August 2015 If it’s your first time traveling to Germany it can be a bit overwhelming, but if you’ve had any experience in any airport you’ll see how easy this one is. Even if you can’t speak the language, the process is almost always the same as most every airport. Thankfully, in the case of arriving at the Stuttgart Airport (STR) it’s a very simple and easy process. The airport is fairly small.
Once you depart the aircraft it’s a quick jaunt to passport control or ‘Passkontrolle’. If you don’t know the way and you are concerned about reading the signs in German, just make sure you aren’t the first one off the plane and follow the crowd. Or, even better, just scan the signs and look for the graphics or English translation.
Once you arrive at the almost always fairly short line, get in the ‘Non-EU Nationals’ line if you are US citizen. Again, it will be in English. I would say look for the line with the American looking people, but considering a large majority of Americans are of European descent, that’s not going to help you much. If you are situationally aware enough, you could notice the US passports in the hands of those who you strategically allowed in front of you and stand with them. However, its easier just to read the sign and figure out which line you need to be in. The gruff and always serious German will stamp your passport and ask you the nature of your visit and the length of your stay. As Americans, we are used to smiles and proper greetings, but don’t be disappointed if the guy looks like he hates his job and frowns at you instead of saying good morning and asking you how your flight was.
Proceed to the baggage claim and wait for your baggage. This is a good time to take a break and, if you need to wash up from the long flight, there is a small bathroom in the baggage claim area. Just like most bathroom in Germany (and around Europe), it will be marked with a WC (water closet) and there will be a graphic of a girl or guy. If you have a few euros they even have a dispenser for a small toothbrush and toothpaste set.
The push carts to carry your luggage are next to the baggage carousel and are unlocked by either placing a 1 Euro coin or an American quarter, which gets returned to you when you return it to a rack.
If you have nothing to declare, then once you get your luggage you just leave through the exit door which is easily identifiable.
If you don’t have a German cell phone and you want to hook up to WiFi (pronounced weefee in Germany), T-Mobile offers you a free hour but it takes a bit to get connected. First, click on the T-Mobile wifi link that shows up on your wifi options on your cell. When the ‘connect to wifi’ page opens, you can click on the language option at the bottom of the page in a drop down menu to set it to English. This took me a few trips to figure out, since its in German and somewhat hidden. Follow the directions. You will have to set your phone to receive a text message which is risky, since allowing one text may all of a sudden turn into all of the texts you missed during your 10 plus hours in the sky. That can get a bit expensive depending on your cell plan, my first time cost me $3. You will enter your country code and cell number so they can send you a code. Once you receive the text with the code, copy and paste into the block they tell you to and bam! One hour of world class weefee at your fingertips.
THE MEET UP
It is highly recommended that you have a meet up plan for whoever is picking you up, with a back up plan just in case. Don’t rely on ‘hey, I’ll call you when I land.’ That’s a bad plan. One thing we have learned about overseas travel….invariably the simplest tasks become difficult feats of magnitude proportion. Ask me about the time my husband desperately needed some Benadryl for an allergic reaction he was having to some pain meds! I proved my great and steadfast love for him that night…5 hours and 100 kilometers later.
Back to the meet up plans. There are several simple options:
- The second floor or roof top lanes are an easy place to meet and have someone swing by with a car to pick you up. Once you exit the baggage claim, get on the elevator (only a few meters away) and go up one floor or drag your luggage up stairs (made that mistake once). The exit is easy to find since its all windows. The lane is only about a 150 meters long, so they will be able to spot you pretty quickly. They can also park and wait by the curb, but they can’t leave the car unattended. A good thing to know during your time in Germany, the Germans have lots of rules and they abide by every one.
- Right outside the baggage claim gate is the main area. There is a great little coffee and tea shop where you can rest and have a cup of overpriced café au lait (about $4) while you wait . You can also get your first taste of the amazing German pretzels with butter. Forget about the gluten and carbs, you’ve had a long and arduous journey and you deserve it. Unless you want to sit on your luggage in the main area, I would rest here. I honestly don’t know if the seating is for customers only since I’m always exhausted and need some caffeine so I splurge on the coffee or tea (warning: its very hot! I ordered a tea once and it was a good 45 minutes before I could even take a sip. Café au lait is a better choice because the milk cools it enough to drink it). If you don’t have euros yet, they do take credit cards and it’s expensive enough to not be embarrassing to use a card.
- The taxis are a right outside the door but be warned…they are pricey. Our 15 min trip to the apartment cost 35 euros. The taxi drivers usually know some English. Its best to have the address written down so you can just show them and they will plug it into their GPS. Have some euros on you to pay. I’ll have to update the page later with details on an ATM in the airport because I’ve never had to use one.
- There is a small parking lot right in front of the door which cost a few euros an hour, but very convenient and worth it if they want to park and meet you as you walk out the door. This is my favorite meet up plan….walking out the baggage claim door to see my handsome husband anxiously waiting for me with a big hug and a strong body to drag my luggage for me. Life is good.
All in all, the Stuttgart Airport is a great airport to arrive in. Small, convenient, and easy to navigate. Enjoy your time in Germany!