Everything You Need To Know About Leaving The Airport While On A Layover
So you have a long layover. We’re sorry. But layovers don’t have to feel like an hours-long slog where seconds feeling like weeks. In fact, if you have enough time, you can actually venture outside the airport. (We know, bold move.) Here’s what you need to know to make it happen.
How long do I need?
Making layover plans involves a bit of travel math. You know you’re always going to need to be back at the airport two hours before an international flight or an hour and a half before a domestic flight. And you’ll need time to disembark the airplane, grab your bags from the carousel and go through customs (if you’re crossing a border). Here’s how we do the math:
You need an estimated hour to get out of the airport and then two hours to get back into the airport.
You need an estimated half hour to get out of the airport and then an hour and a half to get back into the airport.
The other necessary travel math you need to do is determine how long it will take you to reach an interesting part of the city. Then, double that travel time to get to and from the airport.
Do I need a visa?
As a general rule, if you wouldn’t need a visa for a normal visit, you don’t need a visa for a layover. However, you will need to go through customs, so prepare for those lines in any layover situation that’s not domestic. So if you’re visiting a country in the European Union, you’re in the clear for visas. Other countries, such as China, have special visas for layover visitors. They’re capped at a certain time limit from 24 to 72 hours.
And no matter where you’re traveling, you’ll often need proof that you’re flying onwards later in the day. So even if you don’t have a boarding pass yet, make sure you have a copy of your flight itinerary with a confirmation number on hand.
What do I do with my bags?
The best option for your baggage is to find a left luggage facility. It’s not free — you usually have to pay by the number of items you want to store and by the hour — but it’s worth it not to lug all of your stuff around.
Traveling with just a carry-on? You can take your bags straight out with you to the left luggage facility.
If you’re checking bags and have a long layover, check with an airline representative when you check your bags to see whether your bags will go straight to your final destination or if you have to grab them during your layover.
How do I know where to go?
Most airports have an office for the tourism board or information desk. You can often get everything from restaurant recommendations to public transit directions to a free city map. It’s also helpful to do some research ahead of time so you know the cool spots that interest you.