Favorite thing: Schiphol never sleeps. When all shops in Amsterdam and the rest of The Netherlands are closed, Schiphol is still opened. On the level below the check in deks, you'll find Schiphol PLaza. Here you'll find loads of shops and restaurants. The shops are opened from till 10 in the evening and some of the restaurants, like Burger King, are even opened 24 hours a day.
Leaving The Netherlands by Schiphol will start with going to the airport. By car it goes fast and efficient, although the parking guiding system is somewhat confusing as for the many enormous parkinghouses in and around the airport. For passengers that leave the car for long terms, the parking is far away from the terminal. A fully automated (no chauffeur) little bus will drive you to the main building.
Arriving by train will be underneath the airport (it can't be more easy).
Taxi's and busses drop you off at the central square in front of Schiphol Plaza.
In all cases luggage-trolleys are immediately available and always there in masses.
This time you have to be on the upperlevel of the airport. When there you can find on one of the many telescreen-blocks, where your fight (number and destination) are checked in (counter number). Now you have to get in line at one of the, more then, 30 counters. Roughly, there are 8 counters right of the maingroup of 14 counters in the middle (KLM desks as well). On the other side are the other counters, which are also the ones with higher security!
Favorite thing: After getting the boardingpass and leaving the heavy luggage, one can go back to Schiphol Plaza and the surrounding shops. However, behind the passport-check - on the international grounds - it's taxfree shopping (though that doesn't mean it's a whole lot cheaper). Here are also relaxation area's, terraces, bars, cafetaria, restaurants and even a few small casino's. For children there is a big playground, so parents also can get some rest in another way.
With your ticket you will get boarding-passes. A system that is everywhere the same. The luggage (except for the hand-luggage) can be dropped here and is labelled to the destination. On the boarding-pass is the number of the pier and of the gate. Again it goes from "A" to "G". In contrast to the counters:
Piers A" and "B" are right from the middle countergroup. "C", "D" and "E" are behind that group and the others you will find to the left of them.
When the time leaves some entertainment then you can choose between ...
After a walk (or slide on rollerbands) of a few minutes, a passport-control will appear (only for non-EC citizens). Most customservice employees (in The Netherlands members of the military police) are friendly but strict. The passport-control is often at the end of the pier, after which one will be arriving in one of the three main luggage-departments. Here are several rollerbands, bringing the luggage in. On telescreens above the bands, as well as on central points, the flightnumber and origin are named of the luggage that will appear on the band. Often only a few minutes after getting to the right band, the luggage starts rolling in. Luggage-trolleys are more then enough available and free. No annoying guys pulling on your suitecase here to carry and ask for money later.
Having retrieved your luggage you have a last check at custom-service. Here they will (often) only ask you if you have any goods to declare. If not ... then the final step ...
Favorite thing: Finally you will enter real Dutch territory leaving the "international ground" through maingate 1, 2 or 3. Hopefully you are picked up by a friend or familymember. But if not ... don't be nervous ... The Netherlands is a very easy going country and (almost) everything is regulated. Behind the maingate, you will be in the commercial area of the airport. Shops of all kinds (but especially connected with travel or tourism) are surrounding you. Walk to the Plaza in the centre of the building (from maingate 1 this is to the right, from maingate 3 it's going to the left. Here are also all "next-step" services: train, busses, taxi etc. About them I tell you in the transport-tips.
In Schiphol all planes land on one of the four (soon five) landingstrips. When using some of them you have an excellent view over Amsterdam, others provide scenery like the coastline or - in the right season - the famous flowerfields.
After touchdown the plane will role to one of the six piers and dock on one of the many piers. The piers are coded by letters "A" to "G" and run from South to North upwards. On the piers one has on either side gates, numbered with numbers.
When the plane is locked on the "slurf" (litteraly translated "trunk" like the ones elephants have) the passangers will disembark and enter Dutch territory. All piers lead to the main building in the middle of construction that looks likes a six-legged octopus (the other two will no doubt appear in the future (see the map).
Now most important to understand the structure of Schiphol fast is this:
The airport is built in two main-levels. The upperlevel for departures and the lowerlevel for arrivals.
Having no idea how the airport is built up, one can easily get into a slight panic as for the enormous terrain and the chaos of signs, languages, systems and steps that one has to go through in arriving as well as departing from here. Therefor I will built some tips to give you an idea of how the system works and ... this will no doubt make you see the light. From that moment it will be easy to use Schiphol as a place of entrance to - or - as from where you will leave The Netherlands and North Western Europe. Following tips might instruct you step by step.
1. descending and docking
2. passport-control and luggage
3. out in the open: Schiphol
For connections away from Schiphol, you can watch my transport-tips
1. getting there / parking
2. booking in / luggage
4. pier and gate
There's always the website (www.schiphol.nl) that will also give you extensive information.
Fondest memory: Airports always have attracted me, like stations or harbours. These are the maingates to travel, adventure and the "other worlds" that are there ... waiting to be discovered.
At Schiphol there is waste separation:
-Black container: General waste
-Orange container: PET plastic bottles
-Blue container: Paper waste
From October 2006 it's possible to marry at Schiphol Airport.
This is a strictly commercial thing; see: More information
Favorite thing: For the international traveller it is possible to rent mobile phones at Schiphol at the Telecom Rentcenter at the Schiphol Plaza.
Favorite thing: The Schiphol Urinals are well known for ...... well have a look