What to do during a long layover?
Long layovers don’t have to be boring or tiring. Many airports around the world offer interesting attractions and opportunities for the layover passengers. Even if you are staying at a relatively small airport, you can use your time efficiently and productively, or just rest — so, what to do during a long airport layover?
What to Do During a Long Layover?
Shopping. Free layover tours. Airport attractions.
There are airports around the world that offer all of this, and more, and then you have to choose, because you can’t possibly do everything. You don’t have that much time, and you may decide to make it into a proper 1-2 day stopover the next time you are flying through. And then there’s something you can do everywhere, no matter the airport and their amenities.
Here are a few of the things you can do during a long layover.
Can you leave the airport during a layover? Often yes, you can leave the airport during a layover, also if it’s an international layover.
1. Explore the Airport
It’s the easiest option, and requires no planning.
You are at the airport already. Why not explore it?
If you are lucky, the airport will offer some amazing attractions. Take Singapore Changi Airport for example. There are so many amazing places to visit in the airport alone. The best thing to see in Changi Airport is Jewel Changi Airport. It is an entertainment and retail complex, with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex, as the centrepiece. Just look at this waterfall (below).
It is not the only thing to do in Singapore Changi.
What else there is to see in Singapore Changi, besides Rain Vortex?
- Several art installations;
- Butterfly Garden;
- Cactus Garden;
- Canopy Park in Jewel;
- Crystal Garden;
- Enchanted Garden;
- Herritage Zone with Peranakan shophouses;
- Orchid Garden;
- A number of 24-hour movie theatres;
- And many more.
Yes, there’s even a free cinema at the airport. Besides all of that, there are numerous boutique shops and brand stores in the airport.
Another great example is Hong Kong Airport. While it doesn’t offer such an amazing array of attractions, there are a few nice things layover passengers transiting through Hong Kong can do there. You can watch a movie at an IMAX cinema, visit Aviation Discovery Centre, play virtual sports at i-Sports and relax and have a massage at a spa.
Amsterdam Schiphol is among the best airports in Europe which offers museum, Meditation Centre, library, Pedal Power exercise bikes (that charge your device!), indoor park and countless shops and boutiques.
Hamad International Airport in Doha is a huge airport with sleek and shiny metallic architecture, numerous installations and great restaurants where you can enjoy a wonderful meal. It’s just a nice place to walk around, and huge.
But of course not all airports offer such amazing opportunities.
Mostly you’ll have to make do with shops, cafes and restaurants. Most big airports have nice cafes and restaurants where you can have a meal and enjoy a cup of coffee with a slice of cake. Or, have a beer. This can also be your opportunity to try the local cuisine.
What do we mean by long layovers? We mean everything from 6-hour layovers up to 24 hour layovers. If it’s more than 24 hours then it’s considered a stopover, not a layover. It’s not a 36-hour layover, it’s a stopover. See our layover vs stopover comparison to learn more.
2. Relax at the Airport
Most airports aren’t particularly exciting.
Besides eating, drinking and shopping there’s nothing much to do there.
But you could spend your layover relaxing at the airport. If you’d like to, find a good lounge, or a nice rest area with reclining chairs. If the airport is very basic, and there are no such services, find a quieter spot to read or watch a movie on your laptop or smartphone.
Large airports often offer sofas and comfy chairs, at least some of them reclining. This is the perfect place for a nap. Just make sure you protect your bags in some way. You don’t want to be robbed while you sleep!
3. Get Some Work Done
Another thing you can do almost everywhere.
You don’t even have to be on a business trip, or to be a digital nomad, all of us have some things we normally don’t have time for. This might be the right time to do these things — it might be the best time for this.
Airport isn’t an ideal place for working, as it can be a very loud environment. But if you have noise cancelling headphones, go for it! Alternatively, you can find a more quiet place or buy an airport lounge pass.
This stop between flights, that’s the layover. This time you are spending at airport, that’s the meaning of layover in flight — in connecting flights.
4. Research Your Destination and Plan Your Trip
In other words — get ready for that trip! If you’re still on the way.
I’m sure you have gathered information about your destination prior to your flight. Bet there’s always more you can learn. Use your layover time efficiently and productively. Learn more about your destination. Plan your trip, find some must-see spots and must-eat foods. Find the best restaurants at the cities you are planning to visit. Coming prepared makes you feel more confident, and mostly that’s a very good thing — it makes travel experience better.
Most airports have WiFi, so you will have no trouble researching.
5. Go Sightseeing
It doesn’t have to be a special layover tour.
As long as you are allowed to leave the airport, and you can comply with the visa rules, or if you don’t need a visa for this country, you can go sightseeing. Use your Dubai layover to go sunbathing on the beach — it is possible!
You can take a short trip out of the airport during your several-hour layover. In many situations it makes a lot of sense to do so — either the airport is very close to the city center, or there is a very efficient transportation (mostly it means an airport train or metro) to get to the city and back.
