Flying for the first time and you’re wondering if you can leave an airport during a layover? Then you’ve come to the right place because this detailed guide covers all the scenarios in which you are (not) allowed to leave an airport during a layover!
We’ll tell you when you can and can’t leave the airport during a layover, what to do with your luggage, and what your options are if you miss your connecting flight. We’ve also included a few examples of cities that are great for a layover, so you can stop looking for direct flights and start taking advantage of long layovers!
You’re usually allowed to leave an airport during a layover, but whether you should do it depends on how long your layover is. If it’s just a couple of hours, it’s definitely not worth it to leave the airport and risk missing your next flight.
Layovers can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 23 hours and 59 minutes. If you’re stopping for just a few hours, it’s best to stay at the airport and wait for your next flight. But if you’ve got a really long layover, then it makes sense to go out and explore the city you’re stopping in.
Consider how far away the airport is from the city center, what public transport options are at your disposal, and when your connecting flight is. If you can manage to get from the airport to the city center, explore the attractions you want, and head back at least two hours before your connecting flight, then it’s definitely a great idea to get out and explore while you’re waiting for the other flight.
If you’ve got a layover shorter than five hours, it’s not a good idea to leave the airport. You should be at the airport at least two hours before your next flight, and in most countries, the airports are situated 40-60 minutes away from the city center. That doesn’t even account for rush hour traffic, which could easily make you miss your flight in certain cities.
An 8-hour layover is considered the safest option for getting outside the airport and exploring. You could also get to see some sights during a six-hour layover, but anything shorter than that and you’re seriously risking missing your connecting flight.
If you’re traveling on a domestic flight and you’re a resident of the country, you can easily leave the airport during a layover. You should also be able to leave the airport if you’re an international traveler traveling domestically in a foreign country with a valid visa.
The best thing about layovers in the same country is that your luggage gets rerouted to your final destination, so you don’t even have to pick up your bags. You also don’t have to clear customs, so you won’t be spending a lot of time at the airport anyway.
If you are traveling internationally, you might not be able to leave the airport depending on which country you’re catching the connecting flight in. If you have a layover in a country with visa-free entry, you can most likely go outside the airport and explore. But if you have a layover in a foreign country that demands visas for nationals of the country whose passport you carry, you won’t be able to leave the airport.
That depends on where you’re traveling to/from, and where you have a layover. International travelers need a valid travel visa for the United States, but if your final destination is one state and you have a layover in the other, you should be able to leave the airport.
Another thing to note is that flights within the EU’s Schengen zone are considered domestic flights. So, if you have a layover in Rome and your final destination is Paris, you’ll have to clear customs in Rome but not again in Paris. But if your final destination is outside the Schengen zone and you don’t have a visa for it, you might not be allowed to leave the airport and explore, depending on your nationality and any travel restrictions.
Whether or not you should leave the airport during a layover depends on when that layover is happening. If it’s early in the day and you’ve got plenty of time, then it’s the perfect opportunity to explore an additional city while you wait for the connecting flight.
Layovers in the middle of the day are a bit trickier because you risk being caught in rush hour traffic. This can be avoided in cities that offer a dedicated train shuttle service to and from their international airports – if you know that you don’t have to deal with traffic on the roads, then it’s fine to leave the airport.
But if you would have to rely on buses and taxis to get you back to your layover airport during rush hour traffic, it’s best not to risk it. Especially if you’ve got a layover in a city that’s known for hectic traffic.
In case your layover is at night, it’s best to just wait it out at the airport. Most tourist attractions are closed at night, so unless you want to go out to a bar or a club, you won’t have much to do in the layover country. Of course, it depends on where exactly in the world you are – certain cities are just as lively during the night as they are during the day, so it’s not always a bad idea to go out and explore at night.
Just bear in mind that the risk of crime is always greater at night. You could be targeted by thieves and pickpockets, so consider where you are in the world and whether it’s safe to go exploring in the dark.
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What to do with luggage during a layover depends on a few different things. For a domestic layover, your checked luggage should get tagged and sent to your final destination. It should be the same when you have connecting flights with the same airline, but it’s always a good idea to ask at check-in if you’re not sure.
International flights are a bit trickier, especially if you’re not traveling with the same airline the entire way. You will likely need to collect your luggage at baggage claim, and from there you’ll need to figure out what to do with them while you go out and explore during the layover. Most airports will offer a service that lets you store your bags there for a fee, and this is generally the most convenient option.
It’s usually not the cheapest option, but it’s better than having to go into town with a carry-on and checked luggage.
You can do whatever you want, as long you make it back to the airport in time for the flight to your final destination. Got a layover in Istanbul and you want to go check out Hagia Sophia? If your layover is long enough, you can definitely do that.
Just keep in mind that some of the most popular tourist attractions in the world are extremely busy regardless of the season, so you might not be able to get in if you don’t buy tickets in advance. So, if you’ve got a layover in Paris and you want to check out the Louvre, you’ll need to plan ahead and purchase skip-the-line tickets a few days in advance.
If you miss a connecting flight because of something that’s within the control of the airline, they have to book you on the next available flight. They might also offer to cover the costs of accommodation and meals depending on when the next available flight is, but keep in mind that they’re not obligated to do so.
If you miss the connecting flight because of bad weather, the airline will rebook you on the next available flight, but they won’t offer any help with covering the costs of accommodation and meals.
In case you miss a flight because of something within your control, you’re left to your own devices. The airline is under no obligation to help you, but they most likely will. You’ll have to pay for the difference in fares between the two tickets and you might have to pay a change fee, but if you’re a bit lucky, you probably won’t need to pay for an entirely new ticket.
Another thing to note is that airlines won’t accept the responsibility on behalf of one another – this is important if you have connecting flights with different airlines. If you miss your second flight because of a problem that was within the control of the first airline, the second airline is under no obligation to do anything for you or accept any responsibility.
Singapore is a great place for a layover, especially if you’re arriving at Singapore Changi airport. It’s one of the best airports in the world, and if you’re traveling from Europe to Asia, it’s extremely likely you’ll have a layover here.
You will need a transit visa to exit the airport and explore Singapore – some nationals can apply for a visa at the airport, while residents of most European and American countries can travel to Singapore without a visa.
The airport is about 30 minutes away from the city center by train, so you can quickly travel to and from the airport. This gives you plenty of time to explore the top attractions in Singapore even if you’re there just during a layover.
Heathrow is one of the biggest and busiest transit hubs in Europe and many international travelers have layovers here. US residents don’t need a visa to enter the UK, but many other nationals do, so first check if your country’s nationals can enter the UK without a visa.
If you’re cleared to enter the UK, definitely get outside Heathrow and explore London during your layover. It’s one of the biggest cities in Europe, as well as one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet.
Non-stop express trains travel between Heathrow airport and central London every day, and the ride is only 15 minutes long. The tickets are quite pricey at 25£ for a ticket, but they’re totally worth it if you want to explore even a little bit of this fascinating city.
Dubai is a pretty big transportation hub in the Middle East and a great destination for a layover. Emirates even encourages its passengers to book a stopover in Dubai, so they have enough time to explore the city.
There are direct trains that will take you from the Dubai International Airport to Burj Khalifa in about 25 minutes, so you’re not wasting any time in transit. There are also plenty of things to see and do in Dubai, from going on a quick swim to seeing the tallest building on the planet.
Dubai is a city of extremes with many of the world’s best and biggest attractions, so it’s definitely worth it to leave the airport and explore the city if you have enough time.
Tokyo is one of the most impressive cities on the planet and you should consider yourself lucky if you have a long layover in Tokyo. Definitely take that time to go and explore the city – you won’t be able to see much of Tokyo because it’s a huge metropolis, but you might just catch a glimpse of some of its famous attractions.
Japan is well known for its excellent rail network and Tokyo is no exception. Trains will take you from the airport to the city center in about 15 minutes, and then you’re free to explore any part of the city you want. Discover some shrines and temples, see the iconic Shibuya crossing, visit a mega mall, or do whatever else you want during your layover in Tokyo!
Amsterdam is a great city for a layover for multiple reasons. It’s 15 minutes away from the city center by a shuttle train service which runs all day and night long. It’s a pretty compact city so most of its attractions are close by, allowing you to explore a good chunk of the city even if you’re in Amsterdam for just the day.
Also, Amsterdam has a lively nightlife, so there’s plenty to do in the city even if you have a layover at night. Most bars stay open until 2 AM on the weekdays and even longer on the weekends, while the infamous Red Light District remains open 24/7.
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Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!