Travel

8 Exciting Stopover Activities On Popular Travel Routes Like Dubai, Frankfurt & Istanbul

Stopover activities to do under 48 hours


So you’ve booked a getaway to someplace exotic, a place so far-flung that you probably won’t be hearing any “lahs” and “lehs” for a while. There’s a high chance that you’ll be facing a stopover en route, sometimes even lasting a little over a day. That doesn’t mean you have to waste your precious vacay hours uncomfortably napping on the airport benches, though.

In order to maximise every moment of your time abroad, we compiled a list of stopover activities to do under 48 hours. Without venturing too far off from the airport and risking being late for your connecting flight, here’s how to make the most of your time in transit. 


1. Dubai, UAE – Check out sand dunes & the world’s tallest building



Offered by Sleep n Fly, the sleep lounges are located at Terminals 1 and 3.
Image adapted from: Ibrahim Falqi via Google Maps, Sleep N Fly

From Singapore, Dubai is one of the most common stopover destinations for flight routes leading to the likes of Europe and the UK. Within the swanky Dubai International Airport (DXB), you and your travel companions will be able to recharge at various cosy nap pods, bunk cabins, and family cabins priced from USD26 (~S$37.47) for 2 hours.


Adrenaline junkies can book a sand dune tour and whizz through the desert on quad bikes.
Image credit: Faiz Elahi via Google Maps

If your stopover is long enough, feel free to explore Dubai city which is situated just 5km from the airport. Tour operators will be stationed near the arrival gate, and you’ll be able to pick the activities which suit your interests, budget, and time left before you have to depart.

Tip: Visitors who fly in via Emirates Airlines are eligible for discounts on certain activities and attractions – such as desert tours – as well as hotels in Dubai.

Image credit: @thenytraveller via Instagram 

No Dubai stopover would be complete without a visit to the Dubai Mall, where you will find an underwater zoo, aquarium, ice rink, and the world’s largest skyscraper – the Burj Khalifa – all within walking distance from each other.

It’s advised to only travel out of DXB if you have more than 6 hours to kill before your connection, and up to 10 hours if you plan on partaking in tours that can lead you far out into the desert.

How do I get out of the airport?
Uber or Careem app – Dubai’s version of Grab. Don’t risk taking an unlicensed taxi because if you get caught, both you and the driver will be fined AED3,000 (~S$1,092.95).

Will I need a visa?
You’ll need a transit visa, which you can acquire from your airline. A free one is valid for 48 hours, and transit visas that are valid for 96 hours’ stopover cost AED50 (~S$18.22).


2. Frankfurt, Germany – Sign up for tours & activities within the airport



Image adapted from: Julian Hofmann via Google Maps, NapCabs

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) is one of Europe’s busiest airports, and the main hub for Lufthansa Airlines. Like most terminals, you’ll get access to passenger lounges if you flew Business or First Class. Even if you made the 13-hour journey from Singapore flying economy, there are 3 walk-in lounges which you can enter with day passess from €35 (~S$51.22) for 3 hours.

If all you need is a place to catch some Zs, go for the airport NapCabs. From €10 (~S$14.61)/hour, you’ll get to snooze in air-conditioned comfort, recharge your devices through the USB ports, and enjoy uninterrupted rest due to the soundproofed walls.


The Iron Bridge along Frankfurt’s River Main.

Image credit: @vvely_jy via Instagram

Locals recommend having at least 7 hours if you’re planning on seeing more of Frankfurt. Notable landmarks include Römerberg’s Iron Bridge, where couples can contribute to the collection of love locks to signify their devotion to each other. Families can visit the Naturmuseum Senckenberg, home to Europe’s largest collection of dinosaur fossils.


Image credit: Frankfurt Airport 

If you don’t have the luxury of time, the FRA offers shorter airport tours (from €9, ~S$13.14 for 45 minutes) that still give you some fulfilling experiences to remember the stopover by. Children and grownups alike will get a kick out of zipping down the runway in a private bus, and getting to see how the airport fire station operates.