Find out how much time does it take to get to the city, and back. It’s best you don’t use bus or taxi during the rush hour. Make sure you arrive back at the airport in time for your next flight (2-3 hours before the time of departure). If you miss your flight, and it’s due to your fault not airline’s, you won’t be entitled to a free ticket to your destination or flight compensation. Because it was due to your fault (bad planning) that you missed your flight.
Some 6 hours in Dubai is enough even to go to the beach. It takes about 1 hour to get to the beach from DXB airport. Metro stop – Dubai Marina. Then spend 1-2 hours on the beach. And in 1 hour you can easily get back to the airport.
Did you miss a connecting flight? File a compensation claim online.
6. Go on a Layover Sightseeing Tour
There are also special layover tours, yay!
Not always you have to plan and organise the city tour yourself. All because more and more airlines offer organized city tours for layover passengers.
Turkish Airlines is a great is example. If you have a long layover with Turkish Airlines (6 — 24 hours), you can go on a free Istanbul tour, and explore Istanbul. The tour will take you to Istanbul’s most iconic sites, and you won’t even have to pay for this. Learn more about Touristanbul on their website.
How to book Touristanbul? Click here.
Turkish Airlines is not the only airline offering such tours. Qatar Airways has free Doha layover tours, too. It’s available to everyone flying with Qatar Airways, and makes flights with long layovers even appealing. A layover flight can be fun.
Some airports offer free layover tours as well. Incheon Airport (South Korea), Changi Airport (Singapore), Narita Airport (Japan) — just to name a few.
Just Google your layover airport or city.
7. Use Layover Deals
Some airlines offer discounted — or even free — stopover policies.
The best examples are Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad. If your stopover is longer than a certain amount of time (let’s say 20 — 24 hours), you may get a free or heavily discounted 4*/5* hotel stay for one or two days (depending on your travel class).
The free or discounted hotel stay is mostly only possible in airlines’ hub cities (Istanbul, Doha, Abu Dhabi, etc.). Other conditions may apply. Make sure you read the description carefully. Learn about some of such deals here.
8. Have a Nap at a Hotel
If you can’t benefit from free or discounted hotel stays, you can still rest at a hotel. Check if there is an airport hotel in the airport or nearby.
If you want to rest just for a few hours, check if there’s a capsule hotel at the airport. Airport capsule hotels can also be great if you are on a budget. You can take a nap in the privacy of your private capsule (also known as an airport pod) while not spending a fortune!
Airport Layovers: FAQ
Here are four thing to remember.
1. Do You Need a Visa?
Make sure to check the entry and transit rules.
Do you need a visa for a connecting flight?
If the country you are transiting through requires a visa for visitors, then most likely you will need a visa for a self-transfer flight. Even if you don’t plan to leave the airport, you may need a visa. Because you will need to go through passport control to get to departures terminal. Take this into account!
Many countries offer a visa free entry. You need to go through immigration where they stamp your passport. Some countries offer visa on arrival. If you have a long layover, you may want to get a visa on arrival to explore the city.
What about connecting flights? It’s way easier, if you have a proper connecting flight. In most cases, you don’t need any visa.
However, some countries may require visitors to register electronically. Even if you have an airline-protected connection! But it’s only a few countries, e.g., the USA, Canada and Australia. If you don’t have electronic authorisation, you will be denied boarding. Yes, even if you don’t plan to leave the airport, you need to fill in this electronic form!
2. Can You Make it in Time?
Sometimes, even a long layover is not enough for sightseeing.
If an airport is located too far away. If the transport system is not efficient, and you can’t get to the city easily. Or if there are some other obstacles, like long lines at the airport or more busy than usual traffic in the city.
Then it’s better to stay at the airport.
You may even decide to spend a night at the airport.
3. Can Spend the Layover at the Airport? During the Night?
Don’t want to go anywhere?
You can stay at the airport. Not everyone chooses flights with layovers because they want to explore something else on the way.
If you are lucky, the airport will offer some amazing attractions. Take Singapore Changi Airport for example. There are so many amazing places to visit in the airport alone. The best thing to see in Changi Airport is Jewel Changi Airport. It is an entertainment and retail complex, with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex, as the centrepiece. This is not the only thing to do in Singapore Changi airport. You can watch a movie, take a dip in the rooftop pool, etc.
Even if the airport doesn’t offer many entertainment options, you can spend your layover reading, watching movies on your laptop, have lunch or have a cup of tea. You can spend this time doing something you otherwise don’t have time for.
4. Can You Turn a Layover Into a Stopover?
You can, buy booking a multi-city flight.
Stopover is a very long layover (usually 24+ hours). And often it is possible to turn your layover into a stopover. You may decide to do so, to make a long trip much more bearable, or to explore another destination on the way.
It’s especially easy in countries where you don’t need a visa.
Or if you can easily get a visa on arrival.
Several popular layover destinations offer free city tours, or offer free or discounted hotel stays. Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines are great examples. We have already talked about them in this guide. They aren’t the only ones.
What is your experience with airport layovers and stopovers? Do you like long layovers? What do you usually do during a long layover? Have you ever booked a flight with long layover on purpose? If yes – why?