Best airports for layovers (by travel bloggers)
Let’s face it, layovers are a pain, nobody likes to wait endless hours in an airport for your next flight, in those uncomfortable chairs and eating overpriced food. However, the quality of some airports have greatly increased and in some cases some have become a destination on their own! Some have museums, pools, theatres, you name it! In these airports, you will WANT to do your transfer through them! Of course, the option to leave the airport and explore a new destination, even if it is for a few hours, might be a good idea and very tempting.
Here at BRB, we have collected the best airports to do your layover, whether you want to swim at the airport’s pool or get immersed in the vibe of a new city for a few hours, we got you covered! We have collected the best airports from other travel bloggers so you can take a full advantage of your next business trip layover or your next vacation! Plus, this guide not only gives you the best airports for layovers in the world but also tips on how to nail your layover!
Tips to nail your layover!
Layover in any airport can be a source of stress, you are frantically looking for your gate that is on the other side of a huge airport, do you need to pass security? Do you need to do immigration? Do you need a visa even if you are staying in the airport? All of these questions are critical at making a good and pleasant layover.
First of all, there are some crucial info that you need to do your layover right. There are some airports that have so many cool features that you will want to have enough time to do all the activities so these tips are important to enjoy your time in or out of these great airports!
Know the lingo! What is the difference between a layover and a stopover? Both a very similar, I know it can be confusing when buying your plane ticket. If traveling domestically, a stopover are long layovers that last longer than four hours. When traveling internationally, a stopover refers to a stay that lasts longer than 24 hours. In some, international stopovers are almost like a second destination.
What to do with your luggage? If you are with the same airline company, in most cases, you don’t need to worry about your checked in bags. If you purchased your second ticket with another company that is not a partner with the first one, chances are that you need to get your luggage and check-in it again. If you fly from somewhere outside the US or Canada to an airport in the US or Canada, you will have to collect and recheck in your luggage no matter where you’re going on your second flight. If you are unsure, I will highly recommend to ask an agent. This time is crucial and it can drastically change your plans.
Do you have to go through border control/immigration and customs on a layover? This varies from country to country. As with checked in luggage, if you have a layover in the US, you will have to go through border control at the first point of entry into the US, even if your final destination is somewhere else.
Do you need a transit visa for your layover? This will depend on your nationality and the country where you are transiting to and from. I would highly suggest checking it before! If you are unsure, do a quick search on the internet or call your embassy.
How long should you have between connecting flights? It is highly suggested to have a minimum of 2 hours for your layover. This will take into consideration the need to go through border control, find your gate on the other side of the airport or a slight delay on your first flight. Plus it will give you a minimum time to stretch your legs and relax.
Explore the city! Sometimes you have plenty of time to go explore a city in a layover. If you have more than 8 hours for your layover, you can go wander around and take the vibes of a new city. After all, sometimes you have almost a 24 hour layover in between your two flights. If you're taking the time to explore, you need to plan this ahead! There is no time for last minute improvisation. You need to think about the following: how long does it take to get to the airport from the city center? How are you going to get to the city center? What do you want to see and how long and how are you going to get there? Remember, a good time management for this is key!
Without further ado, here are the best and coolest airports by travel bloggers! They are not classified in any sort.
Best airports for layovers
Incheon International Airport, ICN (Seoul, South Korea)
There are many reasons why Incheon International Airport ranks high on best layover airports. Located in Seoul, South Korea, this airport has so many perks and amenities you should take advantage of. Especially when stuck in a long layover while traveling.
Inside the Incheon International Airport in Seoul, they have laundry services with dry cleaning, capsule hotel where it’s open 24 hours and you can get sauna, massage and free showers, Korean museum to learn more about its culture and history, golf club which you can get there with their free airport shuttle, 7 eco-friendly indoor gardens and peaceful nature, two giant movie theaters, ice skating rink, nursery and kid areas. Of course, the airport offers free computers, pharmacy, more than 10+ restaurants and cafes, shopping malls, tax refund zone, and free Wi-Fi.
