Airports

Abu Dhabi International Airport - United Arab Emirates

Airport code: AUH
Last visited: February 2012

This is the home of Etihad Airlines. There are three terminals - terminal 1 was built in 1982, terminal 2 was built in 2005, terminal 3 was built in 2009. 

My visit to this airport was solely as an international transfer, so my impressions are only of what I saw inside. Terminal 3 was very easy to find your way around, with minimal duty free stores to get in your way, and has a smoking room. There was nothing to see out the windows except sand!

Adelaide International Airport - South Australia

Airport code: ADL
Transportation: Car, public bus, or taxi
Last visited: May 2013

In my opinion, this is the best airport in Australia. A single terminal which is bright, open, and airy. If you are travelling, its extremely easy to check in. If you are meeting someone, or seeing them off, you can go right to the gate with them with no trouble. Always a pleasure to fly in and out of Adelaide.

Customs and security at Adelaide airport are no drama. 

Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport - Netherlands

Airport code: AMS
Website: www.schiphol.nl
Transportation: Car, public bus, taxi or train to Amsterdam
Last visited: 2009

One of Europe's biggest airports, and certainly one of the best laid out. No matter what gate you are going to or coming from, its an easy walk to and from the central plaza. The train station is underground at the plaza, and its only 15 minutes by train to Amsterdam. There are smoking rooms near the food areas in the airport.

Customs and security at Schiphol airport are no drama.

Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Roissy) - Paris, France

Airport code: CDG
Transportation: Car, public bus (Roissybus), taxi or train (RER) to Paris. There is also a TGV station with connections to cities other than Paris.
Last visited: May 2013

CDG Airport Terminal 1 travellator through a tube to the gates. Photo copyright 2013 Michael C. Bouy
CDG Airport Terminal 1 travellator through a tube to the gates.
Photo copyright 2013 Michael C. Bouy
I love Terminal 1 with its 1970s "space odyssey" feel. The central building is circular and 10 stories high, surrounded by seven satellite buildings, each with six gates. To get from the central building to one of the satellite buildings, you take a travellator through an underground tube. A memorable experience!

Terminal 2 is vast and challenging to get around, but still rather nice.

We once took a late night flight to Charles de Gaulle Airport, arriving around midnight. As he drove us into the city, the taxi driver kept falling asleep and weaving across the freeway. We kept shouting at him "Monsieur! Wake up! Monsieur!"

On another trip, a taxi driver taking us to the airport insisted on charging us an additional fee for each piece of luggage. When booking, we had asked what the fare would be, and we had only enough cash for our fare, and not the luggage fee, but the taxi driver refused to let us go until one of us went inside the airport, withdrew some additional cash and paid his luggage fee. Be prepared!

On arriving at CDG you can buy a 5-day Visite Railpass for about €55 which gives you unlimited rail travel on the Metro or the RER regional trains across all travel zones in Paris, whether you want to visit Versailles or Parc de Sceaux. Excellent value! 

Copenhagen International Airport (Kastrup) - Denmark

Airport code: CPH
Website: www.cph.dk
Transportation: Car, public bus, taxi or train to Copenhagen or Malmo, Sweden
Last visited: 2009

One of my favourite airports - light, airy, with lots of Scandinavian wood. Easy to get around. In the centre of the main entry there is a train ticket booth, then you take an escalator downstairs to catch a train either to Copenhagen or across the Baltic Sea to Malmo, Sweden.

The train to Malmo is worth a trip itself. The Oresund Bridge starts as a 4 km tunnel under the sea from the airport, then rises onto an artificial island, and then spans 8 km across the sea to Sweden. A freeway runs on the top deck, with the trains running on the deck beneath. Very spectacular!

Customs and security at Copenhagen airport are no drama. Most people just flash their EU passport to the customs guard and walk through. The guards seem to be annoyed when I show them my non-EU passport, forcing them to take their stamp and pad out of the drawer.

Dhaka International Airport (Shah Jalal, formerly Zia) - Bangladesh

Airport code: DAC
Website: www.shahjalalairport.com
Transportation: Car, taxi, hotel bus (public bus is not recommended). The airport train station is across the road, but good luck crossing the road!
Last visited: 2012

What can I say? The airport itself is not bad, fairly easy to get around and check in. Getting to or from the airport can be nightmarish, especially at night during rush hour. The airport was originally built 20 miles north of Dhaka, but is now engulfed by the city. There is evidence (pillars, sections of road) of an attempt to build a new above-ground freeway to the airport, but don't hold your breath.

Construction of the terminal started in 1966, but was then put on hold during the war for independence from Pakistan in 1971, and was finally completed it 1980. It looks its age.

When you arrive, its best to have your hotel bus meet you. When you go out to the vehicle you'll see hundreds of people staring at you through the fence.

At departure, you'll find a swarm of officially dressed "aides" who will offer to help you fill out your departure card, then ask for a fee.

Customs and security at Dhaka airport are a breeze.

Doha International Airport - Qatar

Airport code: DOH
Website: www.dohaairport.com
Last visited: 2012

This is the home of Qatar Airlines. My visit to this airport was solely as an international transfer, so my impressions are only of what I saw - which was overcrowded and uncomfortable. There is a smoking room.

At the time of writing, airplanes do not go to gates at the terminal, but park far out on the tarmac and you climb down the stairs and onto buses that then carry the passengers to the terminal (about a 20 minute ride).

A new airport terminal has been under construction since 2006, and is supposed to be opened next year.

An unpleasant aspect is the men's toilets. They are adjacent to the Islamic prayer room, and by custom the men must wash their feet before entering the prayer room. So what do they do? They have shower hoses in each toilet cubicle, and the toilet seats are covered with dirty shoe prints and the floor is soaking wet. Surely there must be a more hygenic way to wash their feet?

Dubai International Airport - United Arab Emirates

Airport code: DXB
Website: www.dubaiairport.com
Last visited: 2012

This is the home of Emirates Airlines. Our visit to this airport was planned only to be an international transfer, but our flight arrived late and we missed our connection, so we got to leave the airport for a free overnight hotel stay.

When you hear about and see photos of all the amazing, spectacular construction projects in Dubai, you expect the airport to also be spectacular. Rather disappointed to say that it is not. Terminals 1 (C gates) and 3 (B gates) are connected and are about 1 mile long, with some newer sections and some older sections, but are nothing special. They are crowded with shopping kiosks running down the centre of the walkways, blocking and impeding all the thousands of people who are trying to find their way around. Simply maddening. Want a simple way to improve the airport? Remove all the kiosks! There is a smoking room in the B gates - but no exhaust fan, so the room is a cloud of smoke and everytime the door opens the smoke pours into the terminal.

Customs and security at Dubai airport were no drama.

Frankfurt International Airport - Germany

Airport code: FRA
Website: www.frankfurt-airport.com
Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 2009

Frankfurt airport is vast, but easy to get around. I've always travelled to / from the airport by train, which only takes 10 minutes from Frankfurt Central station. Once at Frankfurt Central station, I can highly recommend The Pure hotel just around the corner. Fantastic accommodation, great buffet breakfast, good price.

Customs and security at Frankfurt airport are no drama.

London Heathrow International Airport - UK

Airport code: LHR
Website: www.heathrowairport.com
Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 2010

Minimise your expectations when you get to Heathrow. The busiest two-runway airport in the world by international passenger numbers, it has five terminals and sprawls over 12 square kilometers. The biggest problem you will encounter is the passport check at Border Control. I've fumed in line for 1/1/2 hours at Terminal 3 waiting to get through, while British and EU passengers were given first priority. Once you are through, collecting your luggage and going through customs is a breeze.

Always give yourself at least 2 hours when departing Heathrow. You need to arrive 2 hours early to go through check-in, security scanning, passport check, and - love it - shoe scanning. Yes, believe it or not, the last stop between you and duty-free is a shoe scanner. It would be much easier if they had enough places for people to sit and put their shoes back on. Terminal 3 check-in is cramped and challenging to wade through on a busy day, but Terminal 5 is a big improvement if you are lucky enough to depart from there.

Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are connected via subterranean walkways. You can take the Heathrow Express train at no cost to reach Terminals 4 and 5.

There are two trains to get you to and from London. The Heathrow Express will take you into London Euston Station in 15 minutes at a cost of £15 each way. A cheaper option is to take the London Underground (Tube). Located near Terminal 1 in the subterranean walkways, you need to buy an Oyster card for £5, then top it up with credit. The Oyster card is the one-ticket all-transport solution for London trains, underground and buses, and you swipe it when you enter and exit a train station. The Oyster system then automatically calculates your fare and deducts it from your credit. You'll need at least £5 credit on the Oyster card to get from Heathrow to London. The Picadilly Line runs from Heathrow through central London and up into Cockfosters in north London. Journey time is at least 50 minutes from Heathrow to Picadilly Circus.

Taking a taxi will cost you up to £80 from Heathrow to central London. Another low-cost option is the Hotel Hoppa bus run by National Express. For £5 the bus will take you and your luggage to or from a long list of hotels - as long as you have plenty of time to drive past every single hotel!

