Travel Story Top deals: Stopover and stay for free

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

Want a discounted stopover with free accommodation and tours? 

There are plenty of places trying to lure the Australian traveller to stay a few nights rather than transit on their way to somewhere else.

These destinations — including Singapore, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and Qatar — are in many cases holiday destinations in their own right.

So a stopover is a chance to take a bonus second holiday at a reduced price, all in the one trip.

Qatar Airways is pulling out all stops with a free stay in Doha at an international hotel and free transit visa.

There is a one-night free hotel stay at four or five-star hotels including the Marriott Marquis Doha and Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel, and a two-night stay offer for $100. The offer applies to bookings with the airline before December 30 for stays until April 30.

Etihad Airways has an Abu Dhabi stopover deal where passengers can book one night in a hotel and receive the second night free, with already discounted rates for the first night.

Two exquisite hotels I recently stayed at covered by the deal: the St Regis Abu Dhabi (pictured at top), which can be booked for one person for two nights plus breakfast for around $260 in high season, and the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, which costs about $1267 for two people for two nights.

Hong Kong is luring travellers with a choice of free sightseeing tours and discounted experiences for Cathay Pacific passengers stopping over or spending a few days in the city.

Passengers staying three nights or more are eligible for a choice of free sightseeing tours including a hop-on, hop-off open-top bus sightseeing tour visiting Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and Stanley Market, plus a a Star Ferry ride and the chance to take in views of the city skyline with either a Peak Tram Sky Pass or access to the Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck.

If you prefer to walk, there's an Old Town walking tour plus a trip on the Dukling, a restored red-sailed Chinese fishing junk, or a cultural tour of Kowloon including visits to Chi Lin Nunnery, Nan Lian Garden, a flower market and a bird garden where songbird owners gather with their pets. 

For those transiting for six to 24 hours, there is a choice of a free same-day return journey on the Airport Express between the airport and Hong Kong Station or one of three discounted experiences.

Singapore Airlines has long been running its free city tours; I remember getting my first taste of Singapore on one 18 years ago.

Passengers transiting for 5.5 hours or more can pick a free Heritage Tour, while those stopping for six hours or more can enjoy a City Sights tour.

The airline is also offering heavily discounted Singapore Stopover Holiday with a basic one-night hotel stay and airport transfers from $S40, and a one-night stopover worth more than $400 for $S50, which includes a one-night stay, return transfers, free rides on the SIA Hop-on bus and admission to more than 15 attractions.

If you're just hanging around Changi Airport, make sure you grab a Changi Dollar Voucher worth $S20 to use on all retail, food and service outlets at the airport, or for one-time access to the Ambassador Lounge. It's available until March 31.

It's not just airlines and tourism organisations providing free and discounted stopovers: Wendy Wu Tours is currently offering a three-night stopover in Singapore when you book its new 2018 Deluxe Collection tours by December 20. 

Valued at $730 per person, the stopover includes bed and breakfast at the Grand Park Orchard Hotel and entry to Gardens by the Bay. 

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