The Best Airports in Asia for 23-Hour Layovers

We’ve covered stopping for 23-Hour layovers in cities across North America and Europe, now we’re going to take a look at the top 32 airports in Asia.

Exacerbating the trend we saw in North America, Asia is a land of extremes, with some airports offering cheap, convenient access to their city centers while others impose visa restrictions, onerous train rides or offering buses and taxis as the only options.

I’ll be honest and add that there is a bit of a subjective factor taking signage and “ease” of figuring out your transit options. ICN, NRT and TPE, for example, each have fleets of limo buses that go to nearly every square inch of Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei, but making sure you’re on the right one can be a little daunting. Similarly, some cities like MNL and SGN only have taxi access to the airport and you may be at the mercy of a dishonest driver.

I’ve updated the database with Asia (third tab) and will begin to compile some graphs related to tradeoffs of cost/convenience and whether traffic starts to influence the need for an express train. Stay tuned.

Lastly, while I’ve been to about two-thirds of the airports on these lists, I’m relying on you to point out inaccuracies, suggest alternative options and add pricing updates. Feel free to comment below or edit the sheet directly.

Singapore — SIN

You could also just stay in the airport. It pretty much has anything you’d need in case of a zombie apocalypse. Jacuzzi? Check. Movie theater? Check. Butterfly sanctuary? Check.

The grandaddy of all airports (and probably no surprise to see on a list like this to a frequent flyer), Changi in Singapore makes you completely question why travel everywhere else has to be so difficult. Immigration even gives you candy! Store your luggage in the middle of T1, T2 or T3, grab some cash at an ATM and be on your way minutes after you land. The Singapore MRT green line will take you into town in about 45 minutes with a short transfer at Tanah Merah. Keep your boarding pass handy for discounts at restaurants and shops.


Grab some tea or cocktails at the Burj Dubai. Make sure you have a reservation in advance!

Because it’s so close to both the old city center and the modern Sheik Sayed Ali Road loaded to the gills with skyscrapers and malls, it’s very easy to hop into a cab and check out parts of Dubai in minutes. The airport amenities are also quite impressive, particularly if you’re flying Emirates in a premium cabin. You can also check out Deira and Dubai Mall via the spiffy Metro, which also stops right at the airport. Hotels can often be cheap in the summer months, making this a prime one day layover location.

Seoul — ICN

I don’t think people in Seoul have to do much walking…

There is a convenient train and many private bus lines that will get you into Seoul within an hour. While not the shortest transfer, it’s still pretty efficient and immigration is usually a snap and the Seoul Metro can take you nearly anywhere in the city. The airport even offers coordinated free tours of the city if your layover is over 5 hours. Most of these depart in the morning, but it seems like a great way to get out and see some of the city with zero stress.

Hong Kong — HKG

Cushy train takes you right to Kowloon and Central in 30-35 minutes.

The Airport Express Train into Central isn’t the cheapest, but it’s quite quick and stops in Kowloon on the way. From either stop it’s usually no more than a few stations on the MTR to get anywhere in the city. Grab some dim sum or take a ferry ride. There are also direct boats to Macau from the airport if you want to get some gambling and dining in while you wait for your next flight.


Kuala Lumpur—KUL

Kuala Lumpur is known as one of the greenest cities in Asia. Go get out of the terminal and grab some fresh air!

With a 28-minute convenient link into Sentral, this can be a great destination for a 23 hour layover, with a quick visit for food tourism or views from the Petronas Towers. Try some ridiculously spicy dishes or go to one of the several markets to bring back a souvenir or two for friends and family.

Runners Up:

  • Bangkok — BKK

Now with an efficient, cheap airport train, you can bypass a majority of the Bangkok traffic and take a taxi the last mile or two to your hotel. Budget about 75 minutes door to door transit time, but at most a taxi will cost you $300 baht (~$10USD)

  • Taipei—TPE
  • Shanghai (Hongqiao)—SHA
  • Seoul (Gimpo)—GMP
  • Manila—MNL
  • Abu Dhabi—AUH
  • Shanghai (Pudong)—PVG
  • Fukuoka—FUK

Cities to Avoid:

  • Tokyo (Narita)—NRT
  • Tokyo (Haneda)—HND
  • Beijng—PEK

Chinese immigration policies are pretty strict, though Americans can now quality for a 72 hour transit visa. The airport transfers to all three cities are well over an hour. NRT is simply too far from Tokyo to justify spending the roughly $55 USD roundtrip cost on the Narita Express, especially since 2 precious layover hours are eaten up by the commute. However, many people cite the village of Narita near the airport as a pretty good alternative. Might be worth checking out if you have time to kill.

26 Responses to “The Best Airports in Asia for 23-Hour Layovers”

  1. Absolutely agree with Changi Airport as your top choice. Why didn’t Mr. Snowden choose to get stuck here?

    But what is your beef is with Haneda Airport? It’s a reasonable commute to get to central Tokyo, and it’s been spruced up in recent years to become a nice place to kill a few hours as well.

  2. Why to avoid HND?
    It’s in the middle of Tokyo though…

    • It requires a number of transfers by train, but it may be more expedient than the last time I was there. What has been your experience?

    • Good point! It takes only 13 minutes by monorail to downtown Tokyo and costs less than $5. Riding on the elevated track over water and in between buildings is almost like flying and surprisingly fun.

      From the downtown terminal, Hamamatsucho, walk for 10 to 15 minutes and you will reach the ancient Zojoji temple. Then, climb up the Tokyo tower for great vistas which is right behind the temple. Roppongi is another 10 to 15 minutes walk.

  3. eponymous coward June 13, 2023 at 6:09 am Reply

    The public busses at HKG aren’t much slower than Airport Express, can take you other places than Central or Kowloon Station (the latter being way out of the way unless you’re staying at the W or Ritz Carlton) and they have WiFi. And they are inexpensive.

  4. Thoughts on PVG ? We have a 23hr layover (its exactly 23!) this summer…

  5. I submit Kota Kinabalu (BKI). One can easily route oneworld award flights from HKG to KUL (or anywhere MH flies from KUL) through the city MH has so many flights a day from BKI to KUL that one can realistically approach the 24-hour mark. There is a fixed price of U$D from the airport to the city center, and the ride takes 15-25 minutes depending upon traffic. If arriving in the early afternoon, taking in a bit of time at the (nearly empty in the afternoons if a weekday) beach and the sunset cocktails at Tanjun Aru would be lovely. If arriving in the evening and willing to wake up early, one can take a boat out to one of the islands the following day below a flight to KUL. Wonderful barbecued seafood is available at either Tanjun Aru or the market in front of the Hyatt. One might make BKI a long layover just to try the enormous tiger prawns. Also, the city center is very concentrated, so everything is a short walk or cab ride away.

  6. sorry..meant to add U$D 10 and a period after the second sentence.

  7. The town of Narita is definitely worth a visit if you don’t have time to get all the way to Tokyo. It’s just a few stops from the airport on the local train and there are interesting shops to check out. I would also recommend visiting the Naritasan Temple which is massive and lovely. Top it off with lunch or dinner at the noodle shop before heading back to the airpot. Just leave room on both ends for immigration…last time I was there the immigration line entering Japan was 2 hours long!

  8. It’s a mistake to say avoid Narita - from plane to office in less than an hour including immigration, buying a suica card, and 10 stops on a rail line is damned impossible for all of the other places. Is Tokyo itself cheap, no, but there’s plenty accessible from Narita for a 23 hour layover and it’s price-comparable to many of the others on your list.

  9. I agree that the buses from TPE to Taipei are confusing, but now you can take a shuttle to the high speed rail station in Taoyuan, and it’s a very quick ride to Taipei Main Station from there. You can also check luggage in for many airlines from the Taoyuan HSR station.

    • Ah, that’s great feedback. I’m heading back to TPE in September and will definitely check it out!

    • Shuttle from TPE to HSR Station runs every 10-15 min, but it’s a 20 min trip to Taoyuan station. From there, it’s another 25 min ride to Taipei main station. If you add up all the waiting time, plus the time it takes to purchase a HSR ticket at Taoyuan (which can be quite crowded depending on the time) the airport buses are still a better option. Overall, TPE is a pain in the butt for going into town and back. TSA is a better option.

  10. ICN is probably my favorite of these, love all of the free things inside the airport as well (though the showers, movie theaters, and nap chairs were closed on June 1 for some unlisted amount of time).

    However, I can’t believe you didn’t put MNL in the avoid list. It’s my least favorite airport and is routinely ranked one of the worst in the world. The outside is a complete zoo of people, with traffic it can take four hours to go one mile, public transit sucks, and getting back in can be a nightmare (queuing extends well outside onto the sidewalk in tropic heat). The ticket counters often aren’t staffed until two hours before departure (this happened with me for Emirates), which means if you have to check a bag, you can’t get through security and wait in a lounge. Horrible experience. I fly into Clark airport, north of Manila, whenever I can. MNL is lightyears away from ICN or HKG in terms of a layover experience.

  11. I also vote for HND! It takes only 13 minutes non-stop (!!) from the International Terminal to downtown Tokyo by monorail and costs less than $5. Riding on the elevated single track over water and in between buildings is almost like gliding and surprisingly fun.

    From the downtown terminal, Hamamatsucho, walk for 10 to 15 minutes and you will reach the ancient Zojoji temple. Then, climb up the Tokyo tower for great vistas which is right behind the temple. Roppongi is another 10 to 15 minutes walk.

  12. KHH isn’t an airport many think of but it is a great airport I’ve reviewed about half an hour to Kaohsiung City. Kaohsiung itself is great for night markets and food and the vibe is really enjoyable. One can check out Xiziwan, Love River and possibly (an hour from the city center though, but just stunning) Meinong in 12 hours and then fit a night of sleep between this. That said not many airlines fly to Kaohsiung, so a 23 hour layover there can be hard to fit.


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