JFK International Airport - New York City, USA

Airport code: JFK
Website: www.jfkiat.com
Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 2010

Keflavik International Airport - Reykjavik, Iceland

Airport code: KEF
Website: www.kefairport.is/english/
Transportation: Car, bus, taxi
Last visited: 2010

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) - Malaysia

Airport code: KUL
Website: www.klia.com.my
Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: May 2013

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is fairly new and quite beautiful. The parking garage next to the terminal is draped in vines, and the terminal has one floor dedicated to a food court, as well as other food outlets scattered among the shops.

The main terminal building is quite vast, but most flights depart from the satellite terminal which is reached via an automated shuttle train that runs back and forth every few minutes.

An airport taxi to or from Kuala Lumpur is an hour's drive on fantastic freeways through forested countryside. The best option is to either buy a pre-paid taxi voucher to KL for 60RM at the airport arrivals area (after you go through customs) or from your hotel concierge to the airport for 70RM. As with many third-world airports, you'll find lots of taxi touts after you pass through arrivals, and you can wave your pre-paid taxi voucher at them to ward them off.

Manchester International Airport - UK

Airport code: MAN

Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: May 2013

Manchester Airport now has three terminals but is still easy to get around. The local train station is easily accessed via pedestrian bridge. As with most airports nowadays, only passengers can go to the gates, so you have to see your loved ones off from the busy check-in area. Security at Manchester is not the hassle it is at many airports, which is a pleasant change.

Given a choice between going to Heathrow or Manchester airports, I much prefer Manchester (yes, I know, Manchester is 2 hours from London by train).

If you are travelling to or from Liverpool, a train will cost you £16 or a taxi can be had at a flat rate of £40.

Melbourne International Airport (Tullamarine) - Australia

Airport code: MEL
Website:  www.melbourneairport.com.au
Transportation: Car, bus and taxi
Last visited: 2012

Melbourne Airport used to be so easy and such a pleasure to travel internationally. The latest changes to the international terminal have made it rather daunting. You now need to give yourself three hours - that means get to the airport 3 hours early - to make sure you have plenty of time to check in, go through security, then go through passport control.

The new international departure lounge is awful - black and dark, just like the foyer of Melbourne's Crown Casino. I don't know why Melbourne thinks this is stylish.

Coming into Melbourne is stunning, the way the aircraft descends over the eucalyptus trees and dry, brown pastures always puts a lump in my throat. The border security staff are usually quite friendly and say "Welcome home" to those with Aussie passports. After picking up your baggage, you then have to go through customs. Australia has some of the toughest airport customs checks in the world - or at least it used to. Formerly, they put almost every piece of arriving luggage through x-ray scanners. This time, I indicated we had some foods to declare and they lined us up with a group of other people, and they ran a dog along the line, then we were free to go. What? They used to scrutinise in person everything you declared!

Unfortunately, there is no train service to Melbourne Airport. The powers that be decided it was not cost-effective, even though they built a freeway that essentially terminates at the airport.

Fortunately, there is now a SkyBus that will sell you a ticket at a kiosk on the kerb outside the arrivals area. For only $17, the SkyBus will take you directly to Southern Cross Station (formerly called Spencer Street Station) in the heart of the city, where you can take a train or taxi or tram anywhere. The SkyBus is fast and cheaper than a taxi - be aware that taxi fare to the city will cost you at least $60 or more.

Montreal Pierre Trudeau International Airport - Canada

Airport code: YUL
Website: www.admtl.com
Transportation: Car, bus and taxi
Last visited: 2008

Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport - Russia

Airport code: SVO
Website: www.svo.aero/en/
Transportation: Car, bus and taxi
Last visited: 2003

Rome Fiumicino International Airport (Leonardo da Vinci) - Italy

Airport code: FCO
Website: www.adr.it/web/aeroporti-di-roma-en-/
Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 1999

Salt Lake City International Airport - Utah, USA

Airport code: SLC
Website: www.slcairport.com
Transportation: Car, bus and taxi
Last visited: 2010

Once upon a time, air travel in the USA was easy and exciting . I remember my first visit to SLC airport as a youngster and was fascinated by the marble mosaic of the world on the floor of the check-in hall. Little did I know that one day I would see much of that world. At that time, anyone could go to the gates to see off or greet people, and as a teenager we would sometimes go there to hang out and look around and watch people come and go and use the white paging telephone to ask the operator to page "Chia Pet" or other humorous names.

Now, with all the post 9/11 security, Salt Lake City airport is a nightmare. Family can only greet you at the baggage area. They can only see you off at the entrance, because you must then join a long, lengthy 2 hour queue to present your tickets and be searched, scanned, x-rayed and examined before you can go to the gates. Make sure you allow yourself 3 hours to check in and pass through extreme security.

