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Help Out A First Time International Traveler!  
User currently offlinepackcheer From United States of America, joined Nov 2008, 333 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 11 months 3 weeks 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 4369 times:

As the title says, I am traveling internationally for the first time at the end of January.

CLT-ATL-AMS-HEL on January 25
HEL-AMS-DTW-CLT on January 31

I have quite a bit of traveling experience domestically, but never international.
I've got the basics covered (in terms of not needing a visa, my passport is good to go, etc), but if any of you have any suggestions that I may not be expecting, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Any packing tips for Finland in January (as it relates to checking in/security/number of bags? (I can handle staying warm)
In terms of flights, I'm on 2 DL 738's, 2 DL A333, and 2 KLM flights. Seat suggestions/locations? (Seatguru says stay in the first half of Y for the power ports...?

Anything else would be helpful too. Thanks!


Things that fly, Girls and Planes...
18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAKLRNO From United States of America, joined Dec 2010, 990 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (3 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 4293 times:

Unless there is something specific to AMS or Helsinki (I haven't been there for a long time) it really isn't much different then domestic except for a couple of extra steps changing countries: passport control and customs. I advise you move as quickly as possible from your seat to passport control. The line never gets any better if you go slowly. Be sure you know the rules at customs. Most countries want to know if you have any food, plant materiel, or other restricted items. If in doubt, declare it. I even declare candy bars. That once saved me a big hassle entering Australia. For some reason they ban cranberries. I had some in a granola bar. Because I told them I had it, they apologized when they took it from me instead of hitting me for a $200 fine if it was undeclared. Needless to say any illegal drugs would be very bad news. Even in AMS importing marijuana is illegal. I take a lot of US food into New Zealand where the ag safety laws are very strict. I just declare what I have and have never had a problem.

You won't really notice many differences. All signs are in the local language and English. Sometimes it is hard to tell you are not in the US. All procedures are about the same, but security rules vary. I was once on an internal Chinese flight where the English announcements were completely unintelligible, but since the procedures were identical I could always guess what they were saying.

Don't worry. Enjoy your trip


User currently offlineVonRichtofen From Canada, joined Nov 2000, 4639 posts, RR: 36
Reply 2, posted (3 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 4280 times:

You're a young male in your 20's. Get ready to be awestruck by the number of gorgeous young women in Finland.


That is all  



Word
User currently offlinesignol From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2007, 3025 posts, RR: 8
Reply 3, posted (3 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 4275 times:

Finalnd is cold at this time of year...

As you will enter the Schengen zone in Amsterdam, once you arrive in AMS you will have your passport checked there. The AMS-HEL flight is treated like a domestic one. In AMS, in the international zone for sure, security is at each gate (I haven't flown intra-Schengen from AMS for a while) so on your return to the US, if you buy duty free at AMS, don't forget to have the shop seal the bag it comes in, otherwise it may be confiscated.

This is a plan of the airport:
http://www.schiphol.nl/Travellers/AtSchiphol/Maps.htm
You can see the dashed red line on the Departures map, showing the International / Schengen border, where passport control is.

If you have time at AMS, it may be woth heading landside and visiting the viewing terrace - it is huge, but can get very cold too!

Enjoy the first trip abroad!

signol



Flights booked: none :(
User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6525 posts, RR: 23
Reply 4, posted (3 years 11 months 3 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 4266 times:

Quoting signol (Reply 3):
In AMS, in the international zone for sure, security is at each gate

Usually no second security check at the gate for Schengen-flights at AMS.

Quoting AKLRNO (Reply 1):
I advise you move as quickly as possible from your seat to passport control. The line never gets any better if you go slowly.

Affirmative. There will be a new security check immediately past passport control, hence the usually long lines in front of passport control.
If you are running really late, see a KLM agent. They have some powers to skip lines with you, but only if you really are running late.

