One wouldn’t normally look forward to being in an airport. Truth be told, the only reason why many of us are excited about being in one is because we’re about to embark on an adventure and go somewhere new. So it can be frustrating to arrive at your check-in counter only to discover your flight’s been delayed.
Of course, worse than that is arriving at your destination airport after a long flight, and then finding out that your luggage wasn’t on it. The icing on the cake is potentially facing a six-, 12- or even 24-hour wait for it to arrive on the next flight.
Sometimes, we have to accept that an itinerary may require a long layover at an intermediate airport in order to secure a promotional airfare. This is quite a common way of saving money on a direct flight along popular routes.
None of these scenarios are situations that we look forward to. At the same time, that may not be the case for some of Asia and the Middle East’s most remarkable airports. You might even end up being thankful for a flight delay or a long layover! Here are five outstanding ones you’ll actually look forward to spending time in:
1. Changi Airport | Singapore
The first airport on our list has won countless accolades – including the title of the world’s best airport. In fact, there are so many attractions in its four terminals, you should allot an entire day to see them all.
For Instagram-worthy spots, head to the Heritage Zone, a shopping hub with Peranakan-inspired design. The Viewing Area is perfect for taking shots of planes taking off. Or you can also go green and walk along indoor nature trails like the Cactus Garden, Sunflower Garden, and Orchid Garden. It’s hard to run out of things to check out at Changi Airport. For longer layovers, avail of their free city tours that last up to eight hours.
Did you know that they’re also about to open a Canopy Park? Set to open in 2019, it’s something to look forward to, as it offers lots of new attractions like sky nets, a canopy maze, and a forest valley — right inside the airport!
All four of Changi’s terminals are connected by wide air-conditioned walkways — great if you’re looking to burn off excess holiday weight — or you can take the free trains between each terminal.
2. Incheon International Airport | Seoul
Flight delays and long layovers won’t be a bore at Incheon International Airport. It homes a variety of attractions including an ice skating rink, a cultural museum, and lots of dining facilities that offer local cuisine and international favourites.
Also included in the list of airport attractions is a golf course, indoor gardens, retail hubs, and a casino. Gambling is banned in Korea, but tourists can exercise their privilege of gambling at Paradise Casino Incheon that’s just two minutes away via a free airport shuttle service.
While those are already appealing, it needs to be said that one of the best things about Incheon International Airport is that, like Singapore, it offers free city tours. Many travellers plan their travel itineraries around this, and opt to arrive in the morning and depart in the evening so they can take advantage of a free tour of Seoul. Travellers can choose between seven types of city tours, depending on the duration of the layover.
3. Haneda Airport | Tokyo
International travellers visiting Japan usually do so via Narita Airport, but it’s Japan’s Haneda Airport that was recently voted by Skytrax as the third best airport in the world. Contrary to popular belief, Haneda isn’t Tokyo’s domestic airport. It is, but it also has many international flights arriving and departing, and is much closer to the city than Narita.
Haneda Airport’s international wing has just as many restaurants, cafés, and duty free shops as Narita, but most importantly, it has a more relaxed and less crowded feel to it. The terminal has shower rooms on level 2, which is great for freshening up after a long intercontinental flight. Price-wise, it’s reasonable at only ¥1,000 (approximately USD9) for 30 minutes’ use.
For departing passengers, there are two small spas on levels 4 and 5, called Raffine Relaxation Spaces, where passengers can get a massage, reflexology, or other spa services whilst waiting for their flight. It’s pure bliss and a great way to leave Tokyo.
4. Hong Kong International Airport | Hong Kong
Got hours to spare and fancy a good movie? Hong Kong’s biggest IMAX screen is right at its international airport! Movie-viewing at the UA Imax Theatre is free of charge, but if you’re looking for something with more of an adrenaline rush, visit the Aviation Discovery Centre. This museum is features exhibits related to Hong Kong’s aviation history and includes flight simulators.
Of course, if you’re simply looking for a relaxing time, there are loads of dining and retail outlets to check out. Hong Kong International Airport is perfect for last minute souvenir shopping too, or if you need to buy a few more necessities for your travels.
5. Dubai International Airport | Dubai
Although Skytrax rates Qatar’s Hamad International Airport in Doha higher than Dubai International Airport, for those who want to do some serious shopping, you’ll go crazy in Dubai International Airport’s 5,000-square-meter Duty Free zone. It’s brimming with all the brands you know and love.
Other than shopping, there are many entertainment options too, and for those travelling with children, there’s a wonderful Kids Zone in Terminal 3 where the little ones can enjoy interactive games, playground equipment, and other family-friendly facilities.
For rest and relaxation, a gym, spa, and a swimming pool are also available for departing passengers to use. After all those adventures, travellers can indulge in a gastronomic dining experience with over 100 food outlets, so you know you’ll find whatever it is you have a hankering for.
So, when it comes to airports in Asia and the Middle East, gone are the days of long and dull hours of waiting in between flights or getting annoyed because of flight delays. It’s actually not uncommon to hear of travellers checking in for their flight half a day early at some of these airports, just so they can enjoy the experiences that these airports have to offer.
Are there other airports that have left a fun memory for you?
By Carolette Alcoran
This article originally appeared on Zafigo, a travel guide for women travellers in Asia and the Middle East, and is republished with permission.