You might be thinking, what if I get lost? I am not fluent in Korean and this Incheon International airport is so huge! Well, with the help of friendly staff here and maps available everywhere, that won’t be a problem. Compared to many airports that lack basic services, Seoul Incheon International Airport definitely is luxurious and perfect spot to relax or spend a night.
Singapore Changi Airport, SIN (Singapore, Sinpagore)
By Taylor Taverna by Taverna Travels
Changi Airport in Singapore has often been voted the best airport in the world, and for a good reason. After spending a 14 hour layover in Changi Airport, and enjoying it, I understand why! In fact, if you head to the Changi Airport website they will even provide you with recommended airport itineraries, depending on the length of your stay.
It is a tough choice but my favorite terminal would have to be Terminal 3, although there are airport trains that make it easy to transfer between terminals so you won’t have to choose! In Terminal 3 you’ll find a Butterfly Garden, a free movie theatre, as well as Singapore’s tallest slide! You’ll find a number of great art exhibits as well.
Other fun areas to explore include the Rooftop Cactus Garden, the Water Lily Garden, the Discovery Garden, and of course the Sunflower Garden. Head over to Terminal 1 and you’ll find a rooftop pool! Entrance is only 17 Singapore Dollars ($12 USD) per person.
If you have a priority pass membership you will get access to 11 different lounges. These are great spots for resting and fueling up. You can find an assortment of both Western and local food and drinks. One lounge even has a fish spa for your tired travel feet.
Hong Kong International Airport, HKG (Hong Kong, China)
With Hong Kong International Airport being one of the busiest airports in the world, there is no wonder it is set up for every style of traveller.
Hong Kong Express with its free wifi will have you in the heart of Hong Kong island in no time. As it is a short distance from the departure gates, the walk is easy and affordable, for the no-nonsense traveller. You have other options such as buses, taxi's and hire cars but if you are heading to central, then this is the smartest option.
If Central is not your thing, then head over to Tung Chung (by bus) where you can shop all types of brands at Citygate Outlets. With reduced prices on everything, I am sure there is something for everyone. Here you can also find the cable cars that will take you to the Po Lin Monastery where the big buddha is situated.
If time is not on your side and the airport is all you have time for then there are ample things to do. Whether you decide to shop inside the terminal (from local to luxury brands) or you choose to head over to one of the many entertainment areas. There is plenty to do; you can find all sorts of things like an AMEX theatre, Aviation Discovery Centre or A dream come true workshop.
Indira Gandhi International Airport, DEL (new Dehli, India)
In 2015, Delhi airport bagged two awards for the Best Airport in Central Asia and Best Airport staff in central Asia and here’s why
Special day care rooms are available for infants and toddlers. These rooms are available round the clock. Complimentary strollers are also provided. Children play area is available at international terminals.
Free Wi-Fi is available in the airport. It is easy to connect.
You can park your car safely in the parking area and fly to your destinations and pick up when you return for very minimal charges.
There are spas available for you to relax and rejuvenate your body.
Sleeping pods and pay per use lounges are available. It is available on hourly basis so you can rest up here during your lay over.
They have many lounges with the best level of comfort and hospitality.
You can also take refreshing showers and naps at Plaza naps and shower.
They have a special Holiday Inn Express hotel just for people looking to spend the night before their next flight or to freshen up pre flight. This is the best options for layover. They offer free Wi-Fi and express start breakfast. They also have innovative aqua pods for short stopovers.
Starting from clothes to books, beauty products, electronics and dining there are a lot of options at the airport for people wanting to kill time during lay over.
Doha’s Hamad International Airport, DOH (Doha, Qatar)
By Annie from Off Goes Annie
Doha’s Hamad International Airport is the absolute dream layover destination. From its state of the art airport facilities to its incredibly easy transfers, all within one giant terminal building, this airport offers a multitude of things to do on any layover. For longer stopovers, grab some shut eye at the luxurious within security four-star Airport Hotel that can be reserved at an hourly rate – it’s the perfect way to properly recharge before your onward flight. Alternatively, get energised with a dip in the terminal’s swimming pool, gym or spa. There’s also an amazing selection of premium lounges for business/first class passengers and One World frequent flier members. What’s more, if your transit time with Qatar Airways is between five to twelve hours, you can opt for a free Doha city tour, taking you to all the main highlights and attractions.
