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I am travelling for the first time from Bombay (IN) to Alicante (ES) and have a long (18h) layover in Amsterdam.

  • Will I be allowed to explore the city in meanwhile?
  • What's the procedure to follow?
  • Will I need a hotel booking?
  • What are the precautions I should take?

I have a Schengen Visa.

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Yes, you can go to the city. To get to the gate for your flight to Spain, you have to clear Schengen immigration controls in Amsterdam. You can just as well head to the airport exit instead of your gate (which probably won't be assigned when you arrive anyway).

As noted in a comment, there are actually different sets of immigration control desks for the airport exit and for transfers to Schengen area flights. The quickest way to get to the exit, of course, is to head there directly from your arrival gate, but if you accidentally go to the Schengen gates first, there's no need to worry; you can still get to the airport exit from there.

The officer at the immigration checkpoint for the airport exit might ask why you're there if you're about to fly to Spain. If so, all you have to do is mention the time of your departure. Your plan to see a bit of the city is very common and should not raise any concerns.

Leaving the airport of course means that you'll need to clear security to get back in. You will not have any further immigration checks in Amsterdam or Spain, however, because the Netherlands and Spain are both in the Schengen area.

You will not need a hotel booking unless you want to sleep in a hotel.

Necessary precautions are dictated by common sense: be aware of your surroundings; allow plenty of time to return to the airport in case there are delays in the trains or at the security checkpoint.

  • @Abigail that is how I remember it: you go to a different set of immigration desks depending on whether you're heading for a transfer or for the exit. But it would also be possible to go to the Schengen part of the airport, passing through the transfer immigration desks, and then decide to head for the exit. The most efficient, of course, in terms of the amount of time available for sightseeing, would be to follow the signs for the airport exit directly from the arrival gate. – phoog Aug 19 at 13:56
  • At Schiphol you might get your boardingpass, with gate, well before departure, maybe even 24 hours. – Willeke Aug 19 at 16:23
  • @Willeke fair enough, you might. But as far as I remember gate change announcements make up at least half of the public address traffic there. I just checked several flights scheduled 18 hours from now at schiphol.nl/en/departures, and quite a number of them do not have a specific gate, but these flights do helpfully show the terminal letter so travelers can at least get close to their eventual departure point. However, this may not be on the boarding pass if it was issued at the departure airport; that was at least my experience last week in Athens and yesterday in Vienna. – phoog Aug 19 at 16:44
  • @Willeke because the layovers in those cases were so long that my departing flight was not yet on the departures board, I figured out where to go by looking for other flights in the same category (Schengen, non-Schengen Europe, or North America). This worked very well! My wife, meanwhile, had asked at the information desk and got the specific gate number :-) – phoog Aug 19 at 16:46
  • Some days there are a lot of gate change announcements, other days hardly any. If there are a lot of delays in the morning, the whole system does not work well. But still better than the 'wait in lounge' you always get in the UK. – Willeke Aug 19 at 17:18

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