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by Wayne Goodwin February 18, 2020

FREE STOPOVERS: THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL HACK

Are you looking to get the most bang for your buck every time you book a flight? Then you NEED to be taking advantage of stopovers. Booking a flight with a free stopover is like getting two destinations for the price of one.

A stopover refers to staying in a destination for longer than 24 hours while travelling internationally. This is compared to a layover, which is much shorter, typically only lasting several hours.

For no extra charge, you can add an additional city (or even country) to your itinerary for a night or more before continuing on your trip. Many programs also offer benefits like a free hotel room or a city tour. Some airlines will even take care of visas for you.

 

HOW TO SCORE A FREE STOPOVER

There are three key approaches to being the lucky recipient of a free international stopover:

1. Searching Online (AKA, the DIY route)
Search for those multi-city or connecting flights on your own. Whether it’s an around the world ticket, a multi-city one, or you piece together those individual flights, all you need to do is check the terms and conditions of your airlines stopover service and then be sure to meet the requirements with your itinerary. For example, China Southern Airlines offers a free hotel room and transfer to any guests with a stopover time of 9 hours or more.

2. Airwander

Airwander is a stopover search engine that will use your travel dates and airports to suggest stopover cities and reveal how much you could save, depending on the number of days you’re willing to spend there.

3. Call & Ask
If you already have an idea of the airline you want, the destination for your journey, and the stopping points – give the airlines a call and ask all of your questions to the expert.

4. Travel Agent
Yep these still exist, and this is just one of the many things they can help you with. An experienced travel agent should be able to outline the options on your chosen route and make it happen for you. Take the stress out of planning and delegate!

WHICH AIRLINES OFFER FREE STOPOVERS?

Below you can find our comprehensive list of all the airlines that offer stopovers to travellers. While these programs differ in their benefits, length, and ease of booking, all of them have one thing in common. They all allow you to visit two destinations for the price of one.

Click on the airline of your choice to read more about the terms of their offers:


ICELAND AIR

STOPOVER CITY: REYKJAVIK

Iceland Air have a stopover program which allows travellers to spend time in their beautiful country for up to a week. This program doesn't include a hotel room, but there are no additional fees for breaking up your flight. You can see the full details here:

Iceland Air Stopovers

. Check out the Blue Lagoon, take in the sights of this colorful capital city, and, depending on the time of year, search the skies to see if the northern lights are active.


ETIHAD AIRWAYS

STOPOVER CITY: ABU DHABI

Take in the sights of Abu Dhabi’s desert city with an Etihad stopover. While not free, Etihad offers tiered options based on your cabin of travel.

If you’re in the economy cabin, you’ll get a discounted stay for your first night – and if you choose to stay for another night, it's completely free!

For those lucky enough to fly business class, you’ll receive a free night stay in a 5-star hotel, while first class passengers can enjoy two free nights.


Bangkok at night | Photo by Pablo Alonso

THAI AIRWAYS

STOPOVER CITY: BANGKOK

Thai Airways has recently been advertising a free international stopover in this lively capital city for transit passengers. Online booking is available for these stopovers, making it nice and easy to book.

Grab some free time to take in a temple, enjoy a massage, wander through a market, or hit the dancefloor in this exciting capital.


Helsinki Cathedral | Photo by Tapio Haaja

FINNAIR

STOPOVER CITY: HELSINKI

In an attempt to emulate the stopover program that saw Iceland surge in popularity, Finnair have launched their own, similar program.

With Finnair’s excellent stopover program you can stay in Helsinki anywhere from 5 hours to 5 days without any additional flight costs, which is a nice perk.

Check out their website for special rates on hotels, attractions and fun things to keep you entertained in Helsinki and the rest of the beautiful country.


Helsinki Cathedral | Photo by Tapio Haaja

AER LINGUS

STOPOVER CITY: DUBLIN

The Irish carrier Aer Lingus allows for stopovers up to 7 days in duration without any additional fees. Simply use the multi-city booking tool on their website to make it happen. It's a great way to spend a few days exploring the lively Irish capital before heading to your final destination. Two cities for the same price as one!


Lisbon's historic city centre is well worth a stopover | Photo by Tapio Haaja

AIR PORTUGAL

STOPOVER CITIES: PORTO AND LISBON

Air Portugal allows you to book stopovers for no extra cost, using their online booking portal or app. Your stopover needs to be between 1 and 5 nights to qualify for the program, without the usual stopover fee.

