When taking an intercontinental flight, you’ll often have a layover. Many airlines allow you to schedule a free stopover in the city where they’re based. Scheduling a stopover is a great way to visit part of the world that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see. It’s like visiting two destinations for the price of one. In this guide, I outline 17 airlines with free stopovers. I’ll also outline how to schedule your own flight stopover. In addition, I’ll explain how to book stopovers and schedule them into your itinerary. Hopefully, this guide helps you add an additional destination to your next trip.
What is a Free Stopover?
When taking an intercontinental flight, you will often have a layover while in transit. Rather than spending your layover in an airport waiting for your next flight, you can schedule a couple of days between flights. This gives you time to explore a new city and have a bit of rest.
There are two ways to make a free airline stopover. You can take advantage of a free stopover program offered by an airline. You can also schedule your own stopover by booking two separate tickets with a couple of days in between.
Many airlines offer free stopovers in their hub city. Airlines often make deals with local hotels as well as the country’s tourism board. Sometimes you can get a free or deeply discounted room when you bundle a hotel stay with your free stopover. There may be other perks as well. Sometimes airport transportation is included. You may get discounts on tours, meals, or entertainment options. All of these perks make stopovers extremely tempting.
Free stopover programs are offered for a couple of reasons. First, airlines use these programs as an incentive for passengers to fly their airline. A free trip to a new city is a nice perk. These stopover offers also bring tourism to the country where the airline is based. Oftentimes national airlines offer stopovers for this reason. Sometimes, the airline partners with the country’s tourism board to make these stopovers possible.
You schedule an airline stopover when booking your flight. Some stopovers can be scheduled online. Sometimes you have to call the airline to schedule the stopover. Oftentimes, you can book a hotel with your flight. If you schedule your own stopover
Airlines with Free Stopovers
Many airlines offer free stopovers in their hub cities or the capital of the country that they are based in. In this section, I’ll outline some of the best free stopover options.
Icelandair Free Stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland
If you are flying Icelandair, you can make a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland for 1-7 days at no additional cost when you’re connecting through Keflavik International Airport (KEF). Icelandair makes it incredibly easy to schedule a stopover. When booking your ticket, simply select the free stopover option and choose the number of days you want to stop.
This stopover is most convenient when flying between North America and Europe. Icelandair offers some competitive rates between the two continents. This is a pretty economical stopover. I made this stopover when flying from Seattle to Helsinki in 2013 and highly recommend it.
Icelandair pioneered the free airline stopover. In the early 1960s, Icelandair started offering stopovers in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. This program greatly increased tourism in Iceland. Hundreds of thousands of travelers take advantage of this stopover option every year.
Iceland is one of the most naturally beautiful countries on earth. Make sure you get out of the city to experience the breathtaking landscapes. If you plan your stopover between September and April, you may be lucky enough to see the northern lights.
For more info on this free stopover, check out Icelandair’s stopover page.
Turkish Airlines Free Stopover in Istanbul, Turkey
Turkish Airlines offers a free stopover in Istanbul if you are flying round trip to a qualifying destination. This is one of the most generous stopover programs available. Turkish Airlines also offers a free night of hotel accommodation in Istanbul if your layover is longer than 20 hours. Business class passengers will stay in a 5 star hotel for up to two nights. Economy class passengers will stay in a 4 star hotel for one night. The hotel stay is completely free.
To take advantage of this stopover, you must send an email with your name, reservation code (PNR) ticket number, desired accommodation dates, preferred room type (single, double, triple), telephone number, and e-mail address. You must send the email to the address that corresponds to the country you’re departing from. You must send the email at least 72 hours before your first flight departs. You can find the email address on the Turkish Airlines stopover page.
If you have a layover lasting 6-24 hours, you can take a free city tour of Istanbul. The tour includes transportation and meals. It is not necessary to reserve in advance. Simply visit the Touristanbul desk when you arrive at the airport to register for a tour.
