While booking flights online, you would have often come across terms like Direct, Non-stop or Layover flights. Direct flights usually have a stop or two before your final destination, non-stop flights do not have any stops and layover flights usually have a long stopover with connecting flights between destinations. Especially while flying long distances, there are many reasons why travellers opt for layover flights because fares for connecting flights are comparatively cheaper. There might be limited options to your final destination. Some travellers prefer layover flights as they want time to relax in between the flights or plan to explore the transit city or meet friends/family in the stopover city. However, layover flight flyers have one question – Can I leave the airport during layover?
The answer is yes, it is possible to exit and re-enter the airport between connecting flights. However, it is a bit of a gamble. There are several factors you need to consider before you decide to leave the airport during layover.
Consider the below factors to decide if you want to leave the airport during layover:
How long is your layover?
Time is the most important aspect of deciding if it is sensible to leave the airport during layover. Apart from your layover time you need to consider how much time would it take you to deboard the plane, get your baggage, exit the airport, reach your desired destination, explore the city or meet people, travel back to the airport and lastly go through security and check-in before you board your flight again.
For domestic and international flights, you will have to be at the airport 2 and 3 hours early, respectively. You also need to take into account unexpected delays like traffic jams, construction, protests, etc. this might disrupt your ‘fun’ trip and you may struggle to make it to the flight. The ideal layover time may vary based on airport, city, etc. but on average it should be at least 6-7 hours.
Is it an overnight layover?
At times, your first flight may land in the night and your next flight will probably leave in the morning. It is not a great option if you wanted to tour the city as everything might be closed. However, if the city has a buzzing nightlife it would be a fun way to spend the night. You can also book accommodation for the night to sleep comfortably instead of the airport departure lounge. Make sure you wake up on time the next morning for your flight and prearrange transport.
Can you leave the airport during layover on a domestic flight?
It is easier to leave the airport during layover on domestic flight as when you reenter you will only have to go through the security line and not worry about the immigration and customs line. You can come back to the airport 2 hours before your connecting flight’s departure time and you
will still have plenty of time.
Is it safe to leave the airport on an international flight?
Leaving the airport on an international flight is a bit more complicated. Firstly, each layover country has a different set of rules and regulations, you will have to get through immigration and customs twice and you may require a transit visa beforehand. It is easy to apply for a transit visa online.
For an international flight, you will have to be back at the airport at least 3 hours before your flight to get enough time for security, check-in, customs and immigration. You can also check your flight status online to be aware of any delays or changes regarding your flight.
How do I manage my luggage?
If you are on a connecting international flight and you have to clear customs, you will have to collect your baggage, go through customs and then check-in your luggage again for the second flight. You need to verify with your airline beforehand whether your luggage will be directly transferred from one plane to another, so you can leave the airport just with your carry-on. Usually, for long layovers, this is not possible. You will have to collect your luggage and go through customs if you plan on leaving the airport. Carrying all that luggage with you around the city can be excruciating.
Only some airports over the world allow a locker/storage. Other than that you can opt for third- party storage services at airports that offer luggage storage between flights.
What can you do on a layover?
If your layover is short, you can relax and grab a bite to eat inside the airport itself. If you plan to leave the airport during layover, you can do pretty much anything depending on the time you have. Be mindful to avoid heavy traffic parts of the city and places with long queues. You can go meet friends and family, take a quick tour of the city, dine in a local place or do any other activity and still be on time for your next flight. Many airports are also connected to the main city by a subway or a train.
Some cities also offer free tours for layover passengers, but only at certain times of the day. Some of these cities include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Taipei and Istanbul.
If you do not have any plans to leave the airport during layover, an airport is also a pretty interesting place in itself. You can keep yourself entertained at airports for quite a while. Some airports provide a little more entertainment, Portland International has a mini theatre, Athens airport has a museum and the Singapore Changi Airport has a huge slide, rooftop pool and a butterfly garden.
Depending on these factors, you can decide how you want to use your layover time. Make sure to get the transit visa before your trip and keep an eye on the time to not miss your next flight.
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