Between Flights

Monday, 4 January 2016

In yesterday’s blog I raised the ‘what does it take to say you’ve visited a country’ question. And like Ask the Pilot Patrick Smith I agree that you can’t say you’ve been there if you’ve only been to the airport.

But could you ‘visit a country’ between flights? I reckon so and there are a few occasions when I’ve done it. My first visit to Tonga (I’ve subsequently been back for a much longer stay) involved two stops in the country en route between Niue and New Zealand. The second stop was on the main island, Tongatapu, and I had long enough to take a taxi and say ‘show me Tonga.’ So we drove by the palace and I had time for a beer in the International Dateline Hotel in Nuku’alofa.

Flying from Venice in Italy to Krakow in Poland involved a few hours in Vienna between flights. Again I’ve been to Austria both before and after this short stop, but I had enough time to grab the speedy bus into town, visit the Hundertwasser museum (which had a La Chapelle photo exhibit on as a bonus), enjoy a coffee and cake and take the bus back to the airport for my flight.

There’s plenty to do at Singapore’s Changi Airport – the Butterfly Garden for example – but if you have enough time (five to six hours) between flights you can take a free Singapore City Tour. Some airports are so close to the city centre that a quick look around if you have a lengthy stop between flights is no problem, Dubai is a good example.

Star Ferry, Hong Kong Island▲ Star Ferry & Hong Kong Island

On the other hand I’ve just dropped an Australia visitor at the airport to fly back to London who has slotted himself into a totally inconvenient stop in Hong Kong. Arrive in Hong Kong at 10 am and fly out 14 hours later at midnight and you’ve done it perfectly. Plenty of time to take the train into town, have lunch, ride the Star Ferry between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, perhaps go up to the peak, catch the nightly city lights show looking across the harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui, have a drink and dinner, get back to the airport for your flight. Unfortunately he’s done it the wrong way around, arriving at 10 pm and flying out 14 hours later at 12 noon. By the time he gets into the city the Star Ferry and the MTR will be shutting down for the night and then it’s a long wait until dawn.