Until recently most Australians heading for Europe were routed via Asia, but these days you often fly straight to Dubai, especially on Qantas or Emirates.
But Singapore is a perfect stopover at around eight hours’ flying time from Melbourne. It has shopping, nightlife, history and that heady blend of east-meets-west culture. Downtown is only 30 minutes from the airport.
Singapore Airlines has stopover packages for its transit passengers. For instance, it recently had a $49 per person deal that included a night’s twin-share accommodation, return airport transfers, free rides on its Hop-on Hop-off bus and admission to popular tourist attractions.
This is a similar scenario to Singapore in its flight time, shopping/culture/nightlife experience and only a 30-minute train ride to the CBD. And for real cultural contrasts, Macau is just 60 minutes by ferry from Hong Kong. The city can also be a stopover on some airlines’ routes to the US and Canada.
Hong Kong’s home airline Cathay Pacific does have a 24-hour stopover package, but at a recent price of $835 per person, you might look at planning and booking something independently.
It would be amazing to think of the number of Australians who’ve been to Dubai but never left the airport (including me, six times). Dubai Airport is an amazing place, so imagine what the city is like. Emirates has dozens of stopover options, with a choice of 99 hotels. They start at $110 per person, and you have to book via Emirates or a travel agent after you’ve paid for your flight.
Thai Airways has been known to offer free hotel stopovers in Bangkok for its passengers, but they don’t include airport transfers or other benefits. Downtown Bangkok is about an hour from the airport and there’s plenty to be tempted by in the Thai capital. The Skytrain and MRT system offers day or week passes, is cheap, fast and efficient and keeps you out of Bangkok’s infamous traffic snarls or getting ripped off by taxi drivers. Take a river cruise, with commentary in English, or visit one of the many shopping malls around Rajprasong intersection, Pratunam and the Siam Center. There are street food stalls aplenty. Check smarttraveller.gov.au for travel warnings.