You’ll need to stop and change planes if you’re flying to Australia or New Zealand, so, rather than spending a few dull hours at the airport, take a break and have an adventure instead. Here, we outline some of the most popular stopovers you can make, as well as some surprising, lesser-known ones.

Hong Kong

Best for: Bargain shopping
Flight times: From London 11.5-13 hours; Sydney 9 hours; Auckland 10 hours.
Fly with: Cathay Pacific
Why go: Shopping is practically a religion in Hong Kong, its glut of funky street markets providing ample opportunities for bargain hunting. Haggle for bags and accessories at Ladies’ Market, in Tung Choi Street, while Temple Street Night Market has a chaotic mix of stalls selling clothing, watches and electronic gadgets, as well as food kiosks offering fresh seafood. Find out if you’ll ever return to the cosmopolitan city by consulting the fortune tellers at the Yau Ma Tei end of the street.
Don’t miss: A trip up 552m-high Victoria Peak by walking or taking the Peak Tram for an eye-popping view over the Chinese city’s famous harbour.


Best for: animal magic
Flight times: From London 12.5 hours; Sydney eight hours; Auckland 10 hours.
Fly with: Singapore Airlines  
Why go: Shopping and high-rises aside, Singapore is home to the world’s best zoo thanks to its open-air concept and giant enclosures, set within a 70-acre lush rainforest landscape. Small monkeys, birds, turtles and orangutans are free to roam alongside visitors, while the more fearsome animals are enclosed by subtle barriers that include streams, moats and rocks. As well as white tigers, lemurs, polar bears, kangaroos and Asian elephants, goggle at endangered species such as the white rhino, the Komodo dragon and the Malayan tiger.
Must-do: It’s a cliché, but no visit to the city is complete without sipping a foamy-topped Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at the luxurious Raffles Hotel. The world-famous drink was lovingly concocted by hotel bartender Ngiam Tong Boon circa 1915.

Singapore Zoo Tigers


Best for: Lost In Translation-style nightlife
Flight times: From London 11.5-12.5 hours; Sydney 9-10 hours; Auckland 11 hours.
Fly with: Air China
Why go: As night falls, Tokyo blossoms into a whirl of neon lights and paper lanterns. Head to a Japanese pub where you can line your stomach with small dishes while sipping on beer or sake. For some silly fun, continue the party by visiting a karaoke box – a Tokyo institution made globally famous by the movie Lost In Translation – where you can croon away in small private rooms. Every room has an intercom via which you can order snacks and drinks. Whether it’s down to libations of booze or the musical atmosphere, the normally formal Japanese office workers quickly morph into no-holds-barred party animals.  
Must-do: Pinch your nose in preparation for a trip to the chaotic Tsukiji Central Fish Market, where you’ll find 2246 tonnes of fish for sale, including tanks of live exotic fish and giant tuna. Get there at 5am for a slice of the action. Once you’ve had an eyeful of fish, treat yourself to a sushi breakfast.  


Best for: great dumplings
Flight times: From London 15-16.5 hours; Sydney 11 hours; Auckland 14-15 hours.
Fly with: China Airlines
Why go: Dining out is an integral part of Taiwanese social life and this modern and energetic city has eateries on every street corner. Eat at DinTaiFung restaurant (,
famous for its delicate steamed dumplings stuffed with everything from crab meat and pork to mushrooms. The city’s night markets offer cheap and tasty fare, as well as providing the opportunity to try various Taiwanese delicacies. The Keelung Temple market is renowned for its cuisine, with melt-in-the-mouth snacks including pancake soup, Tempura and fried sandwiches. For stomach-warming herb-steamed spare ribs, swing by Raohe Street Night Market.
Must-do: Explore the drop-dead gorgeous Taroko National Park, awash with epic gorges, grand canyons and dramatic mountains. It’s a few hours by train from Taipei.  


San Francisco

Best for: Bohemian hangouts
Flight times: London 10-12 hours; Sydney 13-15 hours; Auckland 12-13.5 hours.
Fly with: Virgin Atlantic, Qantas  
Why go:  Probably the most cosmopolitan of America’s cities, San Francisco has many personalities. Hobnob with buskers and artists in the coffee shops and vintage boutiques in hippy Haight Street, then munch on a burrito or quaff cocktails in the hip bars that crowd the Mission district, where Latino and hipster cultures rub shoulders.
Must-do: Rent a bike and cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, a tiny holiday town across the bay. If you can’t face cycling back, catch the ferry back to the city.


Best for: hippy adventures
Flight times: From London 17-19 hours; Auckland 12 hours; Sydney 5.45 hours
Fly with: Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines
Why go: Escape tourist-choked Kuta and find rugged surf beaches, monkey-infested temples and lashings of culture. Smack in the middle of the island and surrounded by lush-green paddy fields and terraced hillside is Ubud, a bohemian town that’s a hub for artisans. Explore the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, home to three ancient temples set within a tangle of rainforest. Then treat yourself to some R&R by indulging in a Javanese mandi lulur body scrub at the beautiful Cendana Resort & Spa. Based on an ancient two-hour palace ritual, the treatment includes a vigorous massage, a skin scrub and a soak in a petal-filled bath.
Must do: Scuba diving with manta rays in Padangbai in East Bali. There are numerous first-class dive operators in the town that offer diving excursions where you’re almost guaranteed to see the majestic creatures.   


Best for: culture vultures
Flight times: From London 12 hours; Sydney 8.5 hours; Auckland 12.5 hours
Fly with: Emirates, Etihad, Thai Airways
Why go: Traffic-choked Bangkok is a whirl of tuk-tuks and pollution, but it’s also ripe with cultural attractions. Shun the backpacker-swamped Khao San Road and head to the Grand Palace to visit the Reclining and Emerald Buddhas – two of Thailand’s favourite holy statues. The tiny Emerald Buddha is just 60cm-high and is always wearing clothes that reflect the season – a shawl in winter and a crown in summer. Take a river bus to Chinatown where you can negotiate the obstacle course of oriental street vendors, shoppers and traffic.  
Must-do: Take a tuk-tuk ride for some serious fun on the road.

Grand Palace Thailand


How to make the most of your trip

Shop around

Find the best possible fare by phoning at least two or three travel agents, such as STA Travel, Trailfinders and Flight Centre. Before flexing your credit card, ask about airport taxes, flight connections and any concessions, as well as any visa and vaccination recommendations.

Protect yourself
Ensure your booking is covered by travel insurance. Book your ticket through an accredited travel agent, as they are more likely to be able to assist you in case your flight is cancelled.

Be flexible with dates
If you want to arrive in Australia in time for a sizzling Christmas, expect to fork out for the privilege. You won’t find any cheap airfares in December, as this is the busiest time for airlines. When planning your stopover, check the weather and festival schedule for the time of year you plan to travel. For example, avoid travelling to New Orleans in its hurricane season in August. You can expect to pay through the nose for flights to Rio de Janeiro around February’s Carnaval – but then, it’s probably worth the money for the opportunity to indulge in an event of a lifetime. 

Choose your own adventure
If you live Down Under, this journey back home might be the last big trip you take for a while so turn it into an adventure. Why not ride the Trans-Siberian railway through Russia into China, go overlanding through Africa or chill out in the Far East for a few months en route?

Words Janine Kelso