Newest Review: ... are greeted with the friendly faces the whole way through the airport. As you walk through you can hear birds singing (never heard that... more
Good international airport recognising a surprising list of contraband goods
Auckland Airport (AKL)
Member Name: worst_trip
Auckland Airport (AKL)
Advantages: If you're arriving in Auckland Airport, you're visiting (wonderful) New Zealand
Disadvantages: Officials a bit dour; security checks are disconcertingly thorough
Do not be alarmed if, following a 20 plus hour gruelling plane flight from the northern hemisphere, you arrive in Auckland Airport to find that your first impression of New Zealand is a not exactly favourable one.
Any slight feelings of jadedness or disillusionment you experience on arriving in New Zealand at Auckland Airport will probably be a side-effect of the ridiculous journey times required to get to this - what you'll undoubtedly later decide is a - fantastic destination. The view of sea-water, and grey misty hills that you can see through the plate-glass windows as you wait in immigration on entering the country might look suspisciously like exactly the kind of thing you'd see on a visit to - for many parts of the world, the much more accessible county of - Scotland, but it's not worth panicking yet. Once you have cleared the sometimes tedious process of New Zealand immigration, and had time to recover from the jet-lag, things will undoubtedly improve.
Auckland Airport may be the largest and busiest in New Zealand, but it isn't huge on the scale of, say, London Heathrow or anywhere like that. It's actually a medium to large, modern airport, nice and clean and pleasantly decorated in many places with impressive Maori / tribal motifs. There's a fair range of duty-free and souviner shops, particularly in the departure area when you're leaving the country - the prices there, of course, being generally a bit higher than you'd find elsewhere - but they do sell at a price, last-minute hard-to-get-hold-of items that you might have trouble buying otherwise - e.g. genuine Maori -made 'grass' skirts that are unavailable anywhere outside of Rotorua.....
We found the immigration officials at Auckland Airport to be an unusally dour bunch - matched, for sterness of bearing only by the immigration officials we met some years ago while entering the (pre 9/11) USA. The oddest part of the entering-New-Zealand process that we encountered however were the very serious and rigorous biosecurity checks that entrants to the country are subject to. Despite having done some homework on the destination, we weren't quite aware of the scale, or deadly seriousness of these checks - it's something that we found was rather glossed over, instead of being adequately emphasized in the literature we'd read.
Unlike secruity dogs everywhere else, which presumably search for the smell of guns, explosives and drugs, the sniffer dogs in Auckland Airport are trained to home in on food odours - eg. the smell of ripe bananas. We'd had some fresh fruit in our hand luggage that luckily, we'd consumed on the 'plane otherwise we'd presumably have been in trouble for trying to import contraband. I don't know what would have happened if we had been found in possission of such illicit items; just the lingering smell of bananas in our bag was enough to get us called aside and our bags meticulously searched by a very strict young dog-handler at the Airport.
To protect New Zeland's agricultural industry from imported pests and diseases from abroad, no non-processed fruit, meat or dairy products can be brought into the country - something highly processed, like a tin of frankfurters or a packet of crisps would probably be all right, but a dry-meat salami or Parma Ham or bag of uncooked spuds would definitely not be allowed in. Korean dried fish snacks, from Seoul airport, are also - surprisingly - usually OK (though we found this out too late having already discarded ours in some of the large bins provided, prior to entering the security check area).
Similarly, the Airport authorities are extremely concerned about mud on your boots, lest alien weed-seeds etc. as well as agricultural pests be accidentally imported into New Zealand (admittedly very fragile) native ecosystems. It's important to thoroughly clean all mud from your outdoor shoes, hiking boots and wellies as a result; your hold baggage as well as your carry-on items gets X-rayed as you ENTER the country - under the X-ray the officials look out for welly-shaped items, and the heavy cleats on the sole that identify outdoor shoes - and any footwear that looks like it might have been worn outdoors gets pulled out of your luggage and examined to see if it's clean enough to be allowed into the country. If it doesn't pass muster, I understand that the airport staff will take the suspect shoes or boots away and disinfect them thoroughly before returning them to you; but apparently they'll charge you quite a bit for this service.
All this palavering about with biosecurity adds a bit on to the time you'll spend in the airport on arrival, but presumably it's quite necessary. If you take even an internal trip in New Zealand from North Island to South Island, they are similarly concerned (about some invasive species of freshwater algae) transferring between the islands; it's clear they take their alien and invasive beasties very, very seriously here - and rightly so; if you find out a bit about New Zealand's native flora and fauna and what's happened to it historically as a result of introduced species, it makes pretty sobering reading, really.
Back to the airport - in autumn 2008 it cost the equivalent of about £20 - £25 to get a taxi from the airport to the centre of Auckland which is pretty reasonable given that after all the time it'll likely have taken you to get to New Zealand, the last thing you'll want to do is have to wait around with all your luggage for a public bus.
Summary: Clean all your shoes and boots before you go there (really!)
More reviews in the field of Airport
- LOCALS LOVE BOURNEMOUTH AIRPORT
- Come fly with Warsaw
- Abu Dhabi Airport - surviving an overnight stay
- LARNACA AIRPORT TOO SMALL FOR SO MANY TRAVELLERS
- Compact but hassle-free travel point
- San Diego/sandy play-go
- Southend Airport- Small But Beautifully Formed
- Budapest here I come!
- Corfu Airport
- Okay airport - shame about the staff