Frankfurt Airport-How to Navigate Customs and Passport Control
Frankfurt Airport-How to Navigate Customs and Passport Control
How confusing or time-consuming is it to find your way thru customs and passport control at Frankfurt Airport? The answer, super easy.
As a solo female traveler, who hadn’t been abroad for many years, I was a little anxious. How would I make my way thru customs and passport control at the Frankfurt airport? I remember being so excited for my vacation but unsure of exactly what the procedure would be when I got off the plane and more so how I would actually make my way through an airport and find my luggage when I spoke no German. I searched the internet long and hard reading review after review and not really finding anything concrete.
So here it is, a post for anyone unsure or nervous about what they have to do when they land in glorious Deutschland. While this information is specific for Frankfurt airport, the basic procedure applies for much of the flights I have flown since from the US to Europe.
First of all, don’t panic. Chances are you’re not the only person on the flight who has never been overseas before or who isn’t quite sure about what they do and where they go. Not everyone is a seasoned traveler. Don’t let the thought of not knowing what to do in a foreign place scare you.
Ask questions. This may seem very obvious but I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken to that it just never occurred to them that, if lost or confused, they could find someone who works at the airport and ask for help or directions. I don’t mean only someone who works for an airline either, ask anyone. The Starbucks barista, the attendant at the magazine kiosk, whoever you need to just ask. These people work at this airport every single day, they deal with foreign travelers, and they know their way around. Besides, if they don’t know they will find someone who does.
Most everyone speaks English and all the signs are also in English. Yes, you are in Germany where the local language is German but you are also at an international airport. Most everyone that works here has some command of the English language. Also, all the signs are also posted in English. This is particularly helpful if you need to find your gate number, a restroom, or if you are paranoid like me and just want to check and make sure you are walking in the right direction every 300 feet.
If Frankfurt is your final destination, when you get off the airplane follow the signs for baggage claim. It really is that simple. You have arrived at the international terminal and there is no chance you can exit the airport without passing thru passport control and immigration. So just follow the signs to baggage claim. Depending what gate you arrived at, you may walk a long way before you reach passport control.
If you have to use the restroom, freshen up, or get something to drink feel free to do so along the way. There really is no rush. It takes a while for your baggage to be unloaded and shuttled to baggage claim anyway. There is no time limit you have to get from your plane, thru passport control, and into customs. So take care of yourself.
The first check-point you will come to is Passport Control which looks much more intimidating than it is. Follow the signs for the appropriate queue to join. You are split up between EU citizens and non-EU citizens. So join the line and wait. When you’re called up to the counter the official looking German policeman will ask for your passport.
Hand over you passport and wait. I have had them briefly look it over and hand it back and I have also had them ask questions. Either is normal. You might be asked why you are visiting Germany, how long you will stay, where you are staying. Just answer them honestly. Even though it sounds intimidating Passport Control in Germany is much quicker and less intrusive than going thru Immigration when re-entering the US.
After you’re cleared they will hand your passport back to you where you proceed thru a hallway and down a very long escalator. At the bottom of the escalator are bathrooms. I guess these are strategically placed in case Passport Control scared the sh*t out of you…literally.
Once you walk past the bathrooms the room opens up into a huge open space. Here are the rows of carousels where your luggage will be. Each carousel has the incoming luggage flight number on it. Find which carousel is yours and wait for the luggage to start rolling down the conveyor belt.
If you are like me and travel with loads of luggage you may need to get a luggage cart. You will see many luggage cart dispensers in this hall. Just go to the little machine, insert your credit card or 1 euro coin, and pull your luggage cart out of the row. It is yours to use and my be wheeled all the way out to the parking garage.
I have never had to wait an abnormally long time for my luggage. The longest I’ve ever waited was maybe 15 minutes.
Once you have collected your luggage you are ready to go thru customs. Again, going thru customs is much less of a process or hassle in Germany than in the US. Really all you are doing is wheeling your bags out the luggage collection area thru large automatic doors and out into the arrivals hall.
Sometimes there will be police officers with dogs or customs officers standing by the exit. However I have never been stopped or even questioned. I just give them a smile as I walk thru the doors.
Go thru the automatic doors, into a little maze of partitions (think cash register check out line) and into the arrivals hall. If you have friends or family waiting to pick you up this is where they will be.
If no one is picking you up there are rental car agencies or signs that will direct you to the S-bahn (train) platform.
My Cloud Transit Hotel – This “hotel” is literally located inside the airport at Terminal 1. You can book it a room for a minimum of 3-hours to a maximum of 24-hours. Super convenient for long layovers where you want to rest and relax. Check prices here.
Sheraton Frankfurt Airport – If you are looking for a more traditional hotel stay I recommend this hotel. Located right outside the airport close to Terminal 1. The Sheraton is a nice hotel for long layovers or if you want stay close to the airport. You can literally walk to it from the airport. Also convenient for taking airport transportation in to downtown and surrounding areas. Check prices here.
Also, check out Passport Perfection’s hotel reviews so you will know the best places to stay and enjoy your vacation in Germany.
Click Here for more information on the Frankfort Airports website.
Anything to add? What was your experience flying to Frankfurt? Leave your comments below.