If you intend to get something to eat during your layover at AMS, go through passport control & security first into Schengen zone. Do not head for MCD in non-Schengen hall unless you have at least 3 hours to make your connection.


________
Nothing to worry about HEL. Very efficient airport.

Quoting AKLRNO (Reply 1):
Most countries want to know if you have any food, plant materiel, or other restricted items.

Nothing specially banned to bring in from the U.S. in terms of food. Leave any fresh fruit & meat at home. Everything that is factory processed from candy bars to beef jerky is okay to bring along.

Quoting signol (Reply 3):
If you have time at AMS, it may be woth heading landside and visiting the viewing terrace

In that case, do not use the passport control / security check for crossing into Schengen-hall, but use the normal exit from international Arrival hall. A new security check for re-entering is out of question, but also here lines can be long.
-HT



Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
User currently offlinePWM2TXLHopper From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 1360 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 4104 times:

Quoting packcheer (Thread starter):

I have quite a bit of traveling experience domestically, but never international.
I've got the basics covered (in terms of not needing a visa, my passport is good to go, etc), but if any of you have any suggestions that I may not be expecting, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Don't bring cash or travelers checks. The commission you'll pay on the currency exchange is a rip off. Take a credit card for ATM cash advances or a Visa/Master debit card. You'll get a better exchange withdrawing from the local ATM's than if you cashed traveler checks, or exchanged currency. Also, in case of taking the debit card, have you funds in your checking account. If it's in your saving account, you won't be able to access them on foreign ATM's.

Quoting VonRichtofen (Reply 2):
You're a young male in your 20's. Get ready to be awestruck by the number of gorgeous young women in Finland.


That is all

And be amazed that in other countries you'll see almost no fat people. (Thus, the beautiful woman) If you do, they're probably from North America? The north American can often be identified by their weight, or by wearing baseball caps, T-shirts/Polo shirts, sneakers, and extremely baggy jeans. Even when they go out to the dance club at night.

Oh, and be prepared for a lot smaller portions when you eat out. (The reason for the lack of the obese) First time I went overseas, I went to Oslo. Forgot why I kept count, but I was there for three weeks and only saw 21 fat people! My friends family there got great delete showing me their photo album from their trip to Disneyworld where they saw a guy so fat he was wheelchair bound, and eating one of those giant turkey legs. The hid behind a tree and snapped a few photos for the album because they found it so amusing in a disgusted sort of way!

[Edited 2011-01-13 18:45:17]

User currently offlineLAX888 From Singapore, joined Oct 2010, 279 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 4060 times:

A small thing, learn some basic words in Finnish or Dutch. Europeans like educated Americans and you usually impress them if you try and say some words in the local language. The typical stereotype Europeans tend to have are that Americans are all fat, only eat fast food, are loud and brash at times and have no idea of the country they are visiting.

Also note that Scandinavia is considered expensive. So you might want to bring enough cash along. The good thing in Holland and Finnland is that almost everyone is really fluent in English, especially the younger ppl. So that should make it easy to find new ppl without having communication issues.

As mentioned above, transiting through AMS is not that different than flying through a big hub in the US.

Food is free on flights to Europe but be prepared for a lousy breakfast on TATL flights. Usually it's cold and some kind of bread and a yogurt.

Enjoy your time in Europe!  


User currently offlinetravelavnut From Netherlands, joined May 2010, 1670 posts, RR: 7
Reply 7, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 4058 times:

How much time do you have in AMS? If it is more then let's say 5 - 6 hours you'll have plenty of time to transit to the centre of Amsterdam with the beautiful canals, "coffee"shops and almost as many beautiful girls as in Finland (emphasis on almost here   (Sorry for shamelessly plugging my hometown)

From Arrivals you can catch a train ride to the centre of Amsterdam. Trains go every 10 minutes and the trip takes 15 - 20 minutes.

Quoting AKLRNO (Reply 1):
Even in AMS importing marijuana is illegal.


