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how much time to allow going through customs in Amsterdam

Hi all - First, I apologize if this is the wrong place to post this question. Please advise where I should post instead.
Flying from Detroit into Amsterdam for a connecting flight to Barcelona - with checked bags. How long should I expect it to take to go through customs, considering I have to get my checked bags. This trip will be on March 7. I'm trying to figure out which flight to take out of AMS to Barcelona without running like heck through the airport - I'm too old for that!! Is two hours enough or might I miss my connecting flight?
Thanks very much.
Mary

Posted by
20565 posts

If you have a single ticket with connecting flight to Barcelona, you will go through customs in Barcelona and you will not see your bags till then. If you have two separate tickets then plan at least five hours to cover most contingencies. I might even plan six. With two separate tickets you will go through both immigration and customs in Amsterdam. Immigration is the big variable. Then you need to recheck bags for next flight and go through security again. Two hours is not nearly enough especially if the next flight closes the check-in counter 45 minutes prior to departure. That is fairly common.

It is generally not the smartest thing to do but I have done it a couple times but was burned two years ago when my original flight was cancelled and I arrived three days later. And one year we missed the connecting flight with a two hour window when all we had to go was to go through immigration and walk to the next gate. And it was the Delta flight from Detroit.

Posted by
893 posts

Are your air reservations on the same ticket? If so and miss your connection, the airline will reschedule you. If not, you will have to buy another ticket.
I would be concerned with only two hours. What if your flight is late leaving?

Posted by
53 posts

OK - so I would have one tix on Delta. Departing Detroit, connecting flight in Amsterdam and then arriving in Barcelona. So no customs in Amsterdam? That would be awesome! I can't remember what time I would arrive in AMS but if that's necessary for you all to know, I can look it up. So do you think 2 hours for that connecting flight (with no customs needed) is adequate???

Posted by
20565 posts

I assume from this posting you have one ticket so if you miss your connecting flight, then that airline will be responsible for getting you to Barcelona. It may not be as convenient but they will get your there. I would view two hours as tight but adequate. Customs is not an issue but immigration/passport control can be a big delay depending on the number of planes arriving at the same time.

When we were on that same flight from Detroit. We arrived early but had to wait for our gate so were actually about 20 minutes late to the gate. We happened to be seated is the far back corner of the economy section so it was close to another 20 minutes or so getting off the plane. We hustled to immigration with long lines but there was a line for short connections -- we used it. Hit a restroom for a quick stop. Now in the main terminal but a fair hike to our next gate but still have about an hour left - of course have to go through security. Long lines - no fast lane. We are OK - got to the gate with about 15 mins to spare. NO ONE is there !!!! except for a couple of gate attendants. The bus had just left less than two minutes ago. This was a gate where you are transported by bus to the plane sitting on the tarmac. Nothing we could do except trudge back to the problem desk and be rebooked. Added about six hours to our travel day. Personally I would try for a wider window of time. Two hours could work but Amsterdam is big, sprawling airport. Will organized but still big.

Posted by
53 posts

Well, it looks like I should look for a connecting flight with a longer layover. Wonder why airlines book connecting flights and one might not have time to make it? Also, Frank wrote that my bags would go directly through to Barcelona and I would not need to pick them up in AMS. I'm a bit confused on that, so I'll probably need to call Delta to confirm about baggage and customs. Thanks all.

Posted by
53 posts

So can I confirm that I do NOT have to go through customs in AMS if my final destination is Barcelona? I'm quite confused - sorry. But I will look for a longer layover. This is a single ticket - not two separate tickets.
Many thanks.

Posted by
5544 posts

Customs or Immigration? Your concern about Customs is unwarranted as you walk through a door that says Nothing to Declare.

Posted by
53 posts

Frank - why did you have to go through immigration in AMS if that was not your final destination? Wasn't it just a connecting flight for you? Sorry for my confusion.

Posted by
6034 posts

OK - so I would have one tix on Delta. Departing Detroit, connecting flight in Amsterdam and then arriving in Barcelona. So no customs in Amsterdam? That would be awesome! I can't remember what time I would arrive in AMS but if that's necessary for you all to know, I can look it up. So do you think 2 hours for that connecting flight (with no customs needed) is adequate???

This is an instance where the distinction between customs and immigration ( aka passport control) needs to be explained.

Immigration will occur in Amsterdam. This is the more time consuming procedure of the two. ( people check)

Customs will occur in Barcelona ( goods check) For most tourists it amount to walking through the 'nothing to declare' door.

The above presupposes you have a single ticket booking from Detroit to Barcelona.

When you talk to Delta be sure you understand the distinction between 'customs' and 'immigration'

Posted by
53 posts

thanks Joe - I now understand!! I kinda thought they were one and the same. Immigration takes time......

