Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Plane Travel within Europe (

Bride_LostontheWeb Feb 7th, 2011 02:35 PM

Plane Travel within Europe
Hello, this may be a silly question but I want to make sure I have the correct answer.

We will be flying to London in August for five days (fiance's work trip). After that we are going to travel on to at least one more country in the European Union...sorry we aren't 100% sure where yet. Will we need to go through customs again if we travel to another country within Europe? I'm trying to find out so I leave enough time for that if needed.

I'm not sure if the countries matter, but the three main ones we're currently looking at are Germany, Ireland and Portugal. Thanks for any help, what I've been able to find online just confuses me. =]

ellenem Feb 7th, 2011 04:03 PM

You are confusing the European Union and Schengen countries.

It is when crossing borders between two Schengen countries that you will not have to pass through immigration/customs.

Some EU countries are Schengen, but not all. United Kingdom (London) and Ireland are EU, but not Schengen. Portugal and Germany are Schengen.

P_M Feb 7th, 2011 04:39 PM

Customs doesn't usually involve a huge amount of time or trouble, may I ask why this is would be a consideration? I think you should visit the country you want to see most and don't worry about customs. Have a great trip.

Bride_LostontheWeb Feb 7th, 2011 04:48 PM

No, it's not an issue going through customs at all. I just wanted to know if we needed to allow time for it. It makes a difference if you're being picked up at an airport if you have to go through customs or just walk out!

Thank you for the help!

nytraveler Feb 7th, 2011 05:33 PM

Going through customs takes about 3 minutes - just walk out through the green lane. what can take time is waiting for your luggage to appear from the plane.

easytraveler Feb 7th, 2011 09:24 PM

I always find that visual images help a lot.

Map of 27 EU nations:

Map of the 25 Schengen nations:

Ireland is not a Schengen nation.

Cowboy1968 Feb 8th, 2011 12:39 AM

The usual layout of an airport within the Schengen area has piers or gates seperated for arrivals from other Schengen countries and domestic arrivals and another section of the airport for arrivals from non-Schengen airports.

So you will either go through passport control or not.
If you fly from London to Portugal or Germany, you will go through passport control. This can be speedy or a bit time-consuming, but no one can say in advance.

Baggage claims, however, is usually combined for all arrivals from any destination. So people arriving in, for example, Munich from New York, London, Paris, or Berlin all pick up their luggage in the same hall.

Everybody uses the same "Customs exits", regardless of his point of origin: Schengen, non-Schengen, even domestic passengers.

Most airports have two color-coded exits (red/green) - some a third exit (blue) for passengers arriving from airports of the EU Customs Union (which is not 100% identical with the EU territory, but not relevant in your case), some airports combine green and blue as one exit channel.
Arriving from London, you can use the blue channel in Portugal or Germany, if there is one. If not, use the green channel (assuming that you have nothing to declare).

Customs control is spot control - almost everybody simply walks out of the baggage claims area without even talking to a Customs officer.

If you hire a pick-up service, you can assume that the company will have a good estimate based on their daily experience how much later after your scheduled arrival you will exit baggage claims/Customs.

KayF Feb 8th, 2011 12:42 AM

I'm wondering if you mean immigration or customs? You will have to show your passport when leaving the UK and arriving in any European country, regardless of which one. Customs doesn't really exist within the EU countries but immigration officers exist at all airports and the Eurostar. It usually doesn't take long but we have been in horribly long queues at Heathrow and Gatwick.

It doesn't sound like you will be using the Eurostar (train between London and Paris/Brussels) but if you do, you go through British and French immigration, one after the other, in London so when you get off the train in Paris or Brussels, you just walk out of the station. It's different at airports if you are coming from the UK. We have always come off the plane and straight into the immigration queue.

If you are being picked up at the airport by a car service, usually you just need to give them the flight number and they know roughly how long after the plane has landed to come and get you.

Hope that helps a bit.


lizziea06 Feb 8th, 2011 02:37 AM

Just to add to the above, in my many travels from London into Schengen as an American citizen, I don't think I've ever waited in line for more than 20 minutes at customers upon arrival. It's really not anything you need to take into account when booking transportation as most car services will take this into account.

travelgourmet Feb 8th, 2011 03:21 AM

To summarize:

1) You will not need to clear customs traveling from the UK to any EU country. Even if you did, customs usually involves walking through a green channel, rather than a red one, unless you have something to declare.

2) Leaving from the UK, you will need to go through passport control when entering the Schengen area. My understanding is that you will also need to go through passport control to enter Ireland by air, as well.

3) Upon returning from the Schengen area, you will have to go through passport control in the UK. I don't believe you would have to go through passport control in the UK, if returning from Ireland.

The time to clear passport control can vary, but I find the process pretty quick at most European countries, EXCEPT for the UK. I've waited for up to 2 hours to clear passport control when flying into the UK. Now, I've also cleared within minutes on other occasions, but there is a very real possibility of a significant wait getting back into the UK.

I don't believe I have ever waited more than 10-15 minutes at passport control at a Schengen port of entry (usually Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or Paris). Of course, this is not a guarantee, either, but I don't tend to worry about delays entering the Schengen zone, based upon my experience.

lizziea06 Feb 8th, 2011 04:03 AM

I'm using customs and immigration interchangeably (slap back of hand), but basically ditto what travelgourmet said

Bride_LostontheWeb Feb 10th, 2011 09:43 AM

You all are amazing, thank you for all the helpful information.

I tend to also use customs and immigrations interchangeably (oops!) I know the difference, but still kind of see them as one.

I didn't really consider that a car service would account for the time. My bigger concern was that friends will be picking us up in Germany and I didn't want to make them wait forever.

Thanks again for everything!!!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:30 PM.