Can I Leave The Airport While In Transit? FAQ Fridays

Transcription

Hello and welcome to another edition of Travelstart’s FAQ Friday with me, Nick Paul. This week we are attempting to answer the question: Can I leave the airport while in transit?

Background on this topic

Well that depends on where you are travelling by and what passport you are travelling on. Many countries that usually require South Africans to have a visa for entry don’t require us to have a visa for transit. But to be clear here – just because you are allowed to transit visa free doesn’t mean that you are allowed to enter the country without a visa while in transit. Most countries will require you to stay within the transit area while in transit. Let’s have a look at some of the popular routes.

Via Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi

These are very popular routes for South Africans to travel and while you don’t need a transit visa to go via these airports for less than 24 hours, you won’t be allowed to leave the airport without a valid entry visa.

Via Continental Europe

The continental portion of the EU, that’s the part excluding the British Isles, usually let’s passengers transit via a single airport provided they are continuing on to their destination within the next 24 hours and provided that the airport doesn’t close overnight if they are in overnight transit – most of the major airports don’t close overnight. If you hold a valid multiple-entry Schengen visa, you will be allowed to leave the airport provided that you have enough time and if you don’t, you cannot leave the transit area.

Via Singapore and Hong Kong

Here, you don’t need a visa to enter the country. So as long as you have enough time to get out and make it back in time for your flight, you’ll be okay to leave the airport. This is typical for any country where you don’t need a visa for entry.

Via the UK

Here you are technically not allowed to even transit the country without a valid transit visa – with some exceptions which we have covered in previous videos. If you have been allowed into the airport for the purpose of transit, you have to stay within the transit area except if you need to change airports en route to the USA or Canada and hold valid visas for those destinations. That being said, I have heard of a few instances where passengers in transit have been granted permission by the immigration officials to leave the airport for a few hours. As far as I am aware though, this is at the discretion of the individual official concerned.

In summary

So, in summary, if you need a visa to enter the country you are transiting, even if you are only there to transit and not stay overnight, you will need a visa to leave the airport. If you don’t require a visa to enter the country you are transiting, you will be allowed to leave the airport visa free provided you have enough time.

That’s it from me for this week on FAQ Friday. If you’ve got any travel-related questions, please ask them in the “comments” below and please remember to subscribe to our channel. Thanks!

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hello
    I am traveling back from the US arriving in Frankfurt at 10:15am Flight leaves Frankfurt for Cape Town at 22:15pm.
    My daughter lives in Germany , I would love to see her for a few hours or more before heading home,What do you suggest I need to see her?
    Gina

    • Hi Gina,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you flying on a South African passport and wish to pass through immigration and go into Frankfurt, you will need to apply for a tourist visa.

      Please contact the German Embassy or official visa handling agency. They will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  2. Hi there,

    I am traveling from Johannesburg to San Francisco in June and have a long layover (15 hours) in Paris. Will I be able to leave the airport and do some sightseeing? If so, what do I need to do this? Thanks

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch. You would need to apply for a tourist visa should you wish to leave the airport as you would need to pass through immigrations.

  3. Hello,

    I am a Zimbabwean national living in South Africa. I will be flying Qatar transiting in Doha. Do I need a transit visa?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid we do not specialise in visa related queries for foreign passport holders. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise if a visa or transit visa is required and if so what the cost would be, correct procedures to follow and what documentation will be required.

  4. Hello. I’m a Nigerian. I live and work in Russia. I’m planning to visit Lagos, Nigeria in a few months. I bought a Lufthansa return ticket. (St petersburg – frankfurt – lagos). And then (Lagos – Frankfurt – St petersburg) 2 weeks later. My stopover duration is about 3 hours before the connecting flight. Please, do I need a transit visa?

    • Hi Charles,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      I’m afraid we do not specialise with visa related queries. For this you will need to contact the Embassy direct.

      They will advise if you require a transit visa or not. And if so the correct procedures to follow when applying for the visa, what documents are required and the cost.

  5. Hi
    I am indian citizen traveling from india to Ukraine (have temporary Ukrainian citizenship) through Rome have 13 hrs stay in Rome Italy, do i need a visa to out out for that time

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid we do not specialise in visa related queries for foreign passport holders. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise if a visa is required and if so what the cost would be, correct procedures to follow and what documentation will be required.

