Arriving in Australia for your dream holiday? It can be daunting to arrive in a new country for the first time: especially after a long flight. Here's an overview of what to expect at the airport, along with some tips and tricks to make the process as smooth as possible.

What to expect when your flight lands in Australia

However you arrive in Australia, there are some formalities to go through when you get here: passport, customs, and biosecurity controls. Our international airport arrival areas are laid out so that you do this in order and all being well you will be through in no time.

 

After your plane lands, you will:

  • Head to Passport Control to show your passport/visa
  • Collect your bags from the baggage carousel
  • Dispose of any items (eg food from the plane) that aren't allowed into Australia
  • Proceed to Customs & Border Protection, where your bags may be inspected
  • Leave the airport and begin the holiday of a lifetime!

 

Australian Customs

How To Breeze Through The Arrivals Process

 

Before you leave home

Speed up the arrivals process before you even leave the house! Before you travel, remember to...

  • Pack a pen in your carry-on bag
  • Pack your prescription in your carry-on bag if taking medication.
  • Clean any sports gear (hiking boots, golf clubs etc) before you travel.

All done? Now it's time to board the plane...

Learn more about Getting a Flight to Australia

 


When you board your flight to Australia...

Don't sit down just yet! Before stashing your bag in the overhead locker, grab the following items and place them in the seat pocket in front of you:

  • Your passport
  • Your boarding pass
  • Your pen (black or blue ink)
  • Address details for where you’re staying on your first night

What are these for? Well, you will need these items so that you can fill out...
 

The Incoming Passenger Card

While you're in the air, a flight attendant will hand you a blank Incoming Passenger Card to complete. You can only use black or blue ink to do this.

You'll need to fill out:

  • Your personal information 
  • Details about your visit to Australia
  • Dour Quarantine and Customs information.

Since you probably haven't memorised your passport number, flight number, or the address of your first night's accommodation, you'll need access to this information during the flight. 

This is why stashing them in your seat pocket makes sense. 

What if you're asleep when the cards are handed out? Don't worry - you will still be able to obtain a card at the airport when you land.

But it saves time if you can complete the incoming passenger card while you're in the air.

 

Arriving in Australia: Passport Control

You've finally landed on Australian soil! So what's next?

It's time to present your passport and completed Incoming Passenger Card at Passport Control.

 

Passport Control

Leave the plane and follow the Passport Control signs - they'll lead you to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Checkpoint.

Here, you will show your travel documents in one of two ways:

  1. Present your passport to a customs & border official at the desk or kiosk, or...
  2. If you have an ePassport from an eligible country, you can scan your passport at an automated Smart Gate.

How do you know if you have an ePassport? It will have an electronic chip in it (which you can usually feel), and you'll see a small camera icon on the front cover.

If in doubt, ask a customs official if you are eligible - they'll be happy to help.

Pro tip: don't use your cellphone in the passport control area: if you do, you will be asked to put it away.

More information on Passport and Visa Requirements for Australia

 

Collect your bags from the baggage carousel

After Passport Control, it's time to reunite with your luggage.

Follow the Baggage Claim signs to the arrivals hall, where you will find the carousels. There will be display screens to inform you which carousel you need to go to: look for your flight number on-screen and the carousel number will be displayed next to it.

While you're waiting, there may be sniffer dogs and their handlers patrolling the carousels. If they give you a quick sniff, this doesn't automatically mean that you have done anything wrong! 

Simply place your bag on the floor if the dog's handler asks you to - if you're not carrying any prohibited items, the dog will do its job and move on to the next person.

Pro tip: If you require assistance removing your luggage from the carousel, contact your airline before you travel - they may be able to arrange for someone to help you when you arrive.

Need tips on what to pack? Our Australian Holiday Packing Guide has the answers.

 

Clearing Customs and Border Protection

Proceed to the Quarantine checkpoint.

Before you reach the checkpoint, here's what you need to do:
 

Dispose of any food you have brought with you from the plane
Carrying a leftover banana? A ham sandwich you saved for later?  You can't bring these into Australia.

Place them in the biosecurity bins provided, or treat yourself to a quick snack before moving on!


Check if you are carrying anything that’s a biosecurity risk
Biosecurity risks include anything with soil on them: shoes, camping gear, golf clubs, prams... make sure these are clean before you travel.

If you are bringing pre-packaged food that hasn't been opened, it may be allowed in, but it's best to check first. 

Find out more about what you can (and can't) bring in to Australia.


Check that you’re not carrying anything above your duty-free allowance
Bringing alcohol or tobacco with you? 

There are limits the amount you can bring in to Australia tax-free. 

If you're carrying more than the allowance, you will have to declare it and pay duty. Certain other goods may be subject to limits too. For example, there is a limit

Find up-to-date information about duty-free allowances in Australia on the Australian Border Force website.

 

At the Quarantine Checkpoint

At the quarantine checkpoint, you may be required to present your bags for an x-ray or inspection.

If you answered "yes" to any of the biosecurity risk item questions on your Incoming Passenger Card, a customs officer will ask you about the items and may wish to see them.

Biosecurity risk items will be inspected: don't worry, if they are safe they will be returned to you!

Pro tip: If you are carrying items with soil on them (e.g. recently-used hiking boots), a customs officer may take them away for washing while you wait. It's much quicker to clean them yourself before you travel.

 

Border Patrol

Final step: Leave the airport and begin the holiday of a lifetime!

After your quarantine checks, you'll enter the main arrivals hall. From here, you can:

  • Meet anyone who has come to collect you
  • Exchange your cash for Australian currency
  • Withdraw cash at an ATM
  • Buy a SIM card for your cellphone
  • Book or hail a taxi / rideshare  / shuttle service
  • Book or collect a rental car
  • Take public transport to the nearest city

These services will be signposted to show you where to go, or you can ask for help at the information desk.

Landing Card

Our top tips for a smooth arrival into Australia?

  • Before you leave home, read the official guide to what you can bring in to Australia and repack if necessary
  • Pack a pen in your carry-on bag - you'll save time by filling out the Incoming Passenger Card during your flight
  • Write down the address of your first night's accommodation - you'll need it for the Incoming Passenger Card
  • Bringing hiking boots to Australia? Clean any dirt off them before you go - they will be inspected.
  • Ask a Border Control Officer for help if you're unsure - they're happy to advise if you're unsure if an item is permitted.

Having sailed through the arrivals process, it's time to start the holiday of a lifetime! 


More articles to help you plan your trip to Australia


Getting to Australia
How Long Should I Visit Australia For
Australian Passport and Visa Requirements
Travel Insurance for Australia
Driving in Australia
Safety in Australia's Great Outdoors
What to Pack for an Australian Holiday
Australian Accommodation Guide
Australia's Need to Know Facts
What do things cost in Australia

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