A lot of travelers ask this question to me about what they could do when they have no option but to take a visa in the layover / transit country. My answer to them is simple. Why not explore the country instead of trying to avoid it. Barring a few countries which do not allow travelers to enter the transit country despite taking a Transit Visa, most of the countries allow entry into their soil with a Transit Visa. Here’s how you can plan a trip to a layover country, whenever you get an opportunity to take one.
Tripping To a Layover Country Can Be Cheaper Overall
I know you are flexing your eyebrows as you are reading this, but that’s true. Think about it! You are already set to explore your bucket list destination and on the way, you get a chance to take a trip to another one. And if it turns out to be still within your travel budget, would you like to take it or not?
I will explain more how?
Firstly, while you hop to a destination midway to a layover country while taking your trip, it straightaway cuts the cost of your flights that you might have ended up spending when you planned your trip separately. The only cost that you bear is the cost of a multiple entry Transit Visa.
Also Read:- Transit Visa – Your Questions Answered
Secondly, whenever you are planning a trip to a layover country and spend your precious hours doing nothing much at the airport, you can actually use that time to explore another destination. It might be a quick stint, but it is worth a shot.
Tip:- The average layover time at transit airports is about 13 hours.
When booking flights other than throughfare PNR via any layover country, chances are that you might have to wait for more than 8 hours straight during which time, you will only wonder how to ‘kill time’?
Given this information, you can easily use this time to explore a new place rather than staying back at the airport. Of course, it is always a choice between comfort and adventure.
How To Plan Your Trip To A Layover Country?
I have done this while my trips across SEA countries, so I will try to stick to providing a plan on that. You can customize your options accordingly, based on your travel budget and routes available for your trip.
While you plan your trip to a layover country, the flights passing via the transit country should be well spaced in time – more than 6 hours is a good option. You can book your flights in three ways:-
- Separate flights – Source to Transit Country and Transit Country to Destination
- Throughfare Flights (Option-1) – Source to Destination with an airline offering codeshare flights. (different airlines)
- Throughfare Flights (Option -2) – Source to Destination on same airline via transit country.
Typically, the flights traveling from India to Bali have a hop time of minimum 9 hours. I am taking a situation where the transit time is about 15hrs for both onward and return flights with Transit at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
You can quickly escape into the country from the arrival gates with a Transit Pass. Malaysian Embassy allows a Transit Pass of up to 5 Days (120 hrs) and takes typically a processing time of two hours. The Transit Pass is only issued at the KLIA or the LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) in Kuala Lumpur. Typically, the Transit Pass will cost you about $20 (INR 1400/-).
You can briefly follow these steps while you plan your trip to a layover country, although these are not sacrosanct but can help you as a guideline.
- Check Transit Visa Rules first- Cost of Transit Visa and period of transit available.
- Prepare a list of ‘Places To Visit’ in the Transit Country.
- Book your flights – Throughfare (Option-2) as far as possible with minimum transit gap of 15 hrs.
- Check out at the Transit Terminal Arrivals and head for exploring the Transit City.
- Make it back to the Airport minimum 3 hrs before the next flight departure.
- Board next onward flight.
Why You Should Plan A Trip To A Layover Country More Often?
Every country will have its own set of rules for issue of Transit Visa and although the subject is almost trivial, yet it is unavoidable and can sometimes come hugely on a travelers pocket, especially when ignorant.
Some countries for eg. London do not allow its travelers to go out to visit the country, even after charging for Transit Visa and travelers will be usually restrained at the Heathrow Airport Terminal. (Considering the country’s past, this is the best you can expect from them..).
If you can transit through another country instead that is not punishing to its passengers, consider doing that instead, even if it adds a few extra hours to your trip.
The point here is simple – In most cases, taking a Transit Visa will be mandatory and unavoidable. When you are paying for it, plan on exploring the country instead rather than plan to visit it separately later.
Wherever possible, when the Transit Visa is unavoidable, you can also try to change the hop route if the budget is not beyond the cost of Transit Visa and you do not want to waste time in between.
Here’s a snapshot giving a simple example how Transit Visa rules can get tricky.
You can see clearly how the airport will force you out of the terminal gates if you take a flight other than Air Asia while transiting through Kuala Lumpur Airport.
If you have a single PNR / Throughfare Flight Ticket with Air Asia up to Bali, you will not need a Transit Visa in Malaysia. That’s one way to avoid buying one, but, if the price is not big enough, you can always take a chance to hop another country along the way..
There is always an opportunity in your discomfort to turn to your advantage.
Smart travelers consider a discomfort as an opportunity that can be used to the best of their advantage. That’s what travel is all about! Being flexible right!
You can consider buying flights in ‘breakup mode’ with multiple airlines and without throughflight PNR instead. If you are on a 24 hour trip, you can explore the hop country and return to the airport for your next flight after spending the whole day in the transit country. Now, that is what I would call turning a discomfort into advantage.
To conclude, I can say that,
- Taking a Transit Visa can be turned to your advantage if you plan it well. Use it as an opportunity instead.
- If you are planning to hop the layover country, try keeping a time of about 15-24 hrs in hand. This lets you to save on hotels at the transit country.
- If getting a Transit Visa still does not allow you to visit the Transit Country, consider changing the flight route, instead. Do not pay a country that doesn’t know how to return the favour after taking money.
- Taking a transit visa allows you to save money on flights for planning separately to visit the transit country later, so it can be a smarter choice at times.
- Why not add to the journey with two countries instead of one, if the opportunity cost is just the price of a Transit Visa?