Layovers are not an easy thing. Imagine being stuck in the airport, having to exchange just enough currency to spend for a mere few hours, and not having a comfortable place to sleep in the middle of the night. Scary. This guide on the best airports for layover is the perfect reason where you should decide to have an airport layover the next time you travel.
I got in touch with seasoned travel bloggers who give their favorite airports for a layover with an insight on the best airports to sleep in and what to do during a layover in the mentioned airports.
11 Best Airports for Layover
Copenhagen – Derek & Mike from Everything Copenhagen
Airport layovers are never fun, but if you have to endure one, Copenhagen International Airport is a great place to spend some time. It’s full of classic Danish shops and restaurants that can give you a taste of some classic Copenhagen spots. Some of the city’s best eateries have kiosks or small eateries inside the airport. Enjoy a bite to eat at Gorm’s or Lagkagehuset.
There are also several private lounges that you can pay to use or earn entry through your credit card or airline. They all serve traditional Danish favorites and international foods with Denmark’s own Carlsberg beer.
If you want to visit them yourself, the city center is about 20 minutes away using Copenhagen public transportation. Using the Copenhagen metro you can exit the terminal and explore the city center depending on the time you have between your flights. Not only is the ride on the metro short, but the security line to enter the departure terminal is often short.
There are also lockers you can use to store your luggage for more convenience and free maps of the city to help guide your exploration.
While it may not be your final destination, a layover in Copenhagen is a great experience. Also, it is one of the most romantic places in the world in my opinion. You can even see the city or get inspired for your next trip from spending a little time in the airport
Kuala Lumpur – Reshma from The Solo Globetrotter
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is one of the best airports for a layover if you are traveling in South East Asia. Being Malaysia’s primary airport, and the hub for many popular airlines and multiple flights, the top airline connecting essential cities of Asia, it is one of the busiest airports in the world used by millions of travelers. This massive airport is located in Selangor, about 45 minutes from the city center of Kuala Lumpur.
You can easily spend your time if you have long hours between transits as there are plenty of things to do. The vast shopping arena is the best place to go if you want to indulge in duty-free shopping, as you will find many of the big brands, including Montblanc and Burberry. Spread across various floors, you can buy souvenirs ranging from expensive jewelry, cigars, and chocolates.
There are plenty of seating areas, resting lounges, and workstations if you want to use your laptops. All the terminals have free WiFi, and surprisingly the speed is very high. There is a movie lounge where you can choose from plenty of movies to watch, play areas for children, and a miniature forest as well.
If you want to pamper yourself, many spa centers are offering Thai, Swedish, and other exotic therapies. Three big food courts serve a wide variety of intercontinental, Mediterranean, and Asia cuisines, and drinks. There are also hotels at the airport if you want to refresh yourself
Seoul – Stephanie from Poppin’ Smoke
Seoul Incheon Airport (ICN) is one of the best airports for a layover because it’s clean, modern, has excellent facilities, and is easy to navigate.
Nearly every time I passed through Incheon, I had a layover of at least 4 or as long as 8 hours due to the schedule of flights to and from my home in Fukuoka, Japan. The best part of ICN for anyone who has a long layover is their lounge for transitioning passengers.
Open 24 hours, it’s on the upper level and has many comfortable places to stretch out and sleep. They also have free showers for transiting passengers, and they supply a small shower kit of toiletries. The lounge has plenty of table space and electrical outlets to work quietly on a laptop if you are not in the mood to sleep.
The main part of the airport has a variety of dining choices, and it’s a great place to get your fix of authentic Korean food if the airport is your only stop in the country. ICN also has several bakeries and coffee shops (also with plenty of plug-in options for your devices). WiFi is free and works well throughout the airport.
Seoul Incheon airport is often called the “gateway to Asia,” because it has flights to virtually every major city in the region. Catching a connecting flight at ICN is easy, and the airport’s hub and spoke design mean you don’t have to walk too far.
If you arrive from outside Korea and are continuing to another country, you do not need to go through Korean customs or collect your checked baggage. You simply pass through security, go up the escalator, and enjoy your time at ICN before your next flight!
Doha – Emily from Wander Lush
Voted Best Airport in the Middle East by Skytrax in 2020, Doha’s Hamad International Airport is one of the best in the region for an extended layover
Qatar’s sole airport opened in 2014 but looks and feels even newer than that. The 600,000 square-meter building is the largest in the city and like other architect-designed projects, is made to be extremely efficient and environmentally friendly.
The modern terminal features four-story glass windows overlooking the runways, sky bridges, and voluminous lounges. Towering indoor palm trees add to the open, bright feel. All steel and glass, decorations are sparse apart from a few modern sculptures, part of a public art program.
One of the highlights of the airport is Eat Street, a ‘street food court’ with Italian, Arabic, and Thai offerings. The airport also features plenty of comfortable seating as well as designated Quiet Rooms and sleeping pods.
You could comfortably spend a long layover inside the airport, but it’s worthwhile venturing the short distance into Doha city if you have time.
The Qatar government has developed several initiatives to encourage travelers to do just that, including visa-free transit for dozens of nationalities and discounted luxury hotels for overnight stays.
One of the best things to do on a layover in Qatar is to take advantage of the airport City Tours. You can visit the Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif, the two must-sees in Doha.
If you have a longer layover, you can book a desert adventure. Just as long as your layover is 6 hours or longer, you don’t need a Qatar visa to participate. Tours depart throughout the day between 8 am and 9.30 pm and can be organized on arrival
Delhi – Deb from The Visa Project
Let’s be honest. No one likes a long layover. Having traveled around the world and taken flights with layovers longer than 12 hours, it’s something I don’t really look forward to. One option would be to explore the city, but that always involves immigration and security, and the risk of something going wrong. So I always like to spend my layovers at the airport.
Out of all the airports, I have known so far, the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) in New Delhi, India has been a great experience. I have had multiple layovers there and every time I have found something new.
While it has got a lot of cafes and restaurants to choose from, what I have always enjoyed is the warm shower and dayroom access provided by many pay-to-enter lounges. There is nothing more refreshing than being able to take a shower after a long-haul flight. It has also got a spa in case you are in for a massage.
There are prayer rooms for anyone who wants to offer a prayer.
However, what I loved most about the airport is that they allow various types of celebrations for different festivals. Be it a flash mob for Holi, traditional dance performance for Diwali, live singing for Valentine’s day- they always try to make your experience a little better.
Above is a snap from a Diwali celebration when I was on my way to visit Turkey
Istanbul – Annika from The Midnight Blue Elephant
The recently opened new Istanbul Airport set out to take the title of the world’s biggest airport by passenger traffic. And it is impressive, to say the least with over 55,000 square meters of shopping space divided into themed areas like the Fashion Garden, the Family Palace, and the Style Beach. Shopping follows the latest technology here and the airport even has its very own app to guide you through and help you make the most of your layover. Free wifi is part of it, of course!
Since the airport is also the hub of Turkish Airlines there are a few TK lounges to choose from and they are worth gathering your miles for. Alternatively, Turkish Airlines offers free city tours or a complimentary hotel room at night if you have a layover in Istanbul.
Tours vary in time depending on your layover and will show you some of Istanbul’s greatest sights. They include a guide, transport to town, entrance fees, and meals and if you are traveling through in summer, you can even participate in a free Bosphorus dinner cruise. Best of all? All tours are set up in such a way that you will be guaranteed to be back at Istanbul Airport to catch your connecting flight with plenty of time to spare to buy some Turkish treats before you board
Abu Dhabi – Keri from Family Travel Middle East
Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates is the hub for Etihad Airways. Not nearly as large as neighboring Dubai & Emirates, but still a great option for those looking to transit through the Middle East. The airport itself is not huge (until the new, much-awaited terminal opens later), but comfortable with plenty of longer layover opportunities to explore nearby.
AUH airport is fairly well spread out from end to end, so any international connections (especially if you are transiting to the US where pre-clearance is available) you will want to allow at least 2 hours.
For freshening up there are several lounges with shower facilities, Refreshhh sleep cabins, and an Aerotel hotel in Terminal 1. For a longer sleep, you may want to clear customs and try the immediately adjacent Premier Inn to freshen up. There are otherwise plenty of designated “quiet zones” to attempt a quick nap, or enjoy free wifi throughout the airport and plenty of retail therapy – grab your dates and camel milk chocolates!
If you have a layover greater than 4 hours, then it’s highly recommended you use this opportunity to get out and explore. You can have a look at this Abu Dhabi guide for some info. A shorter layover up to 6 hours would be enough time to squeeze in the city’s most spectacular site, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
If you have a little longer, you can add a visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, or the capital’s stunning Qasr al Watan Presidential Palace, all easily reached by taxi. Or, if you have an evening layover, why not venture into the desert on an organized safari? You can use Etihad’s own Hala service, or there are many cheaper options.
Another fabulous way to enjoy a longer layover in Abu Dhabi is to spend your time on Yas Island. A mere 5 minutes away by cab after you clear customs (which is usually very quiet as most passengers through Abu Dhabi are transiting), and you can be in the heart of the action, either relaxing poolside at a hotel or enjoying one of the fabulous theme parks – Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld or Warner Bros World, a super fun way to break up a long journey via the Middle East
Prague – Bhushavali from My Travelogue
The reason we headed to Prague is that its historic nature of the city made it one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Czech Republic. We flew to Prague from Brussels, thanks to the very economical flights of Ryan Air.
As someone who travels with a kid, the best thing for me in an airport would be a kids-area and so far, the best kids area in any airport that I have been to, was Vaclav Havel Airport Prague, Czech Republic.
In fact, there are multiple kid areas split in various piers and into age-groups as well! The babies/toddlers area that I went to is large and has a baby changing table, a crib, a dining area, and even a microwave oven!
