Arriving at the airport

When you arrive at the airport, follow the signs for ‘Arrivals’ unless you are transferring to another plane at the same airport. If you are transferring to another flight, follow the ‘Flight connections’ signs.

‘Arrivals’ will take you to passport control. Here, electronic screens will show you where to go – there are usually separate queues for passengers who have passports from the UK, EEA (European Economic Area) or Switzerland, and for all other passport holders. Once you have completed the immigration process (see the UKCISA website for more details about immigration and customs), you'll proceed to the baggage reclaim area to collect your luggage. Look at the screens above the baggage carousels to find your flight number.

Finally, you'll pass through Customs Control. At UK airports there are normally three exits through Customs – a green channel if you are travelling from outside the EEA and have nothing to declare; a red channel if you are travelling from outside the EEA and have goods to declare; and a blue channel if you've arrived from another airport within the EEA. Follow the links below to check what items should be declared.

Border Force (part of the UK government’s Home Office) is responsible for immigration and customs checks at airports. These are Border Force's top tips for a smooth journey:

 DELETE? Have your passport ready.

  1. Ensure you complete a landing card if you’re a non-EEA (European Economic Area) national. Landing cards are sometimes given out on the plane, or you can find them in the immigration hall.
  2. Bring details of your course of study. If you have a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number, bring proof of this too.
  3. Keep any medical documentation, recent bank statements and details of where you are staying in your hand luggage. You may be asked to show this information.
  4. Do not bring any meat or dairy products from outside the European Union. There are also restrictions on other food products such as fish, eggs and honey, as well as some fruit, vegetables and plants (e.g. bulbs, seeds, cut flowers and tree bark). Find out more
  5. There are restrictions on the amount of tobacco, alcohol and gifts you can bring to the UK. Find out more
  6. Be aware of your duty free limit. If you exceed your allowance, you will have to declare it and pay duty at customs (go through the ‘red channel’), otherwise all of your items may be taken away from you. 
  7. Never bring in counterfeit goods, illegal drugs, weapons or obscene material. Some items are restricted and will require a licence or permit. Find out more
  8. You must declare any sums of cash of €10,000 or more (or the equivalent in another currency), if you are travelling from a country outside the European Union.
  9. Never give false or misleading information (including forged or counterfeit documents). 

Students from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the USA

If you're coming to the UK from any of these five countries on a Tier 4 visa or a Standard Visitor Visa (previously an Academic Visitor Visa), you can sign up for the official Registered Traveller service. This will give you faster entry through the UK border. It allows you to use biometric ePassport gates (a quick computerised passport check) and the UK/EU entry lanes, and means you don't need to fill out a landing card, have a credibility interview or have your fingerprints taken.

The service is aimed at travellers over the age of 18 and there is a fee for applying. Please visit the Registered Traveller page of the Home Office website for more details.

Transport from the airport

Your school, college or university can give you information about local transport options, and might be able to help you to arrange your trip from the airport when you first arrive in the UK.
If not, aim to arrive during the day, when public transport is more frequent. For trains and buses from the airport, you can save time and money by booking tickets in advance.

Airports' websites also give information about onward transport options when you arrive. See for example: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

See Travel in the UK for more information.

Read more

For more advice before you travel, take a look at the British Council's First steps guide. This has lots of information about what to expect when you arrive in the UK, plus checklists to help you keep track of all the practical tasks you'll need to think about.Download the guide here