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Advice on using the airport, whether you are arriving or departing there are some useful things to know.

Check-in times:
For specific check in times you must consult your carrying airline. However a good general guide to check-in times is:
Long-haul/inter continental flights you should allow three hours before your flight time for check-in. (El Al passengers should allow three and a half hours).
European flights you should allow a 2 hour check-in time.
UK, domestic and Ireland flights you should allow one hour for check-in.

Prior to 9/11 check-in times were quite flexible but with the current extra security procedures it is must more rigid.
Normally boarding for your flight will start 45 minutes before the due time.
Many airlines flying from Heathrow have online check-in so check to see if this option is available to you.

It is now a legal requirement in the UK that all coats go through the security scanner. Also please note that you cannot take open drinks through the security check point.

Information Screens
Details of of your boarding gate for departing flights will be displayed 45 minutes before the departure time.

What can you pack?
Read more about luggage packing here

Which Customs Channel?
from the European Union:
use the blue exit from the baggage hall. Your hold baggage will have a green label.
from outside or via the European Union:
go through the red/green customs channels as normal. Your hold baggage will have a white label.
Use the red point to declare goods in excess of the allowance and commercial goods. Payment may be made by credit card.

HMCE have VAT desks for handling refund claims in each of the international landside departure areas. Of course this only applies to good being taken outside of the EU (European Union).

There are a list of prohibited items. Some can be packed in your hold luggage but not your hand luggage. Others cannot be taken at all. Read more about luggage packing here.

Duty Free
You can only shop duty free once you pass security to the airside of the airport. Duty free means you do not pay the 17.5% VAT added to most goods and services in the UK. Duty free shopping is available to all departing passengers.
If you are flying outside of the European Union Look out for the green sign that says 'Only for passengers travelling outside the EU'. This means you can have discounts not available to other travellers.

Passport and Visa Requirements
Travel within the European Union in theory is supposed to be without borders. Of course in reality this is not the case. Each country will be checking your passport so you will need to carry it with you whenever you cross national borders. If you are a citizen of the European Union then you live and work freely in the UK as long as you have a current passport. If you are from a European country but a citizen of the European Union itself then you can stay in the UK for 3 months. A work permit is required. You can stay longer than 3 months but you need a Visa to do that. If you are from:
USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.....
Then you can stay for up to 6 months before a Visa is required. For anyone from a country not covered by the above then you need a Visa to come to the UK at all.

How Much Money?
The UK has no requirements or exchange controls with regards the amount of money and foreign currency you can bring into the country.

What if I Get Ill during my Stay?
The UK has a free-at-the-point-of-use Health service. This means in the case of an emergency for UK foreign visitors you can normally use the accident and emergency section of any Hospital at no cost. If you are deemed to be not an emergency case then you will be charged for the services you use unless special arrangements exist between your own government and the UK, referred to as a reciprocal agreement. Currently this covers most European countries, Australia and New Zealand. All other visitors should make sure they have medical insurance before travel.
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