Top Travel Tips for Arrivals
1) Choose a Seat Towards the Front of the Plane
It almost seems too obvious to say doesn't it? Sit near the front of the aircraft in an aisle seat for the fastest exit.
Most airplanes exit from the front door. Very occassionally, you might exit via the back door too, but you never know if this is the case until you reach your destination, so assume you will leave by the front exit, up the gate's ramp to your arrivals terminal.
There is an etiquette when it comes to disembarking an airplane. Generally, row one leaves first, then row two, then row three, and so on. Passengers further back on the plane should give way to passengers sat in front of them, unless they are still sitting down or they have been allowed you to pass.
Everyone has come across THAT passenger who barges past everyone to get off the plane. Unless it's an emergency (they are usually just being a selfish gits), don't be one of those people! So, if you are desperate to get off a plane as quickly as possible, request a seat in the first few rows or pay up to sit near the front of the aircraft if that is what it takes. Otherwise, just have some patience like the other few hundred people around you!
2) Be Prepared Before you Land
If you want to get off the plane and make it to passport control as quickly and efficiently as possible, you need to be prepared. When you first board the aircraft, your pilot will usually tell you what your estimated time of arrival is. Keep an eye on the time and start to prepare about half an hour before you are due to land. You can usually tell when the flight attendants are preparing for landing. Just after they traverse the aisles with duty free, you will see them tidying away, asking for rubbish and locking away food carts and performing security checks. Now is the time to get yourself ready.
If your hand luggage will fit under the seat in front of you, store it there for landing so that you don't need to rummage around in the overhead lockers when you land. Using the bathroom when you land can take up valuable time. While other passengers are joining the queues for passport control, you are stuck waiting the facilities. Use the bathroom on the airplane, or get through passport control first and use the facilities by the luggage carousels while you wait for your bags.
Pack everything away before landing, including books, music players and any left over food and drink. If you have taken your shoes off, put them back on. If you have a coat with you, put it on before you land or have it ready to carry.
3) Know Your Arrival Airport
In most cases it will be fairly obvious where you need to be going if you are heading for passport control and customs. If your arrival airport is your final destination, you will be fairly safe using the signs for passport control, or following your fellow passengers. However, if you are there to make a connection, it will pay well to know your airport.
Some airports are huge. Take Schiphol in Amsterdam for example. It can take up to 30 minutes to walk from one end of Schiphol Airport to the other and if you have a connection to catch, make sure you know your route. Most airports have maps of their gates on their websites. Download this onto your smartphone and know roughly where you need to aim for. As soon as you get off the plane, check which gate you need to be at and keep an eye on the directing signs. Most hub airports such as Schiphol, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur are massive and can be difficult to navigate, especially if there is a language barrier.
If you need to catch a bus or a train from the airport to your destination, this is also a good reason to know your airport. Some airports have more than one terminal and you might need to transfer in order to reach the airport train station or the correct bus. See below for more information.
4) Have Your Documents Ready
This can also be done on the plane before you land. To get through passport control swiftly, you will need your passport and any visas or immigration documentation required for your destination, including landing cards in some cases.
Make sure that you have filled in everything you have been asked to before you land. Have your passport and documents in your hand or put them in an accessible place in your hand luggage. If you are travelling as a couple or a family, have everybody's documents together ready to give to the immigration officer.
5) Choose Your Queue Wisely
This was mentioned before in our top tips for "At The Airport". Statistically, right handed people choose the queue on the right. Ninety percent of people are right handed, so theoretically, the queue on the left will be shorter and therefore move quicker.
Also avoid queues with children or large parties, especially if you are travelling alone. It takes a large group of people a lot longer to get through immigration than it does solo travellers. Children also tend to move slowly and they are a distraction. Follow the solo travellers, business travellers and couples for a faster queue.
6) Don't Check Luggage Unless You Have To
Even if you do get through passport control quickly and efficiently, one of the most frustrating waiting times can be at the luggage carousel. You can pretty much smell the outside waiting for you, you might even be able to see your destination, you are literally metres away from adventure, but here you are, stuck, watching an empty conveyor belt endlessly moving around and around.
If you don't need to check a bag, don't. This will ensure your fastest exit. If you definitely need to check luggage, be prepared for a wait of between 15 and 30 minutes when you arrive at your destination. Use this time to your advantage. Use the bathroom, check maps, use the airport wifi to check bus and train times if you need to or use the cash machines to get currency.
There are some tricks you can use to help your bags get out faster. Before you check your bag, have it marked as fragile. This way your case will be placed on top of other luggage meaning it will also be moved first and end up on the carousel first. Make sure your luggage is easily identifiable. Choose a colourful case or use a luggage strap that will stand out.
7) Don't Go Over Your Duty Free Allowance
One sure-fire way to get held up at arrivals is if you get caught trying to smuggle in duty free that you shouldn't have. Some people have been lucky enough to get away with it and some airports are more lax than others, but if you try and cheat the system, there is every chance you will get held up and searched.
Be aware that if you are caught with an excess of duty free, not only will you be held up at the airport but you will have all of your duty free taken off you at customs, even your allowance, with no reimbursment.
8) Book Your Transfer Before you Leave
The fastest way to leave your arrival airport is to have a pre-booked transfer, be this a taxi or a coach. If you have arranged a taxi transfer, there will be somebody waiting for you on the other side with your name on a card. It will be as simple and efficient as finding your name and following your driver. If you have pre-booked a coach transfer, there will usually be a representative at arrivals holding a card with their company name on it, or the company will have a desk in the arrivals terminal which you should make your way to.
Don't forget that if you choose a transfer with a coach company, you will have to wait for other passengers, even if you have made it through the airport checks and baggage claim quickly.
9) Know Your Transfer Route
Booking your transfer ahead of time is a good idea, but if you book a coach company or travel agent transfer, not only will you have to wait for other passengers, but you might find that it is one of the slowest ways to get to your destination.
You will probably find that a coach company or travel agent will be dropping off many passengers at different hotels or even different resorts. If your hotel or your resort happens to be the last drop, you may find that it will take you hours to get to your destination. Most companies will publish their routes, so check before you book. It may be worth paying a little extra for another transfer company or a taxi if it will save you an hour or two. Also be aware that if you are the last drop on arrival, you will be the first pick up on the return leg!
Check if your arrival airport has an easy to use bus route or train station that would get you to your destination. Quite often these options will be faster and cheaper.
Taxis are a popular and easy way of getting away from the airport. They are always queued up at the door of arrivals, they are usually plentiful, they are fast, take you door to door and they are more comfortable. But there are some things you need to watch out for.
Taxis are usually cheaper if you pre-book them; do this if possible. Taxis can be cheaper than other transfers if there is a group of you. Always check how much a journey should be from the airport to your destination; tripadvisor, other travel forums and sources like Lonely Planet and Rough Guide can be useful when making this assessment; do your homework. When you are getting to know your airport as mentioned above, make sure you know where your taxi ranks are going to be. Some airports have more than one taxi rank and various different systems depending on where you want to go. Hong Kong for instance has colour coded taxis depending on which part of the city you are travelling to. Some airports have a queue for metered taxis and a queue for pre-arranged prices. At some airports you will get a cheaper ride if you walk down to departures and catch one there rather than waiting at arrivals.
Have your wits about you! Airport taxis are one of the most frequent ways travellers get scammed. They prey on your lack of local knowledge, your misunderstanding of their language, the fact you probably don't know the route to your destination and that you are tired and just want to get to where you are staying. Most travellers I know have been scammed by a taxi driver at some point, I fell victim in Manilla in the Philippines when I was charged nearly triple what I should have been. You learn!
Make sure your taxi is on a meter or agree a price before you get in. Write the price down in numbers so that you both understand. Refuse to pay any more than you agreed; a popular scam is to start charging for luggage once you get to the hotel. Remember that you don't always have to travel conventionally, sometimes over modes of transport like tuk tuks can be much cheaper, but the same applies, make sure you don't get ripped off.
Don't worry, not all taxi drivers are scam artists, just be prepared, do your research and agree a price before you flag down a taxi!
Why not read out other Top Travel Tips?
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