There’s no doubt that the flight from Australia to Europe at around 22 hours is a long one. Not surprisingly, many travellers prefer to break the journey with a stopover en route and Singapore and Dubai (to name just a couple) have long been favourite stopover destinations. However there are lots of other exciting destinations to consider for your stopover en route to or from Europe.
Apologies to my North American readers but this post is written with my Australian and New Zealand readers in mind as we are the poor souls that live so far away from Europe!
Apart from the new Perth to London flights that Qantas which started operating in March 2018, all flights between Australia/New Zealand and Europe are a minimum of two legs and at least 20 hours flying time, hence the desire of some travellers to stopover en route.
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What is a stopover?
The term stopover in this article refers to spending at least one night in the stopover city in which you change flights. It does not refer to a ‘layover’ of a few hours in the airport terminal whilst waiting for a connecting flight.
Many travellers see the advantages of a stopover as two-fold. Firstly, it gives them a chance to break up the long journey to or from Europe (particularly welcome when you are travelling in economy class), and secondly, they can spend some time in another city that they might not otherwise visit.
For avid travellers, this article on how many countries are there in the world? is well worth a read.
In many instances a return fare from Australia to Europe allows one stopover in each direction for no additional cost to the ticket price, however accommodation and transport costs are usually at the passenger’s expense. You should carefully check the fare rules of the flights you are booking before purchasing your ticket so you know what additional costs, if any, you are liable for.
Further reading: How to get the best seat on the plane without paying a fortune
Traditionally the most popular stopover cities for Australians and New Zealanders heading to Europe and the United Kingdom have been Singapore and Hong Kong, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi increasing in popularity in the past ten or so years.
These cities are just the tip of the iceberg, though, and there are plenty of other destinations worth considering for a stopover.
Have you considered these cities for your stopover en route to or from Europe?
Middle East Stopovers
Flight time from Australia’s east coast capitals to Middle Eastern stopover cities is around 14 hours, with a further 6 to 8 hours flying time on to Europe/UK.
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are popular Middle East stopover cities, but why not visit:
Muscat, capital of the Sultanate of Oman
Serviced by Oman Air
Destinations in Europe served by direct flights from Muscat: Zurich, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Milan, London and Manchester. (As Oman Air don’t fly into Australia, they partner with Malaysia Airlines. Passengers fly from Australia to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines, then change to Oman Air for the flights from KL to Muscat and Muscat onto Europe. In instances like this, a stopover is usually permitted in either the Asian or Middle Eastern destination.)
Main attractions in Muscat include: the Sultan’s Palace, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, National Museum and Muscat Gate Museum, Mutrah Souq. Popular day tours from Muscat include trips to the Forts of Nizwa and Oman’s Grand Canyon.
Here are some of the best things to do in Muscat and some recommended day trips from Muscat.
Tourist visa required for Australians? Yes. You can obtain your visa on arrival at the airport or apply online before your trip for convenience. Tourist visa is NOT required by New Zealand passport holders.
My friend Sky, a travel consultant with Tewantin Travel in Queensland, visited Oman on a familiarisation trip a couple of years ago and fell in love with the country. She recommends the following stopover itinerary:
- 1 night Muscat – Visit souk, Grand Mosque, many other sights
- 1 night Arabian Oryx Camp – Bedouin camp en route, Dune bashing, traditional dancing and musicians at the camp, and amazing local food. OR visitJabel Sands instead
- 1 night Muscat – day trip to Nizwa
Sky recommends staying at the Shangri La, about 15 minutes from the centre of Muscat. The hotel is part of a three-resort complex and features its own private beach, 22 restaurants, 1 large pool, 3 kids pools and a splash park and much more. Check latest prices for the Shangri La hotel Muscat here.
For more info about Oman and what to see and do on your stopover, connect with Sky on her Facebook page Take a Gander Travel.
Generally speaking, the flight time between Australia’s east coast capitals and Asia is around 8 to 10 hours. From Asia to the UK/Europe, it’s then another 12 to 14 hours in the air.
Instead of the common Asian stopover destinations of Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, consider:
Serviced by Japan Airlines
Destinations in Europe served by direct flights from Tokyo: London, Frankfurt, Moscow, Paris, Helsinki
Main attractions in Tokyo include: The Imperial Palace, Ginza District for shopping, the Sensō-ji Temple , Tokyo Skytree and Ueno Park.
Is a Tourist visa required by Australians and New Zealanders? No.
Find things to do in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan in this article >>
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)
Serviced by Vietnam Airlines
Destinations in Europe served by direct flights from Ho Chi Minh City: London, Frankfurt, Paris, Moscow
Main attractions in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) include: Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, Thiên Hậu Temple, Ben Thanh Market. Day trips from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta are also popular.
Tourist visa required? Yes for both Australians and New Zealand passport holders. Check the visa requirements of Vietnam for all nationalities here.
Serviced by China Southern Airlines and Air France
Destinations in Europe served by direct flights from Guangzhou: Paris (connecting flights to another destination in Europe are often included in the ticket price)
Main attractions in Guangzhou (formerly Canton) include: Canton Tower, Shamian Island, Chimelong Safari Park and Zoo, Pearl River cruise.
Tourist visa required by Australians and New Zealanders? In some instances – see the info below (current as at 1 March, 2018).
Beijing allows visitors to obtain a 72-hour transit visa upon arrival if the visitors are coming into, staying in, and leaving from Beijing (you are not permitted to leave Beijing). You’ll have to apply for the visa-free transit stay at Beijing Capital International Airport, and the following conditions apply:
- You must hold a passport from Australia or New Zealand (or one of 49 other countries)
- You must hold valid international travel documents
- You must have proof that you qualify to enter the city you are ultimately travelling to (Europe)
- You must have valid airline tickets with 72-hour validation
- You must be leaving from Beijing Capital International Airport to Europe
You can also obtain 72 hour visas from other Chinese cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou or Chengdu with similar rules: You must fly into that city, stay in that city, and leave from that city (you are not permitted to travel between cities) and meet the above requirements.
Click here for Chinese visa info for all nationalities.
Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei)
Serviced by Royal Brunei Airlines
Destinations in Europe: London (Note: Flights from Bandar Seri Begawan to London travel via Dubai.)
Many fares offered by Royal Brunei allow a stopover in Dubai either as well as or instead of a stopover in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Some of the main attractions in Bandar Seri Begawan include: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Tamu Kianggeh open-air market and Tamu Selera Night Market , the stilt villages at Kampong Ayer
Tourist visa required by Australians? Yes, but can be obtained on arrival. Application forms will be available on all incoming flights to Brunei. Cost BND20.
Tourist visa required by New Zealanders? No (maximum stay 30 days).
Tip: All Royal Brunei flights are alcohol-free so no alcohol will be served or sold onboard. Non-Muslims can, however, take alcohol purchased duty free onboard but it must be consumed during the flight and cannot be taken off the plane.
Further reading: How to have the perfect Brunei stopover
Seoul (South Korea)
Serviced by Korean Air
Destinations in Europe served by direct flights from Seoul: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Madrid, Milan, Prague, Rome, Vienna, Zurich.
Main attractions in Seoul include: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, City Walls, the War Memorial of Korea.
Tourist visa required by Australians and New Zealanders? No.
Tip: Spend a night in Seoul on Korean Air
Korean Air only fly out of two cities in Australia – Brisbane and Sydney – and the connections often mean that an overnight stay is required in Seoul.
The airline’s policy is to provide free accommodation, transfers and breakfast when the passenger is required to stay overnight in Seoul involuntarily*. They must join the first connecting flight with Korean Air the following day to qualify for the free accommodation offer.
Important: * Involuntary – Passenger(s) taking involuntary next day connection where no scheduled flight exists from/to Sydney, Brisbane.
At the time of writing, passegers flying from Sydney to London could qualify for the ‘involuntary’ free night as the Korean Air flight from Sydney departs at 9.00am and arrives into Seoul at 5.50pm. The next available Korean Air flight to London, departs Seoul at 1.00pm the following day, arriving in London at 4.30pm.
If you’d like to spend more than the 19 hours that the next-day connection allows for your stopover in Seoul, you’d be wise to stay an additional night and pay for your accommodation out of your own pocket. Check with your travel agent or Korean Air for full terms and conditions.
Serviced by Air India
Destinations in Europe served by direct flights from Delhi: Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Rome and Vienna
Main attractions in Delhi include: Swaminarayan Akshard, Humayun’s Tomb, National Gandhi Museum. Day and two-day trips to the Taj Mahal at Agra are also possible from Delhi. Click here for more info and prices.
Tourist visa required by Australians and New Zealanders? Yes. Click here for Indian visa information for all nationalities.
This actually takes my list of stopover cities to eight (or more), but if you can’t decide between visiting the United States or Europe, perhaps a round the world fare is for you. The major airline alliances, OneWorld and Star Alliance, offer round the world fares that allow passengers to travel between Australia and Europe via the US in one direction and via Asia in the other direction.
Generally speaking, these fares allow multiple stopovers in both the US and Asia however they are more expensive than a regular return flight to Europe via Asia or the Middle East.
Every round the world ticket has different rules and offers different stopover cities, according to which airlines are in the alliance. Popular US stopover cities in a round the world ticket include Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.
If you’d like to include a stopover in the US or Canada en route to Europe, I recommend you contact your travel agent who can advise you of the most suitable options.
Tourist visa required by Australians and New Zealanders? Yes. Find out more and apply online here.
Before you choose your stopover city
Having a stopover en route to Europe might sound like the ideal way to break up the long flight, but before you book your flights, ask yourself the following questions….
- Do you need a visa to stopover in your chosen city? If so, is the cost of the visa worth it for a short stay?
- What will the weather be like where you stopover? If you hate heat and humidity, stopping in some cities at certain times of the year might not be ideal for you.
- What is the purpose of your stopover? If it is just to break the journey, a one night stopover is probably adequate but if you’d like to involve some sightseeing, you might need to stay at least a couple of nights. Is this time you would rather be spending in Europe?
All information is correct at the time of publication but is subject to change without warning.