TAP Air Portugal Free Stopover in Lisbon or Porto, Portugal
TAP Air Portugal allows you to make a free stopover for one to five nights in Lisbon or Porto, Portugal. The only requirement is that you must purchase a round-trip intercontinental flight to qualify for this stopover. You can not make a free stopover on a one-way flight.
TAP Air Portugal allows you to choose whether you’d like to make your stopover during your inbound or outbound flight. You can also choose whether you’d like to stopover in Lisbon or Porto.
After booking your stopover in Portugal, check out TAP Air Portugal’s mobile app. Here, you can take advantage of discounts on hotels and attractions. You’ll also find travel guides and itinerary suggestions.
This stopover is most convenient for flights between North America and Europe or between Africa and Europe.
For more information on this stopover, visit the TAP Air Portugal stopover page.
Emirates Free Stopover in Dubai, U.A.E.
Emirates offers a free stopover in Dubai. To schedule the stopover, just use the multi city booking page on the Emirates website. Simply add the desired duration of your stopover to your itinerary.
After making your booking, you can contact Emirates for help designing and reserving your stopover package. Emirates can help you arrange accommodation, meals, transportation, visas, and more. Emirates is partnered with over 100 hotels in Dubai.
All arrangements do come at a cost but Emirates does offer special rates and discounts for passengers who take advantage of the stopover program. The airline also makes it extremely easy and convenient to make bookings. They handle everything for you. They can even assist you with a visa if you need one. They offer assistance for both 96 hour and 30 day tourist visas.
Qatar Airways Free Stopover in Doha, Qatar
Qatar Airways free stopovers in Doha, Qatar when you transit through Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH). To take advantage of the offer, use the multi city booking page on the Qatar Airways website and schedule your desired length of stay in Doha.
Qatar Airways offers generous discounts on stopover packages. You can score great deals on hotels, meals, activities, and tours. There are even some interesting themed packages available. For example, you can book a luxury beach vacation or a desert themed vacation that includes a desert safari.
One great reason to consider this stopover is because of the level of service that Qatar Airways offers. The airline is consistently ranked as one of the top in the industry. They offer excellent customer service and a superb safety record. They even serve decent food. When you fly Qatar Airways, you can expect a pleasant flight.
It’s important to note that there are some blackout dates when this offer isn’t available. You’ll need to check the calendar before booking to make sure this stopover is available during your trip.
Etihad Stopover in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.
Etihad offers travelers a chance to have a free stopover in Abu Dhabi between flights on their itinerary. The free stopover is available for Economy class, Business class, and first class passengers and allows them to explore the city of Abu Dhabi for up to four nights.
When you schedule a stopover, of at least 24 hours, you can use your flight booking number to reserve a hotel room at one of over 20 luxury properties in Abu Dhabi. Depending on where you book, you can receive a free night stay or a discount of up to 40%.
To be eligible, you must be connecting to and from an Etihad flight. You can not be traveling within the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) or some African destinations. You must also be eligible for a visa on arrival or have a visa for the U.A.E. You must also be 21 years old or older. The free stopover can be booked up to 72 hours prior to your departing flight.
For more info, check the stopover in Abu Dhabi page on Ethiad website here.
Finnair Free Stopover in Helsinki, Finland
FinnAir offers free stopovers in Helsinki when you travel through Helsinki airport (HEL). You can stop for up to 5 nights on your way to your destination. You can also stop on your way home.
This package doesn’t include any additional discounts. You have to book your own accommodation, transport, and activities. Finnair has partnered with Visit Finland. Here, you can find itineraries as well as restaurant, hotel, and activity suggestions.
Swiss International Air Lines Free Stopover in Switzerland
Swiss International Air Lines offers free stopovers in Switzerland for one to four nights with their Stopover Switzerland program. To make this stopover, first, you must book a multi-city itinerary through the Stopover Switzerland booking page. You can choose the number of days you wish to stay and book your stopover package.
