The global spread of the coronavirus is disrupting travel. Stay up to date on the science behind the outbreak>>

How to make the most of a long layover

Two trips for the price of one? Count us in. Long layovers don't have to mean picking a seat in the airport; max out your transit time to tick off world-famous landmarks and soak up the local atmosphere

By Julia Buckley
Published 2 Apr 2019, 12:22 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 13:16 BST
The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Photograph by Getty Images

3.5 hours… Try this:
Dublin // Book of Kells

You'll need half an hour to reach Trinity College — pre-book your time slot for the Book of Kells and swan straight in.

4 hours… Try this:
Hong Kong // Hong Kong harbour

The world's most famous waterfront is just 24 minutes away on the Airport Express train. One leaves every 10 minutes; even better, a day return is the same price as a single journey (£10.35). Get off at Kowloon.

5 hours… Try this:
Miami // Miami Beach

Miami's route 150 bus (the Miami Beach Airport Express) whizzes you from the airport to South Beach for just $2.25 (£1.75) each way. It leaves every 20 minutes and takes about the same amount of time.

6 hours… Try this:
Singapore // Hawker stands

Try Singapore's famous street food in the Downtown Core's prettiest hawker centre, Lau Pa Sat. The Hainanese chicken rice is the perfect dish for soothing a post-long-haul flight stomach.

7 hours… Try this:
Beijing // Great Wall of China

It's possible to take a tour from the airport to the Mutianyu section and back within four hours, in time for your connection. No visa required for stays under 24 hours.

8 hours… Try this:
Dubai // Burj Khalifa

The world's tallest building is a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport (note: 96-hour transit visas are only available for layovers of eight hours or more; apply in advance). There's an observation deck on the 124th-floor.

10 hours… Try this:
Chicago // Culture

The Blue Line 'L' train will get you to central Clark/Lake station in 40 minutes. From here, it's a quick walk to Millennium Park, Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate statue and the Art Institute of Chicago (, which easily takes up a day.

Bangkok // Tailoring
Book official transit tours with a layover of more than four hours. Narin Couture, by the Nana BTS Skytrain station, is a cut above. Pick it up on your way back.

Layover tips

Cities with free tours for transit visitors: Singapore, Istanbul, Doha, Seoul and Tokyo

National airlines: Many will offer hotel discounts and freebies, plus free entry to attractions

Travelling with Aer Lingus? You can save time by pre-clearing US immigration in Dublin

Plan ahead for traffic: Book flights outside of rush hour (be back at the airport two hours before your next flight)


Published in the November 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Follow us on social media 

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Flipboard

Read More

You might also like

National Geographic Traveller Reader Awards 2022
Will the conflict in Ukraine impact travel plans?
The scandal of 'ghost flights': are empty planes haunting our skies?
Is this the end of short-haul flights? How sustainability is shaping the future of air travel
Why you should fly with Singapore Airlines

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved