Stupid Tip of the Day: One Simple Way to Get Through Passport Control Faster…

When spending a dozen or so hours as a passenger aboard an airplane used for a transoceanic or transcontinental flight, you most likely just want to get to your final destination — usually a hotel room — as soon as possible once the flight has concluded.

What often happens when entering another country, however, is you trudge what seems to be several miles of airport until you reach the customs and immigration area — and there they are: hundreds of people crammed in one area in several lines, waiting to be processed before continuing on to their destinations…

…and the wait can last greater than an hour, depending on how long is the line — as well as how slow is the official who is processing the people.

One Simple Way to Get Through Passport Control Faster…

In many airports — somewhere between the gates and the customs or immigration area — you often have to get from one floor to another; and there are usually three options: the escalator, the elevator and the stairs.

Most people tend to take the escalator or elevator for a variety of reasons: they could be too tired from the long flight to walk up or down the stairs; or perhaps they are transporting some heavy luggage with them.

I usually use the stairs instead of the escalator or the elevator for two reasons: one is because I prefer to get the exercise; but more importantly, I can typically use the stairs to bypass dozens of people who would otherwise be ahead of me in those aforementioned long lines. Assuming that an average of ten minutes are needed to process each person through passport control, if six people are ahead of me, I could be looking at an hour in line — meaning that every person I bypass could mean a savings of ten minutes of my time.

As slow as escalators may be as a form of conveyance for human beings, elevators are typically significantly slower — but they are more useful for people who are either frightened of escalators or need a more secure form of ascending or descending between floors or levels.


This simple little tip can potentially save you a significant amount of time getting through the airport to get to where you are going if you travel internationally — and it has worked for virtually every single time.

One notable exception was when I attempted to pass through passport control in Bahrain — and, of course, another exception which is rare is passing through an airport where no stairs, escalator or elevator is necessary.

Depending on the width of the hallway and the slowness of people walking, you can also pass fellow passengers — but try not to be rude about doing so. Say “excuse me” if you want to pass someone; and say “thank you” once passing them. Additionally, smiling in a genuine and friendly manner can help in ensuring that the process of passing someone is more pleasant.

You can save even more time by filling out any immigration forms either aboard the airplane if they are given out by members of the flight crew; or by picking one up at a counter and completing the form while waiting in line at passport control.

The one time where this advice may not work is when the staircase is transformed into something more fun, as seen in this video

…but until then, I will keep using the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

6 thoughts on “Stupid Tip of the Day: One Simple Way to Get Through Passport Control Faster…”

  1. Miles says:

    I agree that taking the stairs is often a little faster than the escalator. It’s also good exercise after being cooped up, seated, in a plane for hours. And, I find that my long legs let me walk fast, typically passing several people on the long march toward passport control.

    Another tip is to sit closer to the aircraft door, so you can de-board before most of the other passengers.

    I’ve been fortunate to not (yet) visit a nation where it takes 10 minutes for each person to be processed through passport control.

    1. gizmosdad says:

      I agree that sitting in the front of the plane means that I get through passport control faster, because I’m ahead of a ton of other people…

    2. Brian Cohen says:

      You are correct, Miles — but I know I do not always get a seat closer to the aircraft door…

      …and I usually prefer a window seat; so that probably costs me some time getting to passport control as well.

  2. Gene says:

    Ten minutes? Perhaps one?

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      One minute? On average, Gene?!?

      While processing a passenger could possibly take as little as one minute, I would like to know in what countries passengers are processed in only one minute on average.

      Countries where significantly greater than ten minutes were needed to process each passenger through passport control include Egypt, China and the United Arab Emirates, by my experience — but then, our experiences may vary.

  3. Mdtravel says:

    Ten minutes for Europe is something I’ve never seen. Don’t be astounded at people’s generalizations in response to your own. For the us and eu it’s more like 1 to 2 tops. Heck I’d go w 40 seconds for most of Europe.

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