You can even try your hand at landing a Boeing 737 in their flight simulator (€99, ~S$144.55 for adults, €69, ~S$100.75 for kids aged 5-11), where a professional pilot will show you the ropes.     

How do I get out of the airport?
The best way is by train – you can find the train station just beyond T1. From there, a short 20-minute ride will get you to the city centre of Hauptwache. An all-day train pass costs €9.55 (~S$13.91), and it’s even faster than travelling by taxi.   

Will I need a visa?
You will require a Airport Travel Visa to explore Frankfurt. Fill in the Airport Transit Visa application form ahead of your trip, and make sure to prepare the required documents. 


3. Istanbul, Türkiye – Enjoy free tours if you fly via Turkish Airlines


Folks headed overseas by way of Türkiye will find themselves landing in Istanbul Airport (IST). Some fun facts: Türkiye has the 6th best airport in the world, is the leading destination for male hair transplants, and is one of the cheapest European countries to visit. 


IST has duty-free shopping aplenty.
Image credit: @igairport via Instagram

Turkish Airlines offers free stopover tours of tourist attractions for their passengers, which is great news for those who wish to explore this city between 2 continents without dipping further into their travel fund. You’ll need at least 12 hours for an adventure outside the airport, though, but there’s also a Yotel and sprawling duty-free shopping centre within the terminal.


The Hagia Sophia’s domed facade also made a cameo in Star Wars: Episode 1.
Image credit: @thehagiasophiagrandmosque via Instagram

Even if you didn’t fly here via Turkish Airline for a Turkish Hairline, the city still offers some pretty interesting sights. Historic landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, and The Blue Mosque are in such close proximity to each other that you only need a day to visit them all.    

How do I get out of the airport?
There is a metro line from the airport that connects to the city. You’ll need a rechargeable Istanbulkart card (₺50, ~S$2.32) to ride the train, purchasable at the subway station opposite Exit 11 of the airport. A ride to the city centre will cost around ₺9.90 (~S$0.46).

Will I need a visa?
No, those with Singapore passports are able to enter Türkiye visa-free. 


4. London, UK – See British landmarks & score branded bargains



Find 3 hotels within the airport, and a walk-in passenger lounge in each terminal. Image credit: @jjessicaattwell via Instagram

Flights towards Eastern Europe usually make a stop at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). If you’re not planning on exiting the terminals, feel free to shop for luxury goods and potentially score major savings at the duty free stores inside LHR. Brands like Burberry, Doc Martens, and Jo Malone are based in the UK, meaning they’ll be significantly cheaper. 


“Omg it’s the bridge from Spider-Man!” – AKA the Tower Bridge.
Image credit: Nicholas Ong

We do recommend journeying into the city if you have at least half a day to spare. Using the Heathrow Express (£37, ~S$62.05), you can get to Paddington station in about 15 minutes. Here you’ll get to see many of London’s iconic bridges via ferry, as well as landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Tower of London.


Westminster Abbey.
Image credit: @thegeorg via Instagram 

If you’ve been following the British Royal family, make sure to visit the famous Windsor Castle. Not only is it located closer to LHR than the city, there are even day tours priced from £12 (~S$20.12) that come with pick-up and drop-off services to and fro the airport. 

How do I get out of the airport?
The cheapest and most efficient way is via the London Underground. You’ll just need an Oyster Card (£7, ~S$11.74), which you can buy at any newsagent or convenience store within the airport.

Will I need a visa?
No. The UK permits many nationalities visa-free entry, Singaporeans included.


5. Doha, Qatar – Fly Qatar Airways for free transit accommodation



The aesthetic DOH garden could give Jewel Changi a run for its money.
Image credit: @55swinny via Instagram

Like many other modern airports, Doha Hamad International (DOH) is full of cool things to do and see. Aside from your standard tax-free shopping outlets and airport lounges, you can go on short Discover Qatar tours – some don’t even require you to leave the airport.

Those who prefer to navigate the airport on their own can go forth and explore the many art installations onsite, snapping pics around the IG-worthy premises. Or, book a session on their squash court or virtual golf simulator if you want to get your blood flowing in between flights.


