UK airport arrivals sign

What to expect when you arrive at a UK airport

Passport Control

When you disembark from the plane follow the signs to Passport Control. To avoid delays, please:
  • remove your passport from its cover and have it open at the photo page
  • take off any hats, headphones and sunglasses
  • put mobile phones or tablets away when it’s time to see an officer
  • stay together when travelling as a family.
Hopefully you will have all your travel documents (and any documents regarding your visit to the UK) in your hand luggage for easy access.

Use the eGates for quicker entry

You might be able to use an automated e-Passport gate instead of having your passport checked by a Border Force officer.

You can normally use eGates if you:

  • have a biometric symbol on the cover of your passport
  • are aged 12+ (12 to 17 year olds must be accompanied by an adult)

are either:

  • a British citizen
  • a national of an EU country, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the USA
  • a member of the Registered Traveller Service

Those travelling with ID cards cannot use the eGates.

Getting your passport stamped by a Border Force officer

Check GOV.UK's Guide to faster travel through the UK border to see if you need to get your passport stamped on entry.

EU/EEA arrivals: Bring your passport rather than an ID card

If you are an EEA citizen, you may find it faster to use your passport rather than your EEA national identity card at the UK border.

This is because:

  • passports are faster for our Border Force officers to process
  • you can use your EU passport at our eGates

You cannot use an EU, EEA or Swiss national ID card to enter the UK unless you: 

In these cases, you can continue to use your national ID card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025.

Know what you can or can’t bring into the UK

There are restrictions or bans on bringing some food products such as fish, eggs and honey, some fruits and vegetables as well as live plants, traditional medicines or products of animal origins.

If you need to bring medicine with you to the UK, you need to prove your medicine is prescribed to you if:

  • it contains a ‘controlled drug’
  • you have it on you when you’re entering the UK

Check the Gov.UK webpage to find out what you need to do: 

Bringing medicine containing a controlled drug into the UK

When you register at a Doctors Surgery in Plymouth, you will be able to discuss your medication requirements.

Taking cash in and out of Great Britain: you must declare cash of £10,000 or more to UK customs.

Your final part of the journey to Plymouth

Travelling from your port of arrival to Plymouth

If you have booked a seat on one of University of Plymouth Meet and Greet coaches leaving from Heathrow Airport, make your way to Terminal 2. You will be emailed more instructions before the date.
If you are making your own way to Plymouth, you can visit the information desk at the airport for advice and up-to-date information on how to get to Plymouth. Generally, journey by coach is longer than the train but it costs less money.
Coaches from Heathrow and Gatwick 
National Express and Megabus services run from Heathrow and Gatwick airports to Plymouth approximately every two hours. 
Coaches from Bristol and Exeter 
Stagecoach and Megabus services run from Bristol and Exeter to Plymouth. The coach journey from Bristol takes approximately three hours. The coach journey from Exeter takes approximately one hour.
Trains to Plymouth can be booked online via Trainline.
Trains from Heathrow 
You will need to catch the Heathrow Express train to Paddington station in London, which takes 15 minutes and runs every 15 minutes. From here, you can then catch the train to Plymouth. The train journey from London Paddington to Plymouth takes three to four hours.
Trains from Gatwick
You can catch the train to Reading station, where you'll join the train to Plymouth. These services are approximately hourly.
Trains from Bristol
You will first need to catch the Airport Flyer Express Link service which connects you to Bristol Temple Meads station, with services approximately every ten minutes during peak times. There are direct trains running every hour during the daytime between Bristol Temple Meads and Plymouth, which take around two hours.
Trains from Exeter
You will first need to take a taxi or bus to Exeter St Davids train station. There are direct trains running every hour during the daytime between Exeter St Davids and Plymouth, which take around one hour.

Arriving at University of Plymouth

Arriving at the coach station:

Plymouth Coach Station is in the city centre and about ten minutes’ walk from campus.

Arriving at the train station:

Plymouth Railway Station is just five minutes’ walk from campus.

Arriving at the seaport of Plymouth:

The ferry port is about 30 minutes’ walk from campus.

Getting a taxi to the University or to your accommodation

If you have lots of luggage, it may be easier to get a taxi. A taxi rank is available at each station/port entrance and should not cost more than £10. You can queue up and wait for a taxi or, alternatively, you can call a taxi company in advance. Please note Uber does not currently operate in Plymouth but there will be private taxi companies advertised in the stations or you can search online ‘Taxi firms in Plymouth’. Most taxi firms accept cash or debit/credit card.

What to expect if you are travelling through a seaport

For people in vehicles, please have your windows open and any curtains drawn so we can see into your vehicle.

You will need to show your passport and travel documents when requested.

If you are travelling by bike or motorcycle, please remove your helmet, including open-faced helmets.

If the Border Force officer can’t identify you or your passengers, this will delay your journey.