh and, if you play it right, is even worth drawing out to a longer stay. By ‘stopover’ we're talking more than three hours and fewer than three days. The destination needn’t be the only important port of call, so here’s my pick on where to stop for a layover.
Possibly the greatest stopover in the world, Hong Kong is as vibrant as it is delicious, as commutable as it is available on most long-haul trips to Europe and the United Kingdom. Hong Kong is the only airport in the world where you can play a round of golf without leaving the terminal, in an 18-hole virtual game “The Green Live" at Terminal Two. At the airport, Cathay Pacific and Qantas have lounges, but even better, an airport express train can whisk you into the heart of Hong Kong’s Kowloon in less than 30 minutes. It’s worth the trip if you have more than a few hours between flights. Australian passports don’t need a visa for fewer than 90 days, so choose Hong Kong if you plan a stopover of more than about eight hours.
For the short stopover, Singapore Airport offers a destination in its own right. At Terminal One there’s a pool (about $20 includes a swim and towel), and there’s a rooftop cactus garden. Do laps, get some sun, and return to your cramped seat fitter more tanned than when you left home. Terminal Three has a butterfly garden and a free cinema. If you’ve got more than six hours until your connecting flight, join a free tour out of the airport and into the city - just look for registration desks at the transit areas when you land.
Just 10 hours from Sydney or half way to London, Tokyo is a handy and often overlooked stopover for long-haul flights to Europe. Once there, book straight into a tiny sleep pod at the airport, where clean sheets, a flat bed and shower greet you. You can book by the hour, and even three hours’ sleep can be a welcome comfort when travelling. Further afield, it’s a dense and sprawling city that can be daunting even for a long stay, but it’s possible to do Tokyo well in 24 hours, give or take. Tumble into the fast-paced world of modern Tokyo, grab a bowl or ramen or sashimi, witness the shocking and beautiful, noisy and thrilling streets around Shinjuku, or head straight to the gardens and temples for fresh air and peace, and almost ancient place.
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