I once spent 26 hours in Santiago, Chile. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend longer or that I was deported for being drunk, simply that I had the opportunity for a free stopover. Okay, so it wasn’t quite free as I had to book a hotel and then discovered the Pisco Sour (the national cocktail), but still, it’s not every day I find myself in the Chilean capital! And in fact, in addition to the free stopover I also got an extra hour free because the clocks happened to turn back that very day!
After collecting my bags, I arrived at my hotel late one Saturday night. At check-in I booked a 4-hour city tour for the following morning, had a quick bite and my first Pisco Sour and enjoyed a good sleep. I had the tour, had a Pisco Sour or two with lunch, explored some more on my own, had an early dinner – avec Pisco Sour – and then headed to the airport for another Pisco Sour and my onward flight home. Curiously enough, my memory of the flight is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember that May 16th is Chile’s Pisco National Day.
I always keep my eyes open for free or cheap stopovers when travelling. I’m not saying that I’d fly Air Dodgy just to have a bargain stopover in Ouagadougou, but if it’s more or less on my route and I get the chance to see somewhere I’ve never seen before – and may never see again – then I’ll jump at the chance. And the more exotic, the better!
There are many excellent airlines that offer service via exotic cities and some of the best are based in the Middle East. One of these is Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates who fly to Asia and Australia via Abu Dhabi and Dubai. While you could just head straight for your final destination, why take the chance that you’ll miss out on your very own Pisco Sour?
In recent years, the UAE has become one of the ‘in’ places for celebrities, the rich and anyone simply seeking endless warm sunshine with a difference. Although hugely popular in Europe, it hasn’t really caught on yet in North America – which gives it a certain cache and the opportunity to casually boast to friends about the great weekend you spent there!
Some people head to Dubai and never venture away from the beaches and shopping, but there’s a great deal more to offer including markets and museums. For the more adventurous, there are desert safaris which head inland to a luxury camp for dinner and entertainment, or possibly for an overnight stay. And of course there’s the opulent Burj Al Arab hotel which is so luxurious that they charge admission to non-guests just to take a look around!
Pre-arranging a stopover package that includes airport transfers, accommodation and perhaps a tour are usually considerably less expensive than if bought separately. Although Dubai is a great destination in its own right, it’s even better when you get it for next to nothing as a bonus on your next trip! And if you don’t have time to enjoy a few days, you can simply connect through the UAE and use your two-hour stop to impress friends at Christmas with a cornucopia of exotic gifts like dates, hand-woven rugs and sheesha pipes!
Post by: Simon Vaughan
Photo by: Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing