Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
When you’ve got time to kill at an airport, it’s easy to find yourself mindlessly wandering through the gift shops.
From small regional airports to international duty-free shops, I’ve spent plenty of time perusing the aisles of makeup and snacks, looking for the strangest and most unexpected items. These were the days before I acquired a Priority Pass membership with access to over 1,200 airport lounges with my Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Wandering through airport kiosks and gift shops became a necessary pastime; a way to occupy myself during long layovers. I’ve made friends in line buying Lindt in Munich. I’ve gossiped about boyfriends with a makeup artist at the MAC counter in Cancun. And I’ve searched endlessly for the increasingly elusive TCBY in order to calm my nerves before a flight with a soothing swirl cone.
Here’s a list of unexpected findings that has both surprised and delighted me in various countries.
6 Unexpected Finds in Airports
Tokyo, Japan – Narita is probably my very favorite airport ever. What’s so great about this airport (other than Pocky and free Japanese whiskey when you access the lounge with your Priority Pass)? Heated toilets in the bathroom. Some people might find this to be strange, and indeed, it was. But in the very best way ever.
Bangkok, Thailand – After two weeks traveling around in Southeast Asia, my feet were totally beat. So I almost did a double take when I saw a line of women with their feet immersed in what looked like mini kiddie pools filled with fish.
This is appropriately known as a “fish pedicure,” and it’s exactly that. Garra rufa fish swim about and eat the dead skin off your feet while you sit and relax (if you can; I know I’m too ticklish to handle this).
Panama City, Panama – Every color of Pocky you could ever imagine. I know that Pocky is popular in Japan, but I was not expecting to find this pleasant surprise at the airport in Panama City.
Please note that the green tea Pocky is the color of a shag rug from the 1970s and it is so delicious. So good that when I returned home to Boulder, I wondered if it was a dream. Then I found I could order an entire case of green tea Pocky on Amazon and realized dreams do come true.
Oaxaca, Mexico – Chili and lime flavored grasshoppers.
Chapulines, or grasshoppers, are a common staple of Oaxacan cuisine. The “Oaxacan trinity” refers to mezcal, chapulines, and Oaxacan cheese, and it’s served in most of the mezcalerias. If you’re passing through the airport in Oaxaca without this context though, it might be a surprise to see a bag of grasshoppers displayed next to the Pringles.
Belize City, Belize – A few years ago I realized that I’d accumulated enough miles on my Chase Sapphire Reserve that my husband Spencer and I could both fly to Belize for $11 each. While at the airport in Belize City, I found a snow globe in their one and only gift shop. Long after I’d explained my amazement to Spencer, I still couldn’t stop thinking about this. Why was there a snow globe in Belize where it never snows? Who would buy a snow globe as a reminder of their time in Belize? This was fascinating.
Yangon, Myanmar – KFC. Stepping off the plane, I was surprised to see a large portrait of Colonel Sanders over the familiar red KFC sign. I know that KFC is really popular in many other countries, I just did not expect to see this when I landed in Myanmar where the local cuisine is so much a part of the culture.
What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve found in an airport? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments section! And subscribe to our newsletter below: