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 Ovda Airport (near Eilat). In the near future it will also be possible to land in Ramon International Airport, situated on the way to Eilat, but it’s still under construction (in the time of writing – February 2018).
Where Should You Land: Ben Gurion International Airport or Ovda Airport?
Ben Gurion International Airport is the biggest airport in Israel, situated about 25 km from Tel Aviv and about 53 km from Jerusalem. Ovda, on the other hand, is situated in the southern part of Israel, about 60 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! If you’ll land in Ovda, there’s at least a 5-6 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 Ovda, again, because of the distance.
- There are a lot more services at Ben Gurion Airport. When you land, you might want to get a sim card, eat something at a decent restaurant or get your rented car. In Ben Gurion Airport you can do all of those things. In Ovda – you can’t, because there are barely any services in the Ovda Airport. You will need to get everything done in Eilat.
- 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 Ovda Airport, public transportation is much much more limited and the only regular bus that arrives at the airport is the bus to Eilat. So, if you plan on getting somewhere else, you’ll need to work harder.
Here are some reasons why you should choose to land in Ovda 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 Ovda within only 45 minutes.
- It’s the closest to the desert. A lot of people are enchanted by the desert of Israel. Ovda is surrounded by the desert and if you which to hike in the Eilat Mountain Reserve, you’re inside it! Just take your things and start hiking…
- 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 Ovda Airport. 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 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 about one hour. The ticket is bought on the bus.
- 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 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).
Getting from Ovda Airport to…
Let’s say you decided to land in Ovda Airport. How do you get out of the airport?
- Take Egged bus number 282, that leaves the airport an hour after every landing (also on the weekends). The ride costs about 22 shekels and takes about an hour. You can buy tickets on the bus.
To Mitzpe Ramon or Be’er Sheva:
- Take Egged bus number 392, that leaves from Ovda to Be’er Sheva and stops on the way in Mitzpe Ramon. This line does not operate on Fridays and Saturdays, but on other days operates every few hours from the morning until around 7:00 PM. The ride to Mitzpe Ramon costs 34 shekels and to Be’er Sheva 42 shekels.
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