Clock your steps and admire stunning views along the 7km-long Doha Corniche waterfront.

Image credit: @shezzi_afridi via Instagram 

Qatar Airways even offers complimentary transit accommodations for passengers with 8-24 hours before their next flight. For travellers with more time on their hands, there are tours into the city to see famed attractions like the Corniche, Dhow Harbour, and Souq Waqif.    

How do I get out of the airport?
Uber operates in Doha, so make sure to download it and sign up for an account. There is also a metro service that connects DOH to many tourist attractions, and each journey can cost as little as QR2 (~S$0.74).

Will I need a visa?
No. Qatar is a visa-free country for Singaporeans. 


6. Bangkok, Thailand – Sign up for cultural or shopping day tours



Image credit: @sprite18 via Instagram

If you’ve got some spare hours to kill before your connecting flight to Thai destinations like Chiang Mai or Surat Thani, there’s plenty to do at Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).

For starters, what’s a Thai stopover without treating your aching muscles and joints to a Thai massage? You’ll find numerous spas located throughout the terminal, offering rejuvenating massages from ฿600 (~S$11.40). Alternatively, you can kick back at the airport’s Miracle lounge for S$39.53 for 3 hours, where there’s Wi-Fi, showers, and an all-you-can-eat buffet.


Sightseeing tours include stops at the Grand Palace and Wat Pho temple.
Image adapted from: @lint707 & @kriziafulgueras via Instagram

If you have more than 6 hours to explore some of the sights in +66, head to the tour operators around concourses C, D, and E at Arrivals for curated tours that take you around the city. Soak in the vibrant culture by hitting up famous temples, and discover the rich history behind them as you admire the intricate architecture. 


Image credit: @grace_mso via Instagram

There are tours for shopaholics as well, with major retail therapy havens like MBK and The Platinum Fashion Mall included in the itinerary. If you’re taking it free and easy, check out our many Bangkok guides for activity ideas.  

How do I get out of the airport?
The Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link gets you to downtown Bangkok in under 30 mins. Bangkok is also known for their cheap Grab fares, where around ฿400 (~S$15.20) can get you to the city.

Will I need a visa?
No, as local frequent flyers to Bangkok will assure you.


7. Tokyo, Japan –  Use airport-provided guides to explore the city



Haneda Airport.
Image credit: @hande.airport_official via Instagram

Japan’s capital has 2 airports: Narita Airport (NRT), and Haneda International Airport (HND). Even if you never step out into the city, you won’t have a lack of activities and amenities at either of these airports while in transit. 


Image credit: First Cabin

We have an entire guide to the ins and outs of Narita Airport, which is chock full of activities including gachapon zones and Pokémon photo ops. Meanwhile, those stopping at Haneda International can kick off their transit with a refreshing 30-minute shower for ¥1,030 (~S$9.33)

Since you’re in Japan, you might as well try out their iconic sleeping capsules, especially if you didn’t get much shut-eye during your initial 7-hour flight. Rates start from ¥600 (~S$5.40)/hour and ¥7,000 (~S$62.97) overnight.


Shinsho-Ji Temple, located just 30 minutes from NRT by train (left). 
Image adapted from: 毒苺 via Google Maps, @luna.t via Instagram

Both airports provide curated Tokyo itineraries to nearby attractions that take as little as 3 hours to complete. Sample some locally-sourced unagi and visit the Shinshoji Temple if you’re Narita-bound, or relax in a hot spring after filling up on dumplings at Ota Market near HND. 

Japan is not just every anime fan’s dream destination, but also the country with the 2nd most Michenlin-starred establishments. So if you’re a foodie with some hours to kill, you’re in luck.  

How do I get out of the airport?
From Haneda airport, it takes only 15 minutes and ¥505 (~S$4.54) to reach downtown Tokyo by train. If you’re travelling from Narita Airport, it’ll be about an hour, and costs ¥2,500 (~S$22.49).  

Will I need a visa?
No. Singaporeans are granted short-term tourist stays for 90 days.


8. Los Angeles, USA – Indulge in exclusive fast food nosh



Image credit: @sanmba.channel via Instagram

If you’ve flown non-stop from Singapore, you would have “hopped off the plane at LAX” after about 15 hours of airtime. For those with time to kill in between flights, make sure to check out some of the iconic fast food joints that haven’t reached our shores yet. Thankfully, there are abundant options located within the airport.


Just like every other Chick-fil-A, the LAX outlet is closed on Sundays.  
Image credit: Andrew Keel via Google Maps 

Sample American staples like Chick-fil-A and Panda Express, or see if KFC and Starbucks hit different when you’re in the US. You can also post reviews or mukbangs of your fast food feast using the airport’s complimentary Wi-Fi.

It’s not exactly straightforward getting out of Los Angeles International Airport. In fact, it’s been rated among the top 3 worst airports in the US by locals. Nevertheless, if time is a luxury you have, brave the notoriously bad traffic to explore the city – it’s almost 3X as large as SG.


With good traffic, travellers can get a closer photo with the Hollywood sign after a 40-minute drive from the airport.
Image credit: @heykkyu via Instagram

Uber and taxi fares to and fro LAX are pretty steep, with prices ranging from US$35-$47 (~S$46.91-$62.99) to get you to where the action is in the city. But with iconic destinations like the ever-iconic Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills, and Venice Beach within reach, it’s defo worth the excursion.      

Even if you don’t have time for a full LA experience, you can still explore the nearby Manhattan Beach off El Segundo – it’s less than a 20-minute cab ride from the airport.

How do I get out of the airport?
Head to LAX-it – the airport’s designated pick-up point for Lyft and Uber hires. Taking the metro to the city (approx. USD$9.75, ~S$13.07) is cheaper, but also less convenient and takes longer.

Will I need a visa?
Under the Visa Waiver Program, Singaporeans may enter the US as long as they have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) pass. 


Make the most of your trip by earning lots of miles as you travel

With far-flung travel destinations already costing quite a sum, it’s natural to try and optimise your spending when you’re en route to the final country. But with Maybank’s Horizon Visa Signature Card, you might end up earning enough miles to offset some of the costs of your actual holiday. 


The more miles you earn, the sooner you’ll get to justify an upgrade to Business Class.

The card allows you to earn miles when you spend abroad, with no cap. Furthermore, from now till 30th June 2024, new sign-ups enjoy 3.2 air miles per dollar spent* on air ticket purchases and when you charge in foreign currency for both in-store and online spend. If you’re not planning on travelling any time soon, you can still earn 1.2 miles per dollar spent even on local transactions.

Do note that new card applications have to be approved by 31st March 2024 to enjoy the 3.2 air miles per dollar spent promotion, applicable for the first 4 calendar months from the card approval date. After which, it will be revised to 2.8 air miles for foreign spend and air tickets only. 

Existing Maybank Horizon Visa Signature cardmembers can also enjoy this bonus earn rate from now till 31st January 2024.

Shopping and dining aren’t the only ways you can rack up miles using Maybank Horizon Visa Signature. You can even earn miles on your utility bills, insurance premiums, education fees, hospital bills and even charity donations. With so many ways in your daily life that you can earn miles, you’ll be able to accumulate enough air miles for your next destination in no time.

Still need convincing? Apply for the card now to get either 10,000 KrisFlyer miles, a pair of American Tourister Linex 66/24 TSA Luggage, 3rd generation AirPods with a Lightning Charging Case, or S$200 cashback as a welcome treat.

So if you’ve got a lengthy stopover amidst one of these popular travel routes, stow your check-in luggage and get out to explore. The Maybank Horizon Signature Visa Card is more rewarding in every way. Get out there and earn miles for your next trip before your holiday even begins for real.   

Earn more miles with the Maybank Horizon Visa Signature Card

This post was brought to you by Maybank.
Cover image adapted from: @olafkopman & @sophia_lamp via Instagram, Faiz Elahi via Google Maps

Nicholas Ong

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