You’ve finally made it. You’re at your final destination. Here are some airport arrival tips to make things go smoothly.
Tips for clearing foreign customs and immigration
Upon arrival in another country, your first stop after departing the plane will be customs and immigration. For most countries, you were probably given a form by the airline prior to your arrival. Make sure you have this form filled out prior to leaving the plane. Some countries, like EU countries, don’t require a form.
If you’ve brought food items from home to eat on the plane and still have a few left, it’s probably a good idea to leave them on the plane. Most countries don’t allow you to bring in food items, even if their in the original wrappers or other sealed packaging.
When you arrive at customs, make sure your cell phone is off, your forms are ready and you have your passport in hand. The immigration officer you’re about to encounter, will control whether or not your permitted to enter the country your about to visit. You want to be on your best behavior and give them your full attention. The last thing you want is to be detained or even worse, sent back home.
IAH TIP: Before you leave home, see if the country you’re traveling to requires a visa-on-arrival fee and/or departure tax. Chile, for example, charges citizens arriving from some countries a visa-on-arrival fee. For US citizens traveling to Chile, the fee is over $100 per person and must be paid before you can pass on to immigration.
Well, maybe you’ve made it to your final destination, but the airline had other ideas for your luggage. First, don’t panic. You’re luggage will most invariably catch up with you.
When you’re luggage doesn’t show up on the carousel, find the airline luggage desk. It should be in the same general area as the luggage carousel. If you’ve taken multiple airlines, you’ll want to go to the luggage desk of the airline you just arrived on.
You’ll need your luggage tag receipts that you received when you checked your luggage at your first departure point. These are key for the airline being able to track down your luggage. If you took photos with your camera or wireless phone before you left home, those will be very helpful to the agent in describing your luggage on the required forms. You’ll also need to know the contact and address information of where you’ll be staying so the airline can deliver the luggage to you.
If you’ve traveled from another country, don’t expect your luggage to arrive quickly. Depending upon how far your luggage traveled with you before it went another direction, it may be a few days before you see it. Hopefully, you took our advice and packed a day or two worth of clothing in your carry-on.
We’ve been fortunate that our luggage has only been lost two or three times in the past 10 years. Once in Italy, it took 4 days to catch up with us. In Malaysia, it arrived less than 24 hours later. The good news is is that every time, we did eventually get our luggage….and everything that was supposed to be inside, was inside.
Tips on transportation from the arriving airport
Once you’ve cleared customs and collected your luggage, your next step is to get to your hotel or wherever it is your staying. If you don’t have your transportation already lined up, make sure you use only official cabs or shuttles. In many foreign countries, there are “unofficial” cabs and shuttles that can take advantage of you by charging exorbitant fees.
Arriving at Your Hotel
When you check-in at your hotel, ask if there are room upgrades available. If you are in the right place at the right time, you may just end up with a better room. You never know if you don’t ask.
Shopping & Souvenirs
It’s a good idea to keep receipts for everything you purchase on your vacation. Many countries offer visitors a tax refund for any purchases made in their country. Before you leave, you’ll need to visit the tax refund office usually located at the airport. Most countries require you to show the items you purchased as well as the receipt. So, you should probably visit the refund office before checking your luggage so you can pack your purchases afterwards in your checked bag. Another reason to keep the receipts is so you can fill out your customs form correctly on your return flight home.
Last modified: December 30, 2013