Date: October 15, 2016
This year, we’re introducing a new “Best Airports” list, where international travellers rate airports based on the quality of layover they experienced.
The terminals that top our charts are the ones that transit passengers glide effortlessly through, thanks to clear signage, helpful staff, and a logical layout. Since navigation is a breeze, you’re then left with ample time to explore the wonders that stipple the halls. Whether it’s an indoor garden, an ice rink, a local brewery or a fitness facility, you’re likely to have more activities than you do transit time. This is why so many former travellers encourage future travellers to book a long layover at these places. It’s not because things will go wrong – it’s because things will go so well you may not want to leave!
Here are the Top 10 Best Airports for a Layover, as determined by voters in our 2016 Airport Survey.
1. Singapore Changi International Airport, Singapore (SIN)
I had almost an 8 hour layover on my second trip and still felt like it ended too soon to see everything I was hoping to see – survey respondent
No surprises here that Singapore Changi Airport won best place for a layover in the world! You’ll have ample time to explore the myriad of layover activities, thanks to the fact that the airport is well-signed, well-staffed, and well-kept. Your time here may begin with a spin through one of five gardens, before dipping your toes into a fish spa or slipping into a massage chair. Others may opt for a ride down the multi-story slide or time at the XBox 360 gaming stations, before launching into feature films at the free movie theatre. Or perhaps, you devote your time to exploring the multitude of excellent restaurants and shops, which sell quality products at normal prices. And for those who want to get out of the terminal – though we can’t imagine why – there is also a free layover tour of the city centre available to transit passengers with permitting schedules! All in all, SIN is the perfect stopover destination! ( Photo courtesy of Changi Airport Group )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Free City Tour • Free Movie Theatre • Napping Rooms ($) • Transit Hotel ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Swimming Pool ($) • Showers ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Gardens • Rest Zones • Spa ($) • Cultural Activities • Free Transit Tour • Cultural Activities. For more information, visit our Singapore Changi Airport Guide.
2. Seoul Incheon International Airport, South Korea (ICN)
I ask the travel agent to schedule extra time for my connecting flight so I could enjoy the shops, eateries and spacious waiting-areas in which I can stretch-out. – survey respondent
Seoul Incheon Airport is another global layover darling. With a few hours here, you might start off with a spin around the in-terminal ice rink, before heading over to the movie theatre to see the latest movie. Or perhaps, you’re interested in Korean culture? In that case, head to the cultural centre where you can either catch a short play from the Joseon era, or taste a few local flavours against the backdrop of Korean imagery. If you must, you can also leave the airport on a free city tour. Other fan favourites here include free shower facilities, a nearby golfing centre, massage chairs, a transit hotel and an endless amount of shopping! ( Photo courtesy of erwinpeng / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Transit Hotel ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Gardens • Cultural Activities • Luggage Storage ($) • Free Showers • Skating Rink ($) • Transit Tour ($) • Museum • Movie Theatre ($) • Rest Zones.For more information, visit our Seoul Incheon Airport Guide.
3. Munich International Airport, Germany (MUC)
Had a 8 hour wait for transfer and definitely enjoying the time here. For sure worth 5 stars!!! – survey respondent
Munich Airport serves as a major travel hub for Europe-bound travellers, and it too goes above and beyond in terms of amenities and entertainment offered against the backdrop of a well-organized airport. Here, you can experience bits of German culture through the annual Christkindl market, and the in-house brewery featuring Bavarian flavours. If you’ve got energy to burn (or have picked up energy from the numerous free coffee and tea stalls), try out the mini-golf course, surfing (during summer months) or the ice rink (during winter months) while you wait. And finally, unwind at one of the quiet zones or nap cabins. ( Photo courtesy of amcc919 / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Sleep Pods ($) • Airport Brewery ($) • Airport Tours ($) • Casino ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Rest Zones • Showers ($) • Cinema • Mini-Golf ($). For more information, visit our Munich Airport Guide.
4. Zurich Kloten International Airport, Switzerland (ZRH)
This was the cleanest, most well organized, most efficient (with the best signage) airport we were in during this trip and we were in three others. – survey respondent
Zurich Airport wins big in the layover department thanks to the fact that it is, in true Swiss style, supremely efficient, organized and tidy. Excellent signage makes it a breeze for passengers looking for their next gate. And, while much of the airport is quiet, the observation deck is a great place to take kids to unwind. The drawback to ZRH? The prices continue to be particularly high. Restaurants and shops are often out of reach for budget travellers. However, they do find affordable sustenance at the grocery store in the basement. ( Photo courtesy of ozgurguzay / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounge ($) • Free WiFi (2 hours) • Transit Hotel ($) • Airport Tours ($) • Bicycle, Inline Skates and Nordic Walking Pole Rentals ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($). For more information, visit our Zurich Airport Guide.
5. Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan (TPE)
I love the fact that changing flights is super fast at TPE. – survey respondent
Taipei Taoyuan Airport dazzles travellers around the world with its enthusiasm and exuberance. Perhaps the world’s most creative airport, every gate has a different theme, ranging from environmental conservation to SONY products, and from tea shops to the Hello Kitty. Most of these themes come with at least one activity for transit passengers – whether it is lessons in calligraphy, or a unique local food tasting. Outside of the lounges, the airport also offers a number of rest zones, shower areas (bring your own soap!), family rooms and free Wi-Fi. They also make sure the basics are solid – time here is reliably easy, efficient and clean! ( Photo courtesy of sdfjkge / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Free 15-minute Showers • Transit Hotel ($) • 24-Hour Food ($) • Cultural Activities • Library • Luggage Storage ($) • Museum • Rest Zones • Cultural Activities. For more information, visit our Taipei Taoyuan Airport Guide.
6. Helsinki Airport, Finland (HEL)
Everything goes smoothly. Everything works. Clean, cosy, friendly and efficient! – survey respondent
Helsinki Airport’s clean, passenger-friendly terminals help to make it a global favourite for layovers. Lovely architecture and pleasant staff set the backdrop for an airport full of practical travel comforts. The free sleep pods (6:00AM – 10:00PM) are by far one of the most unique (and treasured) features of the terminal, though the free Wi-Fi and 24-hour food options don’t hurt HEL’s worldwide ranking either. While sometimes the security lineups can get a bit bogged down, the availability of charging points and spaces to get away from it all make this airport a regional fan favourite. ( Photo courtesy of sankakel / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Free (and Paid) Sleep Pods ($) • Airport Tours ($) • Book Swap • 24-Hour Food Options • Luggage Storage ($) • Rest Zone • Showers ($) • Workstations. For more information, visit our Helsinki Airport Guide.
7. Doha Hamad International Airport, Qatar (DOH)
The facilities are great and it is suuuper clean and organized. – survey respondent
While on our list of Best Airports in the Middle East, Doha Hamad Airport isn’t quite able to beat Dubai, it wins on layover experience alone. This spacious, clean, logical and modern terminal woos voters with free Wi-Fi, plenty of quiet rooms, playgrounds, a spa (with a jacuzzi!), squash courts and a swimming pool. However like Dubai, Doha has its fair share of controversies. Layover travellers were often frustrated by ithe lack of diverse food options. However, we suspect the ample seating, sleeping rooms and “over-the-top” lounges override these frustrations. ( Photo via jen_versh / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounge ($) • Free WiFi • Quiet Rooms • Transit Hotel ($) • Fitness Center with Swimming Pool, Gym, Squash Courts ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($). For more information, visit our Doha Hamad Airport Guide.
See also: Best Airports in the Middle East
8. Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
I liked how there was so much to do now terminal 3 super clean great boarding process but they need free wifi for the WHOLE TIME! Anyways it’s a great airport hope to stop here again. – survey respondent
The layover experience at Dubai Airport begins with a mind-boggling array of indulgent amenities, sensational shopping, and excellent customer service. Twinkling pillars and spotless floors are fringed with pools, gardens, transit hotels, sensational lounges and spas, making DBX feel like a hotel more than a Middle East transit hub. That said, while the airport’s food and facilities received high marks, it leaves sometime to be desired when it comes to the availability of budget-friendly features. The crowded rest zones and the limit on free Wi-Fi frustrate those who spend hours there. ( Photo via Dubai Airports / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi (60 minutes) • Free Rest Zones • Free Showers • Transit Hotel ($) • Sleep Pods ($) • 24 Hour Food Options ($) • Health Club with Swimming Pool, Jacuzzi & Gym ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Gardens • Spa. For more information, visit our Dubai Airport Guide.
See also: Best Airports in the Middle East
9. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong (HKG)
I was traveling solo and was a bit nervous. But this airport was SO easy to get around. I had no problem whatsoever. – survey respondent
Hong Kong International Airport is easily mistaken for a giant mall if you don’t look at the boarding gates – and this is definitely a great feature for layovers! It is jammed with restaurants and shopping opportunities, all conveniently clustered around the customs area. And, it features a number of good amenities, including gardens, sleep rooms, spas and showers. Most impressively, HKG is home to the country’s biggest IMAX theatre – though you do have to pay to watch a movie. The more budget-friendly perks include free Wi-Fi, free hot and cold drinking water and free rest areas with reclining chairs. ( Photo courtesy of pookbbp48 / Instagram )
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • IMAX Theatre ($) • Showers ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Gardens • Rest Zones. For more information, visit our Hong Kong Airport Guide.
10. Vancouver International Airport, Canada (YVR)
Well spaced out and never feels crowded or noisy. My favourite airport in the world to transit! – survey respondent
Vancouver International Airport puts North America on our list of best airports for a layover. Canada’s ultra-friendly west coast hub first wows visitors with stunning architecture and locally-inspired First Nation’s art. Great shopping and dining options for every budget up’s the terminal’s appeal – as do the airside aquariums that feature marinelife of the North Pacific. Life at YVR is made even better by the clean facilities, the efficient lines and the convenient connections. And, in true Canadian fashion, the staff are incredibly co-operative, polite and helpful. All in all, time spent at Vancouver International gives you a glimpse into Canadian life and hospitality.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Aquarium • TV Lounges • Rest Areas • Nap Rooms ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Self-Guided Tour • Showers ($) • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Vancouver Airport Guide.
While this best-of list makes us want to travel just to see these terminals, that certainly isn’t the case for everywhere. To sober up, read about our Worst Airports for a Layover, and plot your transit route carefully.