Wednesday 22 February 2012

Airport Arrival Advice

We at are regularly visiting new locations and over the years, we have found following a routine works well and makes your arrival more stress-free. Here is our list of recommendations for arriving at a destination that you have never been before as stress-free as possible.
Enter Russia, passport/customs
Arriving and Claiming Your Luggage

Arrival at Schipol Airport
  • You will need some local currency when you arrive. You should be thinking about this well before you land. Are you going to exchange some Euros or US Dollars for local currency or are you going to visit an ATM? How much local currency will you initially need?
  • Go through immigration. Make sure you have your passport and visa (if required) ready.
  • Claim your luggage and make sure that it is yours! It is amazing how  many bags are black in colour. If you have common looking luggage then place a colourful ribbon or some other easy marker on it. Or better yet, only take carry-on luggage.
  • If your luggage is lost, visit the lost luggage office immediately.

  • Study the Local Currency
    BJ 北京首都國際機場 Beijing Capital International Airport BCIA FX Currency Exchange self-service machine Aug-2010
    • If there is an option of changing currency or using an ATM before going through customs then we highly recommend doing this now. The reasons are simple as you are in a secure area of the airport and will likely not have problems or be hassled.
    • If you now have local currency and are not familiar with it, take some time to study the local currency. Are the bills different colours? Are they different sizes? Stash most of your money away, but have enough for getting yourself to your hotel. If you do not have small bills or change, plan on purchasing something or asking for smaller denominations.
    • Go through customs.
    Being a Smart Traveller in the Airport Chaos
      Airport Arrival
      Shanghai chaos
      Now the chaos begins and the reason behind was created. In many countries around the world, expect to be hassled as soon as you exit the customs area. Touts live here and make very good money preying on the fresh new tourists that come through the customs area.
    • Ignore all touts. You don't need to tell them your name, where you are going, where you are from, what hotel you are staying at, or anything else. Would you tell this to someone at an airport at home? Not likely, so don't do it here either. In some locations they will follow you like hungry mosquitoes, meaning that they stand to earn a healthy commission if you fall for their ploy. If they are persistent, then telling them that you have a friend picking you up or you are catching a connecting flight shortly might work. See our tips on dealing with touts for more information.
    • If you did not have the opportunity to visit a currency exchange or ATM then go ahead and find one now. If you have touts following you then get rid of them, as they pose a serious security risk to you exchanging or withdrawing money. Sometimes heading up to the departures level will work "I need to catch a flight now". If you need to duck into a bathroom to check the money or load a money belt then go right ahead.
    Airport Ground Transportation Options
    designated Taxi queue
    Taxi queue at Singapore Airport
    • You likely have studied your transportation options before arriving and have an idea of how you want to get to your hotel or next destination. If you are ready then follow the directions to get that taxi, airport shuttle, train, or just about anything else.
    • If you are taking a taxi, some airports have a taxi desk to manage incoming taxis. They will take down your destination, possibly translate it, and tell the next available driver where you need to go. You may need to pay the desk for the taxi service or you will pay the driver when you get to your destination. Some airports will change a nominal taxi desk service fee that will be added to your bill.
    • Almost all airport shuttle services have a desk where you may purchase tickets. Rarely will you pay the driver directly.
    • If you are taking a public bus, then you may need to purchase bus tickets in advance of boarding from a vendor in the airport. Ask at the information desk in the airport, but be cautious of anyone hanging around the desk that is very helpful of taking you to buy these tickets (usually these are touts). Some public buses will make change, but it is always best to have exact change in the local currency.
    • On any airport transfer service, ensure that you hand your luggage directly to the taxi or shuttle driver and you see that it is loaded or just load it yourself. In some countries there are scams between drivers and 'luggage loaders', which involves you handing your luggage to someone next to the taxi (or shuttle) to load it into the taxi. Then a tip is demanded for couple of seconds of services. The taxi driver will not leave until the tip is paid to the loader.

    RapidRide at Sea-Tac Airport
    What do you do when you arrive at a new airport to navigate your way? How do you ensure you arrive stress free?

    PS: if you want to do more to research ground transportation before you leave home, be sure to check out our 500+ free ground transportation guides to airports worldwide. We'd love to help you arrive stress free!

    Read the other posts in our Smart Travel Advice series:

    If you've missed it, you might also enjoy reading this story about how we got our name: Do We Really Hate Taxis?

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