The TAP stopover program doesn't include a free hotel or transfers, however, they have teamed up with a bunch of local partners to offer big discounts on hotels, entertainment, food and more. They even have an app to suggest itineraries based on the length of your stopover. Full details here.


Istanbul's Blue Mosque makes a great stopover site, thanks to Turkish Airlines | Photo by Osman Köycü 

TURKISH AIRLINES

STOPOVER CITY: ISTANBUL

Turkish airlines have recently revamped their stopover program, and now offer a fantastic opportunity to see Istanbul. The program offers a free night in a four star hotel for economy travellers, or a two night stay in a five star hotel for business travellers.  

To book, you need to send an email to the corresponding department based on your city of origin and destination. To see which routes qualify, check out the full details here.


BRUSSELS AIRLINES

STOPOVER CITY: BRUSSELS

Brussels Airlines calls its stopover program a “pit stop” and allows passengers to stay over from one to five nights at no extra charge in Belgium. There's no hotel or transfer included, but discounts are provided.

While your flights land and depart from Brussels (BRU), Belgium is so small and well connected that you can easily see the rest of the country during your stopover. Once your stopover is booked, the airline will provide further information about seeing popular sights and attractions for a discount — or free.


EMIRATES

STOPOVER CITY: DUBAI

Want to check out the home of the world’s tallest building but don’t want to elongate your journey by too much? Enter Emirate’s prepared stopover package offering one full day to take advantage of UAE’s Dubai. For less than $100 (US) extra, your package includes transport, one hotel night stay, and visa (if necessary).

To schedule (inclusive of your no-cost visa), contact the Emirates office or a travel agent to book the actual stopover.


The ancient wonder of Petra is only 3 hours drive from Amman |Photo by Emile Guillemot

ROYAL JORDANIAN AIRWAYS

STOPOVER CITY: AMMAN

Royal Jordanian offers the “Zuwar Stopover Program” for passengers wishing to explore pause their trip to explore Jordan. Zuwar means visitor, and the airline does their best to make you feel welcome. The package includes free transit accommodations and meals for those with long connections on layovers of 8-24 hours.

To book your Zuwar Stopover in Jordan, use Royal Jordanian’s multi-city booking tool, add an extended stop in Jordan, and then book your activities and overnight package through Zuwar. If you’re just looking for free transit accommodation and meals on a long layover, contact Royal Jordanian to confirm your itinerary’s eligibility.


AVIANCA

STOPOVER CITY: BOGOTA

Stop for up to two days in Bogotá, Colombia, with Avianca. When reserving on Avianca.com, select the option “Multiple Cities” and purchase flights that include a stop in the Colombian capital. The airline recommends stopping for at least eight hours to get a feel for the city, but the designated stopover webpage offers ideas for exploring Bogotá for eight, 12, 24 or 48 hours


JAPAN AIRLINES 

STOPOVER CITIES: TOKYO & OSAKA

Direct contact with Japan Airlines is the best way to arrange this stopover. According to Japan Airlines’ online statements, passengers are entitled to a free stopover in either Osaka or Tokyo.

Want to check out the world famous transport system or take in the eclectic couture of the famed capital? Find a way to spend some time soaking in Tokyo’s technology, the throng of people, and taste the wonders of Japanese cuisine.


The great wall of China, near Beijing | Photo by Hanson Lu 

AIR CHINA:

STOPOVER CITIES: BEIJING, CHENGDU, SHANGHAI, HANGZHOU, TIANJIN AND CHONGQING

If you’re traveling on Air China and wish to catch a glimpse of any of the above cities, Air China offers an attractive layover program. Travellers staying overnight who have a stopover duration between 6 and 30 hours are entitled to a free hotel room and transfers.

To book, you will need to call their service line, or you can manage the booking online through their reservation portal. Full details here.


Guangzhou at dawn | Photo by Jason Yuen

CHINA SOUTHERN

STOPOVER CITY: GUANGZHOU

Similarly to Air China, China Southern Airlines offer a free room and transfer for any passengers who have a stopover greater than 8 hours and shorter than 48 hours. You can book the room online yourself through their portal, or arrange it through their transit accommodation desk once you arrive at Guangzhou airport (assuming there are still rooms available).

The standard of hotel room on offer varies based on your class of travel, however, the newly introduced 72 hour transit visa makes it easier than ever to get out and explore Guangzhou.


