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Free things at airports around the world

The B-29 Enola Gay is displayed at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, which is a 15-minute bus ride from Washington Dulles International Airport.

 

Airports aren't known for being full of free goodies. They leverage their captive audiences to get travelers to pay for every minute you're sitting around, whether it's in $2.49 bags of chips or $9.99 Wi-Fi. But some airports stand out: rather than bilking and milking, they understand that travelers will want to return to a city if their first or last impression is a positive one. And what's more positive than getting something for nothing?

Slideshow: See where all the freebies are

Free movies & video games: Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore's Changi airport is the ultimate paradise of free stuff. Terminal 3's free movie theater screens big-name Hollywood flicks such as "X-Men: First Class," 24 hours a day. Terminal 2 offers free Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 gaming systems. If you want to stream your own movies, there's free Wi-Fi throughout the airport, as well as 500 free Internet kiosks. That's only the tip of Singapore's jumbo jet of airport entertainment, but it'll probably keep you occupied for at least one layover.

Free Smithsonian Museum: Washington Dulles International Airport
Okay, I'm cheating a little bit: the Udvar-Hazy museum adjacent to Washington Dulles airport requires a 50-cent, 15-minute bus ride to get there. But holey moley. This blows other little "airport museums" out of the water. Iit's a set of giant hangars stuffed with things such as an SR-71 Blackbird, the space shuttle Enterprise and the Enola Gay, which dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. They also have free tours and an observation tower where you can watch planes landing at Dulles.

Free Skype calls: Tallinn Airport, Estonia
Skype was originally written by Estonian programmers, so it's no surprise that the country is relentlessly proud of its best-known major export. In April 2011, the first free Skype video chat booth popped up at Tallinn's airport, and you can use it to make unlimited, free video calls anywhere in the world. If there's too much of a line, you can try sending an email from the 14 free Internet kiosks in the airport, or hooking up your own laptop over the airport's free Wi-Fi.

Free library: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
The Amsterdam airport is big for layovers, and the Dutch are big on reading. Let's combine the two! Schiphol Airport Library is a showcase for Dutch culture, with Dutch literature in translation, Dutch music and even its own Twitter feed (@airprtlibrarian). Nine of the 25 seats have iPads, as well. The library is part of "Holland Boulevard," the cultural area of the airport which also has a (non-free) branch of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.

Free iPads: JFK International Airport, Terminals 2-3
JFK Terminal 3 is the worst airport terminal in America; it's literally crumbling, so Delta has declared it unsalveageable and plans to demolish it. Until then: iPads! Delta has installed 200 iPads at restaurants near the gate areas. Sure, you can use them to order food, but you can also surf the Web, check your email, stream videos or find other ways to anesthetize yourself against the misery of your surroundings. (Delta has done the same at LaGuardia, another one of the nation's worst airports.)

Free city tours: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei
If you're stuck in the airport for at least a few hours, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau offers free morning and afternoon tours of Taipei from Taoyuan International Airport. The morning tour hits an ancient temple and a center for pottery-making; the afternoon tour takes you to another temple, Taiwan's tallest skyscraper and the home of Taiwan's president. Taipei isn't the only airport offering free city tours -- Singapore's airport also offers free city breaks.

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