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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

How to make the most of a long layover
Great Wall of China. Image: Getty

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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. beijing-airport-transportation.com

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 (artic.edu), 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)