Check this quick layover guide to avoid getting to the airport and losing all your time spinning around your undecided self!
You have a too-long-for-staying-at-the-airport but too-short-to-see-all-of-it layover in a city. You start to do your research weeks in advance, but then your doubts get worst. So many cool things, so little time…
I’ve had many long layover opportunities before – mostly because I created them myself. Either I chose to book the cheapest flight available (usually even overnight layovers), or I decided to fly through a city that I’d never been before, just so I could lay eyes on it and relieve a bit of my curiosity thirst. It’s been now some years since I’ll willingly break down a long-distance trip.
Because you know something? Must probably, if the trip already has a layover granted (when flying overseas for example) the price you’ll pay for the trip will anyway be more or so the same as the price you will pay for 2 complementary tickets. I was once flying to Brazil, from Greece. I wanted to stop in Amsterdam for a couple of days, to visit a cousin. I then booked Athens – Amsterdam – Athens, and then Amsterdam – São Paulo – Amsterdam. That allowed me to spend two days in Amsterdam, one on my outbound trip, and the second on my in bond trip. Plus it gave my body some time to rest from the long flight and to adapt to the new jet-lag, and more important, the new weather – I always get sick when moving from mid-winter to mid-summer or vice-versa. Nevertheless, whichever are your reasons for spending just some hours or a day at a city, you should consider these topics to make the best of your express visit, and leave the place feeling that you didn’t only see it through a screen:
As much as we sometimes want to cover the maximum over the minimum time, we should consider that bouncing around trams and metros to cross the city trying to make it to far away spots is not the best idea ever. Ok, I get it, wandering around is also THE coolest way to see somewhere, but again – if you have some time to spare. Stick to the same area, or at least to easy reachable places, and consider the time you must travel between one attraction to the other, and the route. Sometimes a place is better reachable by public transportation, sometimes the walk is pretty nice. Just plan it reasonably, because you don’t wanna be missing your flight, or end up doing nothing at all.
We all have dream-spots in many cities. Sometimes we don’t know so much about the place, but we know something we wanna see there. As for… the Sacre Coeur of Monmartre Basilica in Paris. It is clear that we do not want to miss the great landmarks. But sometimes you need to push really hard to do so in a day or some hours. No, I don’t wanna ruin your dreams! But always consider that those places have a huge crowd, big lines, public transportation heading there will be also packed, and all of this will make everything slower. Exception is, there is something cool around there and you want to spend all your time in just this one area. Taking again the Sacre Coeur Cathedral as example. The neighborhood around the cathedral is awesome! Paris at it’s best! So you won’t be missing much spending the entire afternoon ONLY there, see? I once made the mistake of trying to visit the Sistine Chapel while having a 12-hour layover in Rome. You would think, hey, that’s actually a lot of time. But all the time I spent de-boarding, travelling from the airport to the city, grabbing something quick to eat and considering the time I would need to travel back to the airport and go through security again… I ended up staying for hours at the line and didn’t have enough time to see the Chapel. Wrapping up, sometimes it is a wiser decision to leave it to the next time.
Ask friends, locals, or even travel bloggers that visited the city you’re going to spend your layover, what, from all the things they saw, should you NOT miss. But, here’s the trick: Make it clear that you are asking for tips of ANY place they loved. Sometimes the most unexpected things on a city are what shows its essence. So, popular markets, one hype street, an art gallery, a super conceptual store, an interesting corner… In Barcelona, for instance. There is this eatery called Can Paixano, but everyone calls it La Xampanyeria. My best friend took me there when I first went to the city, and there is no, like NO way I won’t go eat a bocadillo there, get tipsy with their 3-euro pink “champagne” bottles and go take my siesta at Barceloneta beach – every time that I will ever be in Barcelona. These would be golden tips that you mostly can’t find in every travel guide or “10-things-you-should-not-miss-in-Mexico-city” kindda list.
A place for human-watching
A true gifted traveller knows that to travel is not more than to experience common, daily life IN a certain place. It sounds obvious, but so many people who I know push themselves to do and see as much as they can, without taking a second to just stay put and see life happening. The way that people interact and act in every different place can tell us a lot about who they are and how they live. Even without being able to understand the language being spoken, try spending your layover sitting on a Cafe, on a square, or walking around a park… Truly free yourself from the “guilt” of not squeezing out the most of a short time and just… be.
Self-cater for your yummy cravings
One of the most pleasant outdoor activities are picnics. Right? Right. So instead of losing time finding a place to eat, ordering and waiting for your food to come, take a trip to a supermarket or a local grocery shop and try the local real food. Really, the food served on restaurants is soooo much different from what people eat daily in every place. You can always go to ethnic restaurants in any other big city, and have the oh-so-famous dishes of every country, but you don’t wanna be missing the delicacies of the real people, what they sell ONLY in their countries. Oh, and don’t forget the wine! Or the Schnaps. Or the raki, or the cachaça. Nham.
Now, you ought to excuse me for the unexciting low quality of some photos featuring this article. I retrieved them from a long-forgotten Flickr account, and I’d taken them many, many, summers ago 🙂 My composition skills were everything but creative, and I had a really bad camera… well, vintage photos be vintage photos!
Anything else that I should consider when planning a layover quick visit? Let me know, will you?
Tatiana Bastos Words and Photography. More on instagram.com/efzinblissfullife