There is an attached family bathroom as well. There are quite a few games more suitable for babies & toddlers. There is also another play-area for older kids which has playground equipment for climbing, jumping & more! Of course, both have a departures screen to be aware of the boarding gates.
There are 2 prayer rooms in the airport as well.
Another fascinating aspect of Prague Airport is the Behind-the-scenes Airport Tours! There are 8 types of tours that deal with airport interiors & exteriors, fire & rescue services, aircraft tours, a photo tour, and even a tour meant for kids! These vary from anything between 1 hr to 2.5 hrs!
Bangkok – Nisha & Vasu from Lemonicks
Thailand’s largest and newest international airport is called Suvarnabhumi International Airport and is located in Bangkok. One of Asia’s busiest airports, it handles most of the long international flights to and from Thailand and is also a hub for connecting international flights.
The facilities at the airport are excellent as they handle daily flights to every continent. If you are on a family vacation in Bangkok, do not worry about long hauls. There is something for each age group at Bangkok airport.
If you have many hours and would like to catch up on sleep, go to the 4th floor and check in to one of the dayrooms. There are capsule hotels and some other luxury hotels associated with the airport.
There is a play area for the kids. Otherwise, you can browse the duty-free shops. From designer brands to luxury labels to local handicrafts, there are more than 300 retail shops to cater to your requirements. You’ll find limitless choices when it comes to last-minute shopping.
Besides the obvious, there are other facilities such as hair salon, spa, and massage. Medical care is available to all the passengers if needed, and there are pharmacies. Mini marts and there are tour services too. For nature lovers, the airport has a jungle and a butterfly park also.
Prayer rooms are also at your service, should you need to pray. There is a luggage wrapping service at the entrance itself. Fancy reading? There are plenty of books and magazine kiosks. Souvenir shops won’t let you go without buying a few souvenirs.
Want to have a meal? Head to one of the coolest restaurants that are waiting for you at the airport. Many regional cuisines are available in the departure terminal.
Transport to and from the airport is quick and easy by taxi, metro and the main arrivals and departure halls are welcomingly bright and airy. If you are transiting through the airport in Bangkok, I assure you to travel to this beautiful city where we visited for our honeymoon. Check out our budget Bangkok itinerary 4 days for first-timers!
Dubai – Manpreet from Hello Manpreet
If you are transiting through Dubai International Airport, you are most likely flying in with their national carrier, Emirates. This means you will get to spend your time in the famous Terminal 3. I have transited through many airports over the years, and by far Dubai T3 was the greatest surprise.
You feel like you are in an incredibly long never-ending mall. Not just any mall, but a mall filled with shops of gold! Everywhere you look, you can not miss seeing pure shiny gold reflecting the lights of the terminal.
There are many things you can keep yourself busy doing at Dubai International Airport. You will be able to indulge in almost any cuisine from the world in the terminal as there are hundreds of eateries and be spoilt for choice more than you’d think.
Marhaba Lounge – at a nominal cost is where you can relax and get access to some refreshments, drinks and juices, newspapers and magazines, along with a cinema room, snooze room, and shower facilities. This is especially beneficial for families are children under 2 years have free entry.
Head over to the health club which is actually available for passengers passing through T1 and T3. It’s a greatly equipped gym, which a pool, steam rooms, saunas, and showers. Once you’ve worked out then you will certainly feel like treating yourself. Head over to one of the multiple spas and massage services within an array of salons in the airport.
If by any chance you have more than about 5 hours in the layover, then you can leave the airport to explore Dubai in one day or a few hours with this guide
Singapore from Hungryoungwoman
If you have a layover in Singapore, then Singapore Changi Airport is one of the coolest airports for your time. We spent the last 5 hours from our Singapore budget trip itinerary at the airport and really did not notice how time went by.
At a glance, your Singapore airport stopover could include anything from visiting the attractions at the airport like the Sunflower Garden, Canopy Park, or Butterfly Garden, marveling at the various art installations, to swimming in the Singapore airport pool.
If you don’t want to swim in the Changi airport swimming pool, you can spend your time looking at the gorgeous Jewel located in Terminal 1 where the Rain Vortex is. If you’re having a Singapore airport layover of 2-3 hours, I assure you that you need to spend time here. It surely is one of the most instagrammable places in Singapore
In addition to the Jewel, the surrounding area houses lots of attractions like the Canopy Park, Mirror Maze, and Hedge Maze at the Jewel Changi Airport.
There are baby rooms every few meters, restaurants and cafes to grab a meal and fast Wi-Fi throughout which makes for an easy Changi Airport layover
I hope this little guide of the top ten airports in the world has helped feed in you some traveling inspiration. Albeit not all of them have been mentioned and a single airport cannot really be named as the best airport in the world, surely these mentioned are some of the nicest airports in the world for a layover.
Until then, happy traveling! xx
P.S. To save and read later, here’s a pinnable version 🙂