No matter what time of day or night, the food court outside security at the Lima airport is always hopping with travelers getting a bite to eat and sometimes a quick nap.
There’s an art to sleeping in airports. I’ve done it my fair share of times whether because of missed connections, bad weather, or not making a standby list. Some airports make it really easy, like with Munich’s NapCabs. But even in an airport without sleeping amenities, it can be done. I sometimes even plan on it in advance, like on my recent trip to Peru. Luckily staying the night in Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima was even easier and safer than my research led me to believe.
My friend Colina and I were scheduled to get into Lima airport near midnight on one airline, then leave for Cusco first thing the following morning on a separate carrier. We had about six hours in between our flights. We looked into getting a hotel, but realized we’d end up spending just as much time in transit as we would getting rest. Plus all the hotels nearby were prohibitively expensive. So we decided in advance to stay the night at the airport.
Because we were arriving internationally, we were required to go through customs immediately and leave the secured area of the airport. We tried to immediately go through security again into the domestic travel area, but couldn’t because even though the airport is open 24 hours a day, our particular airline was not. They didn’t have self-check in so we couldn’t get past security until they opened their ticketing window at 5 am.
As a result, we spent the night on the ground and ended up getting about an of sleep, with each of us taking turns keeping watch over the bags. We probably could have slept more, but we spent some time exploring the airport, eating food, catching up, and contending with jet lag.
In the past I’d only ever stayed the night in airports post-security, so I was a little concerned that it might by a bit sketchy for two women to stay in an unsecured public area in the middle of the night. But I read online about a food court that travelers hang out at all night long that seemed alright. So we decided to give it a shot and it paid off.
Where to hang out while waiting: The main place travelers hang out on long connections is the food court. It’s outside security and open to the public all night long. But it’s clean, filled with local and international tourists, and feels safe.
How to get there: After leaving customs and entering the unsecured area of the airport, look for escalators going upstairs. Walk past the baggage claim offices towards a shopping area with a food court at its center.
When it’s open. Anytime. Like literally, it’s open all night long. At one point around 3 am, cleaning crews began stacking chairs and I thought we might get kicked out. But all they did was close up about a quarter of it, clean it, then reopen it again before going onto the next session.
Where to sleep: Any of the hallways leading off the food court. The closer you are to the food court, the noiserer it is. But it’s also safer because there are more people hanging out. Plus the food court as far in from the street you can get outside security, which means fewer mosquitos.
What it sounds like: It’s pretty noisy. Lima is a 24 hour airport and even at 2 am there will be a constant flow of people walking through the hallways. You’ll hear a gaggle of snores, languages, high heels walking, and of course, roller bags rolling. But oddly for an airport, there were very few announcements over the intercom.
Tips for sleeping in an airport: Works best in a team where one person stays awake to watch bags, but I also saw solo travelers with less luggage do it too. It’s easier to keep a single backpack under watch while asleep than it is to have multiple pieces of luggage; one more reason to travel light. If you’re by yourself, use your backpack as a pillow and don’t leave anything in your pockets. Instead wear any valuables (like your passport, credit cards, etc) in a money belt under your clothes. In short, just like in any city and/or public space be smart and you’ll be okay.