A range of stopover packages are offered. The packages are bundled with accommodation, transportation, and sometimes activities and meals. There are bundles available for different cities and experiences. For example, there are bundles for Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, and Montreux. There are also nature bundles that include glacier tours, mountain tours, and lake tours. There are also luxury options that include 5 star accommodation. You can also book multi-city train tours.
You must book a tour bundle to take advantage of the stopover. Tours start at 180 Swiss franks for around $185. This includes the price of accommodation and public transportation across Switzerland. You’ll also receive a coupon pass with over 100 offers that can be used for discounts on meals, mountain trains, and attractions around Switzerland.
Oman Air Stopover in Muscat, Oman
Oman Air offers free stopovers in Muscat International Airport (MCT). You can book a stopover for 1-3 nights. There are a number of stopover packages to choose from. Most packages include discounted hotel rooms and free breakfast. You can choose from 3, 4, and 5 star hotels. There are also tours available.
If you have a long layover of 8 hours or more, you can take a full-day Muscat city tour. The tour is offered at a discounted rate. This tour also includes airport lounge access.
There are a few limitations to this stopover. In order to take advantage of this free stopover, you must book a round-trip international flight that transits through Muscat. It’s important to note that Oman Air does not fly to the United States.
For more info, check out the Oman Air stopover page.
Air Lingus Stopover in Dublin, Ireland
Air Lingus is an Irish airline that is based in Dublin. They fly to over 20 countries. Passengers can use the multi-city booking page to schedule a stopover in Dublin for up to 7 days. You can also call the airline to schedule this stopover over the phone. There is no additional cost for booking a stopover in Dublin.
This is not a formal stopover program. Air Lingus doesn’t offer any hotels, tours, or airport transportation. They simply allow you to make a stopover if you choose. You’ll have to make your own reservations for transportation, accommodation, and entertainment in Dublin.
Copa Airlines Free Stopover in Panama City, Panama
Copa Airlines offers free stopovers in Panama City, Panama. Passengers can stop for 1-7 days. You can make this stopover on your departing flight or on your return flight.
This is an easy stopover to book. You can book it online or over the phone through Copa’s reservation center. You need to specify that you want to make a stopover while buying your ticket. You can’t add a stopover later on.
You will need to cover your own hotel room when you make this stopover. Hotel discounts are available for stopover passengers. There are also discounts for tours. It’s possible to see the main sights in Panama City in just one day when you take a full-day tour.
A number of tour packages are also available. You can tour the Panama Canal, view wildlife in the rainforest, visit museums, enjoy the nightlife, and more.
Check out Copa’s stopover page for more info on this stopover and the tour packages that are available.
Iberia Free Stopover in Madrid, Spain
Iberia’s Hola Madrid free stopover program allows passengers to spend 1-6 nights in Spain’s capital, Madrid.
This stopover also comes with a number of perks. You can receive up to 40% off your stay at Meliá hotels, enjoy discounted airport transfers, visit popular museums like the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, enjoy guided tours of Toledo or Segovia, and receive a complimentary two-day transport card. There are also discounts available for rental cars, shopping, and other activities.
Ethiopian Airlines Stopover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
If you have a layover in Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (BOL) of 8-24 hours and there are no immediate connecting flights to your destination, Ethiopian Airlines will facilitate hotel accommodation, airport transportation, and a transit visa. The hotel room, transportation, and transit visa are all provided for free. To take advantage of this deal, visit the Interline desk on the first floor of the airport. You don’t need to make any reservations in advance. You can read more about this service on Ethiopian’s website.
You can’t really take advantage of this stopover voluntarily. It is only available if you have a layover of 8-24 hours. If you have a longer layover, you are not eligible. If there is an earlier flight available, you are not eligible. For more info, check out this great guide.
Avianca Free Stopover in Bogota, Colombia
Avianca offers passengers the option to make a stopover in Bogota, Colombia at no additional cost. This stopover is a bit more restrictive than most others. Avianca only allows stopovers from 8-24 hours. In the past, Avianca offered stopovers up to 48 hours but they recently reduced it to 24.
To book this stopover, use the multiple-city or multidestinos option on Avianca.com. Enter your travel dates, origin, and destination city with a stopover in Bogota. Make sure your stopover is at least 8 hours long so you can take advantage of one of the tours that are available.
There are tours available for 8, 12, and 24 hour stopovers. During your stopover, you can go on a city tour, climb Monserrat hill and enjoy views of the city, enjoy a night out, and more.
Japan Airlines Free Stopover in Tokyo or Osaka, Japan
Japan Airlines allows passengers to schedule a free stopover in Tokyo or Osaka, Japan. This is not really a formal stopover program. Japan Airlines does not advertise free stopovers on its website. To make a stopover, simply use the multi-city booking page or call the airline. You can stop in Tokyo (NRT or HND) or Osaka (KIX) at no additional cost.
This stopover does not include any perks such as discounted hotel stays or tours. It’s just a stopover. You will have to arrange accommodation, transportation, and tours by yourself.
A stopover in Japan is convenient for flights between North America and Asia. Whether you stop over in Tokyo or Osaka depends on which airport you fly out of. Most Japan Airlines flights from North America to Asia will transit through Tokyo-Narita Airport.
China Southern and Air China Free Stopover
China Southern and Air China both offer free stopovers. There is no need to worry about a visa for this stopover as long as you stop in one of the 32 open ports and stay for less than 144 hours. This stopover is available for citizens of 53 countries.
A few cities where you can make this free stopover include Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Chongqing, Wenzhou, and Wuhan. The cities can vary. Sometimes promotions are offered. Be sure to check with the airline before booking.
The only requirement is that you must have a confirmed ticket to a third country after your stopover. You can check the list of accepted nationalities on the Travel China Guide website. For more info, visit China Southern’s 144 hour transit page. Also, check out Air China’s layover page.
Beijing and Shanghai are very convenient cities to make a stopover in if you are flying between East Asia or Oceania and North America. I made a stopover in Beijing on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Two 12 hour flights back to back would have been exhausting. By making this stopover, I was able to break up the long journey and visit a really fascinating city. I was also able to take advantage of flying on a low-cost Chinese airline for the Beijing to Los Angeles leg. For more info, check out my guide: 144 Hours in Beijing Visa Free
KLM and Air France Free Stopover in Amsterdam, Netherlands or Paris, France
KLM and Air France offer passengers free stopovers for up to a year at no additional charge. You can stop over anywhere as long as you are connecting from KLM to KLM, Air France to Air France, KLM to Air France, or Air France to KLM. If you are connecting with another airline, this stopover isn’t available.
This stopover is possible at a number of different airports. The easiest places to make this stopover are Amsterdam and Paris, which are the hub cities of KLM and Air France respectively. It is also possible to make a stopover in Singapore.
This is a new program. The details have not been released yet. It is unknown whether or not this stopover is available for one-way flights or flights within Europe. For more info on this stopover, check out this article.
Singapore Airlines Free Stopover in Singapore
Singapore Airlines offers passengers free stopovers in Singapore while transiting through Changi Airport. To book this stopover, you must use the multi city booking page on their website or give them a call. You must stay in Singapore for more than 24 hours to take advantage of this stopover offer.
This stopover isn’t always free. If you book a saver ticket or book with miles, you may have to pay an extra $100 to make this stopover. If you book a round-trip ticket or a higher priced ticket, the stopover is included.
A range of stopover packages are available. There are packages that focus on dining, history and culture, shopping, nightlife, nature, wellness, and more. Some packages include a hotel room and airport transportation. Booking a stopover package can save you up to $300.
Air Canada Stopover in Toronto, Canada
Air Canada allows you to make a free stopover in Toronto, Canada for up to 48 hours. This stopover is only available for passengers traveling between Canada or the U.S. and Europe or Asia. It is not available for flights within North America. This stopover is available for both one-way and return tickets.
During your visit to Toronto, you can take a day trip to Niagra Falls, visit the CN Tower, visit the Royal Ontario Museum, and experience Toronto’s nightlife.
Hawaiian Airlines Free Stopover in Hawaii
Hawaiian Airlines offers free stopovers in Hawaii on international flights between North America and Asia or the South Pacific. This isn’t a formal stopover that is offered on their website. Scheduling a stopover in Hawaii is easy. To book this stopover, use Hawaiian Airlines’ multi-city booking option.
Probably the biggest benefit of this stopover is that it can break up some really long flights. Instead of spending 20 hours in the air traveling from the East Coast to Asia or Oceania, you can break up the flights by stopping in Hawaii for a few days. Of course, Hawaii is also a beautiful place for a stopover.
How to Schedule Your Own Stopover while Flying
You don’t have to use airline stopover offers. You can schedule your own stopover by simply booking two separate one-way flights with a couple of days in between. You could book on two separate airlines or on the same airline.
For example, maybe you’re flying from New York to Barcelona. You could book a flight from New York to London. You could then book a second flight from London to Barcelona a few days later. This gives you a few days to sightsee in London. In my experience, 2-3 days is an ideal amount of time for a stopover. You can spend longer if you like.
By booking separate flights, you can search for the best price for each leg of your journey. You can take advantage of cheap flights between major airline hubs. You can also take advantage of budget airlines or regional airlines to make it to your final destination. Depending on where you are flying, you often save a nice chunk of money by doing this. Especially when you are flying between destinations that don’t offer a lot of connections.
This is my favorite way to make a stopover because the options are endless. You can stop over anywhere you want for however long you want. For researching flights, I recommend Skyscanner, Google Flights, and Kayak. These sites allow you to quickly and easily search flights from many airlines to find the cheapest and most convenient flight options.
Best Cities for Scheduling your Own Stopover
You can schedule your own stopover pretty much anywhere. In this section, I’ll outline a few convenient options.
Stopover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is an extremely convenient stopover destination. Dubai International Airport (DBX) is one of the world’s busiest airports. It’s also centrally located in the world. Flights between Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania often have layovers in Dubai. It’s easy to schedule a stopover here. Alternatively, you could schedule a stopover in Abu Dhabi. Many flights connect here as well.
For most people, the U.A.E. has easy entry requirements. Most nationalities can stay in the UAE for 30-90 days without having to prearrange a visa in advance. If you need a visa, it’s almost always easy to obtain a transit visa. For visa requirements for your country, you can check the official UAE government website.
Dubai is also a cool city to visit. The city has an incredible skyline including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. There are endless dining and entertainment options. There is something for everyone. The city also has some great beaches. It’s also an incredibly safe city to visit. Overall, it’s a great stopover destination.
I made a stopover in Dubai when flying from Europe to India. I flew Turkish Airlines from Latvia to Dubai, spent a few days exploring the city, then caught a flight on the budget airline SpiceJet to Delhi.
London, United Kingdom
London is a convenient stopover location when flying between North America and Europe. Many flights transit through one of London’s airports. It is the busiest city in the world for air traffic.
You can find flights Affordable flights from North American cities to London for just a few hundred dollars. After spending a few days on a stopover in London, you can take a cheap budget flight to pretty much anywhere in Europe. This is a great way to save money when flying across the Atlantic.
Beijing or Shanghai, China
Citizens of 53 countries are allowed to visit Beijing or Shanghai for up to 144 hours on a stopover without a visa. To find out if you qualify, you can view the list of countries on the Beijing International Airport website.
The only requirement is that you must have a confirmed flight to a third country in less than 144 hours from your time of entry. There is no charge for entry.
Once in the country, you are allowed to travel in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei. The same visa-free stopover is also offered in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Liaoning.
When you arrive at immigration in China, there is a special booth for 144-hour visa-free travelers. If you arrive in the night, the booth may be closed. If this is the case, just go through the regular line and they will stamp your passport and send you on your way.
I made this stopover a few years ago. The process was efficient and smooth.
