Airports That Offer Free City Tours On A Layover

More and more people decide on flying with those airline tickets that include a layover stop between connecting flights and save in airfare, instead of buying a direct ticket. And there are times when the stops are simply unavoidable when you have to fly to some destination.

But, although at first, you may think that the time at the airport will easily pass by, that you have what to do there and how to entertain yourself, like eat, shop, read or surf the net, frankly after 3-4 hours of waiting the things can get a bit boring.

Some airports saw this as an opportunity to promote tourism offering free organized city tours for the transit passengers with a layover flight that does not exceed 24 hours of a waiting time at the airport.

If figuring out public transport, what to see, and how to get back in time for the connecting flight on your own, seems like too much for you, then you should definitely take one of these tours. The tours are well organized and start directly from the airport, leaving you enough time for you to get through the security, pick up your luggage and board on your next flight. So, if you’re stopping by at one of these airports you can take that chance of going on a completely free city tour.

Changi Airport – Singapore

Let’s begin with the world’s best airport – the Singapore’s Changi airport – that’s been voted best not just for the present 2018, but for the past 6 years in a row. In between flights waiting with a long layover? At the Singapore Changi airport, this is an experience. It’s nothing like the usual boredom you may have in other airports. 

Not only you’ll save money with that layover flight ticket, but in the meantime, while you are there waiting, you’ll definitely have what to choose to do for free. If you are a first-time visitor of the Changi airport you probably won’t want to leave. From the various gardens, such as orchid, sunflower, cactus or butterfly, fine restaurants and cafeterias, to movie theatres and games room, to even a rooftop pool if you wanna take a dip and leg massage chairs when you need to take a break from walking. Finally, expect of the free airport WiFi to be very fast. But, if you are done shopping, strolling the beautiful gardens, watching a movie or playing games, you finished the delicious meal and have a spare time then it’s a good idea to take a tour.

If your waiting time or layover is more than 5.5 hours and less than 24 hours you can take one of the two complementary tours organized by Singapore Airlines, Singapore Tourism Board and Changi Airport. Offered on a daily basis the Heritage Tour or City Sights Tour, are available only to transit passengers or to those that will stay at the airport no more than 24 hours before they take their next flight. The tours are in English language, available every day from 7 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. But, they have to fit your flight schedule too if you want to attend on any of them. Seats are available on first-come-first-served-basis and the duration of the tour is 2.5 hours. So, be there to apply and register as soon as you can, at least one hour before the tour starts. 

Depending on the weather or the traffic, there is a possibility of changes in the tour itinerary.

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Ataturk Airport – Istanbul, Turkey

When flying with Turkish airlines and you have an international connecting flight in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, you can discover more of Istanbul with the completely free TourIstanbul service. Both flights have to be booked with Turkish airlines though and your flight’s schedule has to be compatible with the timing of the tours too. If you are in transit in Istanbul and have a layover more than 6 hours and less than 24 hours this tour is an excellent choice to enjoy and explore on Istanbul. Free transport is offered, as well the entrance fees to the museums are covered and even free lunch is included. Just, be at the Hotel Desk a half an hour before the tour starts.

With these tours, that can last from 2.5 to 9 hours, you’ll be walking among the most remarkable historical sights of Istanbul, going back in time without worrying further about timing. Everything will be arranged for you for free, from pick up to lunch, to free transfers back to the airport. Although the tours are based on a low physical activity, if it’s a whole day tour it’ll include a lot of walking and standing.

Incheon International Airport – Seoul, Korea

Are you left there waiting at Seoul’s airport? Well, Incheon airport in Seoul can offer a couple of tours for free to all of the transit passengers that may fulfill your time. If taking a part in the Incheon city tour, for example, you’ll be visiting Songdo Hanok Village, Central Park, and Triple shopping street. Another tour will take you to visit some of Seoul’s temples such as the Jogyesa temple, the chief temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

It’s very convenient that the tours are led by an English speaking tour guide and can last from 1 – 5 hours. All of them are for free but don’t include entry fees of the tourist attractions or meals.

In your waiting time, you can also experience a traditional Korean cultural workshop. Intended for all the travelers waiting for their connections, at Incheon airport you can learn how to make a jewelry box out of paper or even sew accessories. There is a traditional craft exhibit for free as well.

Taoyuan International Airport – Taipei, Taiwan

Daily Sanxia-Yingge Half-Day Tour, in the morning or Daily Taipei City Half-Day Tour held in the afternoon, are offered to those transit passengers that have at least 7 hours but no more than 24 hours long layovers before their connecting flight. Although on-site registration is available, you can make only one reservation for one of these two tours, even 14 to 30 days prior to arrival at the airport. Eighteen passengers are predicted for each tour so if you are sure that you want to be on this one, maybe it won’t be such a bad idea to book ahead of time. These are free half-day tours that are arranged in the morning or afternoon hours. Depending on your flights you can choose the one that will fit well into your connection time schedule.

Narita Airport – Tokyo, Japan

In Tokyo, from Narita airport, you’ll be guided by an English speaking local, a volunteer, that will bring you closer to Japan’s way of life and culture. You can choose to visit one of the four nearby towns rich in some magnificent sights. Tours last for about 3 hours each and although the guides and the tours are for free, you have to cover the fees for the transportation and entrances where necessary.

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Volunteer guides will wait for you at the airport in the arranged time from where the tour starts and via public transport, bus or train you’ll be going to one of the towns where you’ll spend most of the time on foot exploring. They start early in the morning, from 9 a.m. and can be even tailored to your own budget or be self-guided too.

During the tour, you’ll have a very authentic experience of the culture and some of the traditional customs in Japan, such as the tea ceremony or tasting a deliciously homemade local food, visit of handicraft stores, restaurants, temples, and museums. In one of the tours, you can even wear a kimono, or dress up as a ninja or samurai. Another tour will definitely give you an opportunity for a little bit of exercise. Instead of waiting at the airport with this tour, you can walk or cycle in the countryside among rice fields. Tours can be booked as you wish, online or upon your arrival at the airport. There are also free self-guided tours from which three are shopping-oriented.

Hamad International Airport – Doha, Qatar

You can book this tour online 48 hours prior to arrival. Or upon arrival at Discover Qatar Tour desk 90 min before the tour starts if you’d want to be a part of it. It’s not totally free either, as you’ll have to pay transport fees. Doha City tour can accommodate a maximum of 46 passengers, but your layover has to be more than 5 hours.  So, you can experience a free organized and guided tour of Doha city when in those 2.45 hours, you’ll be able to see some of the most significant cultural sites such as Katara, The Pearl, Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif. The tours are provided thanks to Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Board.

Basic conditions that apply for any of these tours:

  • You have to be a transit passenger which means that your layover stop shouldn’t be more than  24 hours long.
  •  As a transit passenger, you can exit only once from the airport. Which is why when there are more tours available you can only choose to attend to one of them.
  • You may not be allowed to carry your luggage with you, so check on the airport in time for that too and how you can handle it properly. In general, you can leave it in the luggage office at the airport locked for a fee.
  • Do bear in mind that you should check up front if you would need a transit visa to leave the airport for a few hours and enter in any of these countries.
  • Finally, some of the tours have only walking-in registrations, others can be pre-booked online.

Except for the above mentioned free city tours, there are plenty of other layover tours worldwide that can be booked with Viator – A TripAdvisor Company (US) or Viator – A TripAdvisor Company UK