  6. Good day,

    I am travelling from Mauritius to Zimbabwe with a 3 hour layover in Johannesburg. I have a Canadian passport. Will I be allowed to leave the airport during my layover period?

    • Hi Rick,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid we do not specialise in visa related queries for foreign passport holders. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise if a visa or transit visa is required and if so what the cost would be, correct procedures to follow and what documentation will be required.

  7. Is transit visa required for nigerian in egypt enroute istanbul? Can I get transit visa on arrival for long layover?

    • Hi Victor,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid we do not specialise in visa related queries for foreign passport holders. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise if a visa or transit visa is required and if so what the cost would be, correct procedures to follow and what documentation will be required.

  8. Hello

    My family and i are travelling to Europe and we have a lay over at heathrow airport for less than 2 hours. We do have shengen visa’s but are unclear as to us requiring a transit visa as we do not wish to leave heathrow airport. Please adise urgently.

    Regards
    Last Barb

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      The UK is not part of the Schengen states. If passengers are travelling to Europe on a South African passport and are transiting through the UK, they will need to apply for a UK transit visa.

  9. I need urgent information to know whether a person going to Madrid from Lagos going through Air Marok or Emirate Airline needs a transit visa

    • Hi Adeyemi,

      Please please contact the Embassy or official agency direct with any visa related queries.

      They will be able to provide you with the most up to date information if a visa / transit visa is required, the correct procedures to follow when applying and the cost involved.

  10. Hi, I am an Indian citizen travelling from US to India. Have a 14hrs layover in London. Can I travel and explore london during this time without a transit visa?

    • HI there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      No this is not possible. If you wanting to leave the airport / pass through immigration you need to have a tourist visa.

      Please contact the Embassy as they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information on any visa query.

  11. Holding an Indian airport with Schengen visa, can i travel via Abu Dhabi with no Abu Dhabi visa… flight overlay is 8 hours! also if i can go out of airport & visit the country?

    • Hi Tarun

      I’m afraid we do not specialise in visa related queries for foreign passport holders. The UAE is not part of the Schengen States so a Schengen visa will not cover one when transiting or visiting the UAE. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to advise if a visa or transit visa is required and if so what the cost would be, correct procedures to follow and what documentation will be required.

  12. With a view towards our prospective journey to Canada from South Africa, and the 10hour delay at Heathrow Airport, it would be necessary for me to require and obtain written permission in advance to present to the Border Control to leave the airport for an allotted few hours in order to make an understandable and definite arrangement with my elderly 86 year old relative and her family who reside in London, to visit her for a short period during our stopover, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Immigration and Border Control Division of the United Kingdom Authorities and Government.
    With all travel documents in place could you advise the British Consulate email address that would receive and process this request in writing for me, in preference that on the off-chance I might or not be allowed through by the Border Control officials by their assessments.
    Thanking you in advance for your attention,
    Yours Faithfully,
    Margaret Joy Gordon.

    • Hi Margaret,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you wish to do a tour around London while in transit to my knowledge you would need to apply for a tourist visa as you will be passing through immigration.

      You welcome to contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct. As they specialise in this area and grant the visa’s, They will be able to advise on what documents would be required, the correct procedure to follow and the cost involved.

      British High Commission (Pry)
      Physical Address : 255 Hill Street, Arcadia, Pretoria, 0028
      Tel No : 012 421 7500

      or

      UK Visa & Immigration – International Enquiry Service
      Tel No : 021 300 3758 or 00 44 2034 811 736
      Web Address : https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration
      *Please note: This is a paid service, at a cost per minute

  13. hello l am travel to antigua via milan italy l am citizen of south africa l have south africa passport can you please tell do l need a transit visa in milan italy how many hours can l transit in milan italy

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      We are not able to advise as one needs to see the full route of the ticket. If one is passing through 2 or more Schengen states they would need a transit visa.

      Please contact the Embassy direct as they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  14. Hi,
    We are travelling to Italy via Istanbul. On the way back, there is a 12 hour layover. We have been to Istanbul before and purchased the visa on arrival. We would like to go into Istanbul and explore during the 12 hours. Would you recommend we get a visa prior to arriving in Istanbul? Or just on arrival?

    • Hi Rozanne,

      I would also recommend applying for a visa prior to arriving.

      However I do recommend you contact the Embassy direct. They will be able to provide you with the most up to date information as they specialise in this area.

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