Random Observation/Comment #413: The Bad Idea Bears are not foreign to layovers and have enough experience to make the most out of the transfer in a new country.
Layover trip planning is a completely separate beast to regular trip planning because TIME is the largest constraint. In most cases, you want to err on the side of caution and stay within the international terminal as to:
- Not miss your connecting flight and get screwed staying in your random layover city
- Not pay for the visa if it is required for certain countries
- Not to pay extra money on transportation into the city to only spend a few ours there before rushing and returning to the gate
- Not exchange foreign money
All of these reasons are quite valid and usually sway us to stay in the airport, but there are exceptions:
- Layover is longer than 6 hours and there’s something close-by to see or eat
- You’ve never been to the country and you want to get a passport stamp
Due to this compulsive desire to make our passports look badass, we at least go through security to get the passport stamp and just walk right back into the airport. We’ve done this on multiple occasions for Turkey, Japan, and Nigeria (or at least tried).
By far, my favorite layover destination is Narita Airport in Japan. After exiting the terminal, the Tourist Information center was extremely friendly and helpful to provide us with a 2-3 hour typical itinerary for layovers that worked extremely well. Here’s what we did:
- Take the Keisei Main Line one stop (7 minutes – cost 250 yen). This train comes every 20 minutes on the 10/30/50 of the hour when going West.
- Eat amazing sushi at Edokkozushi Sandohonten. Prices are very reasonable and the servings are filling. Even just for this, I’d do this layover every time.
- Take a walk through the Naritasaan Shinshoji temple. If you’ve never been to Japan, this temple will be a nice treat for you. You can hear the wind blow in peace and I think it’s the perfect introduction and lure for Japanese culture.
- Head back and eat ramen. Because it’s so hard to find reasonably priced Japanese food in NYC that matches the quality, we actually sat down and had a second/third lunch ramen. It was so fresh and delicious that I didn’t care I had a 13-hour flight back to Chicago.
Alternatively, it looks like the eel is very famous in this location. A nice bowl of eel and rice would have been a lovely treat as well. Alas, I only have room for so many lunches.
The whole layover experience took 2.5 hours max and we were so glad we did it. Even if you just miss the train both ways, you have: 20 min train wait + 7 min commute + 30 min eat sushi + 13 min walk to temple + 30 min relax at temple + 13 min walk back + 20 min train wait + 7 min commute = 140 min.
If you’re ever in Narita airport, spend the 500 yen for the train round-trip commute and go have some 2000 yen sushi with a relaxing walk. It’s certainly worth the extra time and effort. Also note, you can leave your bags at the airport storage for 500 yen. Ask the tourist information area for more details.
~See Lemons Love Narita Layovers