At the Airport: Work Like a Digital Nomad

Digital nomad checking in at airport

With the world becoming ever more connected, it’s no longer necessary to be in an office to work. Many people who travel will often find themselves with downtime at airports when they want or need to get out their laptop and work, or perhaps simply reply to emails on a tablet or at airport

Where to Work?

Airports are by their nature busy, noisy places. If you are working, it’s likely you’ll want to find somewhere as quiet as possible.

One solution is to go through security as early as possible and find an empty gate to work in - it’s calm, quiet and free. Depending on the layout of the airport, you might have to experiment a little to find one where the public Wi-Fi is reliable. You also need to make sure you don’t get too engrossed and miss your flight call!

Another option, as ex-flight attendant and travel blogger Carrie Bradley suggests: ‘If you have time, consider checking in any bags and then seeking out an airport hotel bar or lobby to work in – it will almost always be quieter than the main concourse. For example, at Heathrow the Sofitel is a five-minute walk from Terminal Five and the Hilton is attached to Terminal Four. At most airports you’ll find hotels on site or very nearby where you can work in peace for the price of a coffee.’

Similarly, at Changi Airport in Singapore, you’ll find the Crowne Plaza right next to T3, and the Hyatt Regency is just a short walk from LAX.

Many airports, including Sydney and Amsterdam, have plenty of areas with desk space and charging points. One of the best airports to work at is Changi in Singapore, where Wi-Fi is free for three hours (longer if you have a local number and install the iChangi app) and even if you don’t have your mobile device with you it’s not a problem – there are over 500 internet stations throughout the airport.

Airport Lounges Are for Everyone

Did you know that you can enter many business lounges even if you areflying economy? Depending on the airport, lounge access can be purchased starting between 25 and 50€. Most airport lounges offer free food, drinks and Wi-Fi – so you may actually end up spending less sitting in a lounge than youwould going to a café and buying your own drinks and snacks.

Sarah Arnold, a freelance writer said: ‘I’ve come to learn that if I have a long enough layover in an airport, I’ll be spending money on food anyway. So I figure I may as well spend about the same as I’d spend at a café on a nice quiet lounge munching on free snacks and watching planes take off while manically typing.’

Here are some examples of airport lounges you can access in Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Changi, Los Angeles International and Dubai International.

If you book a lounge in advance or via a third party website such as LoungeBuddy or Priority Pass, you can often save money on the lounge entrance fee. You can find out from online reviews before you fly what facilities each lounge offers and whether entrance is likely to be worth your while. If you are a very frequent traveler and you find this way of working suits you, it might even be worth considering buying an annual pass.

What to Take?

Edward Woodcock is co-founder of an insurance company and spends a lot of time working on the move. He says: ‘I’ll often clip my bag to the bench by me with a buckle - every traveler should get one ‘cause they are lifesavers - if I know I’m going to be engrossed in my work so I know no one can walk off with it! I’ll always pick somewhere to sit with plug sockets so that my laptop still has some charge when I get on the plane. Favourite spots include the Lamp Bear at Doha airport where there are plenty of power points and tables.’

Freelance personal finance journalist Emma Lunn added: ‘I had an eight-hour layover in Beijing and paid for a massage which meant I could hang out by the lounge afterwards...which had Wi-Fi! Other tips from digital nomads include ‘buy a multi-socket extension lead before you leave to make sure you have somewhere to charge all your devices - and don’t forget a local adapter so you can plug it in!’ And ‘Invest in some noise-cancelling headphones - they make working in a busy airport so much easier.’

More About Wi-Fi

As previously mentioned, almost all major airports offer free Wi-Fi services (though some only for a limited time). As a backup and to extend your browsing time, it’s worth considering using your smartphone as a modem, ideally with a local SIM to avoid costly roaming charges.

According to a 2016 study by Rotten WiFi, the first A380 airport in the world in terms of Wi-Fi speed is Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok (Thailand). Here is the rest of the top 10 (all flight-compatible with the A380):

  • Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Malaysia),
  • Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (USA),
  • Singapore Changi International Airport (Singapore),
  • Chiang Mai International Airport (Thailand),
  • Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (USA),
  • Hat Yai International Airport (Thailand),
  • Chiang Rai International Airport (Thailand).

Now that you are all set up, time to go to work!

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