Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going international from Melbourne airport

Leaving the country (even for a short period) can be stressful enough having to organise all your pre-flights items, organise travel documents (such as your passport and visa) and not to mention the packing! On the day you might find yourself quite overwhelmed or confused as well, particularly as some things can be quite foreign to you (particularly if you’ve never travelled before!). You can be excited about exploring that distant world out there yet frightened from the unfamiliarity of it all.

Don’t worry you’re not alone, and I’ve written this to help you through that challenge.  Here is my high level overview of the basic process and procedures for leaving Australia via Melbourne Tullamarine airport from my recent trip to Shanghai, China. Fellow Australians you may this to be quite similar for other Australian based flights.

  1. Find Check in desk – This part is pretty straightforward, you only need to make sure you can find the right desk. These desks I have found remain at the same locations, but finding the right desk the first time can be a challenging task - particularly if you don’t travel that much.
  2. Check in – After waiting in line at the check in desk for your airline, you simply present your passport as required and check in any baggage that won’t fit within the carry on requirements (either the bag is too big or it has items that aren’t permitted for carry on, (e.g. shaving equipment, toothpaste, deodorant). 
  3. International Gate - Enter through the International Gate. You only need to show your boarding pass to the International Gate guard. No food or drinks (as well as prohibited items of course) above the guidelines are permitted pass that gate. At the time of writing it would be anything liquid over 100ml. Sometimes they’ll get you to drink the liquid and then throw it out.
  4. Security check – You simply place all metal items onto the little plastic boxes made available. You will need to make sure that your laptop is taken out of your luggage for independent screening though.  In the US you take off your shoes and belt as well – something that isn’t required in Australia. It was quite funny the first time I went through this check with my shoes on, it made me think of Agent 99 from Get Smart…
  5. Immigration – Fill in an outgoing immigration card (green) and submit it to Immigration/Customs. This can be picked up at check in or from various desks around the Immigration area. They will look at your passport, boarding pass and immigration card and ask you questions about your travelling as required.
  6. Departure Gate – Head towards your departure gate as described on your boarding pass (and/or display boards as flights do change gates). You will simply need to wait for your plane to arrive and board when advised. While you wait to be called for your flight there are vending machines, little food vendors, often bookstores for you to purchase items to keep you occupied and refreshed while waiting. You will be asked to present your passport to your photo page and your boarding pass.
  7. On the plane – Depending on where you go, there will be immigration forms that you will need to fill in as you arrival at your destination. It’s a small yellow card where you put your basic details on it such as your name, DOB, passport and visa details. I remember going to the US and having to fill in a green declaration form whereby I listed if I was carrying a certain amount of money, alcohol and/or cigarettes.
Well, I hope this helps you plan your trips easier. It’s generally the queues particularly at immigration and customs that can be time consuming so please be sure to factor that in!

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