A layover is a great opportunity for you to explore a new city or meet friends and family residing there. Most airports allow you to leave the airport during a layover, given that you have the needed documents to enter the layover country. However, there are a few other factors you should consider before leaving the airport.
Can You Leave the Airport During a Layover on a Domestic Flight?
Yes, you can leave the airport during a layover on a domestic flight, since you’re entering the same country and no additional paperwork is needed. If your layover happened due to a connecting flight, the airport would automatically check your luggage, so you won’t have to roam around with your luggage during your trip. That’s why it’s important to carry everything you need in your carry-on, like your wallet, money, ID, camera, clothes (if it’s a long layover), etc.
Can You Leave the Airport During a Layover on an International Flight?
Yes, most of the time, you are allowed to leave the airport during a layover if you don’t need a visa to roam the country or if you already have one. Essentially, you have to make sure that the layover country doesn’t require additional paperwork from you because you’ll be exiting the international zone of the airport. Some countries have specific visas for passengers with long layovers, which you can get at the airport.
However, it is not always a good idea to exit the airport during a layover. This can be due to several reasons, like having a short layover time frame (5 hours or less), being too far from the city center, traffic jams, and more. Down below, we’ll teach you how to enjoy your time during a layover without risking getting in trouble or missing your flight.
It’s also worth noting that during the pandemic, some countries restrict passengers from entering their country during a layover due to concerns of spreading the disease, so make sure to check the rules first.
Tip: If you want to come well prepared for your layover, carrying a carry-on backpack like the Dinictis 40L Travel Laptop Backpack would be an ideal choice. This unisex bag has many compartments to keep everything you might need, like extra clothes, a camera, your phone, a power bank, and more. The bag’s material is shock and water-resistant, so it is set to stand any type of weather. Thanks to its minimalist and compact design, you can carry the backpack on your shoulders or lift it with your hand.
Tips on Planning a Successful Trip During a Layover
- Research whether the layover is long enough: Always check how long your layover will be. If it is anything less than 5 hours, it is advisable for you not to exit the airport. This is because you might waste a lot of time going through customs, security, commuting, or other unexpected scenarios.
- Find out how you’re going to get to the city: Check how far the airport is from your desired destination and plan your mode of transport ahead of time. This is to avoid unexpected expenses and so that you save time and manage to make it back to the airport on time.
- Store your luggage inside the airport: If your flight is a connecting flight, the airport will check your luggage for the next flight. You won’t have to worry about carrying your luggage with you when exploring the city. It’s a good idea to pick a backpack as a carry-on because it is easy to carry around the city, and you could store many essential items for your layover trip.
- Research some things to do because you’re limited on time: Doing your research in advance can make or break your layover adventure. If you don’t know how to get to the city, how long it takes, or what places to visit there, you will be scrabbling last minute just to find out that you wasted most of your time trying to find something fun to do or getting lost in the city.
- Grab some snacks to-go to save some time: Instead of ordering at the airport restaurants/ lounges and wasting time eating your meal, make sure you grab filling snacks like granola bars, foil-wrapped homemade food, a wrap, or even a nutritious drink/smoothie, so you are full of energy during your trip outside the airport.
- Some airports have guided tours specifically for layovers: If you are lucky enough, the airport you are boarding will provide tour guides to take the passengers around the city during a layover. This mostly happens if the layover lasts for long hours. Airports that provide such services include but are not limited to Abudhabi Airport, Istanbul Airport, and Seoul Airport. To find out if the airport offers such services, you can inquire at their information desk.
3 Reasons Why You Sometimes Can’t Leave the Airport During a Layover
1. The Layover Is Too Short
If your layover is less than 5 hours and you are boarding an international flight, it is advised that you don’t leave the airport and instead enjoy the services provided inside the airport. This is because you’ll need to pass through customs, security check, and immigration when exiting and entering the airport. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes – 3 hours. Therefore you might risk missing your flight if there is a long queue, or if the roads where crowded in the city.
2. You Don’t Have the Correct Entry Paperwork
Depending on where you are from and where your layover is happening, you may need a visa to exit the airport, even for a few hours. Check whether you are eligible for a visa and get one in advance if you can or upon arrival. You can exit the airport after passing through customs and security if you don’t need a visa.