Seoul, South Korea
A stopover in Seoul is convenient for passengers flying between East Asia and North America. Seoul has a very busy hub airport with many flights transiting through. This makes scheduling a stopover here easy and convenient. You can check visa requirements on the Korea Tourism Organization website. Most nationalities can enter for free for up to 90 days.
Seoul has one of the best airports I’ve ever visited. If you have a long layover in Seoul, the airport offers free city tours. Multiple tours are available depending on the duration of your layover. They will bus you into the city and take you to one of the main tourist attractions. You will then have a chance to walk around and enjoy a Korean lunch. Information about the free tours can be found on the Incheon Airport website. In addition, the airport offers free showers for layover passengers. There are also plenty of areas to lay down and rest.
Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA
If you’re planning a trip from the United States to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central or South America, you can save a good chunk of money by flying out of Tijuana Airport.
When you fly out of Tijuana (TIJ), you get to take advantage of flying Mexican budget airlines like VivaAerobus, Interjet, or Volaris. You also avoid paying expensive US airport taxes.
The best way to do this is to first travel to Southern California. The ideal airport to fly into would be San Diego. From there, it’s just a short trolley ride to the border. You could also fly to Los Angeles and take a bus or shuttle down to the border.
I recommend you schedule a few days to visit Tijuana. You can also take some time to explore San Diego, one of the United States’ most beautiful cities.
One Extra Cost to Consider: Airport Taxes
One drawback to making your own stopover is that you may pay more in airport taxes. Taxes can be anywhere from 5% to 50% of your ticket price. Every airport you stop in generally charges a tax. The tax is included in the price of your ticket. The amount depends on the city and country you’re flying into. Airport taxes are lower or not charged at all if you are just transiting through a city rather than stopping there.
In all cases, you will be paying the airport tax when you purchase your ticket. It doesn’t matter if you are making your own stopover or using an airline stopover program. This tax is the only additional cost of making a stopover.
Don’t Forget to Check Visa Requirements Before Booking a Stopover
It’s important to note that you still need to pass through immigration when making a free stopover. For this reason, checking visa requirements before scheduling a stopover is essential. Depending on the country you are stopping in, you may need to apply for a visa in advance. You may need to pay a visa fee on arrival.
Some countries offer transit visas. Others allow travelers with a valid passport to enter without obtaining a visa. Researching entry requirements ahead of time will help ensure an easy transition when making a layover in another country.
If you find that you need a visa, the stopover may or may not be worth it depending on how difficult the visa is to obtain and how much the visa costs.
My Experience With Free Stopovers
Over the years, I have taken advantage of several free stopover offers. I made the Icelandair stopover in Reykjavik. I scheduled a stopover in Dubai while flying from Latvia to India. I also made a stopover in Beijing when flying home from Australia to Los Angeles.
I have also scheduled my own stopover. Last year I needed a flight from Cape Town to Seattle. This isn’t a common connection so instead of flying on one airline and having a long layover somewhere, I booked two separate flights on two different airlines and scheduled a stopover in between.
While searching for the best stopover for my route, I searched for cities that had the best prices on both the flight from Cape Town and the flight to Seattle. I had several potential stopover options including Bangkok, Manila, and Tokyo.
After a bit of research and shopping around on multiple airlines, I ended up stopping in Bangkok for a week on my way to Seattle. I flew Kenyan Airways from Cape Town to Bangkok, then Korean Air from Bangkok to Seattle. I stopped for 14 hours in Seoul and took a quick tour of the city. This turned out to be cheaper than flying one airline all the way and I got to spend a few days in one of my favorite cities, Bangkok.
Final Thoughts on Free Airline Stopovers
Scheduling a free stopover is a great way to explore a new city that you otherwise wouldn’t get to visit. It also helps to avoid those situations where you are forced to spend hours on end waiting for your next flight.
So far in my travels, I have made stopovers in London, Seoul, Beijing, Dubai, and Bangkok. Visiting these exciting cities didn’t cost me any extra in airfare. In some cases, I even saved money.
Have you made any free stopovers that aren’t on the list? Comment below with your experience and recommendations.
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