There are three ways to get into Israel: by land, by sea and by air, which is the most popular way of getting into Israel. In this post I’m going to tell you all you need to know about entering Israel by air (and if I forget anything, please let me know in the comments).
So… You want to come to Israel by plane, but wondering where should you land? There are two options at the moment: landing in Ben Gurion International Airport (near Tel Aviv) or landing in Ramon Airport (near Eilat). The Ovda Airport is going to be shut down this April 2019 and all flights are supposed to move to Ramon Airport, which has been inaugurated March 2019.
Where Should You Land: Ben Gurion International Airport or Ramon Airport?
Ben Gurion International Airport is the biggest airport in Israel, situated about 25 km from Tel Aviv and about 53 km from Jerusalem. Ramon, on the other hand, is situated in the southern part of Israel, about 20 km from Eilat and if you want comparison, about 295 km from Tel Aviv. So… where should you land?
Here are some reasons why you should choose to land in Ben Gurion Airport:
- It is the closest international airport to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If you don’t have much time and want to visit one or both of those cities, this is the airport for you! Regular public transportation leaves from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (not during Shabbat), and it will probably take you about 30-60 minutes to get to your destination. If you’ll land in Ramon, there’s at least a 4-5 hours’ drive to those cities.
- It’s also much closer to the North. If you want to make your way to the more northern regions of Israel, it makes much more sense to land in Ben Gurion Airport than in Ramon. Again, because of the distance.
- The transportation from the airport is great! You can easily get on a train or on a bus or on a taxi or on a sherut and get to wherever you wish to go. Note – this changes a bit on Shabbat and Holy days, so for more details, please read There’s No Public Transportation on Shabbat. In Ramon Airport, public transportation is much much more limited, though there are regular buses to Eilat and taxis.
Here are some reasons why you should choose to land in Ramon Airport:
- It’s the closest airport to Eilat. If you wish to enjoy a sunny vacation next to the holiday city of Eilat, this is the airport for you. Instead of making the whole way down to Eilat from Ben Gurion Airport (a ride that takes about 6 hours by bus), you can get to Eilat from Ramon within only 30-45 minutes.
- It’s the closest to the desert. A lot of people are enchanted by the desert of Israel. Ramon is surrounded by the desert, as it is situated in the yellow strip of the Arava. If you want, you can get off of the plane and start hiking through the many kibbutzim in the area.
- It’s the closest to the land border crossings into Jordan and Egypt. If you want to visit Petra in Jordan, the border crossing is about an hour away from the Ramon Airport (take bus 30, get off at Rabin Border Crossing on road 90 and then walk about 10 minutes to the border). You can also get to the Taba border crossing within an hour and enter Sinai (Egypt).
- It’s an airport for lowcost flights, which means it is the perfect airport for budget travelers!
Getting Ready for Israeli Immigration and Security:
The security checks for those coming into Israel are the most comprehensive checks in the world. You should get yourselves ready not only for your luggage being x-rayed, but also for some questions, that might even seem a bit too personal. Not all tourists are deeply checked when they go through Israeli Immigration and Security, but you should keep in mind that you might seem suspicious and be asked a lot of questions (even if you’ve never harmed a fly). Don’t take it personally. The people asking you questions in Immigration and Security just want to make sure everyone is safe. So answer honestly and with as much detail as possible, so you won’t have to get stuck in this process for too long.
Some questions you might be asked:
- What is your name? It’s written on your passport, but they want to hear it from you.
- Why did you visit an Islamic country? If you have an Islamic country’s stamp on your passport, that might make them wonder what you’ve been there. Unlike Islamic countries, that deny entry for people with Israeli stamps, Israel will not deny entry for people who have stamps of Islamic countries. But, keep in mind that they might question you further because of this.
- Where are you planning to stay? If you’re staying at a friend’s house, you’ll probably be asked about that friend.
- Why are you travelling alone?
Getting from Ben Gurion International Airport to…
Let’s say you decided to land in Ben Gurion Airport. How do you get out of the airport?
To Tel Aviv:
- Take the train to one of the stations in Tel Aviv. It’s only 16 shekels.
- Take a sherut taxi (shared taxi).
- Take Kavim bus number 445. It operates from 4AM Sunday to 5PM Friday and from 9PM Saturday, leaving the airport every hour and reaching areas of hotels in Tel Aviv. It costs around 9 shekels each way.
- Use the new service my El Al – the TAXI POOL. It lets you contact other passengers on your flight to try and set a shared taxi with them to your destination.
- Take bus number 485 from the bus station area. It drops you off near the central bus station in Jerusalem. The bus leaves every round hour. The ride is only 16 shekels and takes about one hour. The ticket is bought on the bus (you can use Rav Kav).
- Use the Nesher shared shuttle, that leaves whenever it’s full (10 seats in a minibus). It will take you to your accommodation in Jerusalem (check with the driver if he gets to your accommodation, because there are exceptions). The ride costs 64 shekels per person. Keep in mind that it might take time until the shuttle will get to your destination, as it drops off everyone else at their destinations as well.
- Take the new train to Jerusalem. There’s a new train line from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem, which will take you to Jerusalem Central Station (Yitzhak Navon) within about 30 minutes. It costs about 17 ILS one way.
- Take the train to one of the stations in Haifa. It costs about 35 shekels.
- Use the Amal shared shuttle, that leaves whenever it’s full. The ride costs 115 shekels and takes about an hour and a quarter. It is possible to be dropped off at your accommodation.
For all destinations there is also an option of taxis, but that is much more expensive (even though the prices were a bit lowered during 2017).
Before leaving the airport, make sure to aquire a Rav Kav so you will be able to use public transportation in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and travel in an easier way all around Israel. Read more about it in my post – Full Guide to Public Transportation in Israel.
Getting from Ramon Airport to…
Let’s say you decided to land in Ramon Airport. How do you get out of the airport?
- Take Egged bus number 30, that leaves the airport every 20-30 minutes to Eilat Central Station (until late on Fridays). The ride costs about 5 shekels and takes about 30 minutes. You can buy tickets on the bus.
- Take a taxi. At the moment (March 2019), a taxi ride to Eilat will cost you 84 ILS during the day and more during the night or on Shabbat.
- Rent a car. There are a number of car rental companies operating in the airport, including Shlomo Sixt, Budget and Albar. Renting a simple car costs about 100 ILS a day not including fuel.
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