When do I go through customs at Schiphol?

You arrived at the airport on time, checked in for your flight, went through the security check and now it’s time to go through customs, right? Not yet! You won’t be going through customs at Schiphol until you return from your trip. Unless you’re travelling to another Schengen country, you’ll be going through passport control after the security check. And that process is handled by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, not Dutch Customs. Feeling like a confused customer? Not to worry! We explain the difference between passport control and customs in this blog.

‘Can I take a look in your bag please?’

Security, passport control and customs staff are all interested in helping keep Schiphol safe. But they carry out this important task in different ways. Both security and customs want to know what you’re carrying in your baggage. The difference is that security is more concerned with what you’re taking with you on board, while customs is more interested in what’s in your suitcase when you arrive at the airport. Security staff scan your bags before you board your flight to make sure you’re not taking any prohibited items onto the plane. Customs, on the other hand, might want to take a look in your suitcase when you come back to make sure nothing illegal is being brought into the country.

The people crossing the border

The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, a branch of the Dutch armed forces with police powers, probably won’t be looking in your bags. That’s because they deal with the people crossing the border rather than the goods. They carry out passport control at Schiphol. If you are travelling to or from a non-Schengen country, your passport will be checked by a Marechaussee border guard (unless you use the eGate – an automatic self-service checkpoint). As well as border control duties, the Marechaussee also helps keep our airport safe. That’s why you might also see them walking around Schiphol Plaza, for example.

The goods crossing the border

You’ll see customs officers just before you enter the arrival hall, after picking up your baggage. Customs oversees the import, export and transport of goods; they check whether all necessary taxes have been paid and whether goods comply with regulations. You can take a lot of things with you to or from the Netherlands, but there are of course exceptions. Some things, like illegal drugs, fake weapons and endangered animal products may never be brought into the Netherlands. For medicines, food items and large sums of cash there are separate rules. If you'd like to know what you can and cannot bring in to the country, take a look at the Schiphol website or download the Customs app.

So now you know when you go through customs at Schiphol. ‘Nothing to declare’? Follow the green sign into the arrival hall. ‘Goods to declare’? Follow the red sign and speak to a customs officer!

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