Xiamen airlines offers free accommodation for transiting passengers | Photo by Kirill Sharkovski

XIAMEN AIRLINES

STOPOVER CITIES: XIAMEN, FUZHOU

XiamenAir is another Chinese carrier that can post some lengthy layovers at its hubs in Xiamen (XMN) and Fuzhou (FOC). Most itineraries that include an international leg and are entirely operated by the airline (no codeshares) with a layover between 6 and 24 hours qualify for transfer accommodation.

Arrangements for hotels can be made on arrival at the transfer service counter or by calling XiamenAir’s service hotline, which can be found here.


HAINAN AIRLINES

STOPOVER CITIES: XI'AN, GUANGZHOU, HANGZHOU, SHANGHAI PUDONG, SHENZHEN, CHENGDU, TIANJIN

Hainan airlines is another Chinese airline that provide a free stopover service in a variety of Chinese cities, including free accommodation and transfers. To qualify, you need to have a stopover great than 6 hours but less than 30 hours.

To book a stopover hotel, you need to visit the transfer desk once you land in China. Full details here.


SRI LANKAN AIRLINES

STOPOVER CITY: COLOMBO

Passengers who have at least eight hours and less than twenty four hours between flights in Colombo qualify for a free transit hotel stay.

Simply call your local Sri Lankan Airlines office or travel agent to book your transit hotel freebie at least 48 hours before your flight.


QATAR AIRWAYS:

STOPOVER CITY: DOHA

You can enjoy a free night hotel stay and take in the city of Doha when flying with Qatar Airways, thanks to the Qatar+ Stopover program. Nationals of 80 countries are able to take advantage of visa-free transit in Qatar, making it easy to split up your trip with a relaxing break in the city by the sea.

The stopover program offers many excellent hotels, which will more than help you pass the time! Be sure to check out these Doha tips before you go.


The Vancouver skyline | Photo by Mike Benna

AIR CANADA:

STOPOVER CITIES: TORONTO, MONTREAL OR VANCOUVER

Air Canada’s “Air Canada Stopover” is one of the best available programs for adding an exciting destination to your trip. For transcontinental flights you can stopover in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver and many tickets receive a night’s hotel in Canada included for free. The program is designed to allow for passengers to stay anywhere from six hours up to a few days in Canada on the way to their destination, turning what would be a layover into an exciting mini trip. If you layover in a different city on the way back, you can experience two great Canadian cities at no additional cost. Details HERE.


Spain's capital city Madrid offers plenty to do on a stopover | Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas

IBERIAN AIRLINES

STOPOVER CITY: MADRID

Iberia's "Hola Madrid" stopover program is one of the strongest around. You can book a stopover in Madrid for up to 6 days with no extra fees associated. If you’re flying Iberia to one of their other European destinations and your flight has a stop in Madrid, turn that layover into a stopover to get out and see what Spain’s capital city has to offer.

This offer doesn't include a hotel or transfer, however, Iberia has also partnered with several local companies to make your stopover stay as affordable as possible. Some of the offers for stopover passengers include:

  • 40% off stays at Melia hotels
  • Two free days of public transit
  • Up to 20% off museums
  • 3 free beers at Mahoe

Free time in Hawaii. Need we say more? | Photo by Braden Jarvis

STOPOVER CITY: HONOLULU

Hawaiian Airlines allows free stopovers in Honolulu when you travel on international routes to/from North America, Asia, and the South Pacific. There is no limit on the number of days allowed for a stopover.

This would make for a fantastic opportunity to catch some waves, work on your tan, take advantage of world class shopping or climb a volcano. The choice is yours!


COPA AIRLINES

STOPOVER CITY: PANAMA CITY

If you happen to be flying to popular central american destinations like Costa Rica or Guatemala from the USA, Copa Airlines offers a stopover program that allows you to squeeze in two countries for the price of one.

The Panama Stopover by Copa Airlines allows you to stopover in Panama City for a stay of less than 7 days. To book, you need to call reservations in order to arrange this stopover before you buy your ticket.

You must be flying on an itinerary that includes only Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia. Also, its not applicable to promotional prices (L, N, and T classes). Taxes and other restrictions may apply.

To find out more, view the full details here.

Wayne Goodwin
Wayne Goodwin

CEO and Founder of Evolve Travel Goods, Wayne is an environmental science teacher, lover of the outdoors, and a travel addict. He grew up in sunny Sydney, spending most of his free time exploring the Australian coastline for surf and camping spots. Now he lives and works overseas, teaching in international schools and using Evolve to show his students that sustainability and a thriving business can go hand in hand.


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