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Can you leave the airport during a layover?

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7 min read

Can you leave the airport during a layover?

For most of us, we do everything we can to avoid a layover. Those extra few hours where time is wasted are no one’s friend. However, there is the occasional trip where a layover is unavoidable. For the most part, this isn’t more than a few hours. That’s enough time to get from A to B within the airport and board the next flight. But sometimes these layovers can be a bit lengthier. If you have ended up with a long layover, chances are you’re going to want to do something with it. And that’s especially if it’s somewhere you’ve never been before. With that in mind, popping out of the airport to do some sightseeing is a question on many a traveller’s lips. So, can you do it? Let’s take a look.

What to think about before leaving an airport on a layover

There are a number of factors you should consider before heading out of an airport on your long layover. Just so that you don’t get caught short, let’s go over some things you really need to remember before you exit the airport and potentially find yourself in a whole lot of bother.

How long is your layover?

Can you leave the airport during a layover?

This is really the first thing you should be thinking about. If you’ve only got a couple of hours, you should absolutely not be exiting the airport. Remember, to get your connecting flight you’re going to probably have to go through security again. You’ll also need to find your way across the airport. Maybe you’ll have to grab checked bags and recheck them again, depending on the trip you’ve booked.

With a longer layover of 10 hours or more, leaving is definitely feasible. But, you also need to expect the unexpected. Any trip outside the airport needs to factor traffic, time to get back to the airport and so on.

Are you on an overnight layover?

Arguably, this is the best time to leave the airport during a layover. However, it’s not ideal if you actually want to see some of the city or country you’re in. That being said, if you want to get some sleep in before the next flight, leaving the airport for a hotel is a great idea. Unless you’re in it for the thrills on your gap year, no one needs to be curling up to sleep on an airport chair.

Better still, if you opt for one of the airport hotels, they usually ensure they know when your flight is. Many will even set up transport for you to ensure you’re back on time.

Can you leave the airport on a domestic flight?

Actually, this is one of the easiest to do. This is because you’re not going to have to go through any passport control checks when you come back in. As such, it’s very easy to do this. All you need to do is keep an eye on the time and factor in anything that might make the process take longer.

Bear in mind though, that it will depend on the airport as to how easy it is to get out and about to sightsee. If you’re in Heathrow, a quick train ride does get you into London. But other airports such as Gatwick are a little more isolated making it a riskier move if your layover isn’t that long.

Is it possible to leave an airport when flying internationally?

Surprisingly, yes it is. And, depending on the country, it’s actually very easy. Some countries even offer layover tours so that you can have a trip around the country or city if your layover is over 8 hours or the specified time for the tour.

Brunei, for example, does exactly this and even has signs to help you through immigration to get a visa. The tour makes sure that everyone from the same flight gets back in plenty of time to check in and make their connection.

If you are going to leave an airport when on an international flight by yourself, things can be a lot riskier. You’ll need to be back three hours before your flight, and make sure that all your visa paperwork is correct without any help from the airport.

What can you do with your luggage?

For some, even with a layover, your bags will be checked for the entirety of the journey. This means there’s no baggage collection needed, all you’re dragging around is your own cabin bag.

However, if you do need to collect baggage to then check it in on the next flight, everything becomes a lot more complicated. It’s not possible to check in this baggage super early and then go for a trip out of the airport. Typically, you should either travel light if you’re intending to leave during a layover or find baggage storage lockers in the airport you’re going to be leaving.