What’s better than a trip to a new and exciting place? A trip to two new and exciting places!
With direct flights often more expensive and harder to come by, more South Africans are choosing to fly on indirect routes involving a connecting flight – think deals with Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, and a host of other airlines.
If you have a long connection time or simply want to maximise your holiday experience and minimise the chances of 36 consecutive hours spent in airports and on planes, taking advantage of an airline stopover can be an easy way to see a new city or country without any extra hassle. Here are some of our favourite options.
Istanbul, Turkish Airlines
Turkish Airlines' free city tour service makes it easy for passengers who have a long layover to spend a day in the city. If your layover is longer than 20 hours, though, here’s where you really score. Economy-class passengers are eligible for one night’s free accommodation at a four-star hotel, including breakfast.
If you’re in business class, this gets bumped up to five star. And it’s not a hotel in a far-out, dodgy part of town. Your accommodation is in Sultanahmet or Taksim – both central and well-located areas. All you have to pay for is your hotel transfer and any extra meals in addition to your breakfast. You will need an online visa in advance, but they’re free and easy to obtain – so if you’re flying via Istanbul, stay for a night and explore this unique city straddling Asia and Europe, both physically and culturally.
Doha, Qatar Airways
Qatar’s exceptional service doesn’t stop once you get off the plane in Doha. Its Doha city tour allows you to experience the major highlights of the city; Katara, The Pearl, the Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif. The tour costs just R140 (slight fluctuations in cost will depend on the exchange rate, of course) and starts every two hours between 8am and 8pm. If you have a longer layover – more than five hours – you can do a full-on desert adventure from as little as R850.
You can book the tours in advance online up to 48 hours before you arrive, or you can head to the Discover Qatar Tours desk once you arrive to try to get a spot.
That isn’t all, though. Like Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways offers a free stopover programme too. You get one night’s free accommodation at one of its partner hotels, and can take in the sights and sounds of the city before getting a good night’s sleep. South Africans no longer need a visa for a short trip to Qatar (up to 30 days), so there really is no excuse.
Ahh Dubai – the New York of the United Arab Emirates. You can experience this glittering, cosmopolitan city rising out of the desert on a stopover with Emirates. Because it often has amazing deals on flights to the UK and the US, it’s quite likely that you’ll find yourself facing a long layover at the airport. Instead, sip on a cocktail poolside, admire the Burj Khalifa or shop to your heart’s content at the designer boutiques and glitzy malls.
Though Emirates doesn’t offer free stopovers, it does have affordable options that can help you see the city without spending a fortune. You can spend as little as R560 per person for three nights’ accommodation including breakfast, as well as a meet-and-greet service upon arrival and transfers between your hotel and the airport.
Singapore, Singapore Airlines
Admittedly, landing in Changi Airport in Singapore is something else. You could happily spend a day in the airport, thanks to its butterfly gardens, free Wi-Fi, sleeping pods, TVs and all kinds of luxury amenities that really don’t seem to belong in an airport. But you could also take yourself out of the serenity of the butterfly gardens to immerse yourself in the vibrant, buzzing culture of Singapore.
Stop for a night, don’t pay any extra for your flight, and for about R400 you can get a night at a lovely hotel, along with complimentary rides on the hop-on-hop-off bus, and access to more than 20 of Singapore’s best attractions, including free meals, entries to museums and landmarks, and amazing deals on activities for the more adventurous among us.
You can also take a complimentary tour of two-and-a-half hours if you have a layover of more than five-and-a-half hours. You have a choice of two different tours: the Heritage Tour or the City Sights Tour. The Heritage Tour will take you to Chinatown, Little India, Singapore’s banking district and Kampong Glam. The City Sights Tour will show you some of Singapore’s marvels of architecture and design – the Marina Bay Promenade, Gardens By The Bay and the Singapore Flyer.
Feel free to contact Flight Centre’s travel experts to help you book your next flight or you can head over to www.flightcentre.co.za for brilliant travel deals.
This article was paid for by Flight Centre.