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.

Only some airlines have self check-in at the airport kiosks at #lima #airport

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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.

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— Laura Rowley

Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.


  1. Hi Laura, appreciate your thoughts here on overnight in Lima. I’ll be doing this in May with a family of four (little ones in tow). We get in at 12:15AM and fly to Cusco at 5:20AM on Avianca.

    So just to understand the procedure, when we land, we’ll be required to immediately go through customs, and then would need to walk over to the domestic terminal? I’m told that our bags would be transferred to Avianca due to having booked it together, so we might just have to do check-in at that point. In terms of sleeping/resting near the food court, is that near the domestic gates?

    1. Hi! Yes, when we went through, we had to immediately go through customs. We flew in on JetBlue into Lima’s international terminal, then out on StarPeru from the domestic terminal. The two terminals were not connected. Double check your ticket information, or contact your airlines, to find out your arriving/departing terminals for each flight. Either way I think you’ll have to go through customs/immigration in Lima (and leave security) because the Cuzco airport is very small and doesn’t have those facilities. And yes there is a large food court rest/area upstairs right outside security for domestic departures. If you’re looking for a midnight snack, I’d recommend Pardo’s Chicken. It’s a local Peruvian fastfood chain that’s mostly situated in Lima, and has tasty fried chicken, iconic giant-kerneled Cuzco corn, and Inca Kola (a classic Peruvian cola since 1935, unlike CocaCola, it’s yellow!). Hope this was helpful. Have a great trip!

      1. Thanks Jim. So the domestic terminal was closed, so that’s why you all had to wait outside at the food court before heading in? I was hoping we could find some comfortable seats at the gate, but I don’t know if that’s an option.

      2. The domestic terminal was actually open; but our airline wasn’t a 24 hour airline so we had to wait until 5am when someone from our airline could check us in and print security documents. Some of the domestic airlines offer a self-checkin kiosk, or a remote checkin 24 hours early online, but only the larger carriers. And ours did not. So we just had to wait until we had an actual person working at the counter.

  2. Hi Laura, so if we already have our tickets, then it sounds like we should be able to go to the gate, where there should be some seats to rest on. We’ve got little kids with us, so are trying to be prepared.

    1. Hi Paul! What a fun trip for your family! Proof of purchase of a ticket is not enough to get through security. You will need to have a boarding pass. Whether or not you’ll be able to get one in advance really depends on your airline. I’d give them a call to find out the specifics. Many of the smaller airlines do not offer self check-in at a kiosk, or advanced check-in online. If that’s the case, you’ll need to check in in person at the airport to get security document/boarding pass. But so long as you have a boarding pass, you should be able to get through security at any time because security is 24 hours.

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