Travel: Sleeping in Airports

Posted by in Travel

Transit in Doha. Shhh…


With over 20 years travel experience there are times when the need to sleep in airports becomes a necessity. For example, your flight leaves at an unearthly time in the morning (Stansted), you’ve arrived at an unearthly hour (Shanghai) you’re in transit/have a long layover or the hostels in town are full.

So far I’ve had nights at London Stansted, Venice, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Macau, Shanghai (Hongqiao), Cairo, Doha, Vienna, Barcelona and Warsaw Chopin (one day I’ll actually get to fly from the latter). Oh update 2020 Faro, nice airport actually, and Lisbon.

Here’s what I’ve learnt.

1 – Terminal’s, even in tropical climes can be bloody cold overnight so make sure you have a scarf and coat handy, possibly even a beanie. Some go the whole hog and whip out a sleeping bag! I haven’t gone that far (*I have now) as you never know what security personnel will make of this. You don’t really want to draw anymore attention to yourself than need be.

Stuck an extra night in Cairo, the hotel staff were nicer than the airport!


2 – Sometimes it is worth checking out the hotel opposite. The one in Cairo was pretty receptive to my woes (though they didn’t go so far to offer a room they did allow me to use their lounge, what a pity hotels in Andorra didn’t run to that simple requirement).

3 – Sleeping with one eye open and your bag straps attached round your ankles or strapped to your chest isn’t too much fun, so while an airport can be useful, making a habit of going to one often wouldn’t be a good idea. Even after one night I am very tired the next morning and no amount of caffeine is going to change that.

4 – Airports (and train stations) in France close overnight. Except maybe Paris but don’t quote me on it.

Taking an early hours stroll around Barcelona terminal and a break from the mozzies. Runway lights image is Hong Kong.

5 – Sleep in bigger airports, I wouldn’t really consider Cardiff for example but then I’ve not had to as yet. I did consider Biarritz when I got myself into a pickle but see point 4.


6a – Cafe’s usually have more comfy seating than your average metal airport seat, designed to be uncomfortable so you get up and shop!

6b – Be respectful don’t put your bloody shoes on the seating; either take them off or sleep with feet slightly off the couchette. Tip; Costa at Warsaw (Chopin) is pretty good and staff seem tolerant. Also security personnel overnight for added safety.

Waiting for dawn and a chance to exit Vienna.


7 – Aside the right clothing it may be wise to also carry some mosquito repellent. I got nibbled a few times in Barcelona’s old terminal.

8 – Check formalities. In the age of terrorism some airports require a ticket to enter the building.

9 – Consult the Internet! Some cities have more than one airport. Check which airport and which terminal may be best for you. Be mindful that most advice refers to airside NOT landside.

10 – Airports are fascinating places, cities within cities, don’t be afraid to walk about or go to the loo, if your seat goes it’s frustrating but as Monty Python say ‘always look on the bright side of life’ or as spotted at Vienna Airport…


Thanks for reading here. Should anyone be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, please contact me for a FREE Overview PDF. Meanwhile, stay tuned with Kulture Kiosk via The Atlas or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Playlist and credits follow…

Sleep – Midnight Oil
Sleepwalk – Ultravox
Big Sleep – Simple Minds
Sleepless – King Crimson
I Can’t Sleep – Huang Chung
The God of Sleeplessness – Jan Bang/Erik Honore/David Sylvian

Pictures: KH