If you want to explore the world beyond your own back yard, long-haul flights and stopovers come as part of the package. But don’t you hate landing in an exciting city and instead of getting out to explore it, you have to race to a connecting flight? Making the most of long trip with a 48-hour minibreak en route could be the answer. Former Which? Travel editor Jill Starley-Grainger explains how to extend your stay in five popular stopover destinations from Australia: Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Dubai and Los Angeles.

Singapore

Singapore skyline

Fastest way in

Taxis are affordable and fast, taking about 30 minutes to reach the city centre from Singapore Changi Airport.

What to do

The extraordinary Gardens by the Bay is a sci-fi oasis in the middle of the city, with glass domes, ‘Supertree’ towers, animal topiary, exotic flowers and cloud forests – plus unmissable laser light shows every evening. Orchard Road is crammed with fashions from international designers, and is also home to Keepers, which showcases local talent. Head to Little India, the city’s spiciest quarter, to browse the food stalls in Tekka Market (on the corner of Bukit Timah Road and Serangoon Road), before refuelling with a roti prata flatbread and vegetable curry, washed down with ginger tea. And – it’s a tourist trope, but no less magnificent for being so – have a Singapore Sling amid the colonial architecture of Raffles Hotel. They’re pricey here, but worth it.

Where to eat

What is possibly the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal can be found at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, a humble street food stall on Crawford Lane, which has been awarded one of those coveted stars.

Where to stay

With its rooftop bar, richly coloured rooms and prime location in Chinatown, the Scarlet Hotel is an affordable yet decadent place to sleep.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Fastest way in

The Airport Express train zips into central Hong Kong from Hong Kong International Airport in 24 minutes.

What to do

Climb or take the tram up to The Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, with views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong’s skyscrapers below. Pop into Wong Tai Sin Temple (2 Chuk Yuen Village, Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon), a huge traditional Chinese shrine with red pillars, gold roofs and ornate latticework. Then, brace yourself for the melee of the Ladies’ Market – a kilometre-long street of stalls selling everything from t-shirts and teabags to tourist tat. Recover with a relaxing ride on the affordable Star Ferry, which will steer you past all manner of junk ships, houseboats and sailboats in Victoria Harbour, or try the fancy Dukling (pictured), the only antique fishing junk ship still sailing on the harbour.

Where to eat

At the Seafood Room, you can dine on a mixed seafood platter of oysters, shrimp, crab, sea urchin, ceviche and sashimi while enjoying views of Victoria Harbour.

Where to stay

Ovolo Central is a smart, affordable option that’s just had a revamp and is right by Central station, where the Airport Express stops to zip you back for your connecting flight.

Tokyo

Asakusa Tokyo Japan at Senso-ji Temple

Fastest way in

The 47-minute Keisei Skyliner from Narita Airport is the quickest way into Tokyo. However, if you want to use your pre-booked rail pass, opt for the Narita Express. Travel time is a little longer, but it stops at many of the main stations including Tokyo, Shibuya and Shinjuku.

What to do

Japan has plenty of neighbourhoods best experienced on your own two feet. Make your way to the iconic Shibuya crossing, one of the most hectic spots in the city, and the busiest intersection in the world. From there, head to the nearby Harajuku district for quirky vintage shops, eccentric street style and a buzzing street-art and café culture. Once you’ve had your fill of people watching, leave the crowds behind in leafy Yoyogi Park and pay a visit the Meiji Jingu shrine. Lastly, make time for a stop at Tokyo’s oldest temple. Take a train to Asakusa, then follow the trail of incense past the craft and snack shops that line the approach to the Sensō-ji temple (pictured).

If you have time for a day trip out of Tokyo, take the 55-minute train journey to the southern seaside city of Kamakura. Once here, take your pick of shrines, temples, mountain hiking, beaches and visiting its 93-ton Amida Buddha.

Where to eat

Make the most of your pre-dawn jet-lag with an early start at Tsukiji fish market – you won’t find a fresher sashimi breakfast. (Note: In late 2018, the market is relocating to Toyosu.)

Where to stay

Japan is famous for its capsule hotels, like Nine Hours in Narita, which are clean, basic and perfect for whirlwind stopovers. For a little more luxury, try the Shangri-La Tokyo, set just a stone’s throw from Tokyo Station.

Dubai

Dubai skyline with frame

Fastest way in

From Dubai International Airport, Metro and taxis both take about 50 minutes to the city centre, with the former being cheaper. On Friday mornings, however, the Metro doesn’t run, while during rush hour (Sunday to Thursday, 7-10am and 4-7pm), taxis will take much longer – check when you’re arriving so you can choose the best option.

What to do

Get yourself in the picture, literally, at the new Dubai Frame (pictured) – a giant structure that ‘frames’ parts of the city as you look through it. Go up one of its two 150-metre-high towers, then walk across the covered bridge that connects them and wave down to the people taking photos below. The city is famous for its spas and one of the best is Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel, where you can recover from jet lag by lounging in the various steam rooms, saunas, snow rooms and thalassotherapy pools. Book your tickets a few days ahead to ascend the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building at a height of 828 metres – in order to minimise your queuing time (especially if you want one of the prime sunrise or sunset slots).

Where to eat

One of the most authentic meals in Dubai is located, surprisingly, in a shopping mall. Dine on dishes from Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and the Persian Gulf countries, at the alfresco Khan Murjan restaurant in Wafi Mall.

Where to stay

To revel in Dubai’s obsession with opulence, stay at the lavish Palazzo Versace Dubai. Book far enough ahead and it can be great value for money.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles rooftop with pool

Fastest way in

Taxis from LAX take about 20-40 minutes to most places in the city, but allow much longer if you arrive during rush hour (Monday to Friday, 7-10am and 4-7pm).

What to do

Pop on your swimsuit and sunglasses and head straight up to one of West Hollywood’s rooftop pool bars for sweeping city views while you eat, drink or swim. Two of the best are the flashy Skybar at the Mondrian (pictured) and the retro-glam Private Rooftop at Petit Ermitage. Take a peek behind the scenes on the Warner Bros Studio Tour, where you can see sets of current productions and old props, as well as the Central Perk Café from Friends. Head to Venice Beach to see rollerbladers, bodybuilders and skateboarders strutting their stuff on this carnival-like stretch of sand. Get arty at The Getty Center – its sinuous white architecture and varied landscaped gardens are as impressive as the old and new artworks housed inside.

Where to eat

The vegan tacos, tamales and enchiladas at Gracias Madres are made with authentic Mexican sauces and flavours, using locally sourced Californian ingredients. The spot in West Hollywood has a cult following, so book ahead or arrive early to queue.

Where to stay

Stay in one of the glamorous white bedrooms at the Mondrian and you’ll get access to its rooftop pool during the morning hotel-guest-only hours.

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