If you have a connecting flight coming up, you might be wondering if you can leave the airport during the layover.

You can leave the airport during a layover in a majority of situations, especially on domestic flights, but you can only leave the airport during an international flight if you have a valid visa for your layover country.

Depending on how long the layover period is, which can range from 30 minutes to almost 24 hours, you may not have much time to explore the layover city.

Also, most airports are built far away from city centers and major tourist areas, so you’ll have to factor in the transportation and time cost of leaving the airport during a layover.

You could instead spend your time exploring and shopping at the airport, especially if it’s your first time flying

You Can Leave an Airport During a Layover

You can often leave an airport during a layover, even when traveling to an international destination. 

Domestic Layovers

You can leave the airport during domestic layovers in the United States and most other countries. 

International Layovers

You can leave the airport during most international layovers, but it’s harder than leaving the airport during a domestic flight.

For example, your layover country may require a visa, in which case you can’t legally leave the airport. Exiting the airport during a layover is legal if you have a valid visa for that country.

Make Sure Your Layover is Long Enough

Flight layovers could last anywhere between 30 minutes to almost 24 hours

If you want to leave the airport during a layover, then the layover should be long enough that you can get back to the airport to make your flight.

And Keep These Things in Mind

You may have to collect and carry your luggage if you’ve booked two separate flights instead of a single connecting one.

Depending on the length of the layover, you may not be able to immediately check in your luggage.

As a result, depending on the length of the layover, you will have to carry your luggage with you outside the airport, which can be cumbersome.

It’ll be easier to exit the airport and enter the layover country if you have little to no luggage. 

Most airports are also located far from city centers, so you may not have the time to explore. 

You may be able to explore more of the layover country if you have a longer layover period, but the further you move from the airport, the more you risk potentially missing your flight.

So consider the time and cost of going to the layover city’s major attractions. 

Make Sure You Know What Will Happen to Your Luggage

You’ll find out what happens to your luggage during your first flight’s check-in.

The check-in desk will attach a label to your luggage, with the label stating the bag’s destination. If the only listed destination is the layover country, you’ll have to collect your bag there. Otherwise, you’ll receive it at your final destination. 

Passengers’ luggage is stored in a dedicated area known as a baggage break up-area (BBA).Your baggage is secured there until it’s time to load it to your next flight. 

4 Things to Do During a Long Layover

  • 1. Explore the Airport

Some airports are large and offer passengers plenty to do during while waiting for their flight.

For example, the Las Vegas airport has a museum and slot machines, and the Nashville International Airport is known for hosting live music and having restaurants. 

  • 2. Rest

Long layovers can be exhausting, so you could rest in the airport’s resting areas.

For instance, the Dallas/Fort Worth airport has “Minute suites” that travelers can rent to sleep in during long layovers. 

  • 3. Take a Stroll

It’s good to take a walk during your layover if you’ve had a long flight.

Sitting for too long after a long flight can put you at risk of deep vein thrombosis. 

  • 4. Visit the Gift Shop

Most airports have gift shops where you can get gifts, like keychains or postcards, for your loved ones. 

In conclusion:

  • You can leave an airport during a layover period for both domestic and international flights.
  • Leaving an airport during an international flight is harder than a domestic one because you may need a visa to leave the airport at an international layover destination.
  • Most countries require a visit visa to legally leave the airport if you’re there during a layover.
  • Layovers can last anywhere between 30 minutes to almost 24 hours, so you could potentially leave the airport and explore the layover country or city.
  • But, you’d have to ensure you return to the airport on time for your next flight.
  • Also, since most airports are located far away from city centers, you’re unlikely to be able to do much during your layover. 

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).