Karen thinks that Narita might be her favourite airport. Personally, I hated it. I’ve had a few bad immigration experiences before (all in the US, natch), but my arrival in Japan was definitely the worst of my round-the-world trip. If I recall correctly (and I’m willing to accept that I may have somewhat exaggerated the story in my mind), it took somewhere in the region of 39 hours from entering the Immigration Hall until actually getting processed, with at least half of that involving being slowly shunted around in a dense mass of people all slowly wending their way towards an actual queue. To make matters worse, between the time I bought my RTW ticket and when I actually arrived, Japan introduced the process of fingerprinting all tourists. I was tempted to try to remove mine, but, well, that would have required too much pain.
My best airport experience of the trip, as previously reported was in Dunedin, but as it was for a domestic flight it doesn’t really count. My arrival in NZ was quite a mess, but that was mostly due to the boarding desk in Tonga checking me and my luggage the whole way through to Dunedin, even though they weren’t supposed to, as I needed to clear immigration and customs in Auckland first. And having a pot of hot coffee tipped over me by a flight attendant on the connecting flight didn’t help much either, but that’s not really an airport story…
My arrival in Samoa was probably the simplest process of anywhere: the immigration desk was staffed by a very friendly and welcoming woman who seemed positively enthusiastic to see everyone, and customs was a fairly simple “put your bags on this conveyer belt so we can x-ray them” affair. Unfortunately I associate that arrival with the subsequent no-show of the transportation that had been pre-arranged to take me to my accommodation, and the overly aggressive taxi-drivers who volunteered to take me there instead. I was finally rescued by the mini-bus for a neighbouring hotel who then got confused as to where I’d said I was staying proceeded to leave me at a completely different place. Thankfully I noticed that the sign outside it didn’t seem quite right before the driver disappeared.
So I suspect I’m left with Sydney as the best all-round arrival process. There everything flowed incredibly smoothly and quickly, and I was outside looking for a cab quicker than getting off a lot of domestic flights.
Oslo still remains my all-round favourite airport, though. There’s a sense of design and beauty about it that you just don’t see in most airports.
And I’m still a little bemused that Tallinn airport seems to have tripled in size since my departure. I was the second person off the plane, and was very glad I wasn’t the first, as I would have had no clue where to go if I hadn’t been able to just follow someone who had obviously been through it before. We arrived away at the far side of the airport where they punish incoming passengers from the UK and Ireland for being non-Schengen, and they don’t really seem to have managed to put up any signage yet for how to get to anywhere.
I expect that any of the side trips I take over the next few months will be much smoother, however, now that most of Europe is effectively borderless.
I can’t really remember that process at all in Australia. Either they didn’t have that for people arriving from NZ, or else there were no queues and I just breezed through in no time at all, like I did with the equivalent scanning in NZ, Tonga and Samoa. Whichever way, I was through the whole thing amazingly quickly.
But customs at Sydney is a pain! You have to queue forever so they can scan you bags so that they can check that you don’t have any fruit. Were you lucky enough to escape that?