True, but I guess if someone was busted smuggling marijuana INTO the Netherlands through Schiphol they will be headline news over here ("Most stupid criminal ever busted").



Live From Amsterdam!
User currently offlinepackcheer From United States of America, joined Nov 2008, 333 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 3996 times:

Thanks for all your help yall.

Do eastbound flights usually get in ahead of schedule? I am only scheduled to have 2 hours in AMS.



Things that fly, Girls and Planes...
User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6525 posts, RR: 23
Reply 9, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 days ago) and read 3971 times:

Quoting packcheer (Reply 8):
Do eastbound flights usually get in ahead of schedule?

Yes.
However, as you will arrive into AMS, your flight usually will not see any delays, but prepare for a lengthy taxi if Polderbaan is in use for arrivals.

Still, a schedule of 2 hours to connect is much more than sufficient, so no worries.
-HT



Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 26029 posts, RR: 22
Reply 10, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 3955 times:

Quoting HT (Reply 4):
Quoting signol (Reply 3):
In AMS, in the international zone for sure, security is at each gate

Usually no second security check at the gate for Schengen-flights at AMS.

Security check at the gate at AMS for non-Schengen flights only. For Schengen flights using Piers B/C and upper level of D you clear security at a central security checkpoint before entering the Schengen zone, and if you are connecting between two Schengen flights you don't have to clear security again at AMS. You just go to your new gate.


User currently offlineHELyes From Finland, joined Oct 2010, 1002 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 3918 times:

Quoting signol (Reply 3):
Finalnd is cold at this time of year...

In Helsinki we have a LOT of snow right now, more than in decades, bring good shoes. The heavy winter makes the public transport slower in times, HEL airport hasn't been seriously effected.

Quoting travelavnut (Reply 7):
smuggling marijuana INTO the Netherlands

Bringing ANY drugs to Finland is a bad idea, very strict here. You will notice Finns prefer alcohol...

Quoting LAX888 (Reply 6):
Also note that Scandinavia is considered expensive. So you might want to bring enough cash along.
Quoting PWM2TXLHopper (Reply 5):

Don't bring cash or travelers checks. The commission you'll pay on the currency exchange is a rip off. Take a credit card for ATM cash advances or a Visa/Master debit card. You'll get a better exchange withdrawing from the local ATM's than if you cashed traveler checks, or exchanged currency.

  

Yes Finland is expensive, though Norway and Denmark are even worse. And yes bring cards, less cash...checks unknown here. Finland is the most 'plastic' country in Europe, cards are used everywhere. Even taxis prefer cards. Tipping is not expected usually.

Quoting LAX888 (Reply 6):
A small thing, learn some basic words in Finnish or Dutch. Europeans like educated Americans and you usually impress them if you try and say some words in the local language.

One word "kiitos" (thank you) is enough in Finland, foreign visitors are not expected to learn any more Finnish, we know it's not an easy language... Just curious, how did yoy choose to visit Helsinki in the middle of winter? Anyway, welcome!


User currently offlineTBloemink From Netherlands, joined Mar 2010, 114 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 3901 times:

One specific thing that won't bother you probably is in AMS. You'll arrive at a non-Schengen area, and need to go through immigration (or passport control, whatever) and you won't find security. Security in AMS is always at the gate. No arrivals level airside, people come out and are at the same place as departing passengers.


Flown on: A300, A319, A320, A330, A380, B717, B734, B738, B739, B747, B777
User currently offlinePWM2TXLHopper From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 1360 posts, RR: 1
Reply 13, posted (3 years 11 months 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3893 times:

Quoting HELyes (Reply 11):
Yes Finland is expensive, though Norway and Denmark are even worse

That's for sure! When I use to go to Oslo fairly often, a pint of beer or a box of smokes was the equivalent of $10 USD! Couldn't even go to a fast food place for less than $15. And that was about ten years ago when the dollar was strong! I'd hate to see what it's like now! My friends in Norway use to go to Denmark for the weekend because they considered it cheap!