For shorter stopovers, or if you’d prefer to have a wander around this artistic and futuristic airport, you can enjoy a choice of 30 restaurants and 70 duty free shopping outlets. For the more budget minded traveller, there’s also a selection of quiet rooms with reclining sleeper chairs available for free.
istanbul International Airport, ist (istanbul, turkey)
Flying into Istanbul with Turkish Airlines is one of the best layover deals there is. Not only does the airline offer one of the best lounges I've been in, but they also offer a great opportunity to see the city of Istanbul.
If you flying with Turkish Airlines and have a stopover at the Istanbul Airport (IST) longer than 5 hours, the airline will take you on a complimentary tour into the city. Even better, if you have a stopover in Istanbul (a stop longer than 20 hours), the airline will bring you into the city and put you in a hotel free of charge. You can stay in a five-star hotel for two days on Business Class trips, and in a four-star hotel for one day on Economy Class trips. To take advantage of this deal, you need to e-mail the airline beforehand with your flight details using the contact info here.
Even if you are staying in the airport during your layover, the IST airport still makes for a great layover. The airport is brand-new and has world-class shopping and dining facilities. If you fly with Turkish Airlines and are a member of the Miles&Smiles program (free to join), you can access the lounge. Inside, there is a movie theatre, cafes, dining halls, and workstations. It's one of the most pleasant layovers I've had!
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, NBO (Nairobi, Kenya)
By Vivien & Aaron from The Dharma Trails
You don’t need much time in Nairobi to get face to face with African wildlife. A quick, 10-minute drive from the airport is The Nairobi National Park. This well-established, 45 square mile park is home to a variety of safari favourites like lions, giraffes, zebra, antelope, rhinos, hippos and wildebeest.
You can prebook a driver/tour guide to pick you up from the airport and they can tailor the trip based on your allowable time. A full 4-hour trip will cost around US$175 to $200. You can actually take any car into the park itself (including a taxi). International visitors will need to pay approximately $50 entry per person, plus the fee for the driver and car entrance. You will also need a transit visa to leave the airport (US$20 per person).
4 Hours is enough time to cover the park, however, you would still see a lot of animals if you went for a shorter amount of time. It is a unique setting filled with grazing mammals and the high-rise buildings of Nairobi’s bustling metropolis in the background. Be sure to take water with you and eat at the airport beforehand as there are no food outlets in the park itself.
There are also other animal sanctuaries nearby the airport for real animal lovers. It’s a must do worth every dollar on a Nairobi layover!
Cape Town International Airport, cpt (Cape Town, south africa)
By Rai from A Rai of Light. Check out his cool pictures in his Insta
The entry point into the beautiful city of Cape Town, Cape Town International offers plenty to do for first time travellers to South Africa on a long layover. The airport underwent a major expansion process and started bringing in awesome features to make the experience of the traveller more comfortable and enjoyable. There are quite a number of activities to keep you occupied with many dining and duty free shopping options. How about a huge free bookstore? While it may look like a polished library, this place doesn’t require a cent to pick out your novel of choice. It works on a book exchange system. The perfect place to swap your completed book for one on the shelf before your next travels. If reading is not your thing, there’s also wine. The airport has started producing its own wine brand and travellers are able to check out the mini wine cellar while waiting for that next flight. And its close proximity 13 miles east of the city centre, makes it easy for those looking to explore the city on a long layover.
Portland Airport, PDX (Portland, USA)
By Kurosh from Roadgoat
Portland’s PDX Airport is regarded as simply the best domestic airport in the US. It took the No.1 spot as such in the World Best Award’s for four consecutive years in a row, touting its quality amenities and ambience. It’s also one of the country’s best for on-time performance - ensuring that more than 85% of its flights arriving and departing on time.
But the things that truly set the PDX Airport apart for many who have experienced layovers there are the hipster city’s ambience that’s present everywhere. Its retro carpet pattern is a hipster icon - it has even been used for Nike and Adidas shoes! The popular Deschutes and Hopworks breweries have locations in the airport, and the convenience stores behind the gates sell a variety of cold craft beer at supermarket prices that you can drink right at your gate. For those looking for relaxation between layovers, there even exists a spa and a mini movie theatre, with Java and Blue Star Donuts stores within a gate’s reach. It’s not hard to find cool foodie shops and vintage retail stores between terminals to help travelers pass the time. With all the amenities the Airport provides, one may even consider the layover a tour in itself.