Posted by
20565 posts

There is this thing called the Schengen zone which is an agreement that eliminates border checks when going from one member country to country and it coves almost all of Europe (biggest exclusion is England). Think of it as going from state to state in the US.

The first time you set foot in Schengen zone country you go through immigration/passport control and then you are admitted into all the countries in the Schengen zone. Amsterdam is your first port of entry so you go through immigration at that time. No border or entry check in Spain. Just walk of the plane, get your checked luggage and follow the mob and signage to customs. Customs is a whole different animal and you go through customs at your final stop and after you get access to your checked luggage.

And the answer to your 2.02pm question is "yes" we went through immigration in Amsterdam and customs in Paris via a connecting flight. One ticket.

Posted by
53 posts

Thanks Frank - that makes total sense. I get it now. So now considering connecting through JFK instead of AMS - but being paranoid, I'm worried about a winter storm on the east coast and we're grounded!!!
Thanks

Posted by
20565 posts

If it was Dec or Jan you might have a greater concern. But with March more likely it would rain rather than snow. Personally I would not worry about it. Now if you fly direct to Barcelona from JFK then you would do both immigration and customs in Barcelona.

Posted by
7606 posts

Oh, I'd go thru Amsterdam over JFK any time. I give myself 3 hours on an international flight where I go thru Immigration. Amsterdam is pretty efficient AND you do not have to change terminals. At JFK you might have to change terminals and to me it's more chaotic than Amsterdam. ALL support staff (and in fact everyone I've had any interaction with there) speaks English.

Take a look at the Delta/KLM/Air France flights each day to Barcelona. I'd bet there are a handful of them. If you book one with a 3 hour transit time as long as it's not the last one for the day you'll likely get to BCN even if there is a delay.

Look at Delta/KLM/AF flights from JFK to BCN each day. Is there more than one?

Posted by
20565 posts

... you do not have to change terminals...... That is not necessarily true. We had to change terminals and that added to our time problem. It would be nice to stay behind security but for us it wasn't possible.

Posted by
53 posts

Thanks for your additional input Frank and Anne - to play it safe, I'm looking at a 4 hour layover in AMS - that should do it, I hope!!

Posted by
7606 posts

Four hours should be great, especially if you are on one booking.

Posted by
20565 posts

That is probably an hour too much but better, IMO, to be a bit too much as opposed to a little short. That will give you time to freshen up, maybe find some breakfast or at least a good latte. The Amsterdam airport is nice airport for wondering around and doing a little shopping if something is needed. You could step outside and beginning work on your jet lag. Good luck with the rest of your trip.

Posted by
53 posts

Thanks everyone - you've been incredibly helpful. I feel much more confident that I'm doing the right thing. Much appreciated.

Posted by
22 posts

To add on a little:

I went to Amsterdam on March 7th of this year. Flight got in at 9 AM. There was 1 person ahead of me in the line for immigration. From the time I got off the plane to the time I cleared customs was no more than 30 minutes. Doesn't seem to be that busy at that time.

Posted by
1504 posts

Agree with prior advice, better to have cushion than panic. AMS is the one of the airports I have been very thoroughly checked at security/immigration - both on arrival and departure. They take their time and mean it! I've had several 3-4 hour layovers at AMS and spent time in the outdoor seating area (above pier D I think) and next to it an indoor "park" with fake trees and comfy chairs. The airport has a small outpost of the Rijksmuseum.

Posted by
485 posts

Mary: What time does your intended flight land in AMS? What is the departure time to BCN? I would go with the 4 hour layover because immigration control can backup real fast with all of the international arrivals from the USA.

Posted by
53 posts

We have a 4 hour layover - all is good! Tickets have been purchased - thanks for all your help.

Posted by
1 posts

My wife is thinking about travelling from Atlanta to Istanbul via Amsterdam on two different air tickets, Delta and Turkish airlines. She will have only one carry on bag, no checked in luggage. Is she required to go outside security, immigration, customs for any reason at Amsterdam? Her next flight from AMS to IST can be within 3-4 hours, can she just go from one gate to another gate without any hassles such as security, immigrations, customs? She is US citizen. Please help. Thanks

Posted by
20565 posts

vap1970 == this is called hijacking a question and is generally frown on when do it. You notice you have had no responses. Had you posted it as new and separate question you probably would have had a dozen responses by now. You need to move it.

Posted by
3431 posts

From Detroit across the Atlantic, Delta and Air France/KLM function almost like one airline. Since you are going through Amsterdam, there is a good chance your second flight will be operated by KLM. Doesn't matter; the advice about shedules, immigration etc. remains the same. But it may help your peace of mind to know this. And my habit when changing planes is to consult the information TV screens for the departure gate, which can be subject to change. As back-up you can find the KLM flight number too, either from your ticket or the Delta website (in the schedule fine print.)