User currently onlineblink182 From United States of America, joined Oct 1999, 5485 posts, RR: 15
Reply 14, posted (3 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 3719 times:

Quoting HT (Reply 4):
Affirmative. There will be a new security check immediately past passport control, hence the usually long lines in front of passport control.
If you are running really late, see a KLM agent. They have some powers to skip lines with you, but only if you really are running late.

The last time I was at AMS was last March, and I know that the last time I connected through there(summer 2008), they had one or two designated passport and security lines for posted flights that were boarding, or immediately about to board. IIRC, they even had an agent checking tickets at this line. Am I mistaken, or did AMS get rid of this?

Regardless, I've found that security lines move fairly quickly and are not a huge issue unless you have a very tight connection.



Give me a break, I created this username when I was a kid...
User currently offlinefalstaff From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 6181 posts, RR: 31
Reply 15, posted (3 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 3710 times:
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Quoting HT (Reply 4):
If you intend to get something to eat during your layover at AMS, go through passport control & security first into Schengen zone. Do not head for MCD in non-Schengen hall unless you have at least 3 hours to make your connection.

I have no problem leaving the airport and wondering around outside for a while even on flights with less than a 2 hour layover. However I am usually there VERY early in the morning and the airport isn't very busy.

Quoting PWM2TXLHopper (Reply 5):
Take a credit card for ATM cash advances or a Visa/Master debit card. You'll get a better exchange withdrawing from the local ATM's than if you cashed traveler checks, or exchanged currency. Also, in case of taking the debit card, have you funds in your checking account. If it's in your saving account, you won't be able to access them on foreign ATM's.

I would agree. Be sure to let your bank/credit union know you are going out of the country. My credit union charges only 50 cents for a non US ATM withdrawl, which is better than a non network ATM here.

Quoting PWM2TXLHopper (Reply 5):
And be amazed that in other countries you'll see almost no fat people.

I've spent a fair amount of time in Germany and the UK and I saw plenty of fat people. I wasn't hanging out with young people, mostly the over 40 crowd.

Quoting PWM2TXLHopper (Reply 5):
and extremely baggy jeans

Not all Americans wear those... Just silly looking people in their teens and 20s. I don't know what is worse baggy jeans or those men who wear women's jeans....



My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 26029 posts, RR: 22
Reply 16, posted (3 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 3679 times:

Quoting TBloemink (Reply 12):
Security in AMS is always at the gate.

As mentioned in Reply 10, that's not true for Schengen flights where there's a central security check when you enter the Schengen area and no security checks at the gate. If you're connecting between two Schengen flights you can go directly from gate to gate with no second security check.


User currently offlineCoachClass From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 452 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (3 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 3669 times:

You probably will be able to use your U.S. cell phone, but it will be expensive and find out what prefix you might need to dial to get out internationally. You usually can find cheaper call centers/internet cafes at or near the train center. I think it best if you have hotel reservations already made.

Enhjoy the late sunrise and early sunset. Look for the aurora borealis. Bring proper shoes/boots for walking. You might have the opportunity to eat reindeer steak or sausages.

Check out a local university and have lunch there, meet with students/teachers and network. Buy a warm, Finnish scarf/sweater to wear and show at home. You're going to have a great week. I hope you post a trip report in the trip report section.


User currently offlinefalstaff From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 6181 posts, RR: 31
Reply 18, posted (3 years 11 months 1 week 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 3662 times:
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Quoting CoachClass (Reply 17):
You probably will be able to use your U.S. cell phone, but it will be expensive and find out what prefix you might need to dial to get out internationally

That is only the case if your phone will connect to networks out of the USA and Canada. Not all phones do. The same is true of phones from other parts of the world being able to connect in the USA. You need to check to see if your phone will work out of the USA; contact your provider.



My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
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