San Francisco International Airport, sfo (SF, USa)
By Coleman Concierge, follow Ed & Jennifer trips here
San Francisco airport is a gateway to long haul flights across the Pacific. With the right mindset, it can become one of the best airports for layovers. San Francisco is an incredibly walkable city with rapid transit access directly from SFO to the tourist area. Trains leave on the yellow line (BART) every 20 min from San Francisco International Airport Station and 28 minutes / 10 stops later you arrive at
Powell Street Station. From there, you can begin your walking tour of San Francisco.
If you're short on time, you can walk down the hill to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 (where the cute sea lions live). Along the way, you'll pass through Chinatown and Little Italy. Just ride the cable cars back up the hill and return to the airport the same way you came. If you have more time, there is plenty more to do. You can travel to Lombard Street (the most crooked street in America). Climb the Coit Tower (think views of the Golden Gate Bridge) or even take a ferry to Alcatraz. Layovers are so much fun; you might find yourself scheduling a day by the bay on purpose.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, ATL (Atlanta, GA)
By Paige Watts from Paige Minds the Gap. Keep up with her adventures on her twitter
Atlanta, Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the world’s busiest airport, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself here with a layover. The best thing to do when you have a long layover at Hartsfield-Jackson is to eat! This airport has lots of food options located throughout both the domestic and international terminals on each of the airport’s seven concourses. And you aren’t just limited to fast food, either; local Atlanta restaurants and celebrity chefs have opened concourse locations where you can dine-in and take your time enjoying your meal. To get a taste of Atlanta, even if you don’t have time to actually visit Atlanta, go for the popular Atlanta Chophouse and Brewery located in the Atrium or Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Concourse D and Concourse T. If celebrity chef menus are what you’re looking for, try out Bobby’s Burger Palace from celebrity chef Bobby Flay on Concourse B. And for the best of both Atlanta and celebrity, definitely check out Chicken + Beer from Atlanta rapper Ludacris on Concourse D. Each of these restaurant locations offers seating and table service. So take your time, grab a beer, and relax at any of the numerous Atlanta airport eateries while you wait for your plane.
Summer from Traveling Summer also love this airport! Here are her throught about this huge airport.
The Atlanta international airport is my favorite for layovers. I always make sure to have at least an hour, preferably two when passing through this busy airport as there is so much there! The “Plane Train” makes navigating through the terminals a breeze. It’s the fastest and most convenient terminal train I’ve ever been on. There are so many restaurants that it’s hard to choose. Personally, I like to relax at P.F. Chang’s in Concourse A or famous ATL joint The Varsity in Concourse C, but there are a lot of grab-and-go chains like Chipotle, Shake Shack(!), and Pinkberry. In Concourse E, One Flew South is consistently ranked as one of the best airport restaurants in the world. Or you can visit celeb chef Bobby Flay’s burger spot in Concourse B. Atlanta is also one of the very few airports to have a Minute Suites where you can sleep or work in peace during a long layover. It’s great to not have to leave the airport for a hotel when wanting some quality rest. However, the airport is located along the MARTA public transport system, so it is possible to get out and experience the city of Atlanta without much hassle.
You can follow Traveling Summer through her instagram
EL prat, barcelona international Airport, bcn (barcelona, spain)
By Inma from A World to Travel
Barcelona airport did a major renovation a few years ago. The old terminal, still in use, has nothing to do with the new Terminal 1 - Vueling's main hub - which is a short free bus ride away from the nowadays Terminal 2. In any case, every time I get to stop in T1 BCN, especially if I have a few hours to spare due to a layover or delay; I head to one of the 2 large outdoor patios with terraces that the new terminal boasts, sit down and have a coffee. Sometimes I even get some sun!
If it is true that many newly created airports today have impressive things like large complexes with swimming pools, impossible fountains, and gigantic shopping centers; For me, there is nothing better than breathing fresh air and going outside. Are you with me?
On the other hand, this terminal also has many other attractions. The biggest of them, the light that it has at all times (unless it is night), then there are the stores (including many low-cost or accessible brands of the country, such as Mango, Zara, Oysho and Desigual), and last, how little crowded it usually is. And that, when Barcelona architecture masterpieces and other attractions draw insane tourist crowds in the high season, is already something. There is enough space for everyone, and it shows.
Well done, Barcelona!
Munich International Airport, MUC (Munich, Germany)
By Dee Olateru from Well Worn heels. Check out her Insta for more ideas!
Imagine hundreds of real Christmas trees, the aroma of roasted almonds, sausages, and mulled wine assault your senses as you exit the terminal. Germany does Christmas markets best, but the Munich airport takes it up a notch by having a Christmas market right at the airport. From Mid-November, more than 45 stands fill up space under the roof of the Munich Airport Center.
This was my reality on my way home for the holidays in 2017. What a pleasant surprise! My layover was spent listening to live jazz, drinking gluhwein and Bailey’s hot chocolate, eating Bavarian specialties, and buying Christmas ornaments just outside the terminal.
And that’s not all, there’s a sizeable ice skating ring for the young and young and heart in the middle of it all. Want to curl? There’s a spot for that right next to the skating rink. Both of these activities are FREE! The market is open from 11 am to 9 pm during the holiday season.
Tell me, is there a better way to get into the holiday spirit or spend a layover during this time of year? I’ll wait!
Fiumicino Airport, fco (Rome, Italy)
By Claudia from My Adventures Across The World. You can follow Claudia’s trips around the world through her Insta
Fiumicino Airport in Rome (Italy) has to be one of the best airports for a layover. Terminal E is by far the best to hang out. It's brand new, sparkling clean and full of life at any time of the day. Running across the passengers' terminal there is a large lane with beautiful boutiques on both sides, while on the upper level there are a number of eateries, coffee shops and some excellent restaurants.
The ground floor boutiques are significantly better than the average duty free. You'll not only find the typical duty free stuff - electronics, souvenirs, and a very good selection of perfumes, toiletries, lotions and make up. You'll also be able to shop for designer leather bags, shoes and clothes.
The food hall has anything you may possibly want - not just in an airport. There is a good selection of international food (especially Asian); a mouthwatering burger place; a few wine and champagne bars and Antonello Colonna Open Bistrò, a fantastic restaurant that serves dishes of the Italian / Roman tradition, some of them revisited in a more modern way. It's pricey (at least by Italian standards) but completely worth it.
Last, but not least, passengers on a layover in Fiumicino can count on a variety of excellent lounges and on free, well working wifi - perfect if you are on a work trip and need to stay connected.
If you have enough time, why not leave the airport and go visit Rome? After all, you are, in my opinion, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world! Here is how to get to Rome from the Airport. Use this guide for how to visit Rome in 1 day!
Heathrow Airport, LHR (london, england)
Heathrow is the largest airport in the UK and the main airport in London. With flights to all over the world, it's a popular transit hub as well. Heathrow is modern and has plenty of seats where you can sit and wait for your flight.
There is also a wide range of tax-free shops where you can do some last-minute shopping or just kill some time at your stopover. But if you're having a longer stopover, I would recommend that you go to one of the lounges that are available at Heathrow.
As a matter of fact, there are 17 airport lounges in total at Heathrow, so you're very likely to find one that suits your needs. It also doesn't matter which terminal you end up in because every terminal has at least a couple of lounges where you can go. If you have a travel card with lounge access or something like Priority Pass, you might be able to bring a friend for free or for a small extra fee. The lounges at Heathrow are great and have all the amenities needed plus various food and drink options which are included in the entrance.
Another reason why Heathrow is a convenient stopover airport is that everyone speaks English and they handle a lot of passengers on a daily basis, which makes everything run smoothly and highly optimized.
Central London can easily be accessed by public transportation. So if you have more than 8 hours to kill, I will highly recommend leaving the airport and go explore one of the greatest cities! Here is your guide on how for an express visit of the capital.
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