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5 Great Layover Cities around the Globe

 When you find out that your travel plans involve a big layover—like 10 hours to kill—don’t fret! See if you can tack on a day trip to the center of your layover city. It’ll feel like an extra vacation within your vacation. Here are five airports that make it easy to escape the terminal.

1. Changi Airport, Singapore  (SIN)

Changi, Singapore’s airport, is by far one of the sleekest, sexist, and easiest-to-navigate airports in the world. It’s also incredibly easy to access all the sights and sounds of Singapore while waiting out a layover there. You can take public transportation right from the airport. If the subway seems like too much hassle for your quick jaunt, opt for a taxi— they’re cheap and plentiful. From there, hawker food stalls, Orchard Road, and even the Singapore Zoo (don’t miss the white tigers!) are within easy reach. However, Singapore is typically really hot and humid. If you plan to spend a day out and about in the city, either bring a change of clothes or arrive back at the airport in plenty of time to grab a shower (if you have access to a lounge).

2. London Heathrow (LHR)

Few airports have such a bad reputation for customs clearance and rigid security screenings—if you attempt to “smuggle” a 3.00001-ounce bottle of deodorant through security, the staff at LHR will require you to empty your entire bag item by item. However, the location of the airport makes a day trip to London quite easy. The expensive but quick Heathrow express will whisk you from the airport to Paddington Station in Central London in less than 25 minutes. The Tube also runs to and from the airport, but will take around an hour to reach Central London. Once you are there, the relatively compact nature of London’s main attractions and its easy-to-use public transportation make for an efficient short trip. Case in point: I managed to see many of the major tourist attractions during a 10-hour layover en route to India a few years ago.

Airport escalators

3. San Francisco International (SFO)

This airport makes getting into San Francisco easy—but it also makes any number of surrounding cities in the Bay Area easy to reach as well. The subway, called BART, runs directly from the airport to San Francisco proper, then through East Bay destinations like Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley. However, the trains also run one stop south of the airport, which allows a transfer to Caltrain, a commuter rail service up and down the peninsula, reaching tech-driven cities like Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and San Jose.

There’s plenty to see and do in San Francisco. Spend the day exploring the world-famous Chinatown, or head to Fisherman’s Wharf for a crab lunch. Pro tip: If it’s seafood you’re after, the many crab and seafood stalls just outside the more expensive restaurants in the wharf will serve nearly the same food, albeit in a much more casual manner. Also, if you are into nice views and great drinks, check out the amazing setting at the Top of the Mark bar at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins.

4. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

Many of my clients fly into Hong Kong en route to places like Thailand, Bali, and Vietnam. Even if you only have 10–12 hours, you can still get a good glimpse of this exciting city. The airport is linked to both the Island and Kowloon sides of Hong Kong by an express train that runs at 10-minute intervals and will whisk you off to the center of the city in less than 25 minutes. To avoid lines, buy your tickets at the desk you see prior to exiting customs—the train leaves right from that exit. Soak in the beautiful vistas from Victoria Peak, take a boat tour of the harbor, or check out the iconic Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon for their legendary afternoon tea service. As a bonus, when you return to the station to catch the express train to the airport, you can actually check into your flight at full-service check-in desks right in the station.

5. Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG)

Ah, Paris. The City of Light, a city of love—and a city with one of the most dreaded airports in Europe, especially if you have a tight connection. However, if you have 10–12 hours, you can leave it with ease. The airport is connected to central Paris and the rest of France by a high-speed train and a local metro. The metro is sufficient for most visits and will be substantially cheaper than the high-speed train; its stops include Gare du Nord (the connecting station for the London-bound trains) and Chatelet les Halles, which offers many options for connecting to other metro lines. Paris is a city that takes time to see, with all its museums, art galleries, cafés, and more. My advice? Visit major sites that don’t require waiting in lines, like the Eiffel Tower. Grab a to-go lunch and spend the day relaxing on the grass in its shadow, or hop on a boat cruise down the Seine. It really doesn’t matter how you see it—Paris is a great city to spend time in, whether you have a lot or a little.

Todd Bliwise is the founder of An Avenue Apart.

For more travel tips, check out The 4 Best Frequent Flyer Programs in North America