3. During the Pandemic, Some Countries Prohibit Exiting the Airport During a Layover
The pandemic has drastically changed the rules and regulations in all airports. Even though the pandemic is under control in most countries, new waves are coming up, and the airport doors open and close accordingly. Due to that, always make sure you check with your airport to see whether you can exit the airport during your layover a day before your flight and before you start planning your trip.
Some airports also require you to take a COVID test if you exited the airport during a layover. This can cause a major delay in your schedule and cause you to be late for the second leg of your flight, in addition to racking up additional costs.
Things That You Can Do if You Aren’t Allowed to Leave the Airport During a Layover
- Book access to an airport lounge: Airport lounges are awesome if you want to sit somewhere and use wifi, watch movies, or indulge in a meal. If you have some frequent flyer points stacked up, you can do a bit of research and maybe you’re eligible for a free stay at a lounge.
- Go look for value deals in duty-free shops: Duty-free shops are a great place to find quality chocolates, perfumes, and items you might not find in the city for a relatively lower price. You can treat yourself by purchasing one of their items or buying a gift for a loved one.
- Grab a coffee, a cheap snack, and find a calm place to read a book or watch something on Netflix: Time flies when you are comfortable, so find a sweet spot where you can relax and stream your favorite shows and movies until it’s time to get on you next plane.
- Go dining in airport restaurants: Most airports have plenty of fast food franchises and more fine dining options.
- Some large airports have other interesting things to do: For instance, Sanfrasisco Airport offers yoga classes, and several airlines have movie theaters and spa facilities inside the airports.
Frequently Asked Questions About Leaving the Airport During a Layover
How long should my layover be if I want to leave the airport?
Your layover should preferably be 6 hours or longer if you want to leave the airport. Keep in mind that checking in and out can take around an hour to 90 minutes because you must go through security and customs when exiting and entering the airport.
Can I get my checked luggage during a layover?
Yes, you can claim your checked luggage from the airport during a layover. This is a good idea if your layover is long. Usually, if the layover lasts longer than 10 hours, the airline would give you your checked luggage because it costs less than keeping your bag with them. Ensure you arrive at the airport an hour to 90 minutes before your flight to get enough time to check your luggage in again before the second leg of your flight.
What happens if I miss the second leg of my flight?
If you missed the second leg of your flight because the layover was too short, a long security checkpoint, or for any other reason, the airline would book you on their next flight. You will not pay any extra fees for this service, but you might not always get compensated for the extra money you spend at the airport lounges, restaurants, or hotels due to the delay. Always check with your flight providers for further detail.
Which countries are good for long layovers?
UAE, Germany, Turkey. These countries have some of the highest number of tourists in the world. Spending a layover trip in any of these countries will definitely be a memorable experience because they know how to host tourists and have plenty of activities lined up for them.
Which cities are good for long layovers?
Cities like Dubai, Istanbul, Copenhagen, and Frankfurt are major tourist attractions, so they are great to visit during your layover. But generally, a city can be good for a layover if it doesn’t require much (or any) additional paperwork to enter the country, and it has fast and frequent transport from the airport to the city center, like the metro or train.
What’s the difference between a layover, a stopover, and a connecting flight?
Layover is the time you spend in an airport while waiting for your connecting flight to take you to your final destination. Layovers can last anywhere from 2 hours up to 24 hours. Stopovers are similar to layovers, except for the gap between each flight lasts more than 24 hours and can go up to a couple of days. A connecting flight is a term used to describe a flight that is split into two or more flights to reach your final destination. A connecting flight includes a layover or a stopover, depending on how long the connection is.
The general rule of thumb is that if you want to enjoy your layover outside the airport, you have to plan everything ahead of time. Remember that the safest option is to stay in the airport and entertain yourself with various airport services because a traffic jam could cause you to miss your flight. Many large airports operate for 24 hours, so you can stay in the airport no matter how long your layover is. But if you insist on going outside the city, stay safe during your short adventure and make sure you return on time with plenty of time to spare.