There’s nothing worse than having a long layover at an airport. Even if the shopping and restaurants are good, there’s always time with nothing to do but sit in a huge crowded space with uncomfortable chairs.
Good news! Some airports offer free mini city tours. I was lucky enough to take one from Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea several years ago. Since then I’ve found that there are six other airports that offer great tour options. A long layover never looked so good!
Incheon Airport offers a variety of tours ranging from one to five hours and come with English speaking guides. You can even choose between city themes or temple themes. They are all free, except for a few that include a traditional Korean lunch for 10.00. Tours are run on a first come first serve basis, so it’s a good idea to book online before you get there.
It’s really easy to find the tour departure area. Go to the 1st floor in the main terminal. The desk is numbered 41 and 42 between outgoing gates 8 and 9.
If you have at least 8 hours at Taoyuan Airport you can choose from two free tours. The morning one departs at 8:15am and goes to the beautiful Sanxia Temple and pottery shopping in Yingge. The afternoon one departs at 2:00pm and is a city tour that includes Chang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Each tour is limited to 18 people. They take advance reservations for up to 6 people if you fill out the application within 30 days of travel.
You can also sign up when you get there at the Tourist Service Center in Terminal One next to the car rental service center and also at the Terminal Two arrivals hall next to the food court.
SALT LAKE CITY
If you have more than a 2 hour layover it’s worth it to take a free tour of the Temple Square downtown area. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a shuttle that leaves the airport every 30 minutes in summer and every hour the rest of the year. Regardless of your religious beliefs the church is truly beautiful, and the area is interesting.
The information desk in both terminals will give you the brochure and point you in the right direction!
Narita Airport either pairs you with a volunteer guide that speaks English or gives you a self-guided option for sightseeing. You need at least a 5 hour layover, but you also can take one of the tours if you’re staying in a nearby hotel. They have a lot of choices ranging from temple to shopping tours. They even have one that’s a nature walk! These don’t include transportation, but everything can be reached by public bus and is clearly marked. You can sign up online.
You can also sign up at the Narita Transit Tourism Counter in Terminal 1 or 2, but they are only open 9:00am to 12:00pm.
If you’re flying Turkish Airlines into and out of Ataturk Airport with at least 6 hours to spare there is a tour you can take that includes Istanbul’s major sights including the Blue Mosque! You simply go to the hotel desk in the International Arrival Hall right next to Starbucks to sign up. There are three tours a day, including at cultural walking tour. First come, first served!
Be advised that right now you have to have a visa to pass through customs. They cost 20.00, and the easiest way to get one is by purchasing an E-Visa online.
There are two tours to choose from at the Changi Airport if you have at least a 6 hour layover. The Heritage tour runs four times daily, and the City Sights tour runs two times daily. Sign up at the booth in the Terminal Two transit area between transit lounge F and the Skytrain to Terminal Three. Make sure to stay in the transit area and not clear immigration! Again, first come, first served.
If you don’t have enough time for a tour, Changi Airport offers some cool ways to pass the time. There are free movies 24 hours a day in several terminals. There are multiple gardens to walk through including a butterfly garden. There’s even the world’s tallest slide! Spend $10 and you can get a free token.
The Doha Airport offers tours to the Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art, Katara Cultural Village and the Pearl-Qatar shopping center. There are four tours a day that can be booked on a first come, first serve basis if you have at least 5 hours. You can register at he Doha City Tour desk (marked as “City Tours” at the beginning of Concourse B located between the Mont Blanc and WH Smith shops.