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Best Foreign Airports to Get Stuck In

Billie Cohen | December 22, 2015

Sometimes getting stuck in an airport isn’t that bad. Really. Especially if you’re in a world-class hub that’s like a small city, with vast food, entertainment, shopping, and spa options.

You already know the best U.S. airports for long layovers and for great eats. Now we bring you the best foreign airports, according to our readers and other expert travelers. Next time you’re booking an international flight, seriously consider an itinerary that gives you a layover in one of these hubs.

Asia

Singapore Changi Airport, SIN

“So much to do there. A movie theater, outdoor pool, butterfly garden, and you can even do a quick city tour for free if you have a longer layover. It’s hands down the best.”
—George Hobica, president and founder of Airfarewatchdog.com

“The whole place is a wonder that can keep you endlessly entertained.  But my favorite thing about Changi is ‘Singapore Food Street’.  It’s not the perfect recreation of the hawker centers ubiquitous throughout Singapore, offering fantastic food at cheap prices—there are constraints in an airport after all—but it’s the next best thing.”
—Gary Leff, View from the Wing

Seoul Incheon International Airport, ICN

“One could live behind security there for days.  There are day rooms for those who want to spend a little money (or just free showers for those who don’t).  There are tablets available for people to use and fast Wi-Fi throughout.  There are, of course, a ton of shops and restaurants.  They even have a cultural center with performances throughout the day that also allows travelers to participate in making traditional crafts. If travelers have a little more time, they can venture outside the terminal to one of the stranger things I’ve seen: In an office area right near the terminal, there is a medical facility designed specifically for medical tourism. Go get a little botox or maybe some tooth implants while you wait for your next flight.”
—Brett Snyder, The Cranky Flier and CrankyConcierge.com

“After Singapore Changi, my second favorite airport is Seoul Incheon for the free transit tours of the city.  There are plenty of overnight flights arriving from Southeast Asia, where a connection to the U.S. won’t leave until midday.  That means a long time at the airport, and they’ve made it possible to get off the airport grounds and experience the city.”
—Gary Leff, View from the Wing

Hong Kong International Airport, HKG

“I usually take the fast train into the city if I have enough time, but if I’m staying at the airport, I amuse myself by shopping. They have Kiehls, Zara, Muji, Chanel, Gucci, and duty-free. There’s an IMAX theater, a nine-hole golf course, eateries like Hung’s Delicacies and Tasty Congee. If you do not have access to any of the amazing airline lounges, you can still pay to get into one of the Plaza Premium lounges to snack, rest, and take a shower.”
—Arnette, Round The World Girl

Narita Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND), Tokyo

“Narita and Haneda can do no wrong in my book. Clean amazing bathrooms, great restaurants, and lots of awesome shopping.”
—Paula Froelich, host A Broad Abroad

Europe

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, AMS

“My favorite airport for long layovers is Amsterdam…because I don’t stay in the airport. No matter where I’m coming from, it’s typically very fast to go through immigration and store carry-on luggage (I usually use the basement lockers between Arrival Halls 1 and 2). There’s a train station in the airport itself, it’s a quick journey to Central Station, and the trains run frequently. Once I get into the city, I usually explore on foot, although the trams work well too.”
—Eric Stoen, TravelBabbo

sleep pods at Helsinki airport

Long layover at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport? No need for a hotel, just grab a quick nap in the GoSleep pods. Photo: UNI

Helsinki Airport, HEL

“Vantaa Airport in Helsinki is wonderful. Compact and quite fun to be in. There are truly original sleep pods if you want a snooze and a good hotel inside the building (Hotel Glo) if you want a more traditional room. Food’s okay and the shopping is less cookie-cutter than some airports. Several high-style Finnish shops and a Moomin shop, if you’re into that stuff…”
—Joe Brancatelli, Joe Sent Me

“Helsinki Airport is cozy for a layover. The Kainuu room, near gate 30, is a quiet room with a green carpet and two ‘sun-tanning beds’ that are great for sleeping! There’s even a free book swap for avid readers. The Almost@Home Lounge, with its replica of a private home’s lounge and kitchen area, is really cool. Both terminals offer passengers free Wi-Fi, which I think is a necessity!”
—Cacinda Maloney, PointsandTravel.com

Istanbul Atatürk Airport, IST

“Istanbul is a favorite, if you’ve got access to the Turkish Airlines lounge. Great sampling of ‘street food.’ Amazing space, size-wise, with a variety of entertainment and activity options. Excellent service and very comfortable.”
—Bob Holland, The Holland Group

London Heathrow, LHR

“My favorite airport for long layovers is such a fabulous place to visit that sometimes I actually book flights with super-long wait times, including overnights! Heathrow’s Terminal Five is pretty, with lots of light, lots of terrific shops, plenty of bookstores, and pleasant enough restaurants. The BA Lounge is terrific and I typically will nosh there after shopping sprees. But the best place to while away extra time is the Sofitel London Heathrow. It’s got two good restaurants (one French, one more international), a charming bar and lounge area, lovely service, and the most beautiful spa I’ve ever seen anywhere near any airport. Most times the rates for overnight stays are quite reasonable, and I look forward to spending time there as much as I might for a genuine resort vacation.”
—Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief, Cruise Critic

“Heathrow is the airport we all love to hate. But the Heathrow Express gets you into Paddington Station in 15-20 minutes, and that puts all of London at your feet for a layover. And, if you really get hung up, take the escalator up to the Hilton at Paddington Station.”
—Joe Brancatelli, Joe Sent Me

Reykjavik Keflavik International Airport, KEF

“Between flights you can go to the Blue Lagoon!”
—Katherine Eklund 

Middle East

Pool at Doha Airport

Qatar’s Doha International Airport has a pool, a spa, and other amenities. Photo: Billie Cohen

Doha International Airport, DOH

“The new Doha Airport in Qatar has 24-hour shopping, decent and varied food options, and also rooms for overnight layovers. And being home to Qatar Airways, those flying business and first class have access to their lounges—which have quiet sleeping areas (business class) and actual bedrooms and a Jacuzzi (first class). Also, the dining experience is fantastic.”
—Ana Silva O’Reilly, Mrs. O. Around the World

North America

Vancouver International Airport, YVR

“Vancouver really does have a lovely facility. An absolutely wonderful hotel, the Fairmont, is up a flight of steps. And, again, there’s a fast transit system to get you quickly into town if your layover extends.”
—Joe Brancatelli, Joe Sent Me

What’s your favorite foreign airport to get stuck in?

 

More Layover Solutions:

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

 

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