Seoul Incheon International Airport - Korea

Airport code: ICN
Website: www.airport.kr/eng/
Gound Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 2008

I like this airport - big, open, modern, accessible and friendly. It was opened in 2001, and has been consistently rated as one of the best airports in the world. The main concourse was extended in 2008 with a new passenger concourse about 800 meters away, connected via an underground automatic shuttle train.

The airport is built on an artificial island just off the coast of Incheon, which is where General Douglas MacArthur landed his invasion forces in September 1950 to retake Seoul after it had been captured by the North Koreans.

The first time I visited, an airport bus took me into Seoul, which is a long 48km (30 mile) journey via freeway. It was December, and I was on my way from England to Australia and only had a light jacket (a mistake). The landscape from the airport to the city was barren with very little vegetation (bushes, trees or grass) to be seen. I spent the night and next day in Seoul and explored as much as I could in sub-freezing weather with insufficient clothing. The city is like a modern metropolis super-imposed on an ancient village, with narrow alleys and roads and traditional housing clustered behind modern buildings on wide boulevards. It would be well worth exploring further.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport - China

Airport code: PVG
Website: www.shanghaiairport.com/en/index.jsp
Ground Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 2006

Shanghai Pudong airport is new and modern, built in 1999. The interior is spacious and airy, and security and customs officers are friendly. Its located about 30km from the city centre, on the newly developed Pudong peninsula across the Huanpo River from the city of Shanghai.

In 2004, the world's first commercial high-speed magnetic levitation (maglev) train began operating from the airport to Shanghai. As you leave the airport baggage area, you will be hounded by taxi drivers who want to take you to the city at a premium price, and they will tell you that the "Maglev is not operating today". Don't believe them. Follow the signs and take the escalator to the maglev train for the ride of your life - travelling 430 kilometers per hour (270 mph)! across the countryside. Unfortunately the trip is too short - its only 8 minutes to Longyang Road Metro Station, where you can transfer to an underground train on Metro Line 7 to the Shanghai city centre.

Alternatively, you can take the Shanghai Metro Line 2 from Pudong airport to Longyang Road Metro Station, then transfer to Metro Line 7 to the city centre. Its cheap - about 3 RMB - but not as exciting and it takes an hour to get there.

Singapore Changi Airport - Singapore

Airport code: SIN
Website: www.changiairport.com
Ground Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 2010

Sydney International Airport (Kingsford Smith) - Australia

Airport code: SYD
Website: www.sydneyairport.com.au
Ground Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: May 2013

Sydney Airport is big and bustling, but still easy to get around. One of the best things to come of the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney was the completion of an underground train line to the domestic terminal and the international terminal. It is now only 15 minutes by rail from the airport to the Sydney Central Railway Station - but the price is a steep $16 per person one way. If there are two people or more travelling, a better option may be a taxi, which will cost you $40 (including the airport taxi surcharge) to the city.

Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport - Israel

Airport code: TLV
Website: www.iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Airports/BenGurion/
Ground Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 1999

The first thing you need to know before flying to Israel is that after you have booked a ticket into Tel Aviv, the Mossad (Israeli Secret Service) immediately conduct background checks and know everything they can about every person flying into the country. Our flight was from Rome Fiumicino to Tel Aviv, and as we were standing in line at the check-in counter at Fiumicino we were approached by a person in uniform who had a clipboard with every passenger's details. They asked us a few cursory questions, which indicated that they knew a fair bit about us, then put stickers on our luggage and moved on to the next person in the queue.

We had no dramas arriving in Tel Aviv, where we were greeted by friends and stayed with them in Jerusalem for a few days.

Leaving Tel Aviv was another story. Our flight was at 7am, and our hosts advised us to leave for the airport at 3am, even though it was only a 1 hour drive. I said there was no way I was going to arrive at the airport three hours early. They said we had to, so I complied. We arrived at Ben Gurion Airport at 4am and stood in a relatively short queue for security screening and watched for more than two hours as the Shin Bet (internal security) interrogated each departing passenger. If they had even slightly swarthy skin, their suitcases were opened and completely pulled apart before they were allowed to continue to the check-in desk. Finally after more than 2 hours our turn came, we handed over our passports and tickets, and were asked where we went, where we stayed, who we met and what we did while in Israel. I was astounded - we simply wanted to leave. Fortunately, our bags were not ransacked, and we were able to continue through to the check-in desk and on to the boarding gate.

Tokyo Narita International Airport - Japan

Airport code: NRT
Website: www.narita-airport.jp/en/
Ground Transportation: Car, bus, taxi and train
Last visited: 2007


Toronto Pearson International Airport - Canada

Airport code: YYZ
Website: www.torontopearson.com
Ground Transportation: Car, bus and taxi
Last visited: 2011