Whether you are travelling from Asia to Europe or the other way around, the flight times can be intimidating and you will usually need to stop at an airport in between. So why not use your stop-over as a chance to see a city that, in itself, is very much worth visiting? Here are four exciting top stop-over spots:
1. Dubai – City of superlatives
Gulf region airlines have emerged as giants in international aviation, above all Dubai-based Emirates. The company does a not inconsiderable volume of business carrying passengers between Europe and Asia. The new airport Al Maktoum is one day expected to handle 160 million passengers per year.
For travellers going to Asia, or those heading to Europe, the glittering city of Dubai has become a prime destination, with the world’s tallest skyscraper, sparkling shopping malls and aquariums, and attractive recreational parks and beaches.
Emirates is now offering stop-overs costing as little as US$45 (RM195) per person per night, for a minimum of three nights. These may be booked only in the arrivals hall at the “Hotels & Visas for Dubai” counter before going through passport control and customs.
Pre-booking is not possible. The advantage for many passengers is that, depending on their country, they do not need a visa.
2. Doha – An up-and-coming Emirate
Dubai and Abu Dhabi get their fair share of travellers – but Qatar remains, in tourism terms, a blank canvas. With its huge network of more than 150 destinations worldwide, the state-owned Qatar Airways also offers travellers a chance for a stop-over between Europe and Asia.
Qatar is a showcase of Arabic modernism and wealth. It is one of the wealthiest states in the world – and current construction projects include a new national museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.
You can see the wealth straight away at Hammad International Airport in Doha. As the first airport in the Middle East, it has also become the first to be honoured with a five-star ranking by the rating agency Skytrax.
In order to attract more tourists, Qatar has introduced a free-of-charge visa that is valid for a stay of four days, giving travellers a chance to unwind and explore Qatar. The only condition is that they must be Qatar Airways ticket-holders.
3. Bangkok – South-east Asia’s trendy city
Bangkok is probably the largest tourism hub in Southeast Asia. From Bangkok, numerous Asian discount carriers fly to Thai holiday resorts on the sea, as well as to many neighbouring countries and Indonesia.
For the long distances between, for example, Europe and Australia and New Zealand, Bangkok airport is often a stopover point, and so offers a chance for air travellers to explore the city.
Impressive Buddhist temples, lively night-time markets, bicycle tours, culinary excursions and a boat ride on the Chao Phraya are experiences that won’t soon be forgotten.
Bangkok is a modern city with all the modern-day comforts, but is also a purely Asian experience. A typical two-night stop-over starting from Suvarnabhumi airport will include seeing the Royal Palace and the famous Wat Po temple.
4. Hong Kong – A pearl in the South China Sea
The special administrative region of Hong Kong is the base of Cathay Pacific, which serves many European cities but also Southeast Asia, Japan, Korea and other parts of China.
Those travellers with limited time will usually take in a whirlwind tour to visit such highlights as riding the cog rail up to Victoria Peak, and seeing the huge bronze Buddha statue on Lantau island or the nuns’ convent Chi Lin. A tempting alternative is simply to go shopping amid the towering skyscrapers.
Located at the mouth of the Pearl River, Hong Kong belongs to China, a country where foreign visitors usually need to acquire a visa. But with its special status, Hong Kong can permit visitors to stay visa-free for up to 90 days – a perfect situation for stop-